How To Make A Home: Five Tips For Weary Travelers

by Rachel Markowitz

You’ve met them before. Those people who teach abroad for months or years at a time with no end in sight, yet are not constantly moving. They speak two or three languages, but could greet or cheers you in ten. Their lives are oddly composed AND can be condensed into a backpack. They are not traveling as a break from life; this is life. Maybe you're one of them or looking to become one? Either way, maintaining stability without a homebase certainly has its challenges, but sustainable nomadic lifestyles have become remarkably easier since the days of the covered wagon. Give these following recommendations a try to find comfort anywhere, anytime. Home, after all, is just a mindset.

A ride in the country with a friend.
A ride in the country with a friend. Photo by Troy Peden

1. Make Friends – Then Make Friends With Your Friend’s Friends.

Even if you’re not a social butterfly, keep yourself open for communication wherever you go. When teaching abroad, there will most likely be other foreign teachers in your placement city, and they will also be looking for new connections. Networking is a skill, and this is a great chance to become really good at it. Get in touch with people, be honest, ask questions, and try to express your feelings and desires. It’s always nice to have other teachers and travelers to relate to, but there’s nothing better than hanging out with locals in their own stomping grounds.

Sometimes going out of your way to make friends with people you will only know for a short time seems pointless, but folks you meet on the road are likely able to help you out with most of your travel-related concerns. Plus, it’s hard to feel homesick when surrounded by good people. Keep in mind that nobody will know what you’re looking for if you don’t use your voice.

Connections made on the road are straightforward, intimate, sped-up, beautiful, and don’t always need to be fleeting, so put yourself out there and talk! People make lifelong friends or meet their soulmate on the road.

2. Give And Receive

Children’s television programming got at least one thing right; sharing makes the world go ‘round! In Western cultures, we tend to deal with money and, granted, currency certainly helps when you’re in a pinch, having a bit of ingenuity and a big heart can make your resource last far longer.

Even if you are teaching full-time, there are ways you can share your time and experience with your local community, helping you integrate deeper into your surroundings. 

Homestays. Couchsurfing type situations and staying in the homes of locals will change the way you travel and the way you see the world. People offer support to travelers in exchange for sharing dialogue. With most couchsurfing-type setups, you can choose whom you connect with based on common interests (or differences), and find other travelers to meet up with as well.

Volunteer and Work Exchange. You’ll make friends, learn new skills, instantly have a new family wherever you happen to be, and perhaps even receive free room and board. Really, what could be better? There are endless possibilities for setting up exchanges or projects in any field you can imagine and word-of-mouth references tend to be just as valuable as internet searches in finding a match.

Friends having an adventure

Hitchhiking and Ridesharing. Your mother might object, but in many parts of the world, especially small towns, picking up hitchhikers is quite common. It is obviously important to use precaution and common sense when getting into a car with someone you don’t know, but traveling with others can open an endless possibility of places to stay or visit. Plus, you won’t have to sit on a bus. Not so spontaneous? Check out car-sharing websites for arranged rides. Perhaps you can offer an en-route English lesson in exchange for the fuel.

3. Have A Purpose

Travel for the sake of travel is, if nothing worse, a bit unnerving. Teaching abroad will give you more direction and the chance to latch onto a real purpose. You don’t need to save the world, but try to figure out what you are doing and why you are doing it. What are you learning? Who are you helping? 

There’s nothing wrong if your reason for teaching abroad is to explore the world, learn a new language, or evaluate choice spots for surfing and cheap mojitos. Regardless of your motivation, everybody needs a reason to wake up in the morning and be excited. When in doubt, try setting some goals for yourself and remember to be flexible in attaining them.

4. Know When To Use Internet … And When Not To

This day and age, when life hands you lemons, it’s likely that you’ll be able to find some virtual sugar with which to make lemonade. Looking for a ride somewhere? A place to stay? Fortunately for you, a social media profile that’s not abused is better than a personal classified ad. Let your “friends” know what you need. You’d be surprised how many of those people you know have people they know who live in Barcelona or San Salvador or Tel Aviv and would be happy to meet up with you, take you out (or in), or at the least, offer suggestions to help you out along your way.

On the other hand, keep in mind that, in general, you are missing out on living in the present moment when you are looking into your mobile device. Skyping with your grandmother at her 80th birthday party? Incredible! Updating Facebook with the newest plight of the privileged globetrotter? Please stop! Go outside, enjoy your experiences, and share them when appropriate with those you love.

A woman on a beach

5. Enjoy Yourself

It’s inevitable; you will be lonely. Getting set up in a new city can take a while, and the first few days, weeks, or even months can be tough. Even the most self-sufficient introverts still feel desperate for communication at times, and that’s okay. Talk to yourself. Make yourself laugh. Take yourself out. Ask yourself questions and give yourself answers. Send yourself on missions.

Why not take a pair of shorts or an unnecessary toiletry out of your backpack and replace it with art supplies, a harmonica, or some juggling balls … anything that will make you smile. You will always be around yourself, so you may as well get to know how you function in different contexts and figure out things to do that will keep you entertained and lighthearted in times of solitude.

Finally, always keep in mind that choosing to move abroad to teach is a brave and life-changing endeavor. You are doing wonderful things – Be yourself, share your ambitions, and create your own home, anywhere that your path leads you.