What do people who thrive overseas have in common?

My father says you remember the smell of your country no matter where you are but only recognize it when you’re far away.

Aglaja Veteranyi, Warum das Kind in der Polenta kocht

I am putting this book in my to-read list because my dad often quotes a similar phrase in Bengali.

Homesickness has ruined several overseas experiences. If you have friends or family who live away from home, you must have seen their social media posts describing their homesickness. Different people deal with homesickness and unfamiliarity quite differently. Over the last few months I have been making notes about a few habits that help people thrive overseas despite their homesickness and circumstances.

Firstly I observed that you don’t need to be an extrovert in order to thrive overseas. So this post is applicable for both extroverts and introverts.

A determination to thrive

People who thrive seem to relentlessly pursue the best life they can have irrespective of where they live. People leave home for so many reasons – the adventure of trying something new, to be with family, for work, to answer a calling. The people we spoke to and read about, described times of overwhelming challenges or incidents of extreme homesickness but their determination to thrive carried them through.

They practice contentment

They are able and willing to maintain a positive attitude when dealing with the uncertain and the unfamiliar. They view the unfamiliar as fun instead of as intimidating. Fear is replaced by excitement. They also embrace their limitations, whether it’s their personality, illness, slow learning, they remain patient.

Read related: My struggles with depression while living overseas

They enjoy new food options

It’s not so hard to try new food options but when that new food becomes the regular option, it not always easy to thrive. Numerous struggles stem from the inability to adapt to new food habits. Finding food options that are close to comfort food have helped many adjust to the new tastes and textures quicker.

An open mind and desire to learn

Learn new cultures, language, lifestyle and habits without passing judgement all the time. A desire to learn and eagerness for exposure to new things is pretty vital to embracing the new experiences that life throws our way. An intentional appreciation for the new community and culture and not being a loner makes them thrive.

Read related: Tips for Overseas Living – Be a Learner

Not losing sight of the purpose for moving

Those who thrive overseas stay motivated by not losing sight of the purpose for moving. They avoid getting distracted with random incidents and emotions, episodes of homesickness, complicated relationships or small setbacks.

The more I think about these the more I realize that some of these habits are good to practice no matter where you live but they come in a lot more handy when you’re away from home.


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Author: The Overseas Magazine Editor

 

 

 

We would love to hear your travel and living overseas stories. Learn more bout writing for TOM here.

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Atlanta’s MARTA trains

For the past nine months I worked at a company that was around 17 miles (27kms) from where we live in Atlanta. Given my fear of driving on Atlanta highways and the desire to escape Atlanta rush hour traffic snarls, I used the MARTA trains to travel to and from work.

Read related: Driving basics: India and the US

MARTA stands for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and is the main form of public transportation in Atlanta. MARTA trains and bus routes in Atlanta are a convenient way to get around the city if you don’t mind walking to and from the stops.

Every user needs a breeze card to use the MARTA service. These cards can be purchased very easily at the pay machines outside MARTA train stations. If you need to use the bus, you will need to buy your card at one of the main bus stations or any train station. Breeze cards can be topped up with cash value for rides either online or at any station. Rides are most economical if you can buy “rides” instead of selecting the “add cash” option. Some pay machines don’t offer the option to buy rides, so check online if you’re planning to use the card regularly.

Inside the station or at the bus stop, you will find the routes and ride options displayed. If you’re unsure, just ask the driver or MARTA staff or another passenger. The first time I used the MARTA, I met a kind elderly gentleman who gave me directions and it was really easy.

I learnt a few lessons about the trains and ways to make the most of my one hour rides every day.

Most trains have a recorded announcement which you can listen to to track your stop but sometimes there aren’t any announcements and you need to pay attention to the station chart or the station signs. Of course there are some drivers who like to make the announcement themselves and that’s usually interesting. Some make it fun and some talk loud and non-stop.

The most crowded train compartments are usually the ones closest to the entrance stairs since a lot of people make it just in time and rush in to the closest open train door.

The seats closest to the train doors are usually reserved for senior citizens, pregnant women and people with special needs. Check your seat before you sit down because some of them have food and drink spills or other stains.

In the mornings, you can find a few homeless people sleeping soundly on their seats. And sometimes there are people who are loud and clearly high on substances. All of them contribute to interesting train rides.

One morning, a gentleman sang loudly and out of tune for a while. We all noticed him – dressed for work and seemed all right. The compartment was crowded and his singing was not entertaining after a while. We heard someone say something to him and I didn’t hear what it was but I heard his loud reply. He laughed and said that he couldn’t stop singing because he had been homeless and hopeless for so long and he had finally found a job. He knew God was turning his life around. He had so much joy that people started cheering him on as he sang and shared his story. It was a pretty neat ride after that!

Even the most crowded trains offer plenty of standing space. Since the train stops at every station, people board and get off frequently and it’s usually easy to find an empty seat. Trains are air conditioned and usually colder than I prefer but wearing a light sweater helps.

My favorite part about the daily one hour ride was to find a comfortable seat with some uninterrupted reading time.  I’ve always enjoyed reading but in the last few months, I read more books, magazines and comics than I had in all of 2016!

MARTA rides are also great opportunities to catch up on planning and life reflections. You can see people staring out of the windows even inside tunnels. Some listen to music or watch videos offline. Quite naturally, phone and internet services don’t work inside tunnels.

Check the timings and routes on the MARTA website and try it the next time you’re in Atlanta!


The featured image was TOM’s Facebook cover photo for a while and features the MARTA overhead tracks at the West End station.

Our World: May 2017

USA

An argument between a Mississippi man, his estranged wife and her family over custody of the couple’s children ended in a shooting that killed eight people, including a deputy sheriff. Read more…

China

Police in China and Vietnam will strengthen exchanges of intelligence and evidence, and conduct joint investigations and exercises in a bid to smash large cross-border human trafficking rings. Read more… 

India

India and Germany signed a slew of about 12 agreements covering cyber security, urban development and vocational education, digitization, infrastructure etc, during the formal session of the bilateral inter-governmental consultations (IGC) here on Tuesday. Read more… 

Kabul

Kabul blast killed 80 this morning. No group has taken responsibility for the attack. Read more…

South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered a probe after the Defence Ministry failed to inform him that four more launchers for the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system had been brought into the country. Read more… 

Germany

German police have arrested a teenage asylum seeker suspected of planning a suicide attack in Berlin. Read more…

Nigeria

Nigerian officials say the 82 young women released by Boko Haram extremists this month are now joining those already freed in a special rehabilitation program. Read more…


Our World: May 2017

My struggles with depression while living overseas

It has been a few months since we moved back home and I wanted to share this for the benefit of those who might have similar struggles.

My husband and I were married for a few months when we decided to live overseas. It was a decision motivated by the charm of adventure. When the opportunity for my husband to teach overseas presented itself, we were super excited! Saying goodbye to family and friends was hard considering we had spent our entire lives living just five minutes away from our loved ones. But we knew that we would be back in a couple of years, which made moving overseas really seem like an adventure.

We arrived in our new home city in the middle of summer. Temperatures were not too bad and we loved the feel of the city. During the first few weeks, we tried to get connected with a church and a community around us.

It’s strange trying to establish relationships from scratch.

Since we had pretty much lived in our old home city all our lives, friendships and communities had developed organically over time.

In our new home city, we had to ask intentional questions about how involved we wanted to be and we had to seek people out to meet for coffee or meals.

I plugged into my “get things done” mode right from the start. Finding a local grocery store, learning about the city, working out our apartment lease, and registrations were all completed within the first few weeks. These chores kept me busy while my husband tried to figure out his work. We spent weekends exploring the city and trying out new places to eat. The first month went by in a flash and we felt pretty settled there.

Read related: Living Overseas: The First Two Weeks

Over the next few weeks I had very little left to do after my husband left for work. I tried volunteering but was limited by my language skills. I tried learning the language online and I spent a lot of time reading and trying to write. But boredom and loneliness would take over. 

In a few weeks, this loneliness started effecting my sleep schedules. I would stay awake at night often crying softly into my pillow so that my husband wouldn’t find out. I didn’t want him to think I was struggling because he seemed to be living his dream. I wanted to support him well. Waking up in the morning was another story! Some days I would wake up early and some days, it would be noon before I could drag myself out of bed. And even then I would just sulk around the house. I tried to reignite motivation and make the most of my time there but it was a fight I was losing everyday.

Since I am a Christian, I would pray, read my Bible and journal. But I couldn’t shake that heavy depressed feeling weighing me down. 

We kept in regular touch with family and friends back home. It was great but I couldn’t tell them about my struggles. I did not want them to worry about us.

In fact everyone who met me considered me a great example for expats because I seemed to be fitting in!

After the first year, my depression seemed to hit me in waves. There were still nights and days when I would sob uncontrollably with a sense of complete helplessness. It was almost as though this sobbing had become a ritual that needed to be done to get on with my life. I felt useless even though I knew I was valued and all that. The fear of being alone would ruin social events and I stopped enjoying adventures with my husband.

At the beginning of our second year, I finally decided to share my struggles with my husband. He listened intently and shared about his struggles with me, which to be honest, really surprised me. I was under the impression that he was doing better than that. The conversation did nothing to alleviate my struggles but it made me realize that I didn’t have to fight those feelings alone. 

It finally hit me – I was struggling with depression and allowing it to slowly win over me. It wasn’t just feeling lonely and homesick anymore. This had grown into something more powerful. I needed to make some significant changes and give myself a chance to enjoy my time overseas. Here are a few things I did. 

  • I realized that sobbing every other night for no apparent reason was not “normal”.
  • I also realized that the sobbing was worse when I was exhausted so I started going to sleep by 10 pm. It improved my ability to sleep through the night and wake up refreshed in the morning. I had more energy throughout the day.
  • I started praying with my husband and we started sharing and supporting each other more.
  • I started working out everyday – nothing elaborate but consistent workout with some goals.
  • I started reading purposefully.
  • I started eating better and learned to cook a few dishes that were our favorites.
  • I made the time to attend social events and plan adventures with my husband. No, I didn’t always want to but I needed to do them and so I did. And they usually turned out fun.
  • When I didn’t feel like talking about myself and answering questions during social events, I learned to redirect the conversation towards the other person and make them feel like the center of the conversation. It usually worked.
  • I started dressing sharper and I already had the clothes and accessories to do that. Dressing up prevented me from feeling like a slob. It’s amazing how clothing can influence how we feel and behave.

These small changes made a big difference to the rest of my time overseas. I still struggled sometimes but my mostly stable emotional state rubbed off on my husband and we made some crazy awesome memories!

My husband was offered an extension because he is amazing! We accepted the extension and spent three years overseas before returning home! During that extended time, the homesickness didn’t disappear but it no longer hindered us from having the best time there! 

If you need support during your time overseas, please don’t hesitate to seek the help of a counselor or mentor. With just a little help, your time overseas can be amazingly life-changing!


The author of this post has requested to remain anonymous.

You can write for The Overseas Magazine too!  Check out these suggested topics and email editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

Our World: April 2017

Our World at a glance in April 2017

USA

As the State Department’s former North Korea point man Christopher Hill said recently, it’s as if the Trump administration is trying to out-North Korean the North Koreans. Matching brinkmanship with brinkmanship. Read more…

UK

Seek a second option when dealing with surgeries. A breast surgeon who “played God” and carried out “completely unnecessary” operations has been convicted of intentionally wounding patients. Read more…

Russia

Russians, in peaceful protest, call for Putin to quit. Several hundred Russians lined up in central Moscow on Saturday under the gaze of riot police to hand over handwritten appeals for President Vladimir Putin to quit, as similar protests took place in other cities. Read more…

China

Laden with whisky and baby milk, the first freight train linking China directly to the U.K. arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu Saturday after a 12,000-kilometre trip, becoming the world’s second-longest rail route. Read more…

India

IAS officers to adopt families of matyrs. The officer will not be required to provide any direct financial assistance to the adopted family, but support and handhold its members on a sustained basis so that they live with a sense of security and assurance that the country is taking care of them in their hours of crisis and tragedy. Read more…

Africa – Tanzania

9,932 Tanzanian civil servants have been ordered to resign after an audit named them to have gained employment with fake certificates. Read more…

South America – Venezuela

At least three people have been killed in Venezuela in protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Read more…


Featured image credit: Reuters

 

Public transportation in India

Planning to live in India without a personal car? No problem! The variety of public transport options that are available for you will take you wherever you need to go!

Buses

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Local buses with the conductor at the gate

Buses are the most common form of public transportation in cities and are most busy during rush hour. This means that you will most likely not get a chance to board it unless you make it to the starting bus stops or are comfortable pushing your way in. Routes typically cover as many stops as possible and they can take the longest time to get somewhere. Since the routes are pretty fixed, plan your travel with enough time to accommodate waiting in traffic snarls.

Fares are typically low, even on air conditioned buses and tickets can be purchased from the bus conductor using cash only after you board. Be prepared to pay for the tickets in exact change for a smooth transaction and watch out for pickpockets.

Some buses have separate seats assigned for men and women and designated seats for people with disabilities. 

Local Trains

Similar to buses, trains are packed to maximum capacity during rush hour depending on the direction of travel but are usually empty through the rest of the day. Local trains connect the city with it’s surrounding suburbs. Trains are usually on time but be prepared for last minute reschedules. 

Purchase your tickets using cash at the railway station ticketing counter. You can buy several trips at once if you need to use it regularly. Crowded trains also invite pickpockets so stay alert and keep your belongings secure at all times.

Local trains have a few compartments assigned just for women. Men are not allowed on these compartments but women are allowed on all compartments. 

Also read: Train travel in India for first time travelers

Metro rail

All major cities enjoy metro rail service. These trains are super fast, generally on time and connect all major destinations in the cities.

Low fares and convenient connections all around the city also mean that they are overcrowded to the point of discomfort during rush hour. They are usually also quite crowded throughout the day.  You can purchase your ticket at the ticketing counters at any metro station within the city.

Priority seats are marked and other seats are available for everyone else. 

Taxis

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Yellow taxis

Yellow cabs are still one of the most common taxis found in Kolkata and Mumbai. Other cities also have regular taxis that are usually not yellow in color. Taxis can usually be hired from taxi stands. In Kolkata and Mumbai, empty running taxis can be hailed from anywhere.

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Taxi meter

Fares are generated by the meter reading inside taxis. Payment is generally made by cash after you reach your destination and most of the time, if you can’t pay the exact fare amount, then you can forget about getting the balance change amount! Taxi drivers are also known to decline rides as often as they wish and often quote a fixed fare amount instead of using the meter. You can negotiate a deal that works for you. You can book the taxi all to yourself or use one as a shuttle service open to others as well. 

Uber

Replacing the monopoly of taxis in most Indian cities are uber cars. You can expect polite drivers who issue a printed receipt at the end of your ride. Uber services work pretty much the same everywhere – get the app and book your ride. In India you can pay for the ride at the end of the trip by cash. Uber services usually charge a little higher than other public transportation but they are fairly reliable and not fussy.

You can call the emergency number to resolve any disputes you have with an uber driver. The emergency number will connect you to your local police station where you can register a complaint and uber will call you back with a solution.

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Book your Overseas Coach

Ola

This cab service is similar to Uber but for some routes they are a little less expensive. They are available in most Indian cities. Ola rides can be booked through an app or you can hail and board an empty Ola ride without booking on the app. You can pay for your ride through your registered card or by cash at the end of the journey.

For any disputes, call the emergency number and fare errors can be adjusted during your next ride.

Ferry Launch

Some cities, like Kochi and Kolkata offer ferry launches to travel across rivers.

Tickets can be purchased at ticketing counters at designated zones along the river banks. Fares are low and you can escape terrible traffic snarls by using these water routes. Routes are limited to destinations close to the water bodies. People board and disembark in an orderly queue and you can watch the beautiful city lights as you escape the smoky streets. 

Auto rickshaws

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The notorious auto rickshaws

These are probably the craziest ride in every city. Autos are small vehicles that are open on two sides. They are ideal for short distances but some cities offer longer connections. In some cities the routes are fixed and some cities you can book them to take you anywhere within their permitted zones. You can board them from their stops and hold on firmly so that you don’t fly out. 

Fares are low and you will do well to pay in exact cash when you reach your destination.

Cycle rickshaws

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Cycle rickshaw

Need to get somewhere within a few kilometers but don’t want to walk by yourself?  Use the services of a cycle rickshaw. They are suited for narrow lanes within residential localities. They are especially useful when the sun is scorching hot or if the rains cause the streets to flood. 

Payment is made in cash after you reach your destination.

Also read: Living Overseas: Reflections about India

Tram

Kolkata is the only city that still has a functioning tram network and connects a few iconic places. Even though it is used as public transport, they are slow moving and ideal for a touristy ride of the city.

You can buy tickets after boarding the tram and before getting off at your destination. The tram conductor will come to you during the ride for your tickets.

Safe travels in and around India!

Which of these rides are you planning to use during your visit? Share with us in the comments below! 

Interested in featuring your city on TOM, email your article to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

Questions you should be asking during your first overseas “check-out” trip

Visiting a place before moving there for long term is a great idea because it can prepare your mind and help you make moving decisions. Setting some strategies can help you make this “check-out” trip more worthwhile.

Whether you are someone, who enjoys just going with the flow or someone who needs it all chalked out – here are some guiding questions.

Of primary importance:

  • What kind of visa will you need to get?
  • What are some non-negotiable conditions for you to thrive in this new place? Think of food allergies, other allergies, medical attention.
  • What are some compromises that you are willing to make?
    • In several instances, the compromising attitude disappears when the going gets tough at the end of the glorious honeymoon phase. Giving this question some thought beforehand could help you push through challenges later on.

Know your limits

Everyday living:

  • What will housing look like?
    • Conduct a brief scan of the housing scenario and budgets
  • If you have kids, will you consider a local school or an alternative?
  • If your spouse will join you, what are things they could be involved in?
    • Include them in all these decisions.
  • Assess the public transportation system. Will you need a car? What kind of driver’s license will be required?
  • Will you be able to learn the language?
    • Learning the local language can help you feel more connected and confident.
  • Could you thrive as an outsider?
    • If you look significantly different than the local people, you will most likely get stared at a lot. Be aware of the attention you are getting and decide if you can handle the staring for the rest of your stay there. The staring doesn’t really go away although you might learn to live with it.
  • Do you like the food, culture, lifestyle?
    • Try the local food and decide from a daily meal perspective if that is something that you will be able to enjoy. Observe people and lifestyles. 
  • Will you do well with the weather conditions?
    • Weather often plays a big role in how productive and healthy we can be,
  • Will you be required to change the way you dress? Is that something you wouldn’t mind doing?
  • Will you have a local community that can help support you? If not, what are ways in which you can make your stay in a foreign land seem more like home?
  • Can you afford the cost of living?

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Work related:

  • Where do you fit in and how you can best support the role?

Staying in touch with family and your community at home:

  • Will staying in touch with family and friends back home be easily possible?
    • Whether you are close to your family or not, having a familiar community support your time overseas, even sporadically, can offer a great boost to your time overseas. 

Getting back home:

  • How can the role help your plans for the futures?
    • This brings perspective and focus so that you can make the most of your time overseas.
  • Throughout your overview trip, ask yourself if this will be worth the move – Is the work you are going to get involved in be meaningful enough?

getting back home

Exit strategy:

  • If your health or some situation demands an early departure, could you leave without any hassle?
    • Even though sometimes having restrictions on moving can be helpful in being tough through overseas challenges, it is good to have an exit budget and a plan in place in case you need to leave earlier than anticipated.

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Read related: Tips for Overseas Living – Inside Considerations for Housing | Tips for Overseas Living—Outside Considerations For Housing


Do you have other recommendations? Email them to the editor@theoverseasmagazine.com