My love affair with travel and living abroad
It began one sunny day back in August 1995. I boarded a plane to Granada, Spain at the age of 20 years old for a semester abroad during college. That was it. I was smitten. My first experience living overseas in 1995 started a love affair that will last for the rest of my life.
At times I’ve stopped and thought about what exactly it is that I love so much about traveling and living the “expat life.” There are a few different things that have drawn me to this lifestyle.
Learning about different cultures has always been interesting to me. For it to have an impact on me personally though it has to be done by physically being somewhere amongst the people, the lifestyle, the food, all of it. It doesn’t matter if I am sitting at a cafe people-watching, having a chat at a bar or restaurant with locals, taking a tour with a local guide, I love taking it all in. Reading about different places can be interesting too but there is such a big sensory part of the experience that is missing. Living in a different culture brings it to the entirely next level.
Trying new cuisine and wine is always an adventure! Vietnamese and Japanese food top my list with Thai coming in a close third for Asia currently. Spanish and Italian are my favorites in Europe so far. I like to think I’ll try any type of food at least once but traveling in some parts of Southeast Asia I’ve found myself saying, “I’ll pass” on some occasions. Somehow the thought of chomping down on a crunchy bug or spider doesn’t sit well with me. Some different things I have tried: sea urchin, eel, kangaroo, emu and crocodile. My favorite red wine to this day is Australian Shiraz. I first had it in 2000 during my first trip to Sydney and I have loved it since. My favorite white is a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
People you encounter on your travels or while living abroad are always interesting to me. Maybe it’s because you are interacting with somebody so different to you and where you come from so it brings this mysterious quality into the picture? I always find this very refreshing. I enjoy meeting people different than me. I enjoy learning about them. I’d even go as far to say that I thrive on it at times. Other times you meet people with many similarities even though you have spent your lives living in two places that couldn’t be farther apart in a geographical sense.
The challenge of being outside your comfort zone. Yes, I am one of those oddball people that actually enjoy this. I am a firm believer in the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Thinking back on my experience in Spain in 1995 I did have a very difficult time in the beginning. I remember calling home over the first couple of weeks quite a lot telling my Mom I wanted to come home. The wise response from my Mom was to give it a little time and see how I felt. She must have known I had it in me to do it. I just wasn’t so sure myself at the time. I was living in the home of a Spanish family who didn’t speak English and I barely spoke Spanish. I didn’t know a soul in the program I selected either. It was a lot for a 20 year old to handle. I overcame it though. I found it in myself to stick it out and give it time. That semester living in Spain and traveling in Europe ended up being one of the best times of my life. It opened up a whole new world to me and I knew after that I would find a way to live abroad again. I am happy to say I have done just that.
What you learn about yourself and how you grow when traveling and living abroad amazes me. This one probably applies a bit more to the living abroad side although I think it does happen when you travel quite a bit as well. I won’t go into too much detail of how this happened to me during my semester in Spain or this will become a novel. Let’s just say I had a more difficult time adjusting to being back in San Diego and back in the college lifestyle after my time abroad than I did when I first arrived in Spain. I really felt myself change and evolve as a person during that experience. I truly believe that needed to happen at that time in my life to help shape who I am today.
Finally, I will say I feel very fortunate I have found a partner in life who loves traveling as much as I do and enjoys living in different countries. Will we be nomads traveling the world aimlessly for the next 50 years? No, of course not. What I do know is we will try our hardest to ensure travel will continue be a big part of our lives and if we play our cards right we just might be living in 1-2 countries every year.
Stay tuned for blog posts on travels in: New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Shanghai, Tokyo, Indonesia. Future travels soon to come too!
Just discovered your site and wanted to say hi since it seems we have a lot in common! I love being an expat and living abroad for these same reasons; in fact I was just in Singapore from mid-2010 to the end of 2011. (and I’m also an American with a foreign fiancé :)) I miss living there just for all the cheap and frequent holidays around Asia — looking forward to reading your upcoming travel posts!