I love the book Eat, Pray, Love.
I think it’s a fantastic exploration of healing, travel, and heartbreak. It has inspired people to heal deeper, travel more, and live more fully.
But the movie version? Well the rom-com version of Eat, Pray, Love kind of makes it seem like healing can be tied up with a nice little bow. Like you can have a grand old time traveling the world while healing your heartbreak in perfect hair and makeup. Oh, and at the end, there will be a sexy, sexy Brazilian soulmate waiting for you.
Anyone who has embarked on a healing journey knows that it is hardly picture perfect. Throw travel into the mix and well, it can turn into a hot mess.
But people still want to know…
Can travel help me heal?
The answer is yes, but…
Yes, travel can help you heal, but probably not in the way you’re envisioning.
I’ve known a lot of people who felt like they were at an impasse in their lives. Maybe post breakup, just got fired from a job, or some other trauma. Their solution to their feelings of stagnation, fear, or heartbreak was to drop everything and travel. I’m not saying that travel isn’t the right decision in those situations, maybe it is. But travel is not going to be a balm for your wounds that helps you forget your troubles. Travel brings you face to face with the root of your trouble… yourself.
I talk to a lot of people who want to travel because they want to run away from their pain and their problems. Well, unfortunately, the Universe doesn’t let you run away from your problems.
Whatever you’ve been running from will show up again and again on the road.
That toxic boyfriend you left behind? You’ll meet him several more times, in very tempting packages. Your abandonment issues? You’ll see them every time you miss a flight or break away from a travel companion.
You can’t outrun your problems.
Guess why? Because you, my friend, are pretty much your only problem…
And the only solution. Even when life throws things at us that are outside of our control, it’s still up to us to heal the pain, shift our mindset, and manifest something different.
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
You can’t ever escape yourself. The only way to escape your patterns, your trauma, your relationships, is to face them, and to heal them. Travel wakes you up to this reality because no matter how far away you get from your old life, your problems keep showing up. That’s when the healing work really begins.
For me it took two years abroad before this reality set in. I couldn’t figure out why my problems kept showing up again and again despite my constant motion. I had always been a runner. From my problems, from my relationships, from myself. How many guys had run after me literally yelling, “You can’t keep running away from me!”
Once I realized that I was the problem and I was never really going to be able to outrun myself, I moved back to the US. The resources I needed for healing weren’t available to me where I was living, although nowadays the Internet has made almost any healing modality just a few clicks away.
Moving back was a really painful decision for me. It felt like a failure. I had to put my ego attachment to being a “traveler” aside in order to get myself the healing that I needed. I did hours and hours of hypnotherapy. I got certified as a theta healer and a spiritual life coach. I did acupuncture, reiki, yoga, and more. And the journey still isn’t over for me. I had to put the physical journey aside in order to take an internal one.
That being said, travel can be an incredibly powerful first step in your healing journey, even if it isn’t the ultimate solution.
Travel does give you the space to heal.
There are times when you might find that you want to heal, but the people around you are sabotaging that. It’s not that they don’t want you to heal, it’s that they are used to a version of you and they don’t want things to change. They might even lash out, “Who do you think you are?” “Wow, you’ve changed so much.” Especially the people who were able to take advantage of a weaker version of yourself. In that sense, travel takes you away from the routines, jobs, and people that have expectations of you, and don’t necessarily want you to do the healing work. Travel creates the space to heal, analyze your relationships, and become a new version of yourself.
What about past lives?
If you find yourself fixated on visiting one particular location, you might have experienced a powerful past life there. If you can’t shake the desire to go there, it’s a sign from your soul that you have some healing work to do around this particular past life. I would recommend working with a past life regression therapist to figure out what happened. Once you do that you may find that you still have an unbelievably strong desire to visit that location. At which point, I would recommend heeding the call. You might need to step into the physical energy of that spot to complete your healing.
Journal About It:
- Where do you want to visit? Why?
- What in your life do you want to leave behind?
- Do you ever have vivid dreams about a place you’ve never been?
- What part of your being is asking you to travel?
When I was in college, I wanted to work for a think tank in a research role. Today, I’m a matchmaker and expat coach.
How the hell did that happen?
In college, I imagined that I wanted to spend my days doing research. But once I finished graduate school, the last thing I wanted was to do was more research. I actually loved research, (still do!) but I wanted a career that gave me more flexibility, more travel experience, and more human to human interactions.
I had to let go of the idea of what I thought my career would look like in order to find what I really wanted.
I had absolutely no idea what kind of career I wanted.
But rather than obsessing over the “I don’t know” part, I just jumped in and tried a bunch of different things. I saw each opportunity as a paid learning experience. My only requirement was that I had to be able to work from home.
I ended up spending a year freelancing. I did freelance writing, VA work, and research, before landing a gig writing about relationships for a lifestyle blog. The job did not pay well, but I had a feeling it would lead into something else. It did! I ended up getting a job as a matchmaker a month later.
Matchmaking is not a career I ever expected. But it actually fits in perfectly with my academic background, while utilizing my research and writing skills, as well as my experience in self management developed through freelancing. Matchmaking also showed me that I’m really good at recruitment. Back in college, I would have never expected that recruitment would become one of my major skills and passions. Plus, it taught me how to be an entrepreneur, which inspired me to launch my own coaching business.
I have a lot of friends who struggle with jobs they hate, underemployment, or even unemployment. But when I ask them what they would rather be doing, they have no idea.
That’s the problem. Not that they have no idea what they want to be doing, but that they let their indecision keep them frozen in a situation they don’t like. I work with a lot of clients who have the same issue! The problem is that they need to shift their mindset around work.
If you take a job, you don’t have to be there for 30 years. You may be there for a few years at most, but you always have the power to move into a different field, to quit and travel the world, to go back to school, whatever… You are in the driver’s seat and each job you take, is just another learning experience that will bring you closer to where you really want to be.
Here’s the secret.
I wish someone had told me this when I was job hunting… you’re not going to know what you want to do. In fact, it’s better if you don’t! Finding the career that’s right for you will take trying a bunch of different opportunities. The more you experiment, the faster what you should really be doing will land in your lap. That’s why it’s so important to do plenty of internships and volunteer work when you’re still in school.
Exploring all of those different opportunities is not wasted time. In each of those roles, you’ll get a better sense of who you are, what you’re good at, and what you really want. And you’ll be developing skills that will make it possible to actually get your dream job. Every job, not matter how insignificant it seems is really such a gift, if only because it presents the ability to continue your education (and pay your bills)!
Another word of caution.
I see a lot of people turn down great opportunities just because it isn’t exactly what they want. Most people don’t wake up the day after graduation and find their dream job. I had a friend turn down a job that would have allowed her to travel the world for fun and for work just because she didn’t want to work in sales.
Don’t turn down good learning opportunities just because they aren’t exactly what you imagined. Your career path is going to take many twists and turns. I am so far from where I thought I would be and couldn’t be happier about it! Be open to trying new things and trust that every opportunity is taking you closer to where you really want to be.
When I was a senior in college, the idea of getting a job and working full time in an office sounded like literal hell. Even though college had been really hard on me and I was a chronic overachiever, I couldn’t imagine giving up the freedom I had as a student.
I remember telling my academic advisor that I worked best at night and wanted something with flexible hours. He recommended freelance work, but I didn’t know how to get freelance work and didn’t know anyone who had ever pulled it off. Working as a freelance writer sounded like a fantasy.
Earlier in my senior year I had been considering graduate school. I had been working for the past two years in non-profit and I wanted to continue in that space, but I was already burned out. I had studied abroad in the Czech Republic and Poland, so I knew that I wanted to learn more about the region. I had no idea what I would do with that experience or how it would benefit me, but the calling was deep, so I knew I had to follow it.
My professors and advisors were telling me to go to grad school in the US. One even told me if I didn’t go to an Ivy League school it would be a waste of time. But when I crunched the numbers, it just didn’t make sense. I would have to take out student loans and spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on tuition. It would take two to three years to get my degree. That meant not only would I be deep in debt from school, I would also be living in a costly US city like New York or Boston.
When I imagined what my future would look like following the path of an American grad school, honestly, it looked terrible. I would be sacrificing my quality of life in a big way for at least a few years. I would have to spend hundreds of dollars and hours preparing for the GRE.
Plus, by taking out loans, I would be sacrificing my freedom. With debt breathing down my neck, I would feel pressured to study something that was “practical” but that I wasn’t passionate about. I would spend the next few years wondering whether I had made an enormous and costly mistake before taking the best paying job that came my way to pay off my debt, rather than pursuing my passions.
I stepped back and took a serious look at what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to be. Honestly, I couldn’t come up with any answers and with a degree in Religious Studies, my prospects didn’t exactly feel red hot.
At the time, I let the pressures of the situation distract me and I was totally out of alignment with myself and what I wanted. What I did know was, A. I wasn’t ready for a full time job, not mentally and not on paper. B. I was really passionate about travel. And C. I was being called to study the post-Soviet space more deeply.
With all of this swimming around in my mind, a full class load, two jobs, and two thesis projects, I was headed straight for a nervous breakdown. Somehow, while doing research for a paper, I discovered a small university in Budapest, Hungary. I had never been to Budapest, but it had been at the top of my list for some time.
It was an English language graduate school that offered American accredited degrees, but at a European price tag. Plus, it followed the European education model, meaning degrees were 10 months to 2 years long. On top of that, the cost of living in Budapest is significantly less than the average American city. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Budapest is 68% lower than that of New York City. The university also had way more funding available than the average American institution.
And since the Universe works in magical ways, my university in Budapest was one of only two universities in the world that offered a degree in the specific field I had been studying for the past two years. I didn’t realize that this seemingly random passion I had developed for Nationalism Studies could be parlayed into a graduate degree.
I applied as a failsafe. I figured if I didn’t get a job I would just go to grad school. That’s exactly what I did.
I ended up getting 75% of my degree covered by scholarships, which meant I paid less than four thousand dollars for my MA.
Because I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone both academically and literally, I also expedited my personal and professional growth in a way I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish in the US. But more on that later!
You just can’t concentrate at work anymore. You spend most of the day on Instagram scrolling through travel pictures. You’re job doesn’t light you up and you spend most of the day wondering if you’ll ever break out of the soulsucking rat race. Your commute is beginning to feel like torture.
If you’re being honest, there’s probably at least a tiny part of you that wants to just drop everything and move to a new country. Set sail and travel full time. I get that. Life is short and we live on a beautiful planet. It would be a tragedy to go through life and only see a small sliver of all the beauty this world has to offer.
That’s why I moved to Budapest, Hungary when I was 22.
Unfortunately, at the time, expat coaching wasn’t really a thing and I didn’t have anyone to offer me honest advice on how to move abroad.
The reality is, moving to a different country is hard. Even in the best of circumstances, the culture shock, language barrier, and stresses of everyday life can have a SERIOUS impact on your mental health. I know it impacted mine.
That’s why I’m writing this blog series to give you all of the information I wish I had before I showed up completely alone in a country I had never been to before.
Looking back, it was nuts of me to do this without any help. Luckily, you don’t have to.
1. Ego Calls vs. Soul Calls
Some people feel the call to travel, some people don’t. If you are feeling the call, before you uproot your life, you need to figure out where that call is coming from. If you are inspired to travel by the Instagram models you follow, if you imagine this journey is going to be easy and glamorous, and if you fantasize about showing off how cool and exciting your life is, it’s probably your ego that wants to travel. If that is the case, you aren’t going to have the stamina that it takes to move abroad full time. When shit gets hard, your ego is going to get bored real fast.
On the other hand, you might be experiencing a call to travel that comes from deep in your soul. You will feel this call throughout your entire body. Your desire to travel comes from wanting to see more of this gorgeous planet we live on. If your soul is asking you to travel, it is coming from a desire to expand and grow. It is only with this growth mindset that you will be able to overcome the literal and emotional hurdles that come with long term travel.
2. If Your Call is Genuine, It Isn’t Going Away
Soul calls come to us for a reason and ignoring them will not make them go away. You may be too afraid to quit your job and move abroad. That’s normal, but that doesn’t mean your desire is going anywhere. If you have a soul call to travel (or to do anything really) you need to answer it in earnest. The good news is that if it is a genuine soul desire, the Universe will move things around to make it happen, as long as you take the leap and make the effort.
Before I moved abroad, I was sick with nerves. Each day I got closer to the move, I felt sicker and sicker, but I knew my desire to see the world was bigger than my fear of change and airplanes. I took the leap and the Universe opened doors for me, both in my career and in my personal growth.
3. You Need Help
When I moved to Budapest, I did not have the help or support I needed. I actually didn’t even have that when I studied abroad in college. It wasn’t until I had been living in Budapest for almost two years that I learned there was an industry supporting expats with everything from coaching, to accounting, to in person events.
Living abroad is wildly stressful at times. Simple things waiting in line at customs and going to the doctor sometimes make you want to give it all up and move back to safety. But getting yourself the support you need will make this experience so much more viable and save yourself unnecessary suffering.
4. You Need to Study the Language
Note that I didn’t say you need to learn the language! Learning the language is great and will seriously improve your career cred, but it’s not totally necessary. It is necessary to study the language and do your best to use it in everyday life.
For one, it’s just good etiquette when you move to a new country, but it goes deeper than that. Studying the language will help you acclimate more to living in a new place. But it will also open you up for richer experiences.
Locals know learning a new language is hard, and they will so appreciate your efforts, even if they laugh at your mispronunciations. People will be kinder and help you more which makes all of the study well worth it. And nothing can beat that feeling of accomplishment when you are finally able to negotiate with street vendors or order in a cafe in a new language. If you can manage it, start studying the language before you get there. Even if you only know a few words, it will ease your transition.
5. Transplant Shock is Not Just for Plants
Transplant shock is when you move a plant from one spot to another and no matter what you do, it just can’t thrive. This totally applies to humans as well. (Note: I’m kind of stealing this idea from Venessa Rodriguez of the Wildly Rooted Podcast).
When you move to a new place, your system is going to be in shock for awhile. Your circadian rhythm is going to have to adjust. It’s actually normal for women to miss their periods when they move to a new country, I always do. The new foods may be hard on your digestive system. And you may find yourself depressed, homesick, and emotionally fried. This is a normal part of the process, but there are ways to diminish these symptoms. (link to other article)
6. There Are Options
A lot of people have preconceived notions about what their career is going to look like when they move abroad. Some people think their only option is to teach English. Others envision a remote job or working locally. There are pros and cons to all of these work options but try to keep an open-mind. There are more options that you are capable of seeing right now, so remain open to seeing the benefits of these different career paths or even trying multiple options at the same time. Not every job you have is going to be your dream job, but with the right mindset, every job can be a step towards living your dream life.
Yep, you read that right. Transplant shock isn’t just for plants!
If you aren’t a gardener, transplant shock is when you uproot a plant and move it somewhere else, where it fails to thrive. In some cases, the plant will even die.
Like plants, we humans are rooted into our environments. Our roots may be less literal, like our social networks, family, and habits, but it doesn’t mean we are any less deeply rooted. Just like plants, our bodies have also acclimated to the environment around you and the food you are eating. A move can have physical and emotional impacts on your wellness.
When you uproot yourself and move to a new country, the shock can be just as traumatic as it is for plants. For me, it was almost tortuous to go from the Sunshine state to Eastern European winters. Wow, talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder!
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move. That’s not what I’m saying at all.
What I am saying is the a move takes foresight and strategy. If you want to thrive in your new home, you need to make the effort to do so.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to help people like me avoid the mistakes that I made when I moved abroad. So if you want to really commit to your wellness and making your move successful on all levels, I seriously recommend follow these tips.
1. No Trips Abroad for 3 Months
So I know you moved abroad because you want to see the world, but when you first move to a new country, you need to focus on settling down first to avoid transplant shock. In other words, you need to let your roots ground in so you can thrive in your new home long term. Taking trips to other countries right away will not only be disorienting, but will also get in the way of forming an intimate relationship with your new city. Depending on your visa situation, you may not even be able to leave the country for the first few months anyway. Focus on really getting to know your new city and don’t leave until it has started to really feel like home.
2. Time in Nature
One of the most important things you can do to diminish transplant shock is to get out in nature. I believe every country and every city has its own energy. When you’re moving out of one energy and into another, it may be a shock to your system. Going exploring in nature will not just help you fall in love with your new home, but I believe the subtle energy of plants has profoundly healing effects. Get out into nature anytime you’re feeling homesick or disconnected and you will acclimate much more quickly.
3. Move in Summer
If you’re moving more than a few time zones away, your circadian rhythm is going to be totally fucked. This impacts people to different degrees, but for me, it’s an absolute nightmare and it can take weeks before I feel like a normal human again.
One of the best ways (maybe the only way!) to align your circadian rhythm and get your sleep schedule back on track is sunlight. If you are moving to a place that experiences winter, you should really move in the summer. Otherwise, you will not have access to the kind of sunlight that will align your sleep cycles. This can cause insomnia, fatigue, depression, and MAJOR transplant shock.
When I was in graduate school, I spent 6 weeks in the US for winter break and traveled around the US while I was there. This was such a big mistake. It disrupted my process of settling into life abroad and totally fucked up my circadian rhythm. When I got back to Hungary it was the dead of winter and there was almost no sunlight. I got sick, depressed, homesick, and exhausted. And I don’t mean a little sad or a little sluggish. I mean full blown depression and an inability to get out of bed and go to class.
I totally understand the desire to want to go home and see your family over the holidays, but it can set back your process of acclimation back in a lot of ways. It may be worth it to skip your first year or to have them visit you instead.
4. Study the Language
Not only is this a practical tool that will make your life easier, but I believe that each language has its own vibration. Practicing the language will help you acclimate more to the energy of the country and help you form that intimacy you want with your new home.
5. Limit Contact with Friends Back Home
I know this makes me sound like a hardass, but it is totally necessary. I don’t mean you should ghost all of your friends, but you should be mindful in your contact when you first move.
When you have those difficult moments, you’re going to want to reach out to something familiar. But the more you rely on your network back home, the more you are going to want to go back.
Right now, you are trying to make a new home for yourself, so it is vitally important that you push yourself to develop a local support network as soon as you can. This is where having an expat coach can really help you. It is someone familiar you can turn to when you need support, but not someone you had a pre-existing relationship with that is going to distract you or tempt you to give up.
6. Connect with People Before You Move
Friendship might be the biggest tool towards helping you feel more rooted in your new home. Connecting with people and organizations before you get there will help you a lot. Join local expat organizations for events and support in finding an apartment. Join local Facebook pages and post in the groups introducing yourself. Having someone you can reach out to to ask questions before you get there and knowing you will have chances to socialize as soon as you move will be such a balm for your anxiety.
One group I’m a part of Women of Budapest, is a support network for Hungarian and expat women living in Budapest (obviously). They host social events, travel together, post jobs, and answer even your most embarrassing questions (where can I find an English speaking doctor that does paps?). Having a support network like this before arriving will change your experience.
7. Get Your Own Space ASAP
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is taking too long to find an apartment. You should have all of your basic research on apartment hunting covered before you even move. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend signing a lease before you get there, but you should already have showings booked. The longer it takes to get into your own space, unpack, and start to build your nest, the more stressed you’re going to be and the less it will feel like home.