Living in Aruba has been more different than I could have ever imagined.
I flew to the Caribbean expecting the dreamy tropical lifestyle that we see in pictures and the lavish way of life that we experience while staying in the big hotels.
But that was not what I experienced upon arriving to my big adventure. For the next few weeks after my arrival, I dealt with many issues. My air conditioner broke, and I lay sweating in the heat all night, unable to deal with the new climate I had been thrust into. Then my toilet broke, and I had to get it to flush manually every time. Nearly every single day something went wrong. I missed home and had never appreciated my lifestyle back in America so much.
I quickly came to realize that the dreamy lifestyle that I had imagined may have come to life if I had been coming there for a vacation, but coming there to live was a completely different story. I had never felt so lost. It turned out that traveling to the Caribbean was not entirely white sand beaches, bikinis and drinking out of a coconut. The dreamy lifestyle I had imagined was possible, but I had to learn to fight for it.
Eventually with some practice, I started to get the hang of my new life. I wanted living in Aruba to be as beautiful as I had always dreamed it would be, and eventually I learned how to make even my wildest dreams there come true.
Here are some of the things I learned:
1. Invest in proper housing.
Staying in local housing rather than a hotel can be very different. While I thought I had done my research about what it would be like in Aruba, I realized that much of that research was from people staying in big hotels there on vacation. While they were getting hot showers, delicious high-quality food and many amenities, I was at a small studio in Aruba with mostly cold water, questionable nearby markets, and furniture and appliances that were breaking left and right. If I wanted to have a comfortable living situation, I needed to invest in appropriate housing!
2. Put effort into making time for what’s important to you.
When we’re on a vacation, it can be easy to make sure we get to do all (or most) of the things we want to do in the place that we are traveling to. Since the whole idea is to do all of the fun things we’ve been planning, this happens fairly easily. However, I had come to Aruba for a specific project, and after awhile I found that I had not done many of the things I had thought I would have done by that point. I was so preoccupied and exhausted that I was missing out on doing the things I had dreamed of for so long. I needed to work much harder to set aside the time for things that were important to me, and when I did, I finally felt on track again.
3. Pay close attention to food safety.
In hotels and at restaurants, the food we can find while in another country can be unbelievably delicious and exciting to try. While this is still true no matter how we’re traveling to another place, I found that shopping for groceries abroad rather than eating out on a vacation is different. While most restaurants will be careful to get good reviews from their tourists and provide high quality meals, locals are used to shopping in the right places, for the right foods, and being aware of the right things. Upon arriving in Aruba, many of the groceries that we bought, we quickly realized were rotten. We had not yet learned the right places to shop and taken into consideration that we were living on a desert island! Everything needed to be shipped there. Once we became more conscious of our situation and diet overseas, we payed closer attention and learned how to eat while we were there.
4. Always bring more than what you think you will need.
While this can always be useful advice, it can make a much bigger difference while living in another country than staying in one. While it may not be a big deal to purchase the couple of things we forgot or didn’t think we would need for a trip, it can quickly drain our expenses while living. After being in Aruba for awhile, we found we had had to buy many more things than we thought we would, and we were losing money quickly. After only being in Aruba for a couple of weeks, we were already worried about how we would make our money last, and how we would make things work. If we had brought more than we thought we would need, we wouldn’t have needed to purchase so much over time, and our budget would have recovered much more quickly than it did. Which leads me to the final point.
5. Make a detailed budget.
Most of the time while traveling to another country for a big trip, we have already easily figured out our expenses for that trip. We know the exact amount of time we will be there, have already paid for most expenses and have the rest of our money set aside for fun for while we are there. While living abroad though, many more expenses come up, including rent, bills, groceries and necessities on top of all of the money we want to do the things we’ve planned on while we’re there. Making a detailed budget becomes necessary to avoid draining our expenses after we have been there for awhile, and unexpected things come up.
Living overseas can be intimidating and hard to prepare for, but can be one of the most magical and special times of our entire lives.
Whether we’re spending time in another country for an internship, for school, for a job, or whatever it may be, we deserve to feel both inspired and prepared to embark on the kind of journey that will truly change our view of the world and our lives forever.
Going to Aruba brought many challenges to my life, but taught me more than I could have ever imagined, and it has ended up being one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring experiences of my entire life. I hope you find the courage to find this in your own life as well.
May we all find the courage to chase after our dreams. Happy travels.
Author: Linda Luck
Image: Author’s Own / @universalyogini
Editor: Sara Kärpänen