The Cost of International Living

This is not a rant about how to budget as an expat.

Nor is it about income in another country.

In fact, it has nothing to do with money at all.

WARNING: Sappy content to follow.

To get right to the point, the cost of living abroad is distance. Separation. The thoughts of never seeing certain places, or more importantly people again. I suppose that is why everyone emphasizes on living in the moment so much, but no matter how present you are there is still always the possibility of missing what is not immediately available.

It is natural for people to miss each other. In Portuguese there is a word for it that emphasizes on the fact that missing people is more like an emotion than anything. It’s stronger than simply saying, “I miss you.”

Saudades de você.

I learned this from a few of my Brazilian friends during university, and it always stuck with me. I was baffled how it could get stronger than missing someone, since I have never really been one to miss another person. I’d even joke about how I might be lacking whatever it is in the brain that makes people feel that way. Perhaps I could attribute it to the fact that my parents divorced when I was young, so I developed it as a coping mechanism. I could never be with both, so I had to focus on being with one and not feeling bad about it. However, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would see one or the other again. Both were easily accessible, even when my dad lived out of state.

I really never felt like I had anything to miss.

However, as I have said before: travel changes you.

While living in China, and even the brief time I spent in the UK, I would say that I missed home, but not in a nostalgic sense. Rather I missed life being easy, effortless. That isn’t to say I didn’t want to see my friends or family, but I didn’t often long for them to be there.

Until the end.

Before embarking on that glorious thirteen days on the Tibetan Plateau, I almost threw in the towel and went home early. Thank goodness for loyal friends, who go as far as keeping you loyal to yourself, because I fear I would have greatly regretted not going. However, traveling like that gives you a lot of time for reflection.

Too much time on buses if you ask me.

I tried to stay present in the moment, truly I did, but when you’re winding through the mountains wishing your sister could be there, you start to wonder what she’s doing. Before I knew it I was going through a whole list of people that I missed, and even longed for.

That hasn’t changed since being back, and I find the words “I miss you” flowing from me with an ease and sincerity that wasn’t there before. The only difference is the people on the list.

I genuinely miss those that still live in China. They will go on to other places I know, and it is because of this that I fear I may never see them again. In all honesty that makes me sad. I can’t help but feel the distance.

That is the cost of international living. To know that you are meeting people, people who impact your life so greatly, and then once you have parted knowing you may never see them again. I know that you don’t have to leave your own country in order for this to happen, but the chances are so much greater when you do. It is much more difficult to get to England and China, than it is to get to say, Illinois. At least for me.

I read recently that the definition of saudade is a “pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.”

How true that is.

I know that my life is so much fuller for having met the people that I have now come to miss. The list will only get longer throughout my lifetime, but I’m okay with that. People and the relationships they come with are always a risk (whether it be in time, distance, emotions, etc.).

One very much worth taking.

End rant.


Until next time!


Saudades de vocês! 🙂


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