Why the most enriching experience you can have is living abroad –
I love to travel, but I feel I never have enough opportunity to do so. Whether it’s traveling to a nearby city by car or having to take two planes to get to a far off destination, I’m always up for a new adventure. Last year I wrote about how many times I moved in my life, 26 times to be exact, but it was under the context of never giving up and always persevering to reach your goals. You can imagine having moved 26 times that I’ve had the opportunity to live in many cities. I’ve lived in Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Reno, Park City, and Sao Paulo, and now I reside in Salt Lake City. Of all the cities I’ve lived in, by far the most exhilarating was Sao Paulo. Having the opportunity to travel will always be an incredible experience, but by far the most enriching experience is living abroad and here’s why.
It’s one thing to live abroad in a country that speaks English, it’s another thing to live in a country that speaks a foreign language. We knew that the national language of Brazil is Portuguese, but we probably only learned three words by the time we arrived. My husband started working right away since he had set up his business in Sao Paulo the year before. As for me, I had to figure out what I was going to do for work. Thankfully through our connections, I was able to find a job teaching English as an assistant teacher in a bilingual private school. Considering we didn’t have a car, at first I took taxis everyday, but I quickly adopted taking public transportation. And that’s when the survival skills kicked in.
Nothing is going to challenge your survival skills than living in another country that speaks a different language and has a completely different culture for all aspects of life and business. And if you’re not open minded about adopting the language and those sets of cultural norms, you will ultimately not survive.
Since my husband and I were determined to live in Sao Paulo for at least a year or two, we forced ourselves to learn Portuguese as best as we could and understand the Brazilian way of life. The first six months were incredibly challenging, but those six months turned into four years, something we could have never imagined. Embracing and challenging our survival skills turned into developing a new life for us in a new country.
Self-reliance and Independence
Living abroad in a foreign country usually means not having your community of family and friends around as a support system. Then you have no choice but to become completely self-reliant. In our case, my husband and I had each other, but in a way we felt like one entity surviving in a city of millions of people with no family, friends or a lot of connections. In this case, you are not only being tested to your individual core, but our relationship and marriage were also tested to the core.
In our day to day lives we had to be very self-reliant and independent from the moment we stepped out of our apartment to make our way to work, work all day and then make our way home. After work or on the weekends, we had to rely on each other and be independent in order to go grocery shopping or venture out for dinner or discover new parts of Sao Paulo or even Brazil. It was both stressful and exciting.
The more self-reliant and independent we became, the more comfortable and confident we felt. Then instead of feeling the need to only survive, you finally feel like your living a new life you’ve created for yourself. You also start to feel more in control of situations or the environment. And developing greater self-reliance and independence in a foreign country, allows you to have a more enriching experience when you return to your hometown.
Obviously my husband and I had a certain level of fearlessness by making the decision to move to Sao Paulo. Not to mention, we moved there with four suitcases and our dog Asia, and that was it.
We each passing day, learning to survive and becoming more self-reliant and independent, made us more fearless. You really don’t have a choice, because you are completely taken out of your comfort zone on all levels.
Looking back at our time in Sao Paulo, I think for the first two years there was always a bit of fear in the pit of our stomachs. We were dealing with a lot of unknowns; solidifying our visas took 18 months alone, my husband was trying to build a business in a foreign country not really knowing what the outcome was going to be, I was teaching English not knowing where it was going to take me, but all of that changed and for the better. We solidified our visas, Todd’s business was acquired by one of the largest e-commerce companies in Latin America and I created my own personal teaching business generating more money than I ever made working for the school.
I believe this all happened by embracing our fears and the unknown, which helped us become bold and fearless.
So if you want to enrich your life tenfold, live abroad. Do it for a summer, do it for a year. You will develop skills and get to know yourself in a way you never would have imagined. It could be compared to starting a business, which is also an enriching experience. However, living abroad I feel, takes that enriching experience to a whole new level, one in which you will never be the same, one in which you become a better version of you.
Have you ever lived abroad? If so, where?
What were your greatest challenges? What were your most enriching experiences?
10 Reasons Why you Should Move to Another City Before you Turn 30 – The Brandmentalist