How living abroad can break your heart
It is something that millions of us might aspire to – the adventure and romance of living abroad. And while for some, it is all of that, with travel to nearby foreign countries, new friends and new languages, there are ways in which living abroad can break your heart – no matter how effortlessly you have managed to fit in to your host country.
Being away means exactly that. So when there are funerals or weddings which take place in your home country and you can’t go, either due to work or financials, it can be a devastatingly lonely event. It might not even be something as traumatic as a death or as joyful as a marriage. It could simply be that one day you are walking down the street and are struck by a memory – an all consuming heart-wrenching knowledge that someone you love very dearly is 3,582 miles away.
I remember having such an experience one February day as I stepped off the tram – I was unexpectedly assaulted by the fact that I desperately missed my sons. It nearly brought me to my knees. Just like that. A punch in the gut – a random heartbreak in the middle of Gothenburg.
Skype and Facebook make it easy to converse with friends and family, and it’s wonderful for sharing photos, but there is nothing in the world quite like being able to physically hug someone who misses you. Sitting together and looking into the eyes of someone who needs you or loves you. We tend to take these things for granted. We tend to think that we will always be there. But until the day when you are not able to wipe the tears from someone’s eyes, when you are not able to belly laugh face to face with your best friend … you will never know how truly isolating living abroad can sometimes be.
People may think, and flat out tell you, that your choice to reside in another country is selfish. Perhaps it is. But while you are living in Sweden, or Spain, or France … life back home continues on without you. This is something you become acutely aware of. People get sick. People get married, have babies. Children grow up, graduate college, and meet the love of their life. Parents get older.
So I say to you, before you pack your bags … make sure you have an ample – a very ample – savings account, so that the chances of you having to say “No I can’t come” are less.
Peace to you.
Writer/photographer Lisa Mikulski. Available for print or online publications and business in the Nordic region, Europe, and the US. Editorial, features, and creative.