THE REALITY OF LIVING ABROAD
When I created the blog my intentions were to post honestly about our journeys, thoughts, growths, and emotions of moving and living abroad. As we get more settled in, Jaime has returned to a normal work week, and the honeymoon period starts to wear off, I find myself holding back from publicly sharing because the few times I did it was met with criticism. Criticism for not being 100% happy 100% of the time when I get to live in Italy. Criticism that I don’t have to work and I get to eat pasta and drink wine all day. Criticism for missing things about the United States.
Social media is a great place to share experiences and connect with people, especially when you’re living abroad, but it’s also great at fostering an unhealthy environment that enables you to be glued to your phone constantly comparing your life to everyone else’s. It almost becomes a default to take someone’s social media presence at face value. It’s easy to judge someone through the lens of a curated feed.
When we first received news that we were moving abroad, my first thought wasn’t how excited I was to live in Italy, it was how scared I was to lose my career. Because of the Mission Visa and SOFA agreement I’m here under, I’m legally not able to work. I don’t take for granted the ability to live abroad and not work, but I LOVED my career. The reality of giving it up when we moved was devastating. Even though I knew we were moving 8 months in advance and we’ve now lived in Italy for 6 months, not having a career is still an adjustment I battle with every day.
Living abroad is a dream, but the reality is that there’s going to be hard days. Italy is dreamy and beautiful and old and historic, but living everyday life in another language is hard. Finding ways to make new friendships while maintaining the ones at home is hard. Redefining what home means in a strange place is hard. Despite the amazing opportunities and experiences we have living abroad, we aren’t immune from feeling isolated or homesick.
While most days are good, the hard days are hard. I see friends celebrating work anniversaries and promotions and some days I want that for myself. I miss the days of calling friends and heading over for a last minute wine night, driving two hours to grab dinner with a college bestie, or just hanging out in pajamas, eating takeout, and watching Netflix with my girlfriends. I miss the luxury of our hometown only being a six hour drive away. I miss that most of our family and friends lived in the same state we did. I also miss silly things like Taco Bell, In-N-Out, good Japanese food, and taco trucks on the side of a country road. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love and embrace the feeling I get every time I eat carbonara, that there’s gelato around every corner, or the happiness I feel when we’re exploring Rome and traveling around Europe.
I love Italy more than I expected to, but I’m not sure if it’ll ever be home like California was. Our time here isn’t permanent and after three years we’ll pick up and move again, probably to somewhere that also won’t be our forever home. My reality is that it’s ok to be excited about living abroad while also mourning what is no longer part of my life. It’s ok to have mixed feelings — to love the new place you’re calling home while missing the one you left behind. Even when you’re living in a magical city like Rome, life can still be tough. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to live abroad, but I’m still allowed to be my honest self. I’m human after all.
Remember not to dismiss someone else’s struggles based on your perceptions of their life. There’s nothing more discouraging than someone dismissing your reality based on their assumptions. We’re all guilty of it, but it’s never too late to put in the effort to be better. If you’re a fellow military spouse who’s moved away from family, friends, or a familiar country or you’re someone who’s moved somewhere to start a new life or chase a dream, just know that you’re not alone and that your feelings are valid.
I can’t express the level of gratitude we have for our friends and family who are always supporting us on the great and the not so great days. The daily texts and weekly FaceTime calls are invaluable to us and are a crucial part of this journey. I’m so thankful for our military family who made sure we were taken care of before we even arrived and for our new friends in Rome who make it feel a little more like home. Shout out to my mom who’s sent us more packages than months we’ve lived in Rome, you’re the real MVP! We never miss out on Trader Joe’s newest products, important mail, or a little love from home.