15 Things I Would Tell My 23 Year Old Self Before Moving Abroad

The longer I live abroad the more I realize everything makes more sense with a bit of distance and time. When I boarded my flight to France in 2011, I was so ready to take on whatever was coming my way although I really didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing.

With all that uncertainty and excitement, I could’ve used a pep talk or some advice from someone who had done it before me, someone to warn me and encourage me. I didn’t have any of that, but seven years later, I have a few nuggets of wisdom for 23 year old me. Actually, these are the same things I would tell anyone considering moving abroad long-term. It’s been a wild crazy ride full of growth, learnings, and self-realization. It’s been hard but it’s also been really fun.

Here we go!

  1. Sure, after going to college and feeling the pressure to land a ‘normal’ 9-5, it only makes sense that you’re stressing so much over your work future. What you need is mobility and the creative freedom to write. Hint: a little thing called freelancing will open your eyes to a whole new way of working and living.
  2. Saying goodbye to your best friends back home will hit you hard. No, it doesn’t necessarily get easier. You’ll have to cut strong connections in a physical sense, but when you do get to spend time with them you’ll appreciate them more than ever.
  3. The time you’ll have in each country and city is finite; It might feel like an eternity at times, but enjoy it like the long-term tourist you are. Knowing you have a limited amount of time in a place will change the way you see it and enjoy it.
  4. You’re going to meet amazing people from every corner of this earth, literally. They will intrigue you with their unique perspectives, personalities, and their own views on the world. There’s nothing better than that. Even when you move, you’ll keep those connections close to you and it’s one of the most rewarding parts of being an expat.
  5. Knocking on doors (digitally), cold-calling and chance encounters are going to be your ticket to furthering your writing aspirations overseas. Those networking sessions and random moments of mingling with nice strangers? Super valuable.
  6. Uprooting will become your new life’s norm. Living out your dreams and getting in the rhythm of expat life will feel a lot like leaving Texas…again and again.
  7. That tug on your soul you feel from time to time? That’s your intuition and internal compass. A lot will change when you live abroad and your keen intuition won’t let you down. Don’t ignore it.
  8. Be kinder to yourself. Being a perfectionist in your twenties is as pointless as trying to predict your twenties. Trial and error all the way, baby.
  9. Once you move, your relationship with your family will change for the better. Somehow the distance will bring you all closer than when you lived at home. The only downside? Missing them will make you reconsider your expat life more than once.
  10. Love will come your way when you least expect it. Stop looking for it and let things happen.
  11. Paris will change your life in big ways. You will feel a seriously deep love for the city that you can’t explain. It will push you to grow and assert yourself as a woman to be reckoned with in a foreign country. Then you’ll have to leave it. The good news? You’ll be back!
  12. Each country has its quirks. Collecting them in your mind will become some of your favorite souvenirs. Like how Malaysians and Indonesians place their hands on their hearts or when they’re being sincere; how Belgians say eh at the end of sentences; or how French people purse their lips when they mean to say it’s no big deal.
  13. No matter how far you get from Texas, you’ll be reminded that the world is so small. Like the Aggie that sits next to you in French class, or that Texan best friend you’ll meet on your first day of work in Belgium. In some ways, you’re never too far from home.
  14. Speaking of home: Texas might feel like the only place you’re truly rooted and can be yourself, but that will change with time. Other cities and countries will also start to feel like a different version of home, a place where you really belong and thrive.
  15. There will be simple moments of pure bliss when you least expect them. Moments when you realize you’ve done exactly what you’ve set out to. That alone makes the harder moments of being so far away worth it.

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