By Lindsay Nash
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” ― Bill Bryson, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
The American Dream has changed. It’s no longer owning your own house or staying in one job for the rest of your life. For millennials like me, it’s own less, experience more. An interesting article in Time Magazine says that millennials dream about travel and self employment–and staying far off the corporate ladder.
I have to agree. I held my first post-graduate job for three years before Whit and I left that world to explore the actual world. We haven’t looked back since. In the nearly decade that has followed, we’ve become comfortable American expatriates here in South Korea. We’ve traveled a good chunk of Asia, backpacking through India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, and China. And took family vacations in Bali and the Philippines.
The world is our house. Experiences are our possessions. And adventures are our dreams.
Even when we started having children, we knew we wanted to share this lifestyle with our little ones. And, while most parents would scoff at the idea, we’ve thrived in this world outside of America. Here are 8 secrets to our success of living an expat lifestyle, and loving it.
8 Secrets to an expat life of success
1. Get a job.
Let’s get real. As romantic as it sounds to just wander the Earth on someone else’s dime with no responsibilities, in the long-run, it won’t pan out. Plus, you won’t truly experience a culture without immersing yourself in it. To have experiences (your new “possessions”) you need to be able to afford them. Start at Transitions Abroad for ideas on how you can make your expat life a reality. Teaching English is a wonderful way to first make the leap.
2. Manage expectations.It won’t be glorious, or glamorous, all the time. There will be days you want to scream your head off because a cultural tick gets on your nerves. Or times you get frustrated because you just want to be able to hold a normal conversation with your neighbor without sounding like a buffoon. But realize this is normal. Keep going. Keep studying. Keep accepting what’s different.
3. Keep an open mind.
One of the best things about living abroad is how your perceptions of the world and everyday life change. Quickly. It’s important to keep an open mind, and to continue to grow and change the way you view the world. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind, or you’ll be left angry at why people can’t see the world as you do.
4. Make friends.Friends sweeten any deal, and living abroad is no different. Whether you want to move abroad with your family or by yourself, it’s important to make connections as soon as possible in your new home. Having someone to talk to, go to, and listen to will be one of your major keys to success.
5. Take advantage of the situation.
Live in Korea like I do? Learn Korean. Learn how to make kimchi. Live in France? Learn French. Drink wine. Eat cheese. Live in China? Visit the Great Wall. The possibilities are endless when you live in a strange land. Take full advantage. Explore often. Learn constantly.
6. Share it with others.
Start a blog and write about your adventures. Or post your pictures on Instagram. Or tell people about it on Facebook. When you look at your experience in a positive light, and are constantly sharing it, it will be contagious. To you on bad days, and to others who dream of doing the same thing.
7. Get involved.
One of the best things (if not THE best) about being an expatriate is the expat community. Just think: A whole group of people who think a little bit like you and value the same experiences. I guarantee, you’ll make fast friends in these communities, as expats are always up for meeting other expats. It’s also easy to create groups in these communities, such as a running club, book clubs, dinner groups, girls nights, the list goes on and on.
8. Become a citizen of the world.
I tell my children this all the time. You’re a citizen of the world. With this citizenship comes great responsibility. Respect religion, any kind. Respect dress codes, any kind. Respect customs, any kind. We are all humans on this Earth, and the only way we’ll survive is to be kind and respectful of one another. Period.