Living abroad, particularly by myself, without a partner or family, has made me grow in so many ways. Although I’ve been an expat now for several years now, it is only the last few years that I consciously started paying attention to how I manage myself and my emotions.
Looking back, I wish I had invested more time into consciously deciding this skills in order to reduce my stress levels and enjoy myself more, regardless of the circumstance I found myself in.
However, it is never too late and below are the 5 skills I have decided to work on in order to love my life abroad.
Defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, much of my resilience has come from experience. Today, my resilience is a state of mind. Learning to process my emotions and not react or resist helps me move forward in a positive and healthy way without looking for external buffers (drinking, eating, etc.,) to avoid my emotions. Processing them is a daily practice and with any practice, it becomes easier, I am becoming more skilful at it. I recognize that whatever emotion I am feeling at the time will not kill me. It is just a feeling. I acknowledge and allow it to be.
I have not always been the most patient person, particularly when I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed, especially when it comes to work or travel. It drives me crazy when people tell me to relax, but I actually find it quite effective when I tell myself to do so. I take a deep breath. Most of the time, I am not in a life-or-death situation that needs to resolved that very second. I let go. I look for things I can do.
Remaining calm in any situation is a superpower. Years ago I read Rudy Giuliani’s book Leadership about his time as Mayor of NYC which included the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. What I remember him writing about was that in any situation he would become the calmest person in the room which enabled him to think and problem-solve. It stuck with me and in any crisis situation, I remind myself to be the calmest person in the room and it usually works. I am typically quite a good problem-solver.
4. A Sense of Humour
Pretty self-explanatory, but if you can laugh at yourself or at the situation you find yourself in, you can maintain your sanity and enjoy yourself more. It takes practice for sure, but it’s totally worth it. I make an effort to crack a joke or not take myself so seriously. Let go. Believe that when things go wrong, one day you will look back at the situation and laugh.
My word for 2021 is courage. I have fallen in love with courage since I learned that fear may always be present and that it is perfectly natural since we are humans. Nelson Mandela said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave woman is not she who does not feel fear, but she who conquers that fear“.
I realise that while fear may be present, it need not stop me from doing whatever it is that I want – i.e., starting my own business, running a marathon, or booking a trip. I won’t let it stop me. My best life is waiting for me on the other side of that fear.
This is not a complete list of course, but I do think these are some of the most important skills that have helped me live and work internationally for so many years. The important thing for me is to keep growing and developing into the best version of myself. I think that living as an expat and travelling the world is a great opportunity to do so in a very intense and sustained way. I would not change it for the world!
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