Why You Should Keep a Journal While Living Abroad

It's true that moving and living abroad can be one of the most memorable and transformative experiences you can have in life. Immersing yourself in a different culture, becoming fluent in another language and cheap travel are just some of the things you can look forward to. However,  moving and living abroad can also be one of the most challenging things you'll ever do. Many people experience loneliness, sadness and a feeling of missing out on events happening back home. And the tsunami of emotions hits you before you've even left your hometown.

Most days you'll feel stressed and your mind will be flooded with concerns as you attempt to tie up any loose ends and get everything organised for your departure. What clothes do you need to pack? How many pairs of shoes is considered reasonable? How long will your skin and hair products last? What will you do when they run out?  Will you get along with you flatmates? Will people stare or try to touch your hair? Or worse yet, will they be openly racist? Have you got all your paperwork, documentation and finances sorted? Will you be understood? Will you be able to find your way around?

And the questions and concerns keep coming.

But, thankfully, thoughts of how awesome the opportunity to live and move abroad will regularly intercept any fears. You'll remember why you chose to embark on this adventure, all of the opportunities and experiences that await you, the fabulous people you'll meet and the lifelong friends you'll make.

Yep, the emotional rollercoaster of moving and living abroad starts as soon as you make the decision to  do it and you'll have gone through an entire spectrum of emotions, from excitement and optimism to fear and anxiety before you've stepped foot on the plane!

And that's where journaling comes in. Practically, a journal is a great way to plan your move and keep track of everything that needs to be done before you leave. But there are so many more benefits you can get from keeping a journal once you arrive at your destination.

Photo by  Melinda Pack

Photo by Melinda Pack

Journaling can help you to:

Express your feelings

Anxiety, depression, isolation and feeling homesick are just some of the emotions that you may experience whilst living abroad. Being so far from home, you may not have anyone to confide in or you may feel reluctant to reach out to loved ones back home. Not having the emotional support you're used to could affect you more than you anticípate.

Research has found that writing about stressful or emotional events results in improvements in both physical and psychological health.

A journal can act as your confidant and is a safe place where you can share your emotions privately, honestly and authentically, in a healthy way, without judgement. Culturally, moving abroad can be challenging, especially for Women of Color. 

Journaling  can help you to make sense of your emotions and any unpleasant or uncomfortable experiences you may encounter. It also allows you to work through any shifts in your own personal views and beliefs.


Practice and prioritise self-care

Around the world, women are unfortunately very good at neglecting their needs so whatever your reasons for moving abroad, adopting a journal practice is an affordable way to take care of yourself on a regular basis.

Journaling encourages you to slow down, become more mindful and can help to relieve stress.

Simply asking yourself the following questions can be an extremely beneficial way to start each day and practise daily self-care:

How am I feeling?

How do I want to feel today?

What do I need (more or less of)? or What do I need most today?

What am I grateful for?


Live intentionally

Your journal can be used to set personal and professional goals and intentions to ensure you make the most of your time abroad.


Some questions to consider include:

What do you want to experience?

What do you want to achieve/accomplish?

How do you want to feel?

What will make you feel like your time abroad has been worthwhile?

Regular journaling can also help you to keep track of your progress and remind you of your breakthroughs and accomplishments - which is especially useful on those days when you’re seriously considering booking the next flight back home! 


Capture memories

You can, of course, use your journal to capture the memories of your time abroad including things such as the places you visit, the sights you see and any people you meet along the way.

These days, Instagram is used by many as a travel journal and although it's often said that a picture paints a thousand words, journaling can truly capture the entirety of your experience. Keeping a travel journal encourages you to be present and focus on much more than simply finding the perfect shot for the 'gram. It can be a fun project or hobby and you can include flyers, ticket stubs, receipts, postcards, photos and so much more.

Fast forward 10, 20 or even 50 years from now and imagine flicking through the pages of your travel journal, reminiscing on all of your adventures abroad - and sharing them with your loved ones!

The benefits of keeping a journal make it such a worthwhile practice and all you need is a notebook and pen to get started. Not only does it support your overall emotional and mental well-being , it also encourages you to take responsibility for the outcomes you want when you move abroad and make the most of your experience.


Leanne Lindsey is a freelance blogger, qualified careers adviser and certified life coach who loves inspiring and motivating women to live happy, healthy lives they love by sharing simple and practical insights on self-care and wellbeing. She is a native Londoner who is currently trying out life the beautiful island of Tenerife. You can connect with her in The Self-Love & Wellness Lounge, at her website www.leannelindsey.co.uk and on IG @leanne__lindsey.