Settling In: Learning How to Live Abroad

I absolutely love travel! I crave adventure, and one of my biggest fears is being stuck in one place for the rest of my life. It is funny though, because coming to India has made me miss my small-town home.

From Missouri to India. From small town to massive city. When I first arrived, I felt like I was on vacation. A two or three week trip that would be over soon, and I would return home with souvenirs and cool pictures. But as the first month and then the second month passed, it became real to me that I wasn’t going ‘home.’ Don’t get me wrong, I love it here, but I realized that I wasn’t settled.

Living in a new city can be difficult. You don’t know where the store is located. You don’t always have friends or a community. You’re not familiar with popular hang out areas so that you can make friends. And life is different. Each city has a different beat. Traveling in India has shown me that. In the mountains of Northern India, life is slower and smaller; whereas in Delhi, everything is faster and often takes longer (traffic!). It’s also different trying to get settled in a new apartment, where your landlords live above you and getting things fixed takes longer. We didn’t have clean water for the first three weeks because we kept missing the guy when he would come. When people did come to fix our apartment, they would come at unexpected times, like the plumber who came at 8:00 at night.

I thought getting settled would take a month. As an American, I’m used to the fast-food idea of it needs to happen right now. India’s different though. Some stuff takes time.

Getting settled involves knowing where things are located and consistency. Having the number for our veggie guy has been a tremendous help in allowing me to settle into my new home. Knowing that I can call and get the veggies I need (fresh veggies!) allows me to feel like I know what I am doing. I am succeeding. In our local market, I know the stall that I can go to and get everything from peanut butter to toilet cleaner, and even candles. It’s like a neighborhood Wal-Mart except cheaper, smaller, and more personal. The shopkeepers know me, and I know them. I’m starting to explore the area around me, going to the local park, not to simply check it out and mark it in my travel notebook, but to actually sit, relax, read, and call it my park. I’m getting settled. I’m not there yet; some have even told me it can take months, but I’m closer than I was last week or even yesterday.

So, to those who are living abroad know that it’s okay to not feel prepared. It’s okay for your new apartment, hostel, or dorm to not feel like home right away. It’s okay to slowly start to branch out and find new markets and new places in your neighborhood. Most importantly, it’s okay to take time to settle. You will be there one day, so be okay with it going slower than you thought.