Lifestyle Travel

What I Learned Living in a Foreign Country + My 3 Tips to Survive

June 19, 2019

My Trip Abroad to Florence, Italy

While strolling through the Farmer’s Market this weekend in downtown Knoxville TN, I had a flashback to what life was like when I lived in Florence. The crowds of people shopping in the streets brought me back to a day-in-the-life of a Florence local.

While studying at the University of Tennessee, I decided to travel abroad for a Summer after hearing everyone rave about how incredible the experience is and yes, it was incredible. But there were many things I wasn’t prepared for that I wish I had known.

Don’t take this the wrong way, this post is anything but a complaint. Living in a foreign country was unlike any other experience and I recommend everyone taking the chance if they have the opportunity.

Everything over there is beautiful – the buildings, the clothing, and the people. Everything has a story and a meaning behind it.

What I Learned

The Italian lifestyle and mindset is so easygoing and relaxed. I’ll never forget when a local told me how he viewed the difference between our cultures;

“The difference between The United States and Italy is that you live to work and we work to live.”

That was the best thing about being an outsider in the middle of such a happy culture; learning to see life from their perspective.

Of course they still have to work, but it was mostly about having enough money for the necessities and not worrying about living a more luxurious lifestyle. They just enjoyed being around friends and family, and that was enough.

Initially, I struggled to adapt and constantly felt like an outsider in the middle of their culture – I stood out like a sore thumb and my platinum blonde hair definitely didn’t help.

At first, it made me anxious and uncomfortable, but I quickly learned that placing myself in a situation that is outside of my comfort zone, was exactly what made living in a foreign country so fulfilling.

Nonetheless, I wanted to share what I’ve learned throughout this experience with a few tips to help you to get the most out your traveling journey, whether it be abroad or down the street <3

Tip #1: Plan For Your Plan to go Sideways

There is one thing you can count on when traveling anywhere: your plan is likely to go sideways. But this is not always a bad thing.

My all-time favorite thing to do when I travel is to wander around the city without a map or any directions. I had a routine in Florence with my best friend who I traveled to Italy with – A few days a week, we would find a new spot to camp out, we would set up shop with a bottle of wine, and people watch for hours (sounds creepy when you say it out loud). For a few hours we would just watch the locals and how they interacted with each other.

It was mesmerizing to see how different the culture is and although we didn’t really speak the language, you could just tell by the body language how happy everyone was to see each other.

There were countless times when we would miss our train or take a wrong turn on our way to class. By the end of our trip, it didn’t really phase us when things didn’t go as planned.

My advice: Embrace everything when you’re traveling, especially the craziness.

Sometimes getting lost or having your plans change creates more of an experience, and it also makes for a great story 🙂  

Tip #2: Less is More

My advice: Bring the basics and leave space in your suitcase, because it will inevitably grow.

I brought two giant suitcases and lugging it around cobblestone wasn’t the worst part about having so much stuff. It wasn’t even the worst part when I had to  it up six flights to my loft (although this definitely wasn’t fun).

It was when I was taking a trip to another country and I had planned to store my suitcases with a storage company. My plan was to take an overnight bag with me and leave everything else behind to avoid hauling my entire closet to another country.

Like most of my plans on this trip, this one didn’t go as planned and when I showed up to where I was planning to store my luggage, the storage company was closed.

So, for an entire weekend I hauled my 5’2” self with my two human-sized suitcases with me all the way to another country. It became comical and again, it made a great story. But if you can avoid this I highly recommend bringing as little as possible with you.

For tips on how to pack lightly, check out this video Travel Tips on How To Pack Light:

Tip #3: Sleep is Your Friend

We aren’t invincible, sleep is our friend.

It’s hard when you want to make the most out of your experience, especially when you’re limited with time, but if you keep putting off sleep, it will catch up to you quickly.

I remember being miserable on occasion while trying to enjoy the beautiful places we were visiting, but all I could think about was getting back to the hotel and passing out. Like I said, we aren’t invincible and we can’t do everything.

My advice: Don’t overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule. Prioritize your must-see activities and give yourself plenty of time to sleep 🙂

Tip #4: Live Like a Local

The best way to embrace a different culture is to live like a local.

My advice: Fully adapt to the culture and welcome a new perspective on life.

There’s one thing to witness a different culture, but to fully adapt to it allows you to gain a new perspective that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Conclusion:

It’s extremely easy to get caught up in our daily routines and stresses. When we place ourselves in unfamiliar places, we get to see how microscopic our daily worries can be compared to the big picture.

We get to see how important it is to take advantage of the moments that are gifted to us; whether we are traveling across the world or right at home.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

– Gustav Flaubert

Where would you travel if you could go anywhere in the world?

Let me know in the comments below!

Happy traveling! 🙂

Xo,

Jenna

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