Five hard truths I’m learning living overseas

Living life between two worlds leads to some learning curves and hard, hard truths.


Setting up a little life for yourself overseas is an adventure. It is filled with exciting life decisions, discoveries and personal growth. But it is also loaded with loneliness and turmoil.

It’s taken some time (and a lot of tears) to realise that each negative feeling is not an indication that you need to head home.

Those feelings are simply part of the adventure.

1. You learn to navigate the world without a helping hand

Be it mum’s hand, someone packing your groceries or someone cleaning up after you, overseas you have to do it all yourself. While liberating, going about life without anyone can be quite lonesome.

I still pick up the phone to ask mum every stupid question I have, but she can’t help with everything. It took a really low moment and a long walk home in the pouring rain without an umbrella to realise that only I can pull myself toward myself.

2. You’re no longer in someone’s life because you live down the road

Staying close and connected to family becomes something that happens mentally rather than physically. Yes, I probably took my mum for granted while I was living a stone’s throw away, but she knew I loved her in the lazy Sundays we spent in our pj’s together and the laughs around the dinner table.

Distance takes those little moments away, and flying back and forth every few months is costly and unrealistic. You learn to accept that you can’t be there for all the big moments, but you can be there consistently in spirit.

3. People slip out of your life and that’s OK

When you move away from home you lose friends, but it is neither party’s fault. The reality is that if you ‘lost’ a friend moving overseas, you probably would have grown apart anyway.

It’s difficult to see the positive when you can count the number of friends you have on your fingers, but unconsciously letting some people slip out of your life will show you which friendships truly stand the test of distance. And it is those friends on your journey with you that need to be held close.

4. Time with loved ones is never enough

Whether you’ve flown home for a fleeting holiday or your family has come to visit, time will fly and before you know it you’ll be alone again wishing you could re-do everything.

There will be the big reunion and the tears, but there will also be the usual family bickering and nagging. It hit me in a particularly heated argument with my sister when she said, “Don’t worry you’ll be rid of me in a week”. It hurts to hear your little sister say that to you. But it puts things into perspective too.

When you move away from home you quickly realise how every aspect of your life has changed, and how everyone back home seems to have stayed the same. But there is no time to dwell on this, no time to fight over how to do things, because you have limited time for catching up, re-connecting and cherishing your loved ones.

So cherish the hell out of them.

5. You have to remember your anchor

There are days where I am overcome with guilt for leaving South Africa and for leaving my family and friends behind. Days where I question whether the sacrifice I made moving abroad was really worth it.

It is in these moments that I have to remember what is anchoring me here. Be it a degree, a job, a life choice, a love choice, there is always a reason behind a huge life decision.

Even if some days you would give it all up in a split second to be at your best friend’s wedding or your sister’s graduation, you have to remember your anchor.

And the good thing about having an anchor is that, when the time is right and the wind is in your favour, you can hoist it back up and head on home.

Read more on this topic:

Leaving South Africa for all the right reasons

Five culture shocks every South African experiences when living in the UK