I want to dedicate this post to those of you who are nowhere near deciding whether to move, let alone where to move.
I want to address those of you who have a hard time finding peace with the country you live in (even if it’s been years) but it’s not realistic for you to move (or at least not anytime soon), for whatever reason.
I see you and I suspect there’s a bunch of you among my readers.
Listen, I know you probably feel cornered by life and limited in your choices.
Being in such a position, it is so easy to go down that negative rabbit hole of how much your life sucks (even if it objectively doesn’t and even if you’re in a much better place now than you were a few years ago).
Which is why I want to talk about how you can still find that elusive sense of peace, even when you know that this isn’t the country you want to spend the rest of your life in and moving isn’t in the cards for you either.
It all boils down to taking ownership of your happiness.
I know, this already sounds cheesy, but please hear me out because this skill is both life-changing and so-so important.
Sadly, peace, contentment and happiness aren’t things you can go and buy in a store (I know the shopaholics amongst you would like to disagree with me!).
Moving to another country isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to experience peace and happiness either.
Normal life and bigger, better goals have a way of creeping in again and making us feel miserable, less worthy, less satisfied.
Which is precisely what’s at the root of your suffering.
When you feel like you’re missing some of the puzzle pieces of what you believe will give you that perfect life and happiness, you may also be really good at focusing on all the reasons why you’re not happy and how you’d be so much happier if you had a better job, a (better) home, better people around you, stronger health etc. etc.
In this state of mind, people often believe that peace and contentment are not available to them as long as they haven’t resolved that one thing that’s making them miserable.
But that’s simply not true.
In your constant striving to fix and make perfect whatever it is, what are the things that you’re missing out on in the process?
How much of your energy is going towards focusing on the negatives and realllllyyyyyy going into detail about how negative everything is?
How much do you think about those things on a daily basis?
How much do you talk about those things on a daily basis?
When you’re on your death bed one day, do you want to be looking back on your life and remembering how much time you spent on being dissatisfied?
How is that serving you?
I really want you to answer these questions for yourself, with honesty and compassion.
I completely get that when you’re done with something (like REALLY done) and you feel stuck by circumstance to change anything about it (for now), it feels like a silly platitude to say “focus on the positives”.
It genuinely doesn’t work.
And so I’m not going to say that.
But I will say this –
While you may feel powerless to change your circumstances (especially if that’s objectively true and not just you limiting yourself), please ask yourself this –
What are the things that bring you joy, fill your soul and make you forget about both time and your surroundings?
Things that are completely independent of the country you live in or the circumstances that are keeping you in that country?
How much time and energy are you putting into THOSE things versus focusing on the negatives?
On a daily basis?
On a weekly basis?
How do you think you’ll feel when you dedicate so much more time on activities that fill your cup?
Even if you don’t have any easy and quick options to change your circumstances or move somewhere else, you always have the option to fill at least part of your days with things that help you feel like you’re alive and not stagnating.
All it takes is for you to be disciplined about cutting out the complaining and directing all of that energy into things that nourish and nurture you.
Heck, you might even start to enjoy your life after that because you’re too busy doing things you love and growing as a person.
Yes, the locals will still annoy you.
Yes, you will still have to make compromises when it comes to your living situation, your relationships, your job, your finances or bureaucracy.
Yes, you will still at times wish you were somewhere else where things would be easier (or so you believe).
All of those things will still be there.
But alongside that, allow yourself to dedicate time for the things in your life that bring you joy, too, and completely lose yourself in them.
As long as you are focusing solely on the negatives of your circumstances, you are making yourself suffer.
Not anyone else.
YOU are making yourself suffer!
It’s you who has decided to dedicate time and energy into focusing on what you don’t like, meanwhile completely neglecting what would help you.
As long as you are making yourself suffer, you are resisting life as it is.
And when you’re resisting life, you are not living.
You are stuck in your head, living in an imagined future or a past that no longer exists.
But all there is to life is this very moment.
This very moment that’s full of beauty and joy, as well as hardship and growth.
In the words of Eckhart Tolle: “Acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm – if you are in none of these states of mind, you are creating unhappiness and suffering for yourself.”
And if you can’t bring yourself to any of these states of mind, then remove yourself and try somewhere else.
But if you end up being miserable there, too (for a completely different reason or even the same reason), you need to look in the mirror to find the one actually responsible for their happiness and suffering.
All of this may feel like mental gymnastics, and in a way that’s exactly what it will feel like for the first little while.
Because we’re so used to complaining and wishing to be somewhere else, somewhere better.
Meanwhile we don’t realize that that better place will also put things on our path that we will want to escape or get rid of.
But if you want to get off of that hamster wheel, it’s time to wholeheartedly direct your focus to making this very moment the best that it can be.
If this is something you struggle to do on your own, considering any of my coaching services to help you move forward in your life abroad.
Katherine is a retired world traveller and former serial expat of 15 years. Based on her professional and personal experience as well as PhD research, she now helps expats, travellers and location independents decide whether to stay or go, whether to move back home or where to settle down.