Why is it that when we move abroad, everything seems to be more intense, more stimulating?

Whether you go on university exchange, working holiday, or another mobility program, the sentiment is often shared by everyone: after living abroad for some time, it is difficult to return to one’s life and routine from before.

What is ephemeral is also motivating

In regular everyday life, we tend to put things off. We wait, we postpone, and we procrastinate. But when something is timebound by a definitive end date (like a stay abroad), we are motivated to make the most of it while we can.

That’s why when we live abroad, we spend more time going out, doing weekend trips, and seeing new things. We’re acutely aware that these special moments have the potential to shape the rest of our lives, and so we live them to the fullest.

Back home, we might not even know anything about the town next door. But while abroad, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to explore any corner that has even the slightest chance of being interesting. Maybe it’s because we think to ourselves that after this adventure comes to an end, we may never get the chance to come back.

The same applies to encounters with new people: everything seems to be accelerated. When we hit it off with someone, we don’t beat around the bush. We understand that in a couple of months (or even weeks), we may never get to see them again. So if we get along, we make sure they know it.

Giving ourselves permission to get carried away

For some of us, approaching new people, going on a road trip without a destination, trying new things, these are instinctive, almost like a calling. For others who are more reserved, it might come less naturally. But when we go abroad, we find ourselves surrounded by situations and individuals that motivate us to step outside of our comfort zone.

Witnessing other adventurers say yes to crazy new experiences inspires us to give ourselves permission to also be carried away by the spontaneity of the moment.

How many working holiday makers have thought “Okay I’ll arrive in this city, stay there for 9 months, and then travel a bit at the end”, only to find themselves living an experience that is totally different from what they had planned!

The working holiday program is one of the most special opportunities that exist for young adults. You are not tied to any city, any employer, or any school. You are the sole author of this chapter in your life.

This unbound freedom and leap into the unknown can seem scary, but once you’re actually there, you start to learn to follow your gut. Over time, you start to develop a reliable instinct for which opportunities, friendships, and feelings to pursue.

In a way, by opening ourselves up to new possibilities without overthinking about the future, we are getting closer toward the best version of ourselves. For many, living far from home liberates us from the norms and expectations that would have otherwise bound us: landing the right job, earning the right salary, finding the right apartment… checking all the “right” boxes can create a lot of pressure. But when we’re abroad, we are more easily able to let go of these shackles, because we remember that we didn’t fly thousands of miles just to live the same life as before. And this freedom is magical.

Far from home and loved ones in a foreign land, we also realize that suddenly there is no one there to judge us. We feel free to be ourselves, without the filters or masks that we are so used to putting on without even realizing it.

I consider these experiences to be the greatest fortune and lesson. Even when and if you return home, the things you learned abroad will leave a positive impact on the rest of your life.

… or maybe not!

I’m describing everything as if it were a universal truth, but in reality not all travellers are able to fully open themselves up to the experience. Maybe it’s because the destination isn’t right for them, or they miss their loved ones too much, or the lack of direction is overwhelming. Disappointment exists, but it’s not all bad. Whatever situation you find yourself in, you can always learn something about yourself.

I’ll share a quick aside for the Canada WHV. Every year, thousands of young adults head to Canada on a working holiday. But many of them don’t allow themselves to travel much during their stay because the trend now has become to settle down in a city and then eventually apply for permanent residence. My advice is to not let trends pressure you into a certain type of experience. If you dream of a nomadic roadtrip across the country, for example, let that be your North Star.

Returning home isn’t so easy

For travellers who were able to live the adventure they had always dreamt of, returning home might be challenging.

Going back to your old life can be a big culture shock. We always prepare more for going abroad than going back home, so it can come as a real surprise when the reality of “home” is different from what we expected.

No more spontaneous conversations with strangers or trips to unknown destinations… it might feel like a long summer camp has just come to an end.

It can be even more difficult to accept when we see others on social media continue their adventures abroad, living the life that we already miss.

So some might decide to embark on another journey to another destination.

But if we stay in our home country, are we really destined to live a life of monotony? What if we explored our own country like so many foreigners who choose our country as their working holiday destination do? Could I get the same feeling back?

I don’t have a definitive answer to this, but I think that a big part of the magic of travel and encounters is being far from home. When we’re abroad, we are fully immersed in a new environment, without any of the familiar faces or landmarks (physical and cultural) to steer us.

It’s as if being abroad gives us the desire to simply and purely be what we want to be, in the present moment, without any other pressure.

“I needed to distance myself from my former life, I needed a year for myself and it worked. This WHV adventure turned into a series of happy moments against the backdrop of a feeling of freedom and relaxation.”Julie (yes, I’m quoting myself)

Living abroad accentuates the feeling of the ephemeral: we realize that we are living in a bubble that will one day burst, and so in the meantime, we cherish each and every moment we have.


Cofondatrice de pvtistes.net, j'ai fait 2 PVT, au Canada et en Australie. Deux expériences incroyables ! Je vous retrouve régulièrement sur nos comptes Insta et Tiktok @pvtistes avec plein d'infos utiles !
Cofounder of pvtistes.net. I went to Canada and Australia on Working Holiday aventures. It was amazing!

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