leaving home is hard. let's stop pretending it isn't.
Remember when you first started planning your trip abroad? Whether it was an extended backpacking trip, a study abroad experience, or a family vacation, I'm willing to bet significant money that you either brought home one of those glossy catalogs, looked at travel websites, or even just scoured Pinterest for inspiration. If you did any of those things, you were probably greeted by smiling, happy, non-sweaty travelers that were having the time of their lives hiking some mountain, talking to an old, stereotypically local man, or strolling energetically through the most touristy parts of town. What a dream, right? That's clearly how your trip is going to go.
False.Whenever you leave home, especially when you're on your own for more than a few days, there are bound to be bumps in the road. And every moment isn't going to be Instagramable. During my first stint as an expat, the honeymoon phase wore off quickly and I was hit with the realization: this is real life. I have to actually live here and go to school and not treat every second like it's just a big tour. And after that honeymoon wore off, things started to go wrong. I had to grocery shop, which was hard when you're not fluent in the local dialect. I missed connecting trains and had to figure it out. There were days where I would get hopelessly lost. And there were some weeks that were just really hard.
That was the toughest part of being abroad with a return date. I felt this immense pressure to have an absolutely awesome day every single day. I drove myself crazy for the first weeks, trying to cram in as much as I possibly could and post all the best pictures. And I felt like something was wrong with me when I had bad days. I recognized how lucky I was to be there and felt absolutely awful for not being overwhelmingly grateful for my day, simply because it was tough. Everyone who has talked to me knows how much I love Prague (heck, I loved it so much I chose to move back), but I had moments, even in that beautiful, beautiful city where I questioned why I chose to move in the first place.
I've had countless friends approach me about their experiences, feeling guilty for not loving every single minute of it, or they felt like they weren't doing it right. This is 150% not true. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having bad days abroad. In fact, I look at it like a small victory. You go abroad to assimilate and do life in a different place. You go abroad for a long trip to make a place your home. Let me ask you this: when you're home, do you have an awesome day every day? I can almost hear the chorus of, "heck no!" coming from all of you. If you're adjusted enough to have a bad day, you're actually doing something right. So take a breath, pat yourself on the back and know that it's going to get better if you just give it a chance.
Friends, I challenge you to dig into those less-than-stellar moments when you feel alone, scared, sad or frustrated because that's where you find your grit and your grace. I'm still uncovering lessons I learned from those times abroad and realizing how much they've shaped me into the person I am today. Those experiences may feel awful when you're in them, but I promise you, they are never, ever a waste of your time. Don't, even for a second, believe the lie that nobody else feels this way. Anyone who has traveled has felt it. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you're feeling and you'll be surprised to find that you'll come out on the other side with a full heart and the tools to take on the next challenge.
This post is my promise to you, my beautiful community of family, friends, fellow travelers and perfect strangers. I will always be honest with you in my posts. I love a pretty photo as much as anyone, but I love you more and will only share what is useful, honest, and real with you. Fellow travel bloggers, let's work together to shed light on the not-so-great moments and turn them into ways to grow. Together we can build a community that loves all parts of travel, not just the parts that are Instagram-ready.