For us, moving abroad was just a thought for a long time. Well, at first it was just the idea of an around the world trip; unfortunately, we couldn’t get around the whole “quitting a great job” thing. It became apparent that this was the direction our life was meant to go once we stuck a toe out there—all the pieces rapidly tumbled into place.
That was a year ago and now I’m peeking over my shoulder at the road behind me with a great sense of accomplishment and contentment. With this anniversary passing, I’ve been thinking about all of the lofty goals and idealistic intentions we had when setting out on this little adventure. So…where are we?
One of the biggest things we set out to do was learn another language. Cody and I have traveled a bit and each time we did, we always remarked about how the people we bumped into outside the U.S. knew multiple languages and it was no big deal or that they would use English (no matter how flawed) just to practice or make us more comfortable. Living (and in Cody’s case, working) in a Spanish speaking country was a chance to become immersed and forced to learn Spanish. Learning a new language has been hard and though I’m definitely not fluent, I can easily get pissed in Spanish at an airline attendant for trying to charge me $100 for my carry-on.
I think one of the most obvious reasons to live abroad is the amazing opportunity it provides to travel and explore (I’m not going to list all of the places, but we’ve definitely taken advantage!). Not only that, but being able to speak Spanish has opened up even more doors—I think we have become less afraid to get out of our comfort zone now that that particular barrier doesn’t exist. Just living in Colombia has made so many places accessible—we can go to Lima for the weekend or take a 40 minute flight to the coffee region. I also have to say one last time that as far as exploring goes, I don’t think we could have landed in a better spot—Colombia is so diverse!! Lastly, simply living in South America has allowed us to take things at our own pace, because there is no need to rush through a list of sites when you know you can easily revisit a place.
Another reason we were anxious to spend some time outside of the U.S. was our growing dissatisfaction with our home culture. I don’t hate my country and I acknowledge that each place has it’s share of problems; on the contrary, I have to say that because the U.S. is so big and isolated, I think we live in a bubble where you must make a significant attempt to keep up with what is happening on the outside. When we were traveling in Germany a couple of years ago we met a Brazilian guy who told us how horrified he was by Las Vegas, thinking that the replicas of things like the Eiffel Tower and canals of Venice sated people’s curiosity and encouraged them to stay stateside. Living in Bogotá has made me appreciate things I took for granted in the U.S.—there is basically zero traffic in San Diego and everything seems so fast, easy and accessible. However, when Cody and I were in San Diego this past week we kept talking to each other about how we were starting to feel sucked in by some of those culture bits we didn’t really like: consumerism, a sense of competition, the need to move faster. In a way, being removed from our home culture this past year has been a reset of sorts and has allowed us reevaluate what is most important when it comes to how we live.
Has this year been easy? Yes and no. I still get flashes of those isolated feelings that I had when writing about my first months here, but they never linger. When Cody and I would talk about what I was struggling with, it wasn’t necessarily Bogotá. I think the biggest adjustment was just getting used to living outside the U.S. The thing I’m most proud of is actually how much I was able to enjoy San Diego this past week—instead of being afraid of what I’d feel like when I got home, I was able to focus on my friends and family and then be excited to return to my normal life. It’s only gotten easier.