Unexpected Lessons Learned From Life Abroad

Indeed, there are lessons that can’t be learnt in a classroom.  The most defining moments in our lives are usually the result of spontaneous decision-making or the effect of taking a giant leap.

While social media undoubtedly highlights the glittery aspects of our lives, most of us tend not to post about the moments when we feel a bit less than our true selves. Scroll through any blogger’s Instagram page and you will 100% come across super glamorous travel photos in exotic destinations and the outcome of this is more often than not a really bad case of FOMO.

While travel is of course the best thing ever, living abroad on your own is a completely different story. Travel is like a super concentrated form of life- you learn and grow and experience new things in a short space of time. While I’m not downplaying the significance of this, living abroad on your own is definitely not all about #livingyourbestlife.

When I first moved to Dubai, I knew my eyes would be opened to a lot of new things – good and bad. I was expecting/hoping that exposure to new cultures and different people would broaden my horizons and teach me a lot about myself (insert more vague clichés about personal growth.) But if you’re about to make that leap yourself, there are some unexpected lessons you will learn that people don’t always tell you. Here are just some of them.


You will learn how to live with less:

If you’re anything like me, you have an outfit for every occasion with shoes and accessories to match. Coming from the Caribbean, you would understand that when we step out we like to look our best! However when you’re on your own, there’s nothing quite like having to fit your life in two suitcases that makes you realize just how much of your “life” is random stuff you never use.

While back at home we have grown accustomed to having dishes we use for fancy gatherings and having regular everyday ones, living alone in a different country teaches you minimalism and how to downsize considerably. While this is a lesson I have not yet mastered, I have come a long way! Also, once you start spending your own hard-earned money on things you will eventually realize that less is certainly more!

Sometimes in order to be more social you have to avoid social media:

You know the saying ‘If you don’t post it, it didn’t happen’? We all do! How would anyone know I was on a boat if I didn’t post about it?  While we all aim to truly live our best lives and show our friends at home that we’re doing just that, when you’re new to a city and still trying to meet people, the best thing you can do is limit your time online and connect with people IRL.

While this is definitely a lot harder than it seems, eventually you will realize that life really happens when you put your devices down.  And oh the people you will meet! Travellers and expats from all over the world, kind locals who will go out of their way to point you in the right direction, not so nice scam artists and everyone in between. Some good experiences, some bad, but along the way you will be introduced to new ideas and viewpoints that you would not have learned from living your life behind a screen.

You will learn to take it easy on yourself because nobody has it figured out:

While people assume that every day life in Dubai consists of riding around in sports cars and having fancy meals in skyscrapers, my life is certainly far from this.

Like anything, the excitement of being in a new city will fade and you will eventually fall into a routine. Adulting is hard and the millennial generation will definitely back me up on this. Maybe it’s because social media exaggerates the highs and omits the lows?

Whatever the reason is, when you live abroad on your own you will start to celebrate the small victories in life and you will ultimately realize that nobody is truly #livingthedream. You will learn to take it easy on yourself because with each lesson or failure you grow stronger and wiser.

You will learn that your hometown is pretty amazing:

There’s nothing quite like taking that first sip of fresh coconut water or that first bite of bake and shark on the beach to make you realize that Trinidad is pretty damn great.

When I lived at home I took these seemingly small pleasures for granted and boy do I miss them. When you live abroad, suddenly you become the ambassador for all things Trinbago and upon your return you will see things with different eyes.

Needless to say, the soca will sound sweeter and the food will be better than you remembered!


Kim Seelochan is a Dubai based Film Publicist for Warner Bros. Pictures obsessed with all things movies and fitness. She’s a Trinidad native who is still trying to master the art of adulting. Follow her online @kimseelochan.

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