Thanks for hanging in there. As I transition to my “new” life back in the States, I’ve been trying the balancing act of still maintaining this lovely ‘ole blog and putting myself out there, spending time with friends all while enjoying the process of adjusting to where I’m from.
A few months ago I posted Lessons I’m learning while living abroad and have decided to follow up with a part II. Hope you enjoy.
Nunca se sabe/You never know:
You can plan, plan and plan but sometimes plans are meant to be broken. To be ripped to shreds and scattered like decorations of what you once thought. I’m not a huge planner. I get overwhelmed planning trips and figuring out my next steps yet I overanalyze more than I’d like. I’ve managed to accomplish several dreams without taking pen to paper and mapping every detail but my style tends to be, “Have an idea, walk in that direction, Believe in the impossible and see where it will lead.” Returning to Spain to experience life in Basque Country has reinforced the idea of planning and never knowing just what’s going to happen. A reminder life has it’s own plan sometimes, a different outline than I’ve created. I don’t believe in better, just different. There is a lot of excitement in not knowing what comes next as well as plenty of fear. Naturally, humans like plans. We like to know what’s going to happen. We want to feel we have control. If I take only one lesson from my second year abroad, it’s we never know where the road is going to lead. Sometimes the plans we have for ourselves are good but sometimes there is something more impressive waiting for us. Our biggest limitation is ourselves, our fears and the limits we place on what we think is possible. I have no idea what comes next in my life but I’m learning to embrace the unknown
Everything in life is temporary:
Life happens. Things change. Opportunities come and go. Friends enter your life. Some stay for a while. Some come into your life just when you need to learn a lesson or teach you something. Only a few will remain by your side for a lifetime. My time in Spain has always seemed temporary to me and though I know I possess the power to stay longer or make it a more permanent stay but right now it doesn’t feel right. And yet, as long as we’re open to possibility we never really know where life will lead or what wonderful opportunity will open. Enjoy the moment for what it is and what it provides.
Immersion does NOT equal fluency:
Before moving to Spain, I had the naïve idea that immersion= fluency. At twelve I began learning Spanish and five years later, I decided university courses wouldn’t suffice because why would I speak in Spanish in a conversation course when I could get away with speaking English under my breath? Definitely not the right attitude for learning a language in my teens but I knew textbooks and a handful of hours of classes a week wouldn’t’ be sufficient. Nor would it help my lazy days. I need to live in a place where I hear it on the daily, have to speak it to survive, make it or break it type of scenarios.
But now I’ve lived two years on the Iberian peninsula I can attest that learning a language and gaining fluency takes lots of practice, talking, patience and more practice. Speaking a new language takes effort, time and lots of mistakes. It’s not something that happens overnight and is definitely all about the journey not the destination. I’ve made vast improvements and I can hold a conversation. I still wait for the day when I feel more confident speaking Spanish than English but I’m making that a long term goal… heck, some days the words that come out in English don’t flow as well as they could, and I’m a native speaker. Goes to show that languages are fluid, up and down and it’s all part of the process.
They say that the stuff we own ends up owning us! It’s no surprise that on every travel board and travel blog regarding taking the first steps to making your long term travel dreams a reality is to downsize, aka GET RID OF YOUR STUFF. I’ve learned to live without much from backpacking through Africa and packing up my meager wardrobe to move across the pond for a life in Spain but it’s fascinating to see how fast we accumulate things in a short time. The bigger our space, the more crap we buy or find. An odd phenomenon. Why do we do this? I’ve just moved in to a new place and have been trying to purge half of what I own, and though I don’t own much it still feels like too much. I found it interesting when I moved out of both of my apartments abroad that I had managed to accumulate stacks of papers, grammar books, teaching materials, and random trinkets that give me an extra sense of comfort but in the end, I rarely used. Does this happen to you?
“There’s no wrong decision”
Last year while grappling with my decision to return to the Iberian peninsula and take an opportunity I didn’t even strive to make for myself, I wondered what’s the right choice? After a second year, I’ve come away with such incredible experiences and feel more confident than about my self and skills than I did two years prior to life abroad. I’ve learned life presents us with opportunities all the time. Life isn’t about making a “right” or “wrong” decision but it’s all about what makes us “feel good” and what “feels right.” Sometimes what we think we want, is really not what we want at all but we have to try it out to know. It’s often hard to practice listening to our inner voice and trusting our intuition in our over stimulating social media focused world. There can be the feeling, if I do X am I limiting myself for Y? If I go abroad, am I delaying my career choices and possibilities for later? Or what about if I want marriage and kids, am I just delaying the possibility? but I find that no matter our choices, life will unravel just how it’s meant to. There are no wrong decisions. It really comes down to what feels right in the moment. If we can consciously always act on what feels right, we will save our self a lot of grief and worry in the long-run. Now that I’ve lived through 2 years abroad filled with ups and downs and wonderful life lessons, it seems silly that I even questioned my decisions in the first place.
Do any of these lessons resonate with you? What are lessons you’ve learned abroad or by taking chances?
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