Living abroad comes with advantages as well as downsides. While I believe there are more advantages of living abroad, I do have lots of experience living overseas. I left Canada in 2014 and I’ve been living in several different countries ever since.
In this post, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a foreign country. Before we start, I’ll quickly summarise where I’ve lived in case you’re interested.
Quick Overview of My Experience Living Abroad
As I mentioned above, I left Canada in 2014. My first destination was Australia and I had no idea I would end up traveling for several years. Now, I have no intention of ever living in Canada again. I only visit once a year.
Here’s a quick overview of the places where I’ve lived abroad. I have obviously traveled between places but I’ve always preferred slow travel.
- 2 years in Australia
- 9 months in England
- 3 months in Portugal
- 2 years in Bali
- 1 year in Thailand
- 2 summers in the Czech Republic
- and I moved to Bulgaria in September 2020
Living abroad became easier over time for three main reasons:
- I went from working on farms in Australia to working online. Remote work makes it easier to live overseas because you get more freedom and you don’t need to deal with work visas or job hunting in a foreign language.
- My English became better and better – which facilitates communication overseas (I’m French Canadian).
- I started my journey with very little money to my name, and eventually, I managed to build my online business and save money. Having more money helped me because I could find better accommodation and have a more comfortable life. After all, I’m now in my thirties (I started traveling in my twenties).
Now, I’m mentioning this, because you should know that moving overseas comes with struggles too and it takes time to get used to a new country especially if the culture is different than what you’re used to.
That said, you should know that it’s going to get easier over time.
Without further ado, let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad.
New Opportunities to Travel
When you move to a new country, you get to discover the country at a slower pace, but this means you’re creating opportunities for weekend trips too.
For example, when I lived in Australia, I was able to open up my travel opportunities. Not only was I able to travel across Australia, but I decided to go to New Zealand, Japan and China. Finally, after two years of living in Australia, I went to Southeast Asia.
When you settle in a new country, you’re opening up travel opportunities around your new base.
Increasing Your Comfort Zone
Embracing new opportunities and a new lifestyle helps you increase your comfort zone. Slowly, you’ll become comfortable everywhere. The more I lived in other countries, the more I learned about other cultures, and the quicker I was able to adapt.
Traveling to new countries became easier because I was used to new ways of thinking.
It pushed me to try new things like driving a scooter, learning how to scuba dive, or surfing. During these years, I’ve tried so many things I never thought I would, and while I’m not always a fan, I’m glad I can push myself and open up my horizons.
Becoming More Independent
Living abroad helped me become more independent and I know that I can always count on myself. Let’s just say that I know how to take care of myself. When you’re living abroad on your own, you have no choice but to trust your instincts, and make decisions.
As a result, you’re going to become strong and will learn how to protect yourself. It definitely helped me develop my character and looking back, I’m proud of the person I became. I grew more in the past years than I did the whole time I was living in Canada.
My experiences showed me what I wanted for my life and that the way of living in my home country is not necessarily for me.
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Diving into New Cultures
When you move to a foreign country, you get to learn about a new way of living, and a new culture. Whether you’re experimenting with food, traditions or trying to speak in the local language, you’re going to have fun doing so.
Saying that, it can also be challenging. When I first moved to Australia, my English was quite terrible, and I couldn’t understand the Australian accent. It was tough. But eventually, I got better and my English improved dramatically.
The same applies to Indonesia. When I was living in Bali, I had to adjust to the way things were there (food (and occasional Bali belly), traditions, and communication). I fell in love with Bali and stayed there for nearly two years.
Making Friends Around the World
In some destinations, it’s fairly easy to make friends. For example, Bali and Thailand have big expat communities and lots of coworking spaces which makes it easy to connect with other expats.
That said, when living abroad, you can make friends from around the world and get to connect with people you would have never met in your home country.
Although, you’ll find that in some countries it’s harder to make friends. I spent two summers in the Czech Republic (for a total of 6 months), and I really struggled there. My Czech is very limited and I can only make very basic conversation, but I found that it was hard to find English-speaking expats. This is why the Czech Republic was not a long-term option for me. After all, making friends and connections is very important.
Decreasing Cost of Living
Depending on the destination chosen and where you come from, you could decrease your cost of living. For example, as a Canadian, moving to Australia was a shock. Everything was more expensive than what I was used to. But when I moved to Southeast Asia, my cost of living was cheaper and I was able to save more money.
Finding a country where you can decrease your cost of living is one of the main reasons why people love to move overseas.
Increasing freedom is one of the best benefits of living abroad. You get to live on your own terms in a country you love. You can move to new countries whenever you want to and get to travel more. That said, you can choose a country that suits you better whether it’s because of the cost of living, weather or lifestyle.
Personally, I don’t see myself with a 9-5 job anymore, so working online gave me the freedom I was looking for so that I can live in different countries.
While this list focuses on the advantages of living abroad, there are a few downsides worth mentioning.
Living overseas means you’ll be far from your family and friends and let’s just face it – this isn’t for everyone. I met several travelers over the years who couldn’t stand living far from their family and friends. If that’s the case for you, it’s okay – you won’t know until you move abroad.
Also, it can get tricky if a family member or a friend gets sick. I’ve been dealing with sick family members and I’m telling you, it doesn’t get any easier over time. Living abroad can make life difficult when you’re dealing with helplessness on the other side of the world.
Living abroad also means you need to handle visas and it’s not always easy to become a resident in a foreign country. Be prepared for in-depth research and visa runs depending on your destination.
Finally, travelers can face health issues and it’s not always easy to deal with this overseas. I’d recommend getting proper health insurance. For example, I have travel insurance + health insurance in Bulgaria since I’m based here now.
I’ve seen many friends and long-term travelers have serious health issues overseas and if you’re living somewhere long-term, you need to take care of your health.
And that’s a wrap! Overall, I believe the advantages of living abroad outweigh the negatives. You just need to be patient and trust in the process.