There was no reason for me to actually leave Ireland. I had everything, a great family, a great job, great friends, great opportunities but I also had this great desire to see more, do more and learn more about what I was capable of achieving, what I was capable of becoming.
People thought I was crazy, my own father included. He was terrified that I’d get killed in a North Korean attack.Some people thought 22 was too young and I’d be back in a few months. Most people thought I was going to Croatia and when I clarified it as Korea, they usually replied “where’s that?” But off I went and now, six years later, I look back on that as the best decision I’ve made.
To read this blog or look at my social media, my life comes across as being fun filled and adventure packed. And it is but it’s also not without the challenges that come with life in general and certainly life abroad. Those are the challenges that have molded me into the person I am today. They’ve forced me to push myself to achieve more, get outside my comfort zone and constantly look for new opportunities and mostly to keep from getting too comfortable or complacent.
I no longer look on problems as problems, merely challenges that I know I can overcome. As a foreigner in Korea, the smallest tasks are difficult, everything from paying your bills to getting a health check. At the start, I thought I could do everything myself and was never a big fan of asking for help. After a while I learned my limitations, knew what I was capable of and when I needed to ask for help.
Living abroad, it’s very easy to be just another foreigner, a face in a crowd. But when it’s time to leave, you want to say that you contributed something to your new community. You learn to challenge your perception on the limitations of your capabilities. If you had told me 5 years ago that I’d be the Chair of the Irish Association in Korea, I would never have believed you. But, through my desire to get a solid, regular Irish music scene started in Seoul, I achieved much more than I thought possible of myself. I look at the growth of the Irish music scene here wonder if any of it would have been achieved if I had been happy just playing to the walls of my apartment?
My greatest fear when I came here was failure and now I welcome it. I’ve learned that you’re not always going to succeed in everything you set out to do.Samuel Beckett put it nicely when he said
Ever tried. Ever failed.No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
There will always be hurdles, challenges and set backs but without failure you can never really appreciate success and life abroad is full of failures. You have to celebrate the small achievements, grow a thick skin, take a lesson away from the experience. Attitude is the difference to life abroad. If you look on every little situation as a huge problem, you might as well go home. When I met people who live abroad and people who travel a lot, it never fails to surprise me how great their attitude is. They’ll make positives in a bad situation, they learn from mistakes, they go with the flow and they adjust their plans accordingly. They also have this great ability to laugh at themselves. I’m certain that for me, these are not skills I would have picked up if I had stayed in Tipperary.
The word “home” has taken on new meaning to me now. I’m actually looking forward to spending some time back in Ireland because for so long, I’ve taken what was right in front of me for granted. There are so many great places that I never bothered to visit. I have gained a new appreciation for home and when I return, I’ll go out and explore with new eyes.
Undoubtedly, living abroad has changed how I look at things. My perspective is different. The world is a very big place and certainly much bigger than my corner of Tipperary or Ireland in general. When you live abroad and travel, you see so much of what’s out there just waiting to be discovered. You get to be part of something bigger than where you come from. You learn new cultures and new ways of seeing the world. You meet a diverse range of people and have new adventures and together these build up to creating opinions based on experience. .
Living abroad isn’t for everyone but don’t limit yourself out of fear of the unknown.What you achieve by living abroad far outweighs any negatives that come with it. I believe Polar explorer, Ben Saunders put it best when he said;
And yet, if I’ve learned anything in nearly 12 years now of dragging heavy things around cold places, it is that true, real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and from challenge, from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown. In life, we all have tempests to ride and poles to walk to, and I think metaphorically speaking, at least, we could all benefit from getting outside the house a little more often, if only we could summon up the courage.