Unfortunately, the Lebanese passport presents it's fair share of problems and travel restrictions. Even if the desire to work abroad is there, it's not always possible to leave Lebanon. We wanted to hear from a few people who had the chance to spend some time abroad, but then had to come back to Lebanon because of their passport.
This week, you'll hear from Rawan who lived in NYC then had to move back. What we love about her is that she always tries to make the most out of any situation. We hope you're inspired by her story and her positive outlook on life.
Did you have to come back or did you choose to come back? Why?
I did not choose to come back... Although I was in New York for a 6 months internship only, the plan was to stay abroad. Having only a Lebanese passport made that difficult and so I had to come back. Just like everyone who leaves Lebanon, I wanted to leave for better opportunities, for independence, for the space to explore myself and become my best possible self, I wanted to live in a country where I wasn’t surrounded by people complaining about all the lost opportunities, and I was worried that if I stayed in Lebanon I would become exactly that. I wanted to discover who I was outside what defined me back home.
How do you make the most of living in Lebanon?
When I first came back, I wasn’t very accepting of the idea of being back (being unemployed didn’t make it easy). You can say I was still in denial– I didn’t even register at a gym because in my head I was going to find a way to leave again, but once I got a job, and once I allowed myself to create a routine, I started enjoying Lebanon and appreciating the small things it offers, and I appreciated the time I had with my family and friends (the ones that were still here at least and the new friends I made). Exploring different parts of Lebanon and visiting parts of Lebanon I hadn’t even heard of before makes being here a pleasant and satisfying experience.
What is one of the biggest challenges of living in Lebanon after living abroad?
The constant instability and absence of respecting laws. Living in a country where conflict can arise suddenly and seeing that people don’t even react anymore. I'm still trying figure out how to navigate through uncertainty and not become too frustrated when things happen.
How have you implemented what you learned abroad into your life here?
Mmm... to a certain extent. For instance, I have become more independent, I know how to rely on myself, and I now enjoy getting things done on my own. However, when I was in New York, I lived on my own and so I had to cook my own meals, do my own laundry and clean up after my own mess – things we take for granted living at home with family. Coming back to Lebanon meant of course living with my family again, I still cook but only when my parents are abroad. But that’s something I’m trying to go back to as I learned that I enjoy cooking and eating home cooked meals as opposed to ordering all the time.
Also, something I learned from living abroad, and I hope to always apply, is to always get out of my comfort zone. Since I came back I’ve been trying my best to always try new things, challenge myself (whether professionally or socially) and push my boundaries.
What are some of the sacrifices you have to make living in Lebanon?
Personal space and independence are two things you have to constantly fight for when living in Lebanon, especially when you move back in with your family. Rent is too expensive in Beirut and it’s the social norm to live with your family.
What’s one of your favorite things about living in Lebanon again?
People’s appetite for life. Yes, many people (including myself) complain about the lack of opportunities, the instability and the chaos, but we still live life to the fullest and make the most of it. Events happening all the time -- there are always concerts, seminars, trips, street fairs, art shows, etc., going on in Beirut. There is real culture here and it is thriving despite all the problems.
Depending on what you choose to do with your time here, you can meet the most interesting people who love to live, and that is contagious.
What would your advice be for other returnees?
Allow yourself to explore Lebanon (it has so much to offer, you just need to look!). Allow yourself to create a routine that you enjoy. Go to different events, meet new people and just enjoy being home. If you willingly chose to come back to Lebanon, come back with the right state of mind and focus on the things/people that matter to you the most. Invest your time with people and places that make you happy, and soak it all in.
TOG Team ft. Rawan