Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

Wondering why you are here? Or what you are supposed to do while you are here? While living abroad, at home, or where ever you are? Many traveling partners do.

Moving abroad is for many practical reasons life changing. For some people the practical changes also open up for personal refection and the question of purpose.

The Japanese have developed a model that might help you find some answers. It is called Ikigai or directly translated: A reason for being. In the Western world also often translated into: “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”.

According to the Japanese, finding your Ikigai is finding your purpose and hence live longer and happier lives. Obviously there is no one fits all. You have to discover and develop your own personal Ikigai.


You find your Ikigai where life is easy, unforced and fulfilling. You might know the feeling, maybe you have been there momentarily.

The question is, if you can get there on a more regular basic, if you bring the model along on your global development path and fill in bits and pieces along the way.

For a traveling partner, a journey could look something like this:

Giving up my profession?

For many traveling partners, giving up your profession can feel like the main consequence of an international assignment. You might have to quit your job, or at least apply for leave, and in that sense put your professional life on hold.

But look at the model: your profession consists of both ‘what you can be paid for’ and ‘what you are good at’. You might for a period of time need to give up what you get paid for. But you certainly do not have to give up what you are good at.

When you hug your now former colleagues goodbye and get ready to head out on a new adventure, take a few moments to reflect.  What are you good at? Ask your colleagues, or listen to them when they tell you, why they will miss you. There is a good chance they are at that very moment telling you, what you are good at. Note it down.

Look at your employer. Why did she pay you? What have been the tasks you performed every day that were so valuable that someone was able and willing to pay you to do them? Write it down.

Use the opportunity to reflect – on yourself

Moving abroad is the perfect opportunity to self-reflect, and research shows that people who move abroad have a better sense of self. So use the opportunity to have a look at yourself. Who are you and most importantly right now: what’s your passion?

What do you love to do? Interestingly enough that question can be very difficult to answer. Maybe you have for some time been so caught up in ‘ what do I need to do’, ‘what is expected of me’ and ‘what do I get paid for’ that you forgot, what you just love.

A few questions might help you on the way:

What was your favorite subject in school? What made you choose a specific education? What did you do with your free time before? What do you do now when you are not working or taking care of others? What would you like to do if you had more time to yourself? Read, dance, garden, knit, run, paint, sing or something completely different?

If there is one class you could take now, just for you, what would it be? Maybe something you thought about before, something your previous employer didn’t want to pay for?  There are many online and offline learning options out there. Some even free. A few of them were shared in the Kenya Chapters session: Please share your learning opportunities. Maybe you can find learning opportunities that will stimulate your passion by doing things you love and develop your skills at the same time.

Take your time. Getting back to what you love can take time. Moving abroad comes with a lot of practical tasks. Chances are that for some time you need to focus on immediate needs, not the world’s needs but the needs of your partner and family. Do what you need to do, but slowly as things settle also take time to self-reflect.

Use the opportunity to reflect some more – also on the world you live in

Moving abroad is not just a perfect opportunity to self-reflect it is also a great opportunity to learn more about the world we live in. Explore your new host country, get to know new people. It is almost inevitable that in time all the new things you see out there will also make you look at the country you came from in new ways.

In the blogpost: How going abroad may spark your creativity we explored how an international adventure will shape your brain and help you find new creative ideas. While exploring the world and looking at your own country and culture in new ways, you will not only see a lot of things that the world needs, you might even be able to come up with new solutions. Once in a while, when you identify a need or get a new idea, especially when related to your profession or passion, make a note.

Time to get paid again?

At some point you will properly need to get paid again.  There is great satisfaction in getting paid for what you do. And yes, we all need to live. It can be while still living abroad and it can be when returning home. When that time comes take a look at your Ikigai again. Hopefully your model is by now full of notes, observations and reflections.

Now you need to consider what the job market looks like. What business or paid opportunities are out there? And how do these opportunities align with what you love, what you are good at and what you now know that the world needs?

When you are ready to write your next job application or prepare for an interview, look at your Ikigai notes for inspiration. There might be extensive focus on profession and vocation in most job adds. But many employers are in fact also interested in hiring people driven by a mission and a passion.

You might return from an international assignment so full of what you love and what the world needs that you are ready to totally reinvent your profession. And we are not saying that you shouldn’t. Maybe your self-refection can lead you in a new direction. But realistically we know, that it is easier to find paid opportunities within the profession you were in before, and in professions where you have a strong network. Don’t worry if your self-refection leads you back to where you started. There must be a reason you ended there in the first place, right? And now you have the ability to look at the old with a fresh set of eyes.

Returning to paid work after a period abroad with a stronger sense of self, might give you a new sense of purpose. It could also turn out to be your competitive advantages in the search for a new profession and best case, lead you towards an easier, unforced and fulfilling life.

Story by Mette Lindgaard Seligmann, Strategic Communication Focal Point for here we are global.

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