I've heard it many times. When people learn that I work overseas they say, "You're living my dream." That may be true. People dream of the adventure of travel and living in a new place. I get to live in Jordan, a fascinating place with a long history, friendly people, and delicious food. But I've learned that those who last the longest overseas have learned to live beyond their dreams.
Recently I returned to my home in Jordan after three weeks of travel for work. Surprise! There was no water when I tried to flush the toilet. Where I live in Amman, we only have city water for about 30 hours a week, so we fill up tanks to use between water days. Apparently, the young woman who had stayed in my house hadn't realized that the toilet was stuck, and it used up all the water in my tank.
Thankfully, I do have a back-up tank, but now I had to be extra careful to make that last for six more days. Taking showers and flushing the toilet were priorities over doing laundry, so the dirty clothes I’d traveled with were in piles around my bedroom. I made it those six days, however, the piles have gone down slowly. I don't have a dryer, and in the winter when it's cold and damp, clothes take several days to dry. So, my drying rack is constantly full, and as soon as I put away one load of clothes, I wash the next.
This is just part of daily life overseas. Add to this annoying taxi drivers (a minority, but of course, they are the ones I remember the most), going to the nearby market and not finding the only laundry soap I’m not allergic to which means I’ll have to search around town to find it, and missing a nephew's graduation from high school because the timing doesn't work to make a trip to the U.S. The list of challenges goes on. Hardly the stuff dreams are made of.
How do people last for years working overseas, not only surviving, but thriving?
Here is what I've learned as I watch the other foreigners around me. Those who last the longest know dreams don’t last. They are motivated by something deeper than adventure, and they also know that life anywhere is “daily,” not always a lot of fun. They do get frustrated by the inconveniences, but the most successful learn to shrug them off and even laugh at them. They know that, after all, the grass really isn't greener on the other side of the fence. And they also know they are making a difference in the communities where they work. The people who are most successful overseas are those who live for the chance to be with people they love, serving and living the dailiness of life alongside them.
Are you thinking about working overseas?
Come! It will be an amazing adventure – at times. But do come planning to live life beyond your dreams. And surprisingly, you might find that life overseas is even more fulfilling than what you had imagined!
Click here for overseas opportunities waiting for you!
About the Author: Libby is an IDEAS Associate and professional librarian. She currently resides in the Middle East and works with school libraries in Africa and Asia. Enjoy other blogs by Libby, such as Celebrating Christmas Far from Home.