Four lessons learned from living abroad

I’ve been living in Cape Town with my boyfriend since March of 2016. We gave up the safety of our life in the Netherlands for a new one filled with adventure. It took a great deal of energy and courage but, so far, these have been the most exciting and wonderful years of our lives. Everything that was once familiar is now far away.

It’s fascinating that you can get such a great kick out of living abroad. It boosts your self-confidence and makes your life so much more fun. As difficult as it can be to step outside your comfort zone, it is precisely there that you’ll find personal growth and success. Now I can step away from my old life and see what I had before. By discovering how to challenge myself and push my limits, I have become more independent and self-assured. What have I learned in South Africa?

A realistic view

There is an enormous contrast between rich and poor here. As I see it, it is just one aspect of a realistic view of the world. Of course it saddens me but it also makes me grateful for what I have. I have become less materialistic and I get more enjoyment from the little things – a beautiful day or the nature that South Africa has to offer. I try to make a small difference by doing good for others, for instance, by asking for doggy bags in restaurants so I can help people living on the street, or by giving Uber drivers bigger tips so they can earn a little more money. I am also helping an entrepreneur with a grand dream. Take Siki, a businessman in Khayelitsha, one of the biggest townships close to Cape Town. He opened Siki’s Koffee Kafe in his mother’s garage. His greatest dream is to sell his coffee at markets and events and, in so doing, to bring communities together. Would you like to help him? You can read about how to do that here.

It’s important to remember how important tourism is to South Africa. So I’d like to show you how amazing it is here. Just imagine, as a tourist you can experience amazing trips while making a small contribution to local life.

If you can dream it, you can do it

When you go to live abroad, many people will tell you that they really can’t do without their families or their trusted environment, or that they can’t work with their partners. Who’s right? Where does the truth lie? I think everyone has their own truth and, most often, the things people say are a reflection of their own fears.

I view that distance from friends and family as an opportunity to do my best to return to the Netherlands twice a year and to focus on quality instead of quantity. This has been an eye-opener for me. It gives me the irrepressible feeling of being alive – that anything is possible. You don’t have to let the opinions of others influence you. You can always do more than you think. It all depends on what your dream is.

There are more ways to give shape to your life

By living in South Africa I have learned that there are so many things you can do with your life. Your own familiar working environment, circle of friends, the same parties – these are just a few life choices. But, by living in a different city, you’ll meet different people who give substance to their lives in completely different ways than you do. We are all different and, just by stepping out of your comfort zone, you’ll discover the best way to set up your life. For example, I’ve discovered that I want to spend much more time outdoors – hiking, surfing, camping, taking road trips, and living a more active lifestyle than I ever had before.

What’s important to you?

By experiencing different environments, you can find out what is valuable to you. Suddenly, the need to buy as many new clothes as possible changes. You’ll gain satisfaction from the freedom you have or the time you spend doing things you wouldn’t normally do in the Netherlands. So, these days, I spend more on experiences – weekends away and eating at special restaurants, as well as good suitcases for those trips, or for camping gear. So I would say, spend your money on travel and experiences rather than on the newest gadgets.

You can follow my adventures on Instagram @marcellemudde. I’ll see you in my next blog.

Posted by:   Marcelle Mudde  | 
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I am an American and have been living in The Netherlands since March 4th 1971. Fly back to New York often to see my friends.


We immigrated from the Netherlands to Canada…In 2015 we visited Capetown,and we loved it.!!!!My husband lived in J’burg when he was young.I never wanted to move to S.A.but now I kind off regret it after our visit in 2015.O well I got used to the long cold winters and getting to old to do a big move again.I just going to in joy your blog.Very nice and wish you all the best.

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