Overcoming feelings of isolation and alienation abroad

We all come to a time when we’ve been traveling, backpacking, or teaching abroad long enough to feel the ache for the familiar or the strain of having left family, friends, and relationships behind back home or just other places on our journey.  It is during these times you must make the effort overcome feelings of isolation and alienation.

I experienced these feelings on more than one occasion back in Korea after a long Friday night/Saturday morning partying downtown.  I’d wake up feeling hungover as hell in a tiny shoe box of an apartment with nightfall having already descended. I’d ask myself if this was the best I could do to make my weekends count and I always knew the answer was no but still ended up having more weekends like that because it was what my friends did.  Gradually I broke out of that cycle and found that a quiet night in after a hectic week of work was often what I needed to re-charge my batteries.

Now in Trat, Thailand, my problem is living in a town that I don’t know much about, there is a distinct lack of information online, there isn’t much of an expat community, the language is even tougher to learn, I’m still discovering what foods to eat, and while I have another foreign teacher at my school, we’re not close.  To compound this my two closest friends from my last school in Chok Chai chose to head home and end their time in Thailand.  For the past two weekends I’ve been in Koh Chang on Lonely Beach which helps me forget my current feelings of transition but obviously going there every weekend is not the answer.

Am I becoming disillusioned with a life of backpacking and teaching abroad? Far from it.  I’m writing this to show that for people who are just starting out this kind of lifestyle, or having been doing it for years, that the feeling of homesickness, isolation, and alienation, affects everyone time to time.  What matters is how you tackle it!  So here are some of the things I’ll be doing to settle in more and make the most of my time in Trat, these are also things any traveler or teacher abroad can do to beat the blues.

  • Keep busy: take language lessons, start a blog, plan your next move, get a start on making teaching materials for next week, etc
  • Familiarize yourself: go walks or take bike rides around the local area to discover what your surroundings have to offer, you may be surprised!
  • Contact family and friends: Message them, call them, Skype them, do what ever it is you need to do to keep in touch with your close ones to let them know they’re in your thoughts no matter how far away you are.
  • Get fit: Physical fitness plays a big role in keeping mentally fit.  Go for long walks, jogs, or runs, buy a bike and find some trails to explore, get a gym membership, join an expat sports league, in short; get active!
  • Start dating: apps like Tinder are a great way to meet new people, whether they are fellow expats or locals, whether your intention is to look for a friend or something more.  Putting yourself out there is a surefire way to fight back feelings of loneliness and can lead to an exciting new social life!
  • Relax:  backpacking or teaching abroad have their stressful times so it really is essential to once in awhile take time to simply…..relax.  Read books, have a Netflix binge, go to a beach and just look out into the horizon and contemplate the mysteries of life, just not too seriously!   It is ok to have the occasional lazy weekend; they’re healthy for your mind and your bank account, not to mention Game of Thrones starts up again next month, never a bad time to start from the beginning to refresh yourself 😉

So that’s what has been on my mind of late transiting to a new school and town as a teacher abroad.  Having put these words to type has made me feel better already and I’ll be taking my own advice, starting with some simple relaxation and reading.  I should also add in just over 2 weeks my vacation will kick off in Chiang Mai for the ultimate frisbee tournament before Songkran, so still lots to look forward to even while not much is going on at school at the moment.  I hope this post finds you in a good place in life as I am now, thanks for reading and take care 🙂

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