6 months ago I made the decision to move to the tiny island of Koh Tao in Thailand to pursue my newfound dream of becoming a scuba diving instructor. I knew that the move would be hard, but I had no idea how much I would fundamentally change as a person.
For those of you who are tossing around the idea of moving to a new country, these are the 9 things that you could learn when moving overseas and leaving your comfort zone.
You Bought Too Much Stuff With You
When packing for my new life in Koh Tao, I thought I was being pretty reasonable with my suitcase, backpack & camera bag. After all, I was going to have to move from my completely decked out apartment to a new country, so needed to bring a lot of my belongings, yeah?
Oh, how wrong I was. I’ve worn less than half the clothes I brought with me, and all those toiletries I thought were so important sit unused in a bag under my bed. The one upside of overpacking is that I’ve been able to give a lot of stuff away to new friends.
What You Find Important Will Change
In Australia I valued knowing what my future held, having money and owning stuff, amongst other things. Sure, I loved adventure, hiking, camping and all that, but I realise now how materialistic I truly was.
Moving to a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand forced me to look at what I really wanted in life, and in turn, helped me to chip away at the shit weighing me down. Turns out that a lot of my unhappiness came from my drive to be successful in a field that wasn’t my true calling and an obsession with material goods.
Learning to live with less has made my life so much richer, and in turn, I’ve found myself unburdened with the woes of yesterday.
You’ll Meet People Who Will Change Your Life
Within my first month living on Koh Tao I had met people that I completely trusted. And I mean completely. I’d happily leave my wallet with them while I went to the loo at a bar, get them to look after my motorbike while I went on holidays for a month, or lend them their rent for the month because their old boss didn’t pay them. Never once did I doubt my trust in these people, and not once was I screwed over.
Back in Australia, I was always open to new friendships and relationships and was always happy to help a new acquaintance out. But I would not be so quick to trust others as I do now. It could take months before I let my guard down and started showing people the real me, let alone sharing the big things with them. But something about being surrounded by people who, just like me, were out of their comfort zone, made being trusting so much more simple.
Your Patience Will Be Tested
From obnoxious tourists to intrusive customers, you’ll find that your fuse will get shorter and shorter. It can be easy to step over the line and be accidentally rude, so be careful. A lot of the people who annoy you are in the position you were in not long ago, and what you have taken as them inconveniencing you is really just them being excited about their new adventure.
So remind yourself – Be kind to others even if you’re not in the mood, because you never know if that new kid on the block will turn out to be your best mate or is desperately in need of a friendly face.
The Novelty Of Your New Home Will Fade
Whether it be Koh Tao, Paris, Melbourne or somewhere else just as gorgeous, the things that attracted you to it in the first place with dull over time. Those beautiful sunsets happen every day. The amazingly delicious food becomes the norm. And those wild nights out partying at your favourite new bar become exhausting.
So remind yourself daily why you’re there. Stop and enjoy those sunsets. Take a new friend out to your favourite restaurant. Slow down on the drinking and enjoy your nights out with mates. You’re there for a reason! Stop and smell the roses every now and then.
Goodbyes Become Less Painful
When you live somewhere with a highly transient population (islands, snow spots, beach destinations, diving meccas, etc.), you’ll find that your friendship group changes enormously. The first time someone leaves to continue their adventure is excruciatingly sad, but you will (unfortunately) get used to these types of goodbyes.
It’s important to not let this get you too down – It’s the way of the world when it comes to travelling, and you can’t let it affect you too deeply. But you must remember to stay in touch with your mates once they or you leave. Just because they’re gone and on to their new trip or are back home, you’re friends for a reason. Randomly ask them how their day was, share photos with them, and do your best to try and see them again.
If you do find relationships fading due to the tyranny of distance, don’t be sad. This will undoubtedly happen to you, and although you can hope to rekindle these friendships in the future, sometimes it was the magic of the time and place in which you knew the person that made it so special.
Asking For Help Gets Easier
When you’re at home and in your comfort zone, asking for help is surprisingly hard. You know your surroundings, and you generally know how to deal with issues. But when you’re in a new country and something shitty happens, it can be a truly daunting experience asking someone for help you don’t know that well.
You’ll be surprised how willing your new friends are willing to help you though. They’ll generally be honoured that you thought highly enough of them to ask in the first place. And it will only strengthen your bond. So take a risk and ask. You never know where it could lead.
You Own Way Too Much Stuff
After a few months living on Koh Tao I thought back to the shed on my parent’s property where I’ve stored all my previously treasured belongings. And it irked me to no end. All I wanted to do was sell it all.
The thought of being weighed down by all these things seems so pointless now. Why not sell everything you don’t need to help fund your new adventure or have a financial safety net behind you? Once you mentally part with your stuff, it’ll feel like a weights been lifted off your shoulders.
Finding Fun Is Simple
I often found myself at home on days off literally Netflix and chilling, and remember thinking that I was bored shitless. Somehow I’d gotten complacent and was not doing all the insanely entertaining things that my new home had to offer. Hikes, snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding, volunteering at the local vets, learning to free dive… Hell, there’s even a trapeze school here!
So I made a promise to myself to tick off at least 3 ‘fun’ things a week, and low and behold I started falling in love with my island all over again. So if you too find yourself getting boring, think about what activities you’d recommend a visiting friend do in your new home, and then do them!
What did you learn when you moved overseas?