Moving homes, regardless of whether within a country or in between, is usually an intense and busy time. There are many thoughts and many emotions going through our heads. It’s almost impossible to remember them all! What could you do to capture them from the start?
Summer and early autumn are very often times when many people decide on moving locations and becoming expats either for the first time or as a next destination. It doesn’t matter if you are moving for the first time or for the fifth. Every time you move, you are dealing with a life change. And no matter how much time you spend preparing, there will still be things that will surprise you – mostly the ones about yourself and your new identity abroad.
I think it is important to capture those very first moments, the first thoughts right after you move abroad, the first night in a new house, first day in a new job, first day in a new school. There’s a high chance you will want to come back to those memories and if you don’t write them down, a lot of them might just pass unnoticed.
Didn’t capture the first expat moments initially…
I remember when I was thinking of writing an article about tough moments abroad I initially couldn’t remember any of them. What I could remember though very clearly was the range of emotions that I was experiencing, everything from excitement, through surprise on to sadness and back to happiness again. Not so rarely all during one day. I have never experienced such a range in such a short time.
I wish I were writing all that down right when it was happening. Not necessarily what emotions I was feeling, because I remembered them quite well, but more so why I was feeling them. What were the triggers for me not feeling well? What caused me to cry at one moment and then laugh about it the next minute? What was I comparing my new reality to? What were my points of references?
I now know that it is very important to ask yourself these questions as soon as possible and be mindful about how you feel and what thoughts accompany this feeling. This helps me get better self-awareness and decide what I can do about it to adjust to the new situation better and easier.
Writing an expat journal
Now the fun part begins – you can be writing a journal in so many ways! If you decide to do this (which I very much encourage you to try, if you haven’t noticed yet! 🙂 ) you have plenty of fancy stationary to choose from (colourful notebooks, markers, pens etc.), plenty of diaries ready for you to write your first words, plenty of inspirational quotes in the internet that can help you get motivated. Or you could write it electronically or start a blog too completely for free if you’d like to! Make use of all these opportunities and find what works for you.
I think that what works best at the beginning is just having a notebook or diary/calendar with plain pages so that you can write in a flow, just spitting all the words that are in your mind at a given moment. All the thoughts, all the frustrations, all the positive things – everything. Allocate yourself 3-5 minutes every day for this mind sweep. During this time, you are allowed to write everything that comes to mind, even if it were to be all the frustrations of the day.
Then once it’s done, I want you to stop and think about what good has happened during that day. I know, I know, sounds like all the positive mindset, mindfulness, coaching things that we get bombarded with nowadays. But just try. It might be that it’s not for you, that’s what I thought for a long time in my life. But it has slowly made a difference in how I look at things. Every day write down at least one good thing that made you feel good, that made you smile, that made you laugh or that you simply liked. It doesn’t need to be a huge success or a massive achievement as they don’t happen each day! I often write down things like a good lunch in a nice company or that I had a very nice morning walk before work. Noticing these small things that make you feel good is crucial to this exercise. You will not see all the advantages of writing a journal if you don’t notice the good things in life.
Advantages of writing a journal abroad
Helps you vent and keeps you sane
Having a journal gives you space, time and permission to say everything and anything that is on your mind, without negative impact on the people around you. It is especially helpful if what you want to say is connected with the frustrations of everyday life. Of course, sometimes it is important to talk to someone openly and get advice, absolutely! But sometimes people just need to vent, get rid of negative emotions. Sometimes people just need to complain and moan about things for various reasons. Having a pen in your hand and freedom to do that can be extremely therapeutic.
Being in charge and building confidence
Assuming you both give yourself a permission to vent and a commit to writing down one positive thing each day, you end up with a great log of the facts and accompanying emotions that happened in your life.
Regardless of the reason for your move abroad, having this little project of writing a journal gives you a sense of ownership and this is very important to have in such a vulnerable period of a life change. If looking for a new job abroad doesn’t go as planned at the beginning or if you are just learning new reality step by step, when you write these experiences down it allows you to look back at those thoughts in the future and understand yourself better.
There probably still are things that you think are not perfect or as you would like them to be. Being able to look back in your journal and see where you have been a couple of weeks or months before helps you change the perspective and appreciate the progress you’ve made.
Keeps the memories alive
So often we like to look at old pictures or remind ourselves about “the old times”. Although you might think that the adaptation period is tough and you won’t like to come back to it ever, you might be surprised at some point in the future when you find yourself wishing you had kept the memories in one form or another. Journaling or taking photos might be just a beginning. If it’s not just for the sole purpose of remembering the old times, these memories might be helpful when you have to move again in the future. The journal can help you learn from your own mistakes of the past! It can also be a great source of knowledge about how to prepare for the next move and what to focus on during your next adventure.
Do you have your own journal as well? Or is it just me being old-fashioned? 🙂 What do you find most helpful about journaling?
Just so you know, a new downloadable gift is in preparation for all subscribers. The plan is for you to be able to ask yourself good powerful questions at the end of each week that will help you navigate the novelty of the new life abroad. These will also be greatly helpful as a weekly or monthly reflection in your expat journal, so stay tuned for the updates!
You can already sign up and receive access to a great exercise to get you started on your expat self-discovery journey!