Last night I was asked on Facebook by fellow expat for my tips on keeping a positive attitude in Punta Cana. What a great question and one I’ve got a lot of answers to that I’ll be writing about more in detail here in the future. But in the meantime, I’ve come up with a summarized version of my top seven tips to keep a “glass half full” mentality when you find yourself in a slump. Of course, living abroad involves being proactive.
Homesickness is inevitable. At some point, almost all travelers or expats are going to feel homesick. It might strike immediately after you arrive and start to think “what have I gotten myself into?” or when you experience your first holiday away from family and friends. It gets easier as time goes on; however, while you’re experiencing it, you’re more likely to see things through a negative lens. ‘Home’ doesn’t exactly refer to a specific place, but more of a sense of nostalgia for places we’ve been and people we’ve known. I think best dealt with by connecting with others who feel the same way.
Work to make it your home. Finding ways to make our new place feel like “home” can help speed up the transition. This can be done by bringing things that remind you of home: photos, decorations or food. But it’s also about transferring aspects of your life back at home to your new home, such as your hobbies. If you love dancing, Punta Cana has an active night life so there is no shortage of places to go! Love to cook? We now have several large super markets in the area now offering European and North American brands.
Develop flexibility and a sense of humor. You’re bound to come across moments of cultural misunderstandings, things getting lost in translation and situations where culture shock makes you feel like you want to bang your head up against the wall. To deal with just this sort of situation, I keep one thing in mind, my Living in Punta Cana Blog. When I spend hours upon hours running around town dealing with Dominican bureaucracy, when I get stuck on the side of the road in 100º degree weather (the list goes on), blogging has helped me to cultivate flexibility by realizing that at least I´m going to be able to get a good story out of whatever mishaps and inconveniences cross my path.
Create a support system. One thing people don’t always realize when going abroad is just how difficult even routine things can suddenly seem when you’re in a different culture, possibly dealing with a different language, and all in the absence of the support system you’re used to. While being open to anyone who crosses your path is a great way to broaden your horizons, many expats find that after a few months abroad they’ve surrounded themselves with people whom they have nothing in common with. Depending on where you’re living, you may not have the luxury of being picky with friends. But if you do, I’d recommend that instead of settling on being friends with the first smiling expat that crosses your path, you try to meet as many people as possible to help you build your support system.
Develop emotional intelligence. Just because you’re following your dreams of living in the Caribbean, doesn’t mean that your days are going to always be full of smiles. You’re going to deal with tough emotions that you might be able to avoid at home like fear, anxiety, loneliness and homesickness. Not to mention that life is full of sad moments, wherever in the world you are. The important thing to keep in mind is the fact that by ignoring and avoiding our emotions they actually get stronger, and by acknowledging and addressing them they can be short lived.
Become your own cheerleader. You´ll probably have friends and family at home encouraging you but the most important person to have cheering you on is YOU!! So find ways to continue inspiring and motivating yourself. Write motivational quotes in your journal, post inspirational sayings on your Facebook page, create a mantra to repeat when you’re feeling discouraged.
Practice Mindfulness & Gratitude. A great deal of research is being done in the field of psychology these days on the benefits of mindfulness and gratitude for improving our well-being. One important aspect to well-being and happiness is loving what you do. This is where practicing mindfulness and gratitude can come in. We can’t always control how things turn out, but by being aware of the present moment and tuning into the positive, we can increase our levels of satisfaction. Try writing down one thing you’re grateful for a day.
This is just a sample of ways to stay positive while living in Punta Cana. What tips and tricks have you found to be helpful for keeping a positive attitude abroad? Share them here!