Last time I moved to Germany to live with my boyfriend was in December of 2016. It was the first time I had ever actually been outside of an airport in Germany and the first time I decided to live with a boyfriend. Back then, I’d just finished taking German 101 and tasted the raw hardship of spending several months apart in a “long distance relationship.” We agreed sometime before that I would come and visit him in December and I would plan on completing a semester of my Master’s program online to stay as long as possible. My plan worked, and I was able to live with him from December 2016 until May 2017. While it was an incredible experience and crucial foundation to our relationship, this time dug deep into my greatest fears and showed me the privileges I had when living in California. For someone who already has anxiety and is somewhat of an introvert, the stress of adjusting to a new culture, language, and customs made it difficult- to say the least.
Even so, I like to think that my struggles during this time are what propelled me to finally make the voyage again two years later (October 2018). I saved up what I could, parted ways with my jobs, sold my car, packed my bags (and my cat), and moved out of my mom’s California home and into our apartment here in Germany. Some people called me crazy, others called me brave, but in the end, it was the overwhelming support of my close family that gave me the courage I needed. For most Latinas with immigrant parents, leaving home is almost unheard of. I am fortunate to have an incredibly open-minded mother and an encouraging father who helped me see the vastness of life and ask, “Why not now?”
Many of us millennials in our 20’s are struggling to fit the mold of our parents as we transition into a time when we’re supposed to be “adulting.” Ironically, this is really just like any other phase of our lives- a time of self-discovery and learning from our mistakes. We’re notorious for being the generation that somehow ruins everything, doesn’t work hard enough, and wants everything- right away. Can you blame us for feeling a little bit overwhelmed by society’s expectations? I find myself constantly wondering whether the next step I take will be the one that finally makes people take me seriously, and quite frankly I got tired of trying to please everyone. Feeling a strong disconnect with my hometown and knowing I had the freedom to change my situation, I closed my eyes, jumped headfirst into the next chapter, and stopped looking back.
Funnily enough, I faced (and continue facing) some of the same struggles again when I moved to Germany. When I arrived I had trouble figuring out my visa, faced several moments of culture shock, and once again had to overcome the language barrier. Four months later: I’m still struggling to find a secure job, create a solid social circle, and feel confident enough to attempt a full German conversation. But as an avid traveler who spent time studying abroad and found her second home in Australia, I can safely say that “home” isn’t always where you think it is. No matter how secure or comfortable you feel at home right now or how determined you are to stay in the same place- with time comes change and one day you might find yourself feeling unfamiliar with your own home. Humans are built to change with our surroundings, and my experiences prove just how adaptable we are.
One of the biggest fears I had before coming to Germany was losing my entire social circle and having to build a new one from scratch in a new city. But if there’s anything I learned from being in a long distance relationship for 2 years, it’s that relationships aren’t dictated by the miles between each other. It’s easier now more than ever to maintain friendships even from abroad because of the internet, social media, and other apps that keep us all connected. Throughout my travels (especially when I traveled alone) I learned that strangers can actually be incredibly helpful and friendly. In fact, they might even end up being one of your closest friends. Besides, what’s better than having friends to visit when you decide to go abroad again?
I’m proud to have a global network of friends now because I forced myself to talk to the people next to me during my trips (sometimes out of nervousness, other times out of desperation for finding friends). It certainly can feel embarrassing, pathetic, or even stupid when you’re the odd one out in another country. But think of how you would act when meeting a foreigner in your hometown- probably excited to show them around and get to know what they think of your country! Keeping this in mind, I’ve tried to reach out to other travelers as a fellow newbie in this city by attending Facebook events and striking up conversations with Germans around me. I can’t say it’s easy or always fun, but it is an experience that has helped me grow and feel more comfortable with living in my boyfriend’s home country.
The last four months gave me perseverance, strength, and the courage to keep telling my story so that others may hopefully be brave enough to travel, live abroad, or simply expand their horizons. I am so thankful to have “closed the distance” on my international long distance relationship- I get to see my partner every day, to experience his culture firsthand, and to work on myself in the process. Whether you’re heading on a trip soon or waiting for the right time, I would love to hear about your experiences with travel! Feel free to comment below with some of your adventures as well as any thoughts you had on today’s blog post. Thanks for reading!