Live abroad

Lessons learned from living abroad



Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 01/10/2023, 13:45

Hi there! 👋 I’m Joanna, author of The Blond Travels. If you find my articles helpful, I’d be happy if you could follow me on Instagram, or . Support from readers like you means a lot to me and helps to keep this website alive. Thank you! 🙏

I have lived abroad for 13 years. I was very young when I left Poland and when you’re young you want to try something new. I wanted to try living abroad. I was planning to stay in England for a year, but I stayed for 10. Time goes quickly when you live in a big city and work hard. England taught me how to be a grown up and living there widen my horizons.

Three years in Thailand were going to be a break from reality, a well-deserved rest from chasing money and were going to cure my broken heart. My stay in the Land of Smiles was that and more. It showed me how to be responsible for myself, it taught me that being single is not scary and it showed me how to have fun.

To me emigration is a way of life. What else did it teach me?

Emigration taught me that:

We are all the same. I know that it sounds a little cliché, but that’s what I believe. Do you know what I thought every time I entered a classroom in Thailand? I thought that these kids are not much different from the kids in Poland. They didn’t want to learn either, they also were more interested in their smartphones than in knowing which verbs are irregular, they didn’t do their homework either. They were as naughty as the kids in Krakow, London or Berlin. It doesn’t matter what one’s skin colour or religion is, we all have the same problems. We all struggle with lack of money, taxes and jobs. We are all annoyed with politicians and, despite the fact that some of us cover our troubles with smiles, we all deal with the same emotions. We break each other hearts in the same way, we love and hate in the same way. There is no difference between us and the rest of the world.

Judging others by how they look is a great mistake. I moved to England straight after Poland joined the European Union. At first I worked for H&M and I worked with many different people. One of them was Sarah, a very nice Muslim girl. This was my first time I saw a woman in a hijab. I didn’t think of her as a terrorist, but I felt sorry for her. ‘Such a young girl. She must be so unhappy covering herself like that’ – I thought to myself. As it turned out, Sarah was the most cheerful and happy girl I met during that time. She wore her hijab with pride and with her head held high she told everyone that asked that she was a Muslim. I liked her very much! It’s been a long time since then and during the last decade I met a lot of different people from so many countries, from Australia to Burma, Thailand and Nigeria and I know that judging others by the way they look is a great mistake. It’s enough to talk to a person for 5 minutes to know how wrong we were about them.

Determination is a key to achieve success abroad. I don’t believe that you cannot ‘make it’ abroad. I think that finding a job, an apartment and settling down somewhere depends only on you and your determination. If you have moved abroad and didn’t achieve anything there, then I am almost sure that you didn’t put enough effort and time into it. Maybe, deep inside, you really wanted to go back home, maybe you preferred to live somewhere else, maybe you just felt discouraged and tired of making an effort and thought that you’re a loser and no one would ever employ you? This is how a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ works. Determination and patience are the key to success abroad.

Changes are good. Frequent changes push you to do better and turn you into a better human being, who is able to cope with whatever life throws at them. It is proven that changes can enrich you and make you observe the reality closer. Moving to another city, or country, is always a stressful event, but it can refresh your every day routine, make you work on yourself and learn new things. It is always a good opportunity to look inside yourself.

Age doesn’t matter. Many people say to me: ‘you are not young anymore. It’s time to think of settling down. Aren’t you afraid of another move?’ You know what? It’s true that time moves forward and we all get older, but in England I learned that it’s never too late for changes and we can always chase our dreams. People shouldn’t be discouraged by their age – quite the opposite. When you’re older, you’re more experienced and you know what you want from life. You should develop yourself more, sign up for courses, learn languages, open your own business – you shouldn’t limit yourself because you’re a bit older. I know people who are 50 and who started everything from scratch. They are learning, developing their skills and, thanks to that, they are getting younger and younger.

Everyone has a great strength within them. Strong – I never thought about myself in that category. I always thought that I was dependent on others and that I could never cope with difficult situations. And you know what? After I left for Thailand, I found out that I can face any obstacles and that I’m strong enough to fight the creeping fear and anxiety. Living abroad can teach you how to be strong. No matter what happens in your life, you have enough energy and determination to go through the hardest of times. Trust me, I’m not exaggerating. Living abroad might seem daunting at times, you might feel lonely and miss home, but you’re well and you are breathing. All those negative feelings will pass one day and you will feel proud of yourself that you’ve been through so much and you survived.

People are generally good and it’s worth trusting them. I think Europeans are quite distrustful towards others. If someone is friendly to us, we sense scams and betrayals straight away. We don’t really understand that some people are just nice and helping others is a normal thing for them. Constant moving and living in different countries showed me that it’s better to trust others, make new friends and let people help you. When you’re abroad, you have to rely on yourself, but quite often asking others for a favour is more than needed.

Travelling solo is not scary. I need to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of it – travelling solo is more expensive. However, if I want to go somewhere, I just go. I have never quit my travel plans because I didn’t have company. Travelling solo teaches you how to be independent, how to survive and how to be alone. You are able to look around more carefully, meet new people constantly and chat to locals more often. In Thailand I used to go for holiday by myself all the time. I went to India and Cambodia and spent a month in each of those countries. Thanks to travelling solo you can have a real adventure.

The fear is only in your head. Before I left for both England and Thailand I went through panic attacks. ‘What if I run out of money? What if I don’t find a job? What if I can’t make it?’ I asked myself. A low self-esteem added to my fears. A lot of time passed until I understood that thinking like that doesn’t have any advantages and only influences my life in a very negative way. Nowadays, when I have thoughts like that, I ask myself if I have any reasons to be afraid. In 99% of cases I don’t. Such fear doesn’t have any sense. Looking at my experiences abroad I know that whatever happens, it will always be ok.

It’s worth trying new things. Fear and anxiety are with me often, especially when I have to try new things. In the last couple of years I learned how to appreciate new experiences. Thanks to moving abroad I learned English, I tried snorkelling and I loved it, and I drove a scooter in Asia. I also met people from all around the world. I always try things to have my own opinion about them. If I had listened what others say I would have never gone to Cambodia or Burma and had an adventure of my life!

Emigrating to another country might seem daunting and I believe that not everyone was made to live abroad, but if you feel like you want to leave your country and would like to see the world, then do it! Fight your irrational fear, open your mind and go! I guarantee that you will be a better human when you come back.

Would you like to emigrate? What stops you? Maybe you live abroad? What kind of experiences have you had so far? What did emigration teach you? Leave your answers in the comments below.