As infrequent as they may be, we love our visits back home. Living abroad is exciting and fulfilling – exactly what we want from life – but of course every traveler misses the friends and family they left behind. Seeing them again is always a fun reunion – but back in our home countries, there are a few things we always hear that we’d rather not. Whether it’s a question we don’t know how to answer, or a statement that just couldn’t be farther from truth, here are the top things we dread hearing.
You’re so lucky!
There are a lot of misconceptions that those of us who travel or live abroad can only do so because we are so privileged. The truth is that we didn’t win some random prize. No one handed us a plane ticket or a job on a silver platter. We are out in the world because we chose to be here, and we did what was needed to get here. People who say we are “lucky” could have made the same choices – and they still can!
Of course we do realize we are privileged in some ways, mostly because we are native English speakers and there is a high demand for us worldwide as teachers, but this sentiment is usually shared by a fellow English speaker. (Note that we’ve also met many expats who aren’t native English speakers but have still found jobs abroad.)
You could easily be here too.
I will be over soon to see you!
If only this was true! How many friends have claimed they will be having their next holiday here? It’s such an exciting idea for us – we’d love to show off the foreign communities we’ve made our home. But in the combined 7 years we’ve been abroad, only one friend has ever shown up. So we’ve become a bit cynical to this promise now – we aren’t getting our hopes up.
When are you coming home for good?
Many people assume that this is just a little phase we’re going through. We don’t view our time abroad as a gap year. It’s not a detour that leads back to the life we had at home eventually. We have started careers and lives abroad and we can’t see ourselves giving that up if we can help it. There are almost 200 countries out there to see, and each one offers a completely unique experience. How could we ever quit this?
When are we coming home? Never.
“The Real World” or “Normal Life”
These phrases are always referring to Western English-speaking countries, and it’s honestly just a tad arrogant. No culture and no life is more “real” or more “normal” than another. Some people see our time abroad as one long frivolous holiday. In reality, we are responsible adults with meaningful careers, bills to pay, people who rely on us, and good life-long friends who care about us.
As teachers, we really feel this is the best choice for our careers. There are endless opportunities for us around the globe, and many offer more respect, better working environments and a higher quality of life than what teachers receive back in our home countries.
Meanwhile, back in the “real world” we could barely pay rent with a teacher’s salary, and jobs are scarce.
When are you going to settle down?
What exactly does “settle down” mean, and why does everyone have to do it? We are perfectly happy “settling” for a year or two at a time, and then moving on to a new, amazing opportunity. We aren’t interested in owning property, cars, or boxes and boxes of meaningless possessions. And we certainly aren’t dreaming of the day we can tie ourselves down to one place indefinitely. Again – the world is so big! We want to experience it all, and we’ve found a way to realistically achieve this.
We’re pretty settled now 🙂
Are you running away from something?
No, we are running toward a million things, and we don’t understand why everyone else isn’t joining us. From our perspective, our “running” is perfectly healthy and normal, and we’re concerned about the people who seem to be hiding from something. But maybe we just all have different interests and goals for our lives – and that’s perfectly fine.
This kind of accusation doesn’t usually come from a friend or family member – it comes from someone we’ve only just met, and who seems to have a very narrow-minded view of the world. If we are running from anything, it’s probably people like that.
Shouldn’t you be spending this time building your career?
We ARE spending this time building our careers. Not only are we working full-time in our chosen field, living abroad can show future employers many characteristics that they are looking for, such as independence, open minds, communication skills, and a willingness to embrace and overcome challenges.
We have been building our careers since we first met.
You’re wasting the best years of your life.
We just couldn’t disagree more. Yes, these are sure to be some of the best years of our lives, and we wouldn’t spend them any other way – exploring the world, regularly having adventures and a party or two.
Aren’t you getting too old to travel now?
Age just has nothing to do with it. Why make decisions about what you can and can’t do based on a number? We are healthy, we are not neglecting any of our responsibilities, and we are not making decisions we will regret later on. We know what we want, and there’s no real reason to slow down – except that traditional society thinks we should.
Don’t you miss your family and friends?
Yes, like crazy! But it works both ways. They could always come over and see us. It is also so easy to stay in touch, and we know the people who really care about us love what we’re doing and are proud of us for living our lives to the fullest.
How can you afford it – surely your money must run out?
We have jobs! I suppose acquaintances or new people we meet assume we are backpacking, but there are actually so many different styles of long-term travel. We have a steady paycheck, a 1-year lease on our condo, and we are living and working and paying bills just like everyone back home – although our bills are actually fewer and cheaper. We have more money to spend abroad than we ever did back home.
Sometimes it’s not what is said, but what is not said. More experienced travelers once warned us this would happen, but we were still so surprised when it actually did. It’s strange to talk to someone back home who seems determined not to mention our time abroad at all. Maybe it’s just because we are such travel fanatics, but before we started traveling ourselves, we were always fascinated by those who had experienced any other corner of the world, asking them all sorts of questions and eating up their stories. Not that we are expecting that level of obsession, but if we listen to someone’s stories about gardening and the local housing economy, surely they can feign some interest in our lives too.
We’re not stopping the adventures any time soon!
We’re not saying everyone wants to travel, or even that everyone should travel. We all have our own interests and passions, and as long as you are pursuing them, you have all our respect. We know our choices are a bit unorthodox. We aren’t following the typical life path most people embrace. We only ask that people keep an open mind and consider that we have thought this through and are making the right choices for ourselves.
Fellow travelers – have you heard these statements or been asked these questions before? What have we missed? What was your reaction?
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