By the time I turned 29, I had visited 31 countries. All of my vacation days were spent exploring new parts of the world. But they were just that– vacations. It wasn’t until 2015, when I quit my job, sold everything I owned, and moved overseas that I truly got to experience the joys of living abroad. From August 2015 to March 2020, I lived in New Zealand and Australia and visited 27 other countries. In 2021, I moved to Portugal, where I’ve established residency and am on a path to citizenship. Living abroad isn’t always easy, but the reward is worth it!
Depending on where you choose to live, you may be able to significantly lower your cost of living. For example, during my three months in Thailand, I often enjoyed a lunch of delicious pad thai for less than a dollar! And in Portugal, my health insurance is less than $65 per month, compared to $300 per month with higher premiums in the US.
In other countries, like Australia, the cost of living is higher– but so is the minimum wage. Most employers are required to pay their employees 150% wages on Saturdays and double their salaries for work done on a Sunday.
A new study by researchers at Iowa State University shows that learning a new language can thwart the onset of dementia. As we age, we don’t usually have the opportunity to try new things. Living abroad, everything is new again. From ordering my favorite pastel de nata to finding the right train route to explore a new castle, living abroad is like an anti-aging cream for the brain.
Expand your bubble
I thought I was worldly before living abroad. But vacationing with friends and family members who are just like me caused me to view new places through a lens that made sense to me. Now that I am surrounded by people from around the world, I am growing in compassion and curiosity thanks to friendships with people who are my complete opposite. Turns out, opposites do attract! I like to say that I used to live in a bubble. Now, I live in a bubble bath, and it is so much more fun!
Where I’m from in Texas, homes built in 1909 have historical markers affixed to them. In Lisbon, my living room looks out over São Jorge Castle, and the pastry shop that sells the original pastel de nata has been serving the same recipe since 1837. If you want to live in a home that’s older than the United States, move abroad and immerse yourself in the rich culture and history.
It is said that “wherever you go, you take yourself with you, and you will always find yourself,” and it’s true– for better or for worse. Living abroad causes you to look inward and discover who you are at the core. If you like what you see, amazing! If not, a new country is a fresh slate to do the hard work of self-reflection and personal development. It’s a good time to break bad habits and replace them with good ones, seeking out a friend group who will encourage you to be your best self. Sure, you’ll probably hit the highlights on vacation, but there’s something to be said about making friends with your local barista and finally getting a smile from your neighborhood avó (grandmother). I hope you have the chance to live abroad someday. With the rise of remote jobs and opportunities abroad, say yes to exploring a new city and becoming a local in a new land.
About The Writer
Brittany Kulick is a freelance copywriter and the founder of The Sweet Wanderlust, a travel blog for people with a sweet tooth and a taste for adventure.