Every now and again a comment someone makes about my life catches me off guard. A few weeks ago, a friend whom I met several years ago while we both enjoyed a few nights off the beaten path on the coast in South Africa said, “Wow, You’ve been living such an adventurous life these last two years.” I hesitated and pondered and wondered, “ah, well, yeah ah… hmmm, I guess, could be,” I said to myself. A few days later a new visitor to my blog and fellow traveler blogger said, Wow, what an adventurous life you lead…”and then (thankfully) acknowledged the difficulties and challenges that can come with it too. Exactly, I thought.
An adventurous life. An exciting life.
I guess I do. My life has been filled with it’s ups and downs, fears and challenges, upsets and heartbreaks, just like the next person experiences.
My life is adventurous.
I won’t deny it. But it doesn’t always feel the way it’s likely perceived because it all depends on what lens you’re looking through. And because sometimes when you’re living the adventure, there are many parts that aren’t so easy.
For many Americans who are living the American dream, aka working the minimum 40 hr workweek and many just trying to make ends meet, I can see how my life in Europe seems adventurous; a dream. Take the typical American or even Spaniard who is following the cookie cutter plan, societal expectations of all the steps to take; graduate high school, go to college, find a guy/gal, get a good job, buy a house, take your 2 week vacations every year and consider having a family .. or in some similar order. The way we’ve been taught our whole young lives through various media outlets: TV shows, movies, commercials, school, likely are parents, extended family and grandparents (if you were so lucky to have them, I was not). Diverting from this route isn’t as common, though in my realm of existence of being connected to fellow travelers, expat bloggers, and having friends in many places in the world as well as making friends while abroad makes it easy for me to forget that the path I’ve chosen isn’t the typical one.
So yes, My life is different.
At 19 I was exposed to another world when I lived in London for three months with a host family and coined my motto: “Defy Convention.” It was then I told myself I wanted to take a different path and I’ve managed a balance of working jobs I enjoy that give me perspective, fulfillment, and educate me about my world. When they’ve come full circle, I’ve hit the road by either traveling or living abroad.
I’ve carved my own path and made my own little road.
I took myself on a grand adventure to the unknown: Africa. The only way I managed 9 months traveling solo in the amazing but challenging continent was a perfectly mixed combination of naiveté craziness and being brave. Folks, I’ll be honest with you, there is no other way I could have survived! Diving in head first, without knowing what the hell I was getting myself into, was the only way because if I had the slightest idea of what I was attempting to do, I would have said a BIG F#%* NO, are you crazy?
Which probably explains why when I tell most people I’ve traveled solo in Africa, they’re mouth drops open and they say, “WHAT? You traveled alone? In Africa?” Or “Damn, That’s impressive!” Or “Weren’t you afraid?” To which I reply, “Yup, I did” and “No, I wasn’t afraid.” For the entire 9 months, I felt comfortable and the few times I likely should have been afraid, I was pissed off and frustrated about the circumstances…” (I don’t tell them that my last 2 hours on the continent in the wealthier area of Jo’burg a guy attempted to mug me on a busy street at midday but this is another story)
I’m so grateful I dove in. Thank goodness for youth and the unquestioning belief we can do anything.
Three years later, I listened to my heart and pursued my next dream: living in Spain. I took the leap, left what I knew behind, left my friends, family and boyfriend to follow a dream of improving my Spanish. Spanish is something I will continue to have to improve upon, work on, practice by speaking and writing, when I say my fare-well to the Iberian peninsula this June. I have been forced to acknowledge learning Spanish will be a longer journey than I ever anticipated because languages don’t exactly have an end-point.
Living abroad definitely is an adventure navigating a country and a new city, different culture, trying to grasp the language while you have many misunderstandings, getting accustomed to new meal times, learning about the gastronomy and trying strange and delicious foods. It’s all apart of the experience. And traveling. Oh yes. Traveling often and easily because I’m living in Europe. It’s true, it’s not every day in America, I can hop on a plane to London to visit family for a weekend or visit a friend in Ireland or have a weeklong getaway in Morocco for spring break or experience the magic of la feria de Sevilla in April in beautiful Andalucía. Living abroad is full of adventures. And just like life, it doesn’t matter where you are because the ups and downs find you, just as I confessed expat life isn’t as glamorous as it may appear.
Life in Basque country is living life.
Well, glad you asked.
- I have a job (that’s not always fulfilling but I do it anyway. Teaching kids who aren’t interested in being taught= felling like a fish trying to swim upstream)
- I have a routine (Thank goodness, Routines give me structure, especially on those “what the heck am I doing days?”)
- I deal with bureaucracy
- I wonder what comes next in my life (because teaching English in Spain isn’t my long-term goal)
- I’m still human. I’ve got worries, self-doubt, and a little box of fear that I try to keep closed shut and out of sight but likes to make an appearance every now and again.
Social media allows us to portray our lives however we want and an album of photos from our travels or life abroad can make others envious quick, without them knowing the real feelings behind each photo or what difficult situations there may have been.
Though my life is atypical of the American dream and the typical Americana, I still question myself from time to time and like the next person wonders what comes next. Yet, I’m curious and fascinated how my life appears to others and the occasional comments let me know. Maybe that’s the difference because when it’s your life and you’re living it with all the worries and uncertainties that you have to face in life, the adventurous life you’re leading doesn’t always feel like an adventure. It doesn’t always feel spectacular as it seems to an outsider, someone who doesn’t know what this world looks like. A lot of the adventure comes from making the decision to do something different, stick with the decision and ride out all the hardships and see where it leads.
I’m grateful for the road I’ve paved for myself and know that living an adventurous life isn’t always as simple as it seems but it sure beats wondering what an adventurous life would be like.
Despite all the challenges and uncertainty, I’m so happy to know what it’s like to live and accomplish a dream, to have adventures and know that just like life, living an adventurous life has its ups and downs, the good and bad and for me, is so worth it!