The Unexpected Saboteur of Your Move Abroad: Your Brain!

Did you know that your brain's inbuilt fear of uncertainty might be the dark horse in your move to a new country? Learn how to overcome this silent saboteur and emerge victorious.

Vertical stack of suitcases

Alright, so you’ve got the gumption, the gusto, the outright audacity to pack up your life and move to a new country. It’s an exhilarating prospect — all that newness, the unexplored territory waiting just beyond the horizon. But there’s a hitch, a snag in your grand scheme. It’s that insidious, treacherous little beastie we call the brain. Yes, your brain, the very thing that got you this far in life, might be your worst enemy when it comes to making a bold change like this.

Let’s talk about that.

Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, staring out at the sea. There’s a boat waiting for you, ready to take you to a new place. It’s a beautiful scene, picture-postcard-worthy. But there’s a gnawing sensation, a bit of a knot in your stomach. It’s a feeling akin to the tug of a bungee cord right before the leap. That, my friend, is your brain hating the uncertainty of what’s ahead.

The brain, you see, is a creature of habit. It thrives on predictability and patterns. It’s an evolutionary survival tool that has been honed over millennia to navigate the wild jungles of the prehistoric world. It loathes the unknown, the unpredictable, the uncertain. This isn’t some new-age psychobabble; it’s the hard, cold science of neurology.

In the vast, intricate neural networks of your brain, the amygdala acts as the sentinel, alert for any sign of danger. Uncertainty triggers this little almond-shaped structure, setting off a cascade of stress hormones that puts you in a state of high alert. It’s the old “fight or flight” response, honed to razor-sharp precision by our ancestral need for survival.

Now, uncertainty doesn’t always mean physical danger. It can be the emotional or psychological equivalent of a saber-toothed tiger lurking in the shadows. Your brain, bless its prehistoric heart, doesn’t differentiate between the two. So when you’re about to move to a new country, with all the inherent unknowns, your brain screams, “Danger, danger!”

This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to failure or destined to chicken out at the last minute. What it does mean is that you have to recognize the biological underpinnings of your anxiety and strategize accordingly.

But how do you do that?

First, educate yourself about your new home. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked. Look beyond the glossy travel brochures or the idyllic Instagram photos. Get into the nitty-gritty details about your destination: the culture, the laws, the local customs. This will give your brain some familiarity to cling to amid the sea of uncertainty.

Colorful beach blankets showcased by enthusiastic vendor.
A burst of colors on the beach! An enthusiastic vendor presents her diverse range of blankets, adding a pop of vibrancy to the coastal scene.

Next, try to establish routines early on. Our brains love routines. They provide a sense of order and predictability. Start small. Wake up at the same time, exercise, meditate, or do whatever it is that keeps you grounded. Create your little rituals, your anchors in the storm.

Reach out and build connections. We’re social creatures, even the most introverted among us. Engage with the local community, and join clubs or groups that align with your interests. Be curious, be open. The more connections you build, the more your brain will start to feel at home.

Remember, your brain is not your enemy. It’s just trying to keep you safe, doing what it’s been programmed to do over eons of evolution. Instead of fighting it, try to work with it. Understand its fears, its hesitations, and its innate desire for stability.

Finally, allow yourself some grace. It’s okay to be nervous, to feel a bit lost. It’s okay to question your decision or to have second thoughts. You’re human, after all. Uncertainty is part of the adventure, the thrill of the new. Embrace it, acknowledge it, and then take a deep breath.

Embracing uncertainty doesn’t mean you’re throwing caution to the wind or inviting chaos into your life. It’s about learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s about recognizing that life is inherently uncertain, no matter where you are, and that’s okay. It’s about finding a balance, between the old and the new, between the known and the unknown.

Signpost indicating backpacker routes, one going east and one going west.
A single signpost with arrows pointing in opposite directions, guiding backpackers towards eastern and western adventures. Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash

Stepping into a new country is like stepping into a new version of yourself. It’s a chance to redefine who you are, to push your boundaries, and to grow. And that’s worth a bit of brain-induced anxiety, don’t you think?

So, as you stand on that metaphorical cliff, staring at the boat waiting to whisk you away to your new life, remember this: you’re more than your brain’s fear of uncertainty. You’re a bold, daring adventurer, ready to conquer new lands.

Sure, your brain will grumble, complain, and maybe even throw a tantrum. But, with understanding, patience, and a healthy dose of courage, you’ll find that you can navigate the uncertain seas of change. And who knows? You might even enjoy the ride.

Remember, this is your story, your adventure. Don’t let a little thing like your brain’s dislike for uncertainty hold you back. After all, the best stories are those with a bit of suspense, a touch of mystery, and a dash of the unknown.

And isn’t that what life’s all about?

So, go forth, brave adventurer, and conquer your new world. Let uncertainty be your compass, guiding you towards growth, discovery, and, perhaps, a bit of self-enlightenment. After all, isn’t that the greatest adventure of all?

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Hi! We’re Melissa, Michael, and Samantha. We’re a nomadic family from the United States, currently living and building our new lives in Lisbon, Portugal. Follow us on our adventures as we explore this beautiful city and all it has to offer.