Coming Home - Five Important Things I learned while Living Abroad
May 3, 2015
There’s no doubt about it … as much as I am glad to be home in many ways I miss Europe and I miss living abroad. The 13 months we spent living and traveling there last year were some of the most magical times of my entire life and I find myself thinking about them and longing for them frequently.
We’ve been home for several months now and I’ve had some time to let it all sink in and to reflect on just what this amazing experience has really meant to me. The words that automatically come to mind are beautiful, exciting, challenging, inspiring, overwhelming, eye opening and even frustrating, but honestly it was so much more. I knew before I even left that I would be forever changed by this experience and I know now that is so.
I’ve been asking myself lately so what did you learn form all of this? What are your take aways and how have you changed? What are the five most important things you learned from living abroad that you would like to share with others?
Here is what I discovered.
1). People are inherently good and you can rely on the kindness of strangers.
I found this to be true everywhere I went without exception. It did not matter what country I was in or what the current political climate was at the time, at every turn people were kind and more than willing to help when I needed it. I do believe that the old adage that you generally find, and experience, whatever it is you are looking for is absolutely true without exception.
2). I am stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined.
Over a period of about 15 months we sold our home an moved everything we owned into storage, drove from California to Austin Texas in four days, moved to Europe where we lived in two different countries and traveled in nine, and finally moved back to the States all with our dog Lulu in tow. Through much of this I was on my own and I think it goes without saying that facing and overcoming challenges was pretty much the name of the game. What I learned is that it is the grace with which you respond to the challenge that matters, much more so than the outcome itself. I also know that I am a better, stronger, and more self confident person today because os everything that I experienced.
3). I like spending time with me.
Wow. What a revelation. As I mentioned before I spent a lot of time alone on this trip. I mean really alone, with my only real companion being Lulu for significant amounts of time. Because of the language barrier while in Germany, and the time difference making it difficult to connect with friends and family at home, if Richard was away on business I could easily go for many days without really speaking to another human being. It's so easy take for granted how nurtured we are by our daily connections with others until we experience living without it. What I discovered though is this... I like spending time with me. Who new!
4). I would rather regret the things I have done than regret the things I haven't.
I love this quote by Lucille Ball so much that I used it on the homepage of my website. It pretty much sums up how I felt about this amazing adventure as well as how I feel about life in general. Just wait until you see what's coming next!
5). Kindness is everything and a smile is Truly the most universal language of all.
That pretty much says it all in my opinion. It is as true in Austin Texas as it is in Istanbul Turkey, but most importantly it is true within me. It didn't actually take traveling half way around the world for me to know this as my religion has always been first and foremost about kindness, but my travels definitely taught me just how true this is. What is it they say... smile and the whole world smiles with you? Yep, so true and I came to know during my travels just how very true this is. Kindness is everything and a genuine smile makes all the difference in absolutely any situation.
So these are my take aways and the 5 important things I learned from my year abroad. I hope you find them as useful and meaningful as I do.
Below is a collection of photos from our year of travel. One from each significant leg of the
journey. They are the photos that speak to me most or I just particularly enjoy for one reason or another. Maybe a bit quirky or even whimsical, but definitely not your ordinary travel photo!
I hope you enjoy them too.
Dusseldorf, Germany - This is the promenade along along the Rhine River near our apartment that we walked along often. This was was taken on Christmas Day and you may notice that's Richard with Lulu on the right.
Carnaval - Dusseldorf, Germany - People often plan their costumes for Carnaval which takes place in February each year all year long. This was one of the most beautiful that I saw and one of my favorites.
Cologne, Germany - Perfect little street on a perfect night at the end of a perfect day.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands - I snapped a photo of this wonderful mural painted on a little house in Amsterdam just after leaving the Van Gogh Museum - one of the highlights of our time there.
Keukenhof Gardens, The Netherlands - We were in The Netherlands in the early Spring, just in time to see the gorgeous tulips that so many come just to see.
Bruges, Belgium - I came across these lovely Flemish girls dancing on a bridge while taking a boat ride through the canals of Bruges. I love how they are just having fun and loving life.
London, England - This statue of the dancer is in the heart of the theater district in Covent Garden and only a few blocks from our apartment. Having been a dancer myself when I was young, I loved being able to walk by her almost every day.
Barcelona, Spain - Just lovely. There are no other words for it. I think this photo speaks for itself.
Gravesend, England - Wanting to get out of the city for a bit we spent a weekend in a little coastal town called Gravesend. We walked past this cottage during an early morning walk and it was like a fairy tale house to me. I kept expecting to see little gnomes or hobbits though the windows.
Venice, Italy - You will see beautiful masks like this everywhere you go in Venice but I thought this one was particularly beautiful.
Cinque Terre, Italy - I was missing Lulu quite a bit during our 2 weeks in Italy and I seemed to be drawn to the other canines that were everywhere we went. I just happened to be there at the right time to capture the moment with this guy.
Lake Lugano, Switzerland - We walked along many pathways that looked very similar to this in Lugano. This one was particularly magical.
Paris, France - We spent a few days at Disneyland in Paris while activating my visa and had a fun couple of days. This photo is amazing to me because this is actually what it looked like that day, No photoshop wizardry on this one.
Istanbul, Turkey - My personal favorite from Istanbul. The paint man. As I said ... smile and the whole world smiles with you.
A very special and heartfelt thank you goes out to all the people and places that welcomed us so warmly during our year abroad. You were all wonderful!
If you enjoyed these photos and would like to view all of the photo galleries from my travels click here:
Have you been changed in some way by an experience you have had while traveling be it near or far? If so I would love to hear from you about it!
Until next time ... the journey continues!
XOXO, me and lu