The Reality of Moving Abroad for the First Time


On the spur of a big night out, I decided to turn off my morning alarms. I missed my flight to Northern Thailand so that I could stay longer in Koh Tao. Little did I know that this would only be the beginning of my procrastination of returning back home to New Jersey.

I swore I would leave Koh Tao after my first level of  freediving training. Then my second. And then my third. Until I realized all together that I should just give in and let Koh Tao work its charm on me. There’s something magnetizing about this island that draws travelers in to stay like moths to a light.

If we’re being honest, it only took me a few hours to decide that after going home for Christmas, I would return to live in Koh Tao for an indefinite amount of time. My family and friends weren’t overly shocked. I’ve always been the globetrotting type. 

I think they were more caught off guard by the fact that I was moving to Thailand, of all places. Not Europe where my family lives. Not another part of the United States, where I’m from. Nope, I chose Thailand, quite possibly the farthest country away from the US with the biggest lifestyle difference. 

Sunset view from the beach in Koh Tao. Who would ever want to leave?

The initial excitement of moving quickly fizzled into stress once I got home. Picking your life up and moving it somewhere else isn’t exactly what the movies make it out to be. Is it amazing? Yes. Worth it? For sure! But it certainly didn’t come without any bumps in the road or moments of struggle.

The hardest part is always saying goodbye to the people you love. While they’re only ever a call or text away, it isn’t the same as being able to show up to their house with a bag full of snacks that you know you shouldn’t eat entirely but do anyway. You can’t open your bedroom door and walk down the hallway just to say hi or hang out. While the goodbyes aren’t easy, they do make you appreciate the relationships you have so much more. I’m so thankful that I had hard goodbyes because that means I have such amazing people in my life.

Then there’s the packing, planning, and organizing. I had to fit whatever part of my life I wanted to take with me into a 40L backpack. Talk about traveling light. This was a choice I made for myself because I wanted to keep things simple, but it definitely took me a while to decide what was worth packing and what should stay behind in my closet. If I could share a wise word of advice: always pack half of what you think you need.

My trusty Osprey Fairview 40L pack and a normal sized backpack are all that came along with me for my move to Thailand

Even after having settled in for a few days, a flood of unexpected emotion came streaming out of me one morning. I woke up feeling so sad and mixed up, but couldn’t put my finger on why. I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing something I really love. Why should I have any reason to feel sad?

The truth is, moving is hard, even if it is to a new and exciting place. Leaving behind friends and family, getting used to your new surroundings, and even falling into a new routine will take its toll on you. Starting anew somewhere is always difficult, and just because it’s somewhere you love doesn’t mean it won’t go without a hiccup here and there!

 I felt extra emotional at first because I felt like I didn’t have the right to be. I’m living abroad, doing something I love. I felt like I didn’t have the right to complain. It took me a while to realize, but everything you feel is always valid. Sometimes we just need to take our time and explore what we are feeling! There is no right or wrong way to experience any situation.

At the end of the day, moving anywhere new will always be difficult. That’s okay! Take time to explore what you’re feeling, enjoy where you are, and take it one step at a time. A challenge is just room for personal growth. I know that the beginning may have been a bit tough, but tomorrow is a fresh start with many more adventures to be had. It’s time to begin the next adventure!

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13 Responses

  1. Beautiful post Soph! Nice to know you are doing what you love and as you say it take time to get to know ourselves and to realize what are the really essential things we wanna do in life! Always try to pay attention to your feelings without judging them and you are gonna be in your right way. Best of luck in this experience!

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