Why living like a hermit crab simultaneously ruins you and makes you

I am currently living in my third city abroad, and moving to another next month (eee!) After, I fully intend on returning to the UK and finding one of them stable job things I’ve heard so much about. It will mark 3 years of unforgettable experiences.

Anyone who has ever lived abroad, either permanently or not, will tell you it’s the best thing ever. Some make new homes in new countries, but others including myself have found themselves making temporary homes until the next adventure. For us, it’s about falling in love with new cities, then breaking your own heart by moving onto the next one. After I graduated from undergrad I was determined to return to London as soon as possible. And that’s still my goal, but I’ve been grateful for this time spent in other places, seeing what else is on offer. Could I see myself living permanently living in London, Barcelona, or Berlin? Maybe yes, maybe no. Because living like a hermit crab, as amazing as it is, kind of ruins you.

Home is always temporary

“So, here you are too foreign for home too foreign for here. Never enough for both.” — Ijeoma Umebinyuo.

Your idea of home changes, for better and for worse. It shifts, develops, and adapts. But it can also provide a sense of isolation – no longer do you identify as 100% your birth nation. You’ve taken on habits from other cultures, but they are from your adopted homelands, adopted being always a constant presence. The film Garden State always rung true when the main characters discuss leaving your parents’ home: “All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone.” This becomes even more true when you leave your country. And return. And leave again.

Some of your closest friends live (too) far away

You meet them in a class, at work, or in a bar or cafe. You quickly bond because you ain’t got time to be shy, and suddenly this person from an entirely different world is like a soul mate to you. And then…you have to say goodbye. Tears and memories are shared, and you wonder when (if) you’ll ever see them again. Thank goodness for social media and Whatsapp so you can keep in touch, but it sucks when you miss that one person who you used to see every day. And goodbyes never get any easier.

You begin to miss some material possessions

At the start it’s great: you feel so empowered being able to cut back on what you need to fit one suitcase. You are a savvy jet setter – able to live out of a backpack for a weekend away whilst others are weighed down with bags. But I do miss owning a hairdryer and straighteners. I miss having all my books. I miss being able to make a room truly my own with decor. I miss being able to buy a new outfit without worrying about luggage weight.

You’re always looking for the next adventure

It’s the most liberating thing to not be anchored down – you can pack up your bags and just go. But sometimes not being weighed down gives you too much freedom. You don’t want to settle, and it almost becomes an addiction to live a little somewhere new. Commitment-phobe takes a whole new meaning. It’s not just about relationships, but everything.

That being said…

You gain a whole new perspective on life

I read a book (Ghosts of Spain) in which the British author comments on being an expat in Spain – that you have the best of both worlds. You are a participator as well as a spectator. It forces you to view your own culture with new eyes, and learn to appreciate others even more. Life as you knew it you realise is not the only way of living. You become more open minded, and more warm.

Your social circle is a social globe

Your wonderful friends will always be happy to offer their home, or at least a sofa. And you do the same. It’s always a good incentive to visit a place you maybe wouldn’t even think of were it not for seeing your friend. Not to mention you feel like the luckiest person being able to have met the people who made your adventures what they were – the best. Plus, you force yourself to be more warm, confident and outgoing. There’s no time to be aloof, you gotta make friends. And as for saying goodbyes… to quote Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard“.

You’re still not ultra-materialistic

You worry less about the latest trends and splurging on really expensive items (because let’s face it, it’ll probably end up lost or broken). It’s normal to miss home comforts, and dream of one day owning your own place with memorabilia from your days of wandering, but for now you’re a savvy jet setter who can back a bag and be ready. If you had to choose between spending your money on objects or adventures, well there’s no question.

You’re having the best time

The next adventure is always on the horizon. And as daunting and as unstable as this may be, it’s thrilling. Jobs, homes, and relationships may be transient, but with nothing holding you back you have everything to give to the world.

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