When I was fresh out of college, I had no idea what life would look like for me at thirty. I had no idea that I’d be waking up in a yurt in the volcanic hills of Lanzarote, waiting for my husband to come back with birthday breakfast. Right now, I’m sitting facing the ocean with my hot cup of coffee in hand, feeling morning sun rays peek out behind clouds.
Here I am: thirty, happy, and feeling more power and more passion as a woman each day. I can hardly believe the ride of luck, adventure, and experience that I get to look back on as my twenties.
The years abroad went by fast, but hey, here are six things I’ve learned so far on the way to thirty.
#1 Home is more than one place.
When I realized we were going to move every two to three years, my rigid definition of home started to loosen its borders. I let go of the fear that, deep down, Texas was the only place where I really ‘belonged’. San Antonio will always be my anchor and where I recognize myself most, but as we’ve set anchor together in far off places like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Belgium, I’ve opened up to the idea that other places can be just as welcoming, just as enjoyable. We’ve met amazing new people each time and I hold those real relationships tight. By thinking of each new country as home, it’s easier to open up in making friends and finding real fulfilment, even if it’s just for the short-term.
#2 Fake it until you make it.
If I could choose a catchphrase that summed up my twenties, this would be it! There were so many moments where – on paper – I fell short in terms of experience, language, motivation, you name it. Life in general, and especially life abroad has forced me to go for things before I was 100% ripe and ready. There wasn’t always time to wait for things to fall perfectly in place, and as a perfectionist, this took major readjustment. But necessity breeds invention as they say, and by setting things in motion, my confidence always caught up with me.
#3 (Young) love is 100% worth the work.
Thinking back on my seven years with Laurens, I can honestly say that the best years with him are now unfolding. When we first met as green adults, we were largely at the mercy of our inexperience. Since then, we’ve changed so much individually, but we managed to do it together. When I used to hear these cliché truths like ‘love is work’, it always made me cringe. It made me yearn for the romance, but the truth is, I’ve figured out there’s nothing more romantic than someone who’s willing to move and groove with you through life’s changes. I’m glad I met my mover and groover.
#4 Mental health is crucial to happiness abroad.
Life abroad has taught me incredibly fast that my anxiety can’t be neatly packed away in a suitcase just because I’m traveling. The stressors of expat life (being far from home, starting over, culture shock) exacerbated my anxiety to levels so high that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It revealed a side of myself that’s not social media ‘worthy’, a side that I’m learning to treat with compassion, care, and above all, with patience. No matter where I am in the world, my peace of mind is the foundation of my happiness, and I don’t mess with that.
#5 No matter the country, it’s all about who you know.
In every country we lived in, it all came down to pulling myself out of bed and putting myself out there to network even if I didn’t feel like anything would come from it. It wasn’t easy to find jobs in every country (due to visa restrictions and whatnot) but I always found a way to meet new people in my day-to-day interactions, Every job I’ve managed to snag overseas has been a result of a chance meeting, a friend of a friend. Every single time – rewarding things came from connecting with as many people as possible.
#6 There’s no better feeling than doing what you set out to do.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m doing it. That I’m living my teenage dream. Not every day as an expat is perfect, but when I consider the things I’ve experienced, it makes me realize that the sacrifice and time away isn’t in vain. So far, I’ve visited 28 countries and traveled countless miles to places I had only tapped on a globe. From breaking bread with a local family in Sri Lanka to taking in the beauty of my own country, I realize I want to keep marveling at what the world has to offer for as long as we can. I want to take in and celebrate the diversity.
Traveling to a new place is like unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning every single time, and what’s better than that?
Let’s see what the next ten years brings. xx