There comes a moment when living abroad stops being an exotic adventure and just becomes every day life. You get into a work routine, you establish a group of friends, you join a weekly dodgeball league (just me?) and things start to feel normal. It’s still an adventure in a sense, but you’re no longer filled with wonder at each passing cultural difference you encounter. The 10 story mall with what seems like a thousand shops and restaurants five minutes’ walk away from you ceases to be “THE HUGE MALL WITH THE SEPHORA AND THE H&M THAT’S ONLY FIVE MINUTES AWAY” and becomes simply “the mall”. Taking the metro stops being a novelty and becomes just the way you get to work. Your consumption of take-out dumplings and soup noodles decreases as you start to realize you should probably save some money and cook for yourself and end up making sandwiches every day as for some reason you are not skilled in the art of Shanghainese cooking. Oh, and you have no oven or microwave.
This sense of routine and normalcy is not a bad thing. This is adjusting. This is finding a balance between who you are, where you are and what you want to get out of the experience of living abroad. It’s not always easy and there are definitely bad days. Small things help the reality of being so dang far from home set in. For instance, last night I needed to talk to my best friend but she’s no longer a ten-minute drive away and internet reception is crap at best. Or, another example, today I was shopping and could not find something and I had the fleeting thought of “oh, I’ll just get it at Target instead”. Or ,earlier, when someone mentioned that Halloween is coming up and for a second I wondered how busy O St in Lincoln will be this year. Friends are 8000 miles away, there is no Target in China and I will not be drinking Gin and Tonics at Iggy’s in the flapper costume I’ve worn two years in a row.
Though thoughts like these may cause momentary discomfort or homesickness, the challenges, big and small, are good things. They make you more independent. They make you stronger. They make you better prepared for whatever life may throw at you. And on the worst of days, I never seriously regret my decision. Life is the adventure.