Going Abroad and The Pursuit Of Happiness

It’s been very interesting to live in this house… There are so many different people with different cultures and background that we could nearly make our own United Nations and debates… And having lived there for over two weeks now, I realize a few things about travelling and the way most people tend to see things abroad.

Some of the people I’m living with are adapting, some of them are missing home, some of them are more hybrid, but for most of them, the same method seems to be responsible for whether or not they are happy or not, in this environment.

Let’s start with a personal statement. It may sound like bragging, or showing off, but here it is: I never really had a real life problem. Nothing where either my life was in danger or I was in a lot of trouble. I’ve never gotten in a fight, and I’m the first one to lower my head and discreetly walk in the streets, with my headphones on, because I know that in this day & age, people are easily angered or ready to jump on you, for any possible reason… The saddest thing is, they don’t even have a reason most of the time: it’s been heard times and times again, but an odd look can be enough to startled a random individual in the streets, and it might be happening everyday, closer to you than you may think.

So there’s absolutely no need to panic, but there are obviously a few safety measures to take when you are on your own, and even more in a foreign country by yourself.

But as I’m starting my third year away from home, in a different continent where my relatives would take a minimum of nearly 24 hours to get here, in case of an emergency, I know that I don’t need luxury. I can live ‘cheap’. I am perfectly fine with eating ramen noodles on a daily basis if I know that I have to, just like all i need to sleep would be some sort of flat ground, a piece of soft anything to use as a pillow, and clothes to use as a blanket.

I can live without an iPod, a laptop and a full-framed poster of the latest indie band.

Having these material things can help you, entertain you, but at the end of the day, you don’t NEED all of these. Let’s add to this thinking that even though I was lucky enough to have material and financial support pretty much all my life:

  • I can be honest about it
  • I received an education in which I know that I can live without it, no matter what society says about me.

What I’m trying to say is that my comfort-zone can be reduced to the minimum. And that’s where I’m trying to go. A place where ideally ‘home is where the heart is’ and where I don’t need to recreate what I’ve been calling home all these years.

So going back to my introduction, I see people around me who have moved from home and become Homesick very easily. I completely understand. But I found it interesting that in order to feel like home, instead of making the most of the possibilities and opportunities, people try to constantly re-create their own comfort zone. And they won’t feel good until they have managed this.

Some people look for local food, or decorate their rooms with something that reminds them of home. Pictures, even.

And sometimes, what they need to feel like home, is simply a universal human of not being lonely. Sometimes they are ready to leave and go back home, and then a human presence make them realize that it’s not so bad after all.

It takes time.

Some of them don’t always realize because they have been busy moving-in, adapting, and working in this new environment. Usually this group of people realizes too late and tends to be struck with reality and regrets.

Some of us manage to adapt and be happy fairly easily, trying to make the most of whatever piece of happiness is given to us.

And some of us complain, all the time, whether they are home or abroad, about the current state of things not being like it should be. Just like the stereotypes of old people not coping with the modern age we live in. Which, if you ARE old, can make sense. After all, we have made incredible things…

My advises, if you are willing to listen to the 20-years-old-travelling-french-geek, are the following:

  • Keep your eyes opened
  • Keep your mind opened even more
  • Make the most of what is given to you, may it be opportunities, food, accommodation, or even advises.
  • Listen more
  • Don't be scared to ask questions to local people about the culture
  • Eat local, rather than looking for a local Cheeseburger/Fries/Coke combo.
  • Make sure that, even though you use technology a lot, you can still work things out by yourself, in case you are lost/alone/lacking your oh-so-trendy new rainbow-colored iPhone 'with sprinkles on top'.

These advises are general rules of thumb to enjoying traveling, becoming a better individual and feeling good about yourself, but also improve the look that people have on you. I’m hoping that you’ll recognize yourself in these portraits, and I hope that the next time you’re far-away from home, you’ll enjoy and avoid regretting to learn something new.