When a House Becomes a Home – Living Abroad Meaningfully

Written December, 2019 //

I was running and running. When Thursday turned into Friday, I ran to a new place, masked by my desire to travel and see that which was foreign. With each passing trip, I knew a different reality was brewing inside me, a reality that I didn’t want to admit. Beneath the mask, I was running away from the loneliness, from the challenges, from the vulnerability of my life in Zhytomyr.

Over the last few months, I traveled almost every weekend. Each weekend, I learned a little more about life, about the world around me, about the people I encountered along the way. While I was learning about all of these other people and places, I realized I was missing out on an opportunity to learn about what was right in front of me: about the people, the places, the language, and life in the city I was supposed to call my “home” for nine months.

A week ago, I called my friend and told her I felt like I couldn’t be myself in this city, I couldn’t show my creative side, I couldn’t show the real me. I told her that my New York personality didn’t fit into the small window of Zhytomyr. I told her that here, I was just “the American”, not the Kat I was at home who has dreams bigger than this life, who has stories from different corners of the world, and who is driven by a deep desire to love passionately and make this world see life differently. Our conversation continued into the night. When we said goodbye, I knew I needed to make a change.

The next day, I printed out pictures that inspired me, bought new decor for my apartment, and spent the day making my little part of this world feel more like a home. I invited friends over for coffee. I cooked a homemade meal. At the end of the week, I sat down and wrote a list of everything I wanted to accomplish for the next semester, and when I finished that list, I tucked it away. I wrote it to get everything out of my mind onto paper, but in reality, I knew what I needed was just to live more, to be more free, to see the world a little less seriously, to be a more creative and carefree me. And so, as I journey through the next months of living in this little city and continuing to travel where my heart desires, I’ll slow down, I’ll let the beauty of new streets inspire me, I’ll say ‘yes’ to things that spark joy and ‘no’ to things that don’t serve me, and I’ll make this journey in Zhytomyr a little more me.