Moving abroad isn’t ideal for everyone. It’s an overwhelming, unsettling, shocking change to your routine. However, it could potentially be the most incredible experience of your life.
The major indicators that I should give life in Taiwan a try aren’t going to be the same for all expats; looking back to early 2010, when I was considering the move, these factors had all been true for me for many years.
Needed a major trip every 6 months
This started in high school, when my parents recognized my worsening depression and let me fly to South Carolina for a week to visit a friend. Every six months or so my wanderlust would explode in a desperate, uncontrollable need to explore.
The year before I moved to Taiwan, I took two week-long vacations: the Netherlands in the summer and Alaska in the winter. Both times I felt the same yearning to escape the confines of Texas.
My credit card company loved me; my bank account hated me.
Looked for greener pastures
In high school I hoped to go to college away from home. After college I applied for jobs in Florida, California, and anywhere else that looked new and exciting. My first full-time job lasted just 2.5 years; I had to get out of the small city and spread my wings in a more culturally-diverse, 20-something-friendly larger city. Once I’d been in Austin for two years, Taiwan came calling. Bored with my job, yet in love with the city, I decided to take the plunge.
Considered a move for many years
When I was about to graduate college, fresh from a five-week internship in the Dominican Republic, I considered moving to South Korea to teach English. Many times between 2005 and 2010, I did research on different places where I could teach, but was always too timid to dive into the decision.
Hated being a tourist
I loathe looking like a tourist. I won’t pull out a map or obviously ask for directions; I will literally go miles out of my way in order to stay independent. In fact, I rather enjoy getting lost. So convincing a local am I that I was stopped many times and asked directions while walking around Vancouver this summer.
Sure, I’ll participate in touristy excursions; I’m not against tourism. I just prefer hostels and homestays over 5-star hotels; hole-in-the-wall local restaurants to chains and franchises. A city’s facade doesn’t really interest me. Show me real life.
Felt comfortable with myself
In Austin, I lived alone for a year, which taught me that I like myself; I’m comfortable being alone. That said, I very much enjoy my circle of friends and love being with people.
Living abroad can, at times, feel incredibly isolating, and foreigners have to be able to handle bouts of intense loneliness. They also need to know how to be themselves and go out and meet new people without being crushed by self-confidence issues. It took me a long time to find my balance in Taiwan, but that adjustment has made me even more comfortable in who I am.
An invitation to fellow explorers
What were your reasons for moving abroad – no matter for how long or to where? For that matter, anyone who’s made a drastic move anywhere: why? What were your “red flags” that you needed to get up and go?