I am Expat (And So Can You!)

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.

The article cites a poll that reports 38% of millennials say travel is part of the American Dream, well exceeding the 28% who name secure retirement.tandem

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.
Teach in KoreaLet’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.reading KoreanIt 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.
dc05b-dsc_0215One 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 in KoreaFriends 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. 
cameraselfieStart 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.
running clubOne 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.
Finn at temple
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.

7 Reasons why your family should travel in Asia

By Lindsay Nash

1. It’s kid-friendly! From its restaurants to shops to sacred temples and luxurious hotels, Asia wants to visit with your children. The it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child tenet reigns superior across the continent and your child will immediately be welcomed with open (and often outreached) arms. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at my young son and thought, ‘he’s going to get in trouble for that’ and then someone comes by with a smile, wink, or tussle of his hair.

2. It’s colorful. Kids love a bright and engaging place and Asia is just that. From colorful fruit for sale on street stands to women’s traditional saris in India, bright colors are everywhere, constantly begging for attention.

3. It’s hands-on. For better or worse, there’s not much in Asia that requires you to view from behind a rope or gate. Consider Angkor Wat, the thousands-year-old temple and city complex in Cambodia that is free for clamoring and roaming. It’s truly the ultimate fort for your children to discover (of course, with respect).

4. It’s educational. Why look at the picture of the Great Wall or Taj Mahal in a book? Take your children there and discover the magic of seeing these amazing places in person. Touch the walls, meet the people, and get a real feel for some of these world wonders.

5. It’s horizon-expanding. There is no greater lesson to learn than just how big the world is, and how different we can all live. But at the same time, we’ll all just people. It’s a lesson that’s easy to learn while traveling to a place very different than your own culture. You’ll meet new people who are very different, yet also the same as you.

6. It’s cultural. You can be blessed by elephants in India or attend a funeral parade in Bali. Eat kimchi in Korea or sit with monks in Thailand. Every experience will be a new one, and one that your children and family will remember for a lifetime.IMG_0611

7. It’s affordable. Your dollar will go a long way in most countries in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia. You can eat a tasty bowl of pho in Vietnam for about 20 cents. Or, in Korea, you can have a nice thick piece of grilled pork with tens of side dishes for about 10 bucks. And children often eat, visit or play for free at many hotels, parks, museums and other sites across Asia.

Don’t drop your iPhone in the ocean and other lessons learned in Bali

By Lindsay Nash

For a quick update, we still live in Korea. But now we are four, as my son Finn likes to say. There’s me, Whit, Finn (age 4), and now, 3-month-old Poppy.

It was when I was about 6 months pregnant (translated: crazy) that I decided to book us all a trip to Bali for the winter holidays from Korea. Oh, we’ll winter in Bali, dear! And the flights are on sale! Lucky for me he tends to go along with my adventures as long as it’s not too too outlandish (which he deems is my idea of eating sushi in Mexico or my habits of cleaning the bathroom naked so I don’t accidentally bleach my favorite pair of brown pants that he despises).

So, 6 months later, I write this on my back veranda in Sanur, Bali, as the two little resident chicks peck the ground in search of crumbs from Finn’s breakfast and sweet little Poppy naps in our suitcase in the other room. The giant green palms occasionally wave to me and the aroma of incense burns three times a day in offerings to the gods. I do believe I might be in heaven. But I did bring a 3-month along, so the term “heaven” is, of course, relative.

I learned some valuable lessons on the flight over alone. Whit and I consider ourselves to be a bit expertish when it comes to traveling with youngsters. When Finn was 7 months old, we flew with him from Korea to Canada, and then to the United States for a month to visit and meet all his family. Then, we flew to Ireland so I could run a marathon (bye bye baby weight!) and then back to Korea. We have created a gypsy child, one that now speaks Korean near fluently and one that calls airplane turbulence “just a little bouncing!”

We’d never flown with a tiny baby before, but how difficult could it be, we asked ourselves. Well, we did get lucky in that department. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t quiet. Every time she needed to nap (every 3 hours), she screamed like the airplane was free-falling from the sky, plunging into the ocean. She needs that, apparently, to get to sleep and all. But, our ticket to success was having a bald, big-blue-eyed baby on an airplane full of baby-loving Koreans. They learned her name in the first 30 minutes of our first 7-hour flight. So every time she woke up, or cried, a chorus of “Poppy!!!!” and duck clucks (why the clucks? No idea!) rang out from every row behind us on the plane. Men in sweater vests and women in track suits carried Poppy up and down the aisles, taking her photo and clucking every time she made a noise. She could do no wrong! (Picture that, America!)

Please take a quick haitus from reading this blog to see Louis C.K.’s bit about flying with a baby. It’s so inappropriately hilarious and, to me, there is nothing funnier than inappropriate humor.

Finn is always easy. I don’t know how we got so lucky with this gypsy child but he’s a wonderful traveling companion. I traveled alone with him last year from the States to Korea and he couldn’t have been more pleasant of a partner. We ate sushi at the airport, watched movies on our personal screens, and just generally had a great time. I couldn’t help but laugh when people told me, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you having to travel so far alone with a toddler!!”

So Poppy was parading the aisles and Finn was watching his regular favorite, “Lightning McQueen.” We ordered him some Malaysian seaweed popcorn. Finn loves dried seaweed in Korea so we know this would be a hit. We took a picture of him with the green-tinted popcorn. Oh, this will be a hilarious Instagram post for all our American friends. Seaweed popcorn!!

Well. Pride cometh before the fall. The fall of seaweed tinted vomit out of the mouth of Finn that is after two hours of airplane “bouncing.” All in that handy little sick bag the airline provided and then another. And then down the aisle as I chased him toward the bathroom as the plane taxied on the runway toward the terminal. Then it started coming out his other end. But I’ll spare you details.

At our stopover in Malaysia before our last 3-hour leg to Bali, Whit allowed me a short wine break. Bless him. I sat like a normal adult and drank that glass of red wine, watching couples enjoy their quiet drinks and young people kicking a hacky sack as they waited calmly for their flights. I couldn’t help but smile and think that one day, we’d be traveling alone again and dreaming of the days of green barf and hugging toddlers while sitting on the gross airplane bathroom floor. This is our life and I love it.

Two weeks later, we’ve hit our family stride in Bali here along the quiet beaches of Sanur (perfect for families and small children since the waters are calm on these shores!). We’ve discovered the beauty of AirBnB, where we rented a traditional Balinese house (“joglo”) for $39 per night. Whit and I take turns taking Finn to the beach or pool each morning, while the other stays at home and chills with Poppy. In the evenings, we venture out for dinner, walks on the beach, and quick frolics in the sea. Frolicking. Yes, that was what I was doing when my dear iPhone 5 popped out of my bag and landed in the ocean. It’s currently buried in a sack of rice now, and I’ve lit some incense in typical Balinese fashion to plead with the gods to save it.

But, for now, I’ll enjoy the peace and chorus of the chickens pecking and the roosters crowing while the palms wave me back to their world.

With love from Bali,