I have been thinking for months about how to write this post on loneliness as a single expat. I realized recently that most of my friends assume that because I travel a lot and I chose to continue to live abroad for the past 9 years that I don’t get lonely. But expat life especially as a single person can be lonely even if you have friendly co-workers or enjoy your job as I do. Whenever I tell people that living in Abidjan has been the hardest country socially for me, they are confused because they think living abroad just gets easier with time. But really every country is different and so there are moments when I really miss Cairo the last place I lived. Not the trash or the multitude of stray dogs or the cold winters, my horrible landlord or the job 🤷🏾♀️ but the quality of my personal life. I had a great social life in Cairo even though I seldom went to clubs and never dated there (ijs) because I made a great group of friends. We got together for a variety of reasons – book club, movies, potlucks, dinner, friday night happy hour so I seldom felt lonely. Cairo was easier to navigate so even if I had to do something alone like go to the movies or the mall or go out to eat I didn’t mind. Abidjan has presented a particular challenge for me because it was difficult making friends outside of work which is something that is necessary for balance. As a School Counselor I find that often whenever I hang out with colleagues the conversation shifts to work whether it is about the students or talking about the challenges with some colleagues. I don’t want to think about or talk about work during my personal time. There are moments when I miss the life I had in the DMV, my friends having a car, dating regularly, going out to eat and going to plays and concerts. I really enjoyed my lifestyle there, I was happy.
So the question is what have I been doing to combat my loneliness here in Abidjan? It’s a struggle sometimes and I must admit that since I have been back from the holidays it has been harder. When I’m feeling really lonely I spend time talking to my sister or my friends on what’sapp because conversations always makes me feel better. I sometimes get tired of the challenges with taxis and getting lost so I choose to stay home and watch Netflix. The weekends can typically be harder than week days but gratefully the periods of loneliness don’t last long.
In order to combat loneliness I try to be more social with my colleagues. To invite someone out to eat so I can get out of my apartment. Sometimes I have gone out alone to a nice place like the Sofitel Hotel to get away from the noise of my neighborhood. My newest goal is to get out of the city at least once a month to go to the beach because being near the ocean is my happy place. Recently I went to a new restaurant in another part of town with a friend that I made outside of work and while the taxi driver got lost taking me there I am happy that I made the effort to get out of my apartment.
So while being a single expat comes with the extra challenge of loneliness for me, I am grateful I have learned how to deal with it. I’m also grateful that this week I discovered little things that made me smile like an aloe plant on my balcony that was covered by weeds, a better view of the pool now that the backyard has been cleaned up and yummy Ivorian made chocolate at the Sofitel Hotel. All of this helps to remind me that while I’m missing the life I had in Cairo, I am learning so much and experiencing some good in this new country. What I want my friends to know is that loneliness happens at different times for different reasons so reaching out with an unexpected phone call while such a small gesture can make a difference. #BlackExpat #exploring #steppingoutsidemycomfortzone #thelittlethingsinlife