Traveling around the world as a tourist I often found myself daydreaming about living in the place I was visiting. You’ve done that too, right? I’d be sitting on the beach with a bevvie in hand… or viewing amazing scenery as a train made its way through the countryside… or sitting on a rooftop at dawn with a cup of joe. Each of these daydreams would transport me to what I would imagine everyday life in a place could be like. Shopping beside neighbors at the open market in a town square, buying the fixin’s for that evening’s dinner and then locating the wine shop to choose the best wine to suit the meal. Or imagining being a daily commuter in this city on my way to work – would I take the train or ride a bicycle? Likewise, my mind would wander to just how I would manage to live in this community, like what would I do for work (I imagine I will always work, because I want to).
Traveling as a tourist I saw some incredible places in the world. I’ve traveled by plane, train, car, motorbike, ship and I’ve explored on foot and seen incredible architecture, amazing countryside, and always had the pleasure of meeting local people that represented their city and country well. But, for me, I always longed to know more about the people and the places I have visited, and those daydreams never quit intriguing my sense of adventure.
Leading into 2016 there were many changes in my life. I began to embrace the idea of making my daydreams a reality. Doing this I realized I could live my dream of working and living abroad. I realized I could choose where I wanted to begin living that dream. I changed my way of networking with professionals and I began to share my desire to live my dream. I changed my sales management job in the FinTech industry for a technical recruiting job that I thought was ideal for working remotely in any country. Then interesting things began to happen, people began to reach out to me about employment possibilities. And, well, that is exactly how I came to be here in China and where I began a new career as an English as a Second Language teacher and to live in a new country.
RECOGNIZING SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIMITATIONS
The benefits of living and working abroad are numerous. Regardless of your industry, the impact the opportunity to live and work in another country has on a person is incredible. First off, we realize that there is more than one way to do and see everything. Experiencing another culture broadens our minds socially and culturally as we begin to recognize the interesting limits imposed upon us by social and cultural norms. Your own culture never leaves you, but your heart and mind are forever changed by being opened to new ways of being and doing. Seeing and experiencing life in this way, you begin to decide what you really like and what you really believe in, not just what is acceptable in your own little world; you get to know yourself better.
YOU EXPERIENCE LIFE THROUGH A NEW LANGUAGE
Yes, this is most fun because you can’t help but pick up local language and jargon that becomes a part of you. You find yourself pulling forth these words and phrases for darned near everything, because they may be the best to convey a thought or feeling. In experiencing this new language, you also feel the connection to the local people and culture in a way that is intimate and connecting.
YOU FIT YOUR LIFE INTO YOUR BACKPACK OR SUITCASE
When you begin to travel you realize you want to do it lightly and with as little baggage as possible; you literally par it down to the serious basics in a carry on. This is an incredible benefit of learning to do with what you’ve got and taking only what you need. It is freeing and liberating to not have these attachments to things. This learning to live lightly impacts so many aspects of your life such as living frugally; you learn to only take with you what you have room for. Also, the importance or lack of importance of stuff. A friend of mine, a sailor, called it ballast, as he toured the world on a sailboat with room only for the necessities.
YOU FIGURE STUFF OUT
When you arrive in a new place where the language and the currency are different, you’ve got to figure stuff out! You really find the grit in yourself to pull up on those energetic reserves and find your way around all this new stuff you have to do. You find you’re good at directions. You find you can figure out how to charge your electronics and use Wi-Fi to communicate with locals and with back home. When you are living in a new city in a new culture, you have a lot of stuff to figure out and, by God, you do! You find your new apartment; you figure out how to take care of the necessities of everyday life in your new city. You figure stuff out and you feel good about it all and you feel good about yourself!
LIVING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
As an expat living abroad you experience many people and things as passing through, temporary, transitory. This impact allows you to recognize the joy in a moment of memory making, and to experience things more fully because you won’t be in that place with those people ever again. You become more patient and more easygoing about life and living and just things; you realize that life knows best and to enjoy the heck out of it all.
This living and working abroad is the big adventure, it is the life changing experience and you will be forever impacted and changed because of it. Uprooting your life, taking that leap, that chance, believing in yourself and your capabilities, being adventurous impacts our whole being. Whoda thunk that you would go and do this living and working abroad? And you know, this change within you prepares you for your next adventure in life be it another living and working abroad experience or a new job or relationship. Perhaps the most profound impact is that along with that learned patience you will have cultivated empathy and kindness to strangers at home and away.
I’m still on my journey living and working abroad. I’m finding the lessons in life for me are amazing and life changing and seemingly never ending. I have found a freedom that I never knew and for me I feel there’s still more for me out here in the big wide world to see and to learn and to experience. No matter if you travel as a tourist or you live and work abroad, do it, just do it! You won’t regret any of it and you’ll be a better and well-rounded you for the experience!
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Susan is an American woman living a dream — a dream to live and work in community in different countries! Several years in to her journey, she has found her home-away-from-home, while learning more about herself, more about the world, and building bridges through common language as an ESL teacher with EF Kids and Teens in Taizhou, Zheijiang, China. #Livin’aDreamInChina!
Click here to learn more about Susan