Five big dumb myths about travel

travel myths

One of my 2018 goals is to be more active in the blogging world, part of which is spending more time reading and commenting on other blogs. I love seeing people’s adventures as well as their struggles. It makes me feel normal and part of a community. But also, it’s been an opportunity to roll my eyes about a million times a day because the internet is a petri dish of opinions.

After scrolling through post after post, I’m wondering how all of this comes across to those who aren’t dying to travel. From a different perspective, those wanderlust-y memes can send passive-aggressive messages that if you don’t drop everything to travel, you must not care about having an open mind or understanding the world. Some blogs are more blatant with their “this is the only way to live” snobbery or worse, perpetuate ideas about travel that are exclusive and elitist.

Newsflash: babies and “roots” don’t mean you can’t travel, as shown by the millions of blogs written by traveling families.

I’ve always been vocal about how much I love living abroad and now that I think about it, if I swap life abroad for travel, I’m certain I’ve stepped on toes in the past. If that’s the case I need to say I’m sorry, full stop. Because whether it’s wandering the globe for a year or camping close to home, there’s room for everyone to do as they please.

I love traveling but today, after being crazy frustrated with every blog saying how great travel is and the million reasons why we all have to do it, I want to talk about the ridiculousness of some of these travel myths.

Continue reading “Five big dumb myths about travel”

Coming to grips with my “Americanness”

embarrassed to be an american

Somewhere in my college days, I took a couple semesters of French. I remember my professor very well, probably because he was a salt-and-pepper-haired dapper Frenchman who could really pull off a scarf. But also, I remember him because he never minced words when he talked about the differences between the French and Americans.

One day at the beginning of the semester, he told us all to stop smiling so much. I may have recoiled, it shocked me so much. I quickly uncurled my lips. I’m sure they didn’t stay there long. I can’t help it. Smiling is engrained in American DNA, just like the pathological enthusiasm that practically seeps from our pores.

He went on to tell us that in France if you see someone smiling at strangers on the street you assume they’re senile, drunk or without much sense. I had no idea that what I thought was a symbol of being earnest and open was telling legions of French people I was an idiot.
Continue reading “Coming to grips with my “Americanness””

Expats and New Year’s resolutions

Expats New Years resolution

The end of the year begs for a bit of reflection and resolution making. Moving abroad has that same vibe and urges many of us to make big plans for life in a new place. I suppose turning over a new leaf is universally appealing because let’s be real, telling ourselves we’ll be good tomorrow justifies some indulgence today.

I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions and grand plans. On the one hand, I love structure and lists and goals. On the other, I kind of suck at the discipline required to follow through with them. It won’t surprise you then when I say that contrary to what I expected when I first said adios to the U.S. in 2014, I’m still over here struggling with the same things.

I’ve said before that living abroad will not make you a happier person. Today I am realizing that neither will it make you a different (which most of us assume means better) person. I hate to break it to anyone who’s out there idealizing life abroad but it turns out that the old cliché of “wherever you go, there you are” is oozing and overflowing with truth.

Continue reading “Expats and New Year’s resolutions”

Keep your glass half full: Why expats should be cultivating positivity

expat positivity

Positivity gets a bad rap, but isn’t it kind of justified? Because I don’t think I’m alone when I say that unrealistic optimism isn’t exactly useful. When you’re stressed out of your mind or down in the dumps, the words “cheer up” are about as helpful as telling someone without a coat to keep warm. Unfortunately, a positive attitude is easily the irritating Pollyanna goody-two-shoes of the emotional crew.

While do I favor the black heart emoji and think pessimism sets us up for pleasant surprises, I found an article that made me rethink all the eye-rolling I do at positive attitudes. Especially when it comes to expat life, it looks like positivity is the arrow you want in your quiver.

Continue reading “Keep your glass half full: Why expats should be cultivating positivity”

Life lessons and a kind of love letter to Colombia

love letter to Colombia
One of the oldest streets in Bogotá, in the Candelaria neighborhood

I’ve been reading about place attachment on the interwebs. It’s a fancy term for falling in love with places like one does with people. In case you’re curious as to why it’s because I really miss Colombia and can’t seem to process emotions without a Google search to tell me I’m not alone in my feelings. I’m sure I have some interesting cookies.

But for real, I left Colombia over a year ago and it’s not fading into the background the same way as some of my former “homes”. Let’s not read this sentence as I’m unhappy in Madrid or will never go back to San Diego. I love Madrid (see here: proof in blog form) and have cried many a tear over San Diego (just reference the entire archive of 2015).

Still, each time someone asks where we’d like to settle more permanently, Cody and I respond in unison, with a little too much enthusiasm, Bogotá!

When they ask us why it’s not so easy to respond.

Continue reading “Life lessons and a kind of love letter to Colombia”

Musings from a reformed reluctant traveler

not like travel

I’ve done a decent bit of travel and have lived outside the U.S. for more than three years. Even so, I have a confession to make: I’ve never really loved traveling.

Part of this has to do with the fact that many people make a distinction between vacation and travel. Vacation is the white sandy beach, a drink with an umbrella, and letting your skin take on the color and texture of a grape fruit-roll-up. It’s a passive thing. Traveling, on the other hand, is going somewhere to see and do. It’s active. Along with this usually comes $7 hostel beds and lots of adventures that happen while getting lost and figuring things out.

People talk about traveling like it’s the only way to learn about the world and your innermost self. Listen, traveling isn’t when you do your deep soul searching. Although I suppose you have lots of time to think about what’s important when you’re curled in a sweaty ball, praying for an end to your food poisoning. And I agree that travel has big benefits—it does broaden your worldview and teach you a lot about yourself. But C’mon, it’s not the only way to do that.

Still, I’m married to a traveler and have always been happy to go away. I’ve just never loved it like he does. Until now.

Continue reading “Musings from a reformed reluctant traveler”

Having confidence in your changing expat identity

expat identity

What do you do? has become the question I dread most when meeting people abroad. Because work and roles are, for the most part, how we first identify ourselves to others.

Unfortunately, we “trailing spouses” are all too familiar with the way that every aspect of our identities are put into a cup and shaken like Yahtzee dice with each move abroad. Everything settles down again but most likely things don’t go back together the same way. And whether by choice or by circumstance, work is often times a piece that no longer has a place.

I haven’t “worked” since I followed my husband to Colombia in 2014. While I may not have had the traditional 9 to 5, I did learn a second language, start blogging and freelance writing, and work with several NGOs on incredible projects. Finding a job isn’t the issue—I like things this way. But still, I can’t seem to let go of the money part.

Continue reading “Having confidence in your changing expat identity”

Six months later: Checking in from Madrid

Last year while on a trek through the Colombian jungle, Cody and I met another expat couple. As we sweltered, I told my new Romanian gal pal that we were soon leaving Bogotá for our second move abroad. The second time is the worst, she told me, because you know what’s coming.

I completely understand what she was telling me. Remembering my struggles in Bogotá left me with serious shivers of dread. And in the U.S. over the holidays, another part of me worried because I wasn’t chomping at the bit to return to Madrid (you can read about my feelings here and here).

But here I am, six months into my sophomore stint of expat life and feeling great. Was it supposed to be this easy? I’m kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Continue reading “Six months later: Checking in from Madrid”

Three reasons to reconsider a return visit

revisit or travel somewhere new

I want to do China next. I did London last year.

Living in a touristy city and traveling to other touristy cities, I hear things like this quite a bit.

It bothers me. A lot.

In fact, my biggest pet peeve is the way some travelers use the word “do” when referring to visiting a place. My concern with the word “do” is how talking about a place in this way turns a city or country or culture into a tick box. As if, by spending a long weekend zipping through a list of can’t-miss-it attractions, all that is to encounter and experience has been taken in.

Just because you visited the best museums, saw the most significant sights, and ate in the highest rated restaurant does not mean that a place is “done.” The world isn’t static. Been there, done that does not exist.

Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to visit every country in the world. And I know that there are all kinds of things to consider when planning a trip, time and money being the biggest factors. The new, however, already gets enough attention.

Today, I’m here to make a case for going back.

Continue reading “Three reasons to reconsider a return visit”

Moving past the “settled-in” slump

trailing spouse syndrome

In my previous post, I wanted to acknowledge the emptiness and loss of focus that comes with rebuilding your life every few years. Experts call this lull trailing spouse syndrome and it usually comes to kick you in the shins around the time you’re patting yourself on the back for another successful move.

Yes, you must pause and let yourself feel those feelings. At the same time, it’s important not to linger here. Unfortunately, any trailing spouse will tell you that it’s also far too easy to lose your momentum and somehow end up simply existing in this place.

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon this New York Times article with a statistic that stopped me in my tracks.

Yvonne McNulty, a Singapore-based consultant who studies mobility issues, said the biggest issue for spouses was loss of identity. “What I found in my research is that almost all spouses face an identity crisis but only about 10 to 15 percent did something about it, by becoming authors, getting an M.B.A. or starting businesses,” she said. Most “felt they were victims, with no control.”

Uplifting stuff, huh? It’s disheartening to hear how many of us get stuck here and feel powerless as to how to find our way back. Only making it harder to find your way is that there’s no single path to steadying your shaken identity.

But these words above also hold the answer—the ones who got back on their feet were the ones who did something about it.

The lesson I’ve learned repeatedly the past three years is that this momentum starts in my mind. Like psyching yourself up before a big event, here’s what I do to keep myself moving towards getting my feet on the ground again.
Continue reading “Moving past the “settled-in” slump”