Hashtag Wanderlust

Lesson in Resiliency- What they don’t tell you about working abroad

#wanderlust #jetsetter #travel
There’s been a growing fascination with traveling in our generation, of throwing off all responsibilities and burdens and leaving it all behind for sand white beaches, snow tipped mountain tops, and authentic interactions with locals. These hashtags are used in travel blogs, twitter, and more (I’ll admit, I use them too). They encourage us to explore the world and seize the day and, “to suck out all the marrow of life!”, but they only tell one part of the story.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about working and living abroad (especially in a rural area in a developing country).

  1. Your health will go to shit. Honestly. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to most people. Your body just isn’t prepared for the new climate, diet, standard of living, and cleanliness levels. In response to my deteriorating health, I’ve amassed quite an arsenal of mismatched pills of all sizes and colors to the point that I should just open my own pharmacy. I’ve been through the whole gauntlet: ulcers, unexplainable and extreme weight loss, hair loss, skin conditions and infection, and the dreaded dengue. Dengue is a mosquito borne tropical virus that is, for lack of a better term, f-cking hell. Fortunately, I wasn’t bad enough to end up hospitalized, but I did sweat feverishly through several blankets while feeling like I was freezing in an arctic tundra. All my muscle and joints felt like I had fallen down 3 flights of stairs and every movement I made, even if it was just my eyes glancing elsewhere, sent piercing pain through my head and body. Even now, my knees still ache when it’s cold.
  2. The loneliness. There’s a fine line between independence and loneliness. Some days you feel like a lone adventurer bravely and contently carving out your own path, other days you just want to lay in bed missing all of your family and friends wondering what the hell you’re doing here. Even when you are surrounded by a room full of people, there seems to be an insurmountable barrier made up of language and culture between you and them. No matter how long you’ve been there, you’ll always remain the forever foreigner. I’ve never valued my friends and family more than I do now. I still teeter between the two when I travel alone, but it’s something you must balance on your own.
  3. An overabundance of oddly placed free time leading to boredom. Time starts to slow and the boredom becomes excruciating as you hope for some divine intervention. It’s not like what they say, it definitely isn’t adventure 24/7- maybe just once every few weeks. So all of this odd free time starts to pile up and you start planning all of the things you’ll do and learn- you’ll read that book, you’ll start working out, you’ll practice your art, you’ll write this proposal. But it ends up all the same, stuck online looking at pictures of cats and promising how tomorrow will be different (Well at least this is true for me. I love cats). I guess some things remain the same no matter where you are in the world.

This is the truth. This is the other side. This is what they didn’t tell you.
But, what they did say is also true. You do see breathtaking sights, pristine nature, and mind-opening cities. You do get thrown into a new culture, interact with locals, wrestle with unfamiliar concepts and paradigms, and as a result, really learn how to live different lives. It is enlightening, but it is also heartbreaking and at times seemingly impossible but if you persevere, you’ll have an experience that you’ll never forget. It will challenge you, but it will change you. Happy and safe travels.

-Joie

Picture taken of most of my drugs, yikes!

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