How Overcoming The Challenges of Living Abroad Has Shaped My Identity

Published on: October 12, 2020

living abroad

This is the story of an expat who has lived in Thailand for 11 years. She shares how her experiences abroad have taught her to overcome challenges and made her into the person she is proud to be.

By Claudia Gomes; Photo by qimono on Pixabay

After living in Thailand for more than 11 years, I’m not sure if I consider myself an expat or an immigrant anymore. But for sure, I am still called a foreigner or “farang” by the locals. People in Brazil, where I was born, always say I am lucky to live abroad. This sounds like it is some kind of freedom or that this life decision will always lead to happiness.

The experience of living abroad has shaped me and changed the way I see the world and perceive situations. Leaving your family and everything that you know behind to start again in another place is one of the hardest things to do. Emotions run wild with a mix of missing the people at home, the anxiety of the unknown, and the challenge of adjusting to a new environment and culture. It is intensive work but slowly things fall into place.

By living abroad, we have to get used to distances, talking online, and finding suitable moments between the time zones. We communicate in several languages, meet new people from around the world, and create a new family, often made up of friends.  It also allows you to create a deeper connection to get to know yourself like you never have before.

Ask yourself:

  1. How do you feel when you have to speak another language when you are in a local market and people don’t understand you? Do you snap or are you patient?
  2. How do you feel when you are in a new territory? Do you want to explore or are you scared?
  3. How much do you allow others to know you?

By reflecting on these things we start understanding our ability to overcome big challenges and see that our way of doing things is not the only way. We become more open-hearted from seeing the different living conditions of people around the world. 

Changing your geographic location doesn’t change who you are as a person. But new conditions can help you to become the person that you want to be.

I realized that the world is not as big as I once thought. For me living abroad is a way of life and a kind of addiction. Any fears I had of the unknown and regarding other places have disappeared. I had the desire to explore every corner of the world and became interested in learning about the food, religion, literature, rituals or anything unique to my new country.

I have seen that we are all human beings no matter where we are – we have the same fears, maybe some different ideas but the same desires, different living conditions but the same love. We should remember that we are all in the same “expat boat.” Everyone is trying to make a home for themselves and their families, and it’s not always easy.

Starting my life in Thailand was like a rollercoaster of emotions. It was very different from what I experienced when I moved to Spain, as I didn’t adjust right away. I felt very lonely initially and it was difficult to connect with locals due to the language barrier. I was depending on my partner for support and companionship and I developed deep depression. I found help twice here and moved forward through help from a psychologist for my depression. Then a few years later I sought help from a life coach when I decided that I wanted to accomplish different things in life and work. I want to remind you that you also are not alone in the challenges and that you can find help if you need it. People can help you by being mirrors to your life and through them, you can see yourself and through their actions you can perceive your reactions and feelings.

I learned through seeking help that I initially thought I was in a complicated country, but it was not the country. I was the complicated one. Changing your geographic location doesn’t change who you are as a person. But new conditions can help you to become the person that you want to be. Now, I can say that living in Thailand has been my best school. This is the right place and right time for my life. It brought all the circumstances I needed to become this person that I love very much today. I have deep gratitude for everything and to everyone who crossed my path and enlightened my life. 

About the Author

Claudia is an accredited ICF PCC Coach, leadership trainer, and business development manager. She helps people to transform themselves into their best allies. Claudia has more than 20 years of experience in sales and management in the corporate sector in Brazil, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Her services are in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. Connect at or visit

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