21 Living Abroad Quotes to Motivate Your Move

There are few things in this world that are more rewarding–and more intimidating–than moving to a foreign country. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or seeking affirmation, these living abroad quotes will give you an extra motivational boost to take the leap.

Person writing living abroad quotes in journal on white table with tea cup, photos, and plane tickets.

As an English major and life-long book lover, I’ve made a habit of recording words of wisdom. It started with cloth-covered notebooks in middle school and has since evolved into a running digital list on my phone.

After years of amassing quotes about living in another country, I figured it was time to share my favorites. I hope you find a few gems in this collection that speak to your heart.

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Inspirational living abroad quotes

You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

C.S. Lewis

Lewis’s sentiment perfectly sums up why I started this blog–to show people that it’s never too late or too difficult to make your dream of living abroad a reality. Even if that means moving overseas in your 30s.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a new grad just starting out or an empty nester looking to sell everything and start over in a new country. You may have more baggage (literally and figuratively) the older you are, but it doesn’t have to root you in place. There is no expiration date on changing direction in life. 

If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.

– Anthony Bourdain

Broadening your understanding of the world and its people is the best thing about living abroad.

When we step out of our bubbles and into unfamiliar territory, we’re confronted with new ideas and ways of thinking. It’s that confrontation that pushes us to grow, both mentally and emotionally. With nationalism on the rise, the world is sorely in need of more open-minded, global citizens.

Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.

– Hannah Arendt

Arendt provided some poignant quotes about living in a foreign country. How often have you let the expectations of family and friends dictate decisions in your life?

We may not always realize it, but much of life is performance. We play the roles our parents, colleagues, and neighbors expect us to play. Deviating from those roles is incredibly difficult when you face daily pressure to conform.

Moving abroad takes away that pressure and gives you the freedom to live by your own rules. It’s a freeing feeling, and one that leads you down a path of self-discovery and independence.

Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.

– Seth Godin

I’ll preface this quote with a warning: living abroad is not one long vacation. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’ll still need to work, pay bills, and do all of life’s tedious tasks–only now you’ve turned up the difficulty level.

However, as long as your expectations are realistic, going abroad can absolutely lead to a happier life.

A big reason we moved to England was for better work-life balance. We get far more time off here vs. the US, and people don’t judge you for using it! Plus, it’s cheap and easy to travel Europe from London.

However, not everything needs to be about travel. Moving to a low cost of living country can give you the freedom to work less. Choosing a country with national healthcare can take away the anxiety of medical bills. 

Instead of relying on a few weeks of escapism a year, why not start a new life you actually enjoy?

Ordinary life does not interest me.

– Anais Nin

Fewer than 3% of Americans live abroad. In a country where over half the population lives near their hometown, many people viewed our decision to move overseas as radical.

Personally, I relish being different. I was the girl who preferred bugs to barbies, and who’d rather spend the weekend playing video games than getting a mani-pedi. I’ve always been fiercely independent, and that mindset made it easy to eschew “ordinary life” in favor of adventure.

Be prepared for your family and friends to not understand why you’d want to move abroad. They may view your decision as an insult, a rejection of their way of life.

But remember–it’s okay to be different. Don’t settle for ordinary if your dreams are extraordinary.

RELATED: The Ultimate Moving Abroad Checklist

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Moving abroad is scary. Leaving behind everything and everyone you know for a foreign land isn’t easy, even if you’ve been eagerly awaiting departure day.

Facing your fears of the unknown–and of defying expectations–fills you with confidence and strength. And you can draw on that courage to get you through the difficult days ahead.

Live abroad, if you can. Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially.

– Tom Freston

This is one of my absolute favorite living abroad quotes. Freston perfectly captures the educational aspect of international life.

Being an expat is like taking a crash course in anthropology, sociology, and political science all at once. The more you learn about how people behave and WHY they think and do what they do, the better you’ll understand your own feelings and behaviors.

And then there is the most dangerous risk of all–the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.

– Randy Komisar

If I had a nickel for every person who said they were waiting until retirement to move abroad, I’d be rich.

There are no guarantees in life. You could die a week before your retirement date. Your portfolio could take a massive hit. You could become too ill or injured to move where you want.

If you’re passionate about living abroad, take the steps to make it happen. Don’t assume your dream will be waiting for you 30 years down the road.

RELATED: How to Move out of the US

Sometimes it’s best not to know what you are up against; if you are acutely aware of the challenges involved, you’d never do a damn thing. Being clueless is weirdly empowering.

– Geraldine DeRuiter

I bought Geraldine’s book, All Over the Place, shortly before our move to London. It’s a hilarious memoir of her travel escapades, but it’s also filled with musings about life. I highly recommend giving it a read.

The first part of the quote is particularly relevant. If you knew how many difficulties you’d face during and after moving abroad, you’d probably give up before you started. But once you’re already a thousand miles from home, your only option is to tackle the challenge.

Reassuring quotes about living in a foreign country

Everyone smiles in the same language.

– George Carlin

If you’re nervous about communicating with strangers, remember this living abroad quote. A genuine smile goes further than words ever can.

All great changes are preceded by chaos.

– Deepak Chopra

The months leading up to our relocation were a whirlwind. Between visa paperwork, selling our stuff, and showing our house, I was nearly overwhelmed by the daily chaos.

That may not sound very reassuring! But I hope that knowing what to expect makes it easier to handle.

What I found appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I liked having goals.

– David Sedaris

Of all the living abroad quotes in my collection, this one speaks to me on a personal level. Like Sedaris, I thrive on setting and completing goals. The process gives me purpose, direction, and motivation to tackle increasingly hard things in life. 

You’ll face a lot of difficulties living in a foreign country. But with every difficulty you overcome, you get stronger. It’s like leveling up in a video game, only the enemies are “how to set up a bank account without losing your mind” instead of little goblins.

Our homes are not defined by geography or one particular location, but by memories, events, people and places that span the globe.

– Marilyn Gardner

After two cross-country moves and an international relocation, I’m no longer sure where I consider “home” to be.

Is it Michigan, where I grew up? Or Texas, where we bought our first house and were surrounded by my husband’s family? Or has London become home?

After three years, it still feels strange to call the UK home. Maybe because we don’t know if we’ll be here forever. But I prefer Gardner’s explanation–that home is wherever we’ve formed memories and connections with people and places.

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.

– Mark Twain

One of the biggest fears people have about moving abroad is that they’ll regret it. It’s an understandable fear.

However, it’s hard to cope with “what if”. It’s better to take a risk and live with the outcome than to pine after what could have been.

I don’t cry because we’ve been separated by distance, and for a matter of years. Why? Because for as long as we share the same sky and breathe the same air, we’re still together.

– Donna Lynn Hope

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, especially those of us living abroad. I haven’t seen my family in a year, and it may be another year before we’re reunited in person. But rather than dwell on the distance between us, I reflect on the ways we’re still connected.

Painfully accurate expat life quotes

I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again.

– Bill Bryson

Living in a foreign country definitely makes you feel like a little kid again. I was nearly run over by a car our first week in England because I was so used to looking the opposite way when crossing the street.

Going to the grocery store feels like an expedition. Even visiting the doctor for the first time was an adventure. Sure, it can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, but all the novelty satisfies my curiosity.

The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

– Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain’s quote perfectly sums up the experience of living abroad. Moving to a new country irrevocably and fundamentally changes you. Embrace the change, and endeavor to leave a positive mark on your new community.

Expats who can only criticize the country in which they choose to live are like a sailor who demands the wind blows only according to his skill.

– Tony Crossley

The biggest reason people fail to settle into a foreign country is because they can’t accept that “different” is okay.

I’m a member of several American expat Facebook groups, and I can’t tell you how many bitter people spend their days complaining how they can’t find certain ingredients at the store, or how awful it is to not have a dryer or window screens.

It’s one thing to be annoyed. But if you can’t accept these differences and move on, you’ll never find happiness in your new country.

When overseas, you learn more about your own country than you do the place you’re visiting.

– Clint Borgen

Borgen’s quote is similar to the earlier one from Freston. Seeing your home country through a degree of separation, or through the lens of foreign media, can teach you a lot.

I’m often astounded by how many major US news stories get more coverage overseas than in the states. I’ve learned more about US culture and politics in my three years abroad than my nearly 30 years of residence. It’s fascinating and disturbing at the same time.

It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.

– Eric Roth

This living abroad quote is profoundly true. Once you’ve left your home country and observed it from the outside, nothing will ever be the same.

We spent the first 29 years of our lives in the US. But after a few years of living in the UK, we can hardly stand to be in America for longer than a week. Everything that seemed completely normal–obnoxious TV commercials, terrible public transport, oversized portions–becomes a glaring issue.

Of course, we love spending time with family and return to the US multiple times a year to do so. But it feels like our reunions happen in a bizarro world, an uncanny valley that no longer feels comfortable and familiar.

I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.

– Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (film)

You’d think one international adventure would be enough. And yet, after a few years of living abroad, you’ll likely find yourself pondering your next move!

Cheers to writing the next chapter in your journey.

2 thoughts on “21 Living Abroad Quotes to Motivate Your Move”

  1. Thank you for these quotes! I’m in the wonderfully-surprising position of starting the process of moving internationally in a couple of months. Even though we’ve hoped and dreamed about this for years, now that it is a reality, the enormity of uprooting our lives in the US is settling in and challenging my resolve. The quote that I will carry with me over the next few months is the one by Deepak Chopra about great change being preceded by chaos. I’m definitely feeling the chaos now but looking forward to the next chapter.


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