To many, a life abroad looks like a vacation. New adventures around every corner, crazy stories about your friend’s pet falcon (see picture above) and new pins on your travel map all add to this illusion. But the truth is, expat life and backpacking around the world isn’t always full of rainbows and sunshine. In fact, like at home, it takes a constant effort to remain truly grateful each day.
* * * *
It’s no secret that the more we feel gratitude for the things in our everyday life, the happier we’ll be. Sadly, this is a constant struggle for all, travelers and expats being no exception. Below I’ve outlined a few strategies that you can implement even if you’re living or traveling overseas:
1. Journal Everyday. Making a habit of feeling grateful is the name of the game. First, try reflecting on what you’re grateful for each night before you go to bed. Write as many things down as possible. Even if you had to make that 4th trip to the local police station to get your visa situation figured out (and still couldn’t), at least you were able to get out of the house (or perhaps a day off of work) to do so. And maybe you met someone nice on the bus or enjoyed a sunny day. No matter what happened, try to remember all the good things that you encountered. Nothing is too small to be grateful for. The next morning, read yesterday’s list and then add the things you’re grateful for that morning (i.e., your bed, sleep, shower, breakfast, etc.). Starting and ending each day with gratitude will surly influence the hours in between.
2. Stay Motivated by Joining a Group of Like-Minded People. It doesn’t matter if it’s your family, friends, coworkers or a group of strangers you met on Facebook. The goal is to make a commitment and stay accountable. This group should max out at 3 or 4 because you’ll want to return the favor! A smaller group makes it more personal and you’ll be more likely to stay committed.
I, for example, am held accountable by my readers, who expect me to post every week. Knowing this, I write on my lazy days, my sick days, my off days and even while on holiday. I also keep in close contact with two women who are also blogging and starting their own businesses. Seeing what they’ve accomplished helps me stay on track (because I’m actually the most ambitiously lazy person I know!).
If you’re an expat, new expats in your community generally arrive to their new home filled with wonder and enthusiasm. Spending time with these people will help you rediscover the reason you accepted your expat assignment in the first place. If you’re simply passing through, sharing stories with other travelers or locals will allow you to vent when needed and, more often than not, relive your incredible experiences through storytelling.
3. Tell Everyone About Your Goal. Although you’ll have a small group of people to hold you accountable, it’s not enough. Personally, I would hate to say something to my friends and family and then not follow through with it. So this added level of accountability (in the form of self preservation) is a great idea. By telling the people closest to you about your gratitude list, they will hopefully take an interest in your success and gently remind you to stay on track. Who knows. Maybe they’ll even be inspired to do the same!
4. Set a daily reminder. On a more logistical level, don’t let a busy schedule or a poor memory rob you of the opportunity to live a happier and more fulfilling life. Use the power of technology to set daily reminders for yourself. Just 5 minutes a day of uninterrupted gratitude journaling can make all the difference.
So for all of us ambitiously-lazy people out there, there’s no reason not to follow through with this simple, life-changing exercise.