Deciding to move abroad is one thing; surviving and fighting the urge to fly back home is another. It's been over two years since I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. And it could be perfectly described by Taylor Swift's hit song, "22." Aptly, I was turning 22 then.
"We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time," Taylor Swift couldn't have sung it any better. Living in a different country is a mix of a lot of different emotions. "It's miserable and magical." Indeed it is.
One day you'll feel like you've fully adjusted to the time difference, the culture, the language, and the people, but there will still be days when you'd just want to book the earliest flight back home.
"Tonight's the night when we forget about the deadlines." There is nothing wrong with staying at a job, a relationship, a life that you're happy in. It's just that sometimes you'll really crave for something new. "It's time," I thought to myself, too.
"It feels like one of those nights. We ditch the whole scene." Living abroad wasn't part of my plan. It was a decision made out on a whim. I remember every time I was asked what my life plan was, I'd answer with a list of dreams and to-dos yet I was doing nothing to achieve them.
"It feels like one of those nights, this place is too crowded." Life felt a bit mundane. I wanted a fresh start. The idea of being in a new place equated to new adventures and discoveries about the country, the city, and myself, I thought. My friends were playing with the idea of flying to Vietnam to pursue a career in ESL teaching. Oddly enough, I said yes to an out-of-the-blue invitation and unpolished plan. I booked my flight even before asking permission from my family. The plan to persuade them into letting me go came after, and surprisingly they easily agreed.
One Christmas, one New Year, one birthday, and a whole lot of missed family events after; here I am living a life away from the comforts of home, and surprisingly enjoying it. It was daunting, yet I'd still consider it as one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Vietnam may be a small country and has quite a number of similarities with the Philippines, but it offers a lot of the newness I was craving for.
Every day, even errands day is a day to explore the city. The chores I wouldn't normally do back home, like doing my own laundry, cooking, and my least favorite of all, ironing, unexpectedly became the highlights of my weekend.
Every day is also a reminder for me to be more considerate of others. A new country means new rules to follow, new people to get along with, and new streets to cross. Back in the Philippines, I was never fond of crossing the streets, Vietnam is no different. I now understand why crossing the streets here involve a whole lot of courage and talent. I've also learned that I may never be friends with motorcycles.
Being the picky eater that I am, moving to a vegetable-loving country and being surrounded by healthy eaters was difficult for me. I've never tried Vietnamese food before coming here so getting a taste of their food for the first time was nerve-racking. After over two years, I have somehow adapted to it and I'd say that Vietnamese food is not just healthy, but really delicious too.
Just like any other story having two sides, my life abroad also has a downside. No matter how long I've lived overseas or how I've accustomed myself to the new environment I still feel homesick at times. People living abroad would agree that it's the most difficult thing to overcome. Even after having Skype sessions with my family, chat nights with the barkada, binge watching my favorite teleseryes, and eating my favorites at Jollibee Vietnam to satisfy my longing for home, it still isn't the same (another factor I think is that they don't have Jolly hotdogs here).
I realized that homesickness won't ever go away—it'll wander off some time, but it will eventually find its way back to you at the most random of times.
Despite the random attacks of homesickness, I'd still consider Vietnam as my second home. Here is where I met a lot of friends who are now like family to me; gained experiences I didn't think I was brave or capable enough to try; and as cliché as this may sound, by immersing in a different culture, I got to know myself more. I'm already twenty-four, but TSwift's song "22" still speaks to me. "Everything will be alright, if we just keep dancing [like we're 22]." True to her song, so far my life abroad is alright, my dancing skills, however, is a different story.