It’s been 364 days since I stepped foot off the airplane into this hot and spicy country. I leave tomorrow for my next destination which will make it exactly one year, to the day! No, this wasn’t done on purpose, I swear!
I left with very few set expectations of my time abroad. Grandma implied this year abroad would be a good break before grad school, others implied it was a chance to travel before settling down at a real job and some friends bet I wouldn’t even come back home. I really didn’t want to go into the year with any sort of limitations or pre-set outcome. I did, however, tell myself to use this year to do some reflecting and growing up. That was my only real goal. (Which I did, by the way. check!)
Now that the year is coming to an end, the unknown of what’s next is starting to take up more and more real estate in my late night thoughts. I have a plan for the first few months that I’m home but not beyond that and it’s stressful. Not having a plan stresses me out. Even though I know that I am in no rush to get anywhere, and that I am young, the idea of going back to the U.S. and Western pressures for success makes me want to have my whole life planned out.
I had a dream the other night about this uncertainty and I remember telling someone, “I think no matter what I’m doing, no matter how happy I am, if I don’t have a savings, a retirement fund or a home, I am going to feel anxious.” I wasn’t saying (in my dream) that I needed to have those things, I was just acknowledging that I fall victim to societies expectations like anyone else and part of me will continue to have friction with those pressures as long as I don’t have them. And I just need to accept that, without having it influence my decisions.
With that being said, I am pretty confident about one thing: I want to have a life abroad. If that’s the what, I am currently figuring out the how, when & where. The why is more than the views and sunny weather. It has to do with the adventure and independence that comes with living outside of your comfort zone. I like the parts of myself that I have developed in the last year and I want to continue to get to know myself. That’s what it really comes down to…I have seen so much growth in myself and I don’t want that to stop. I also want to keep getting to see, experience and understand different cultures and ways of living. I want to keep meeting people, sitting on beaches, seeing different skies, trying new foods and everything else that comes with being in new spaces.
I’ve had some pretty epic moments this past year, from teaching my own class of 50 students to doing yoga over the rice fields in Vietnam, riding a tire down a nature made water slide to snorkeling in the Andaman Sea, feeding and playing with an elephant to motorbiking through the rice fields in Bali under the most lit sky. I’ve traveled with 11 friends and family from home, traveled to 7 countries, stayed in over 20 hostels, been to 12 islands, caught over 40 flights and gotten hundreds of mosquito bites. I’ve created some long lasting new friendships and found places in the world I could call home.
Living outside of the country has opened up the boundaries I had set on my life from one to one hundred.
I think about when I was in undergrad and how set I was on my plan. Graduate, work, masters, work, doctorate, work. And sure I had dreams of traveling and starting a family but it was almost as if I hadn’t given myself the chance to really imagine what my life could be. I had thought I had to live a certain way and do what I’m good at. I’m not even just talking about the job/save/buy cycle, but even something simple as living in the U.S. I had never even imagined that I could go to school, work, start a family, etc. in another country…or even in another state. Everything I had planned to do was to bring me back home…so now, I am completely overwhelmed by the realization that I can really do anything, go anywhere or be anyone.
I could go teach English in Sri Lanka or work at a bungalow in Indonesia or go to grad school in South Africa or go work on a coffee farm in Hawaii or be a nanny in Paris or even work on an around the world cruise ship. How do I find what I want to do now when before I didn’t know what to do and my options were grad school or job?
Some days, the uncertainty overwhelms me and I decide I’ll go home, find a job, start dating and just see where life takes me. I know lots of people doing this who are happy and I know I could do it and be happy. Then other days I come back, lay down on my bed, full of adventure and excitement, and know that this is the life I want to live.
One thing I know is that whatever I end up doing, I have some really amazing parents & friends that will always be there. That is really the biggest blessing in my life and I consider myself very lucky to have such good people in my life.