I have always had an adventurous spirit and a passion for travel. Whether I was simply getting on a plane to visit my family in another state, or heading off for a three-week language exchange in Costa Rica, I always felt most alive when I was on the out of my comfort zone. Looking back on it all, it now seems almost inevitable that I was going to end up living outside of my home country for a period. Thus, my journey to expat life began.
My Journey to Expat Life: Growing Up Traveling
While some families took vacations to Disneyland or Hawaii, my family was always up for an extraordinary adventure. Growing up on the west coast of the United States, we were just three hours from the Mexico border by plane. We would often head south to different parts of Mexico for our family vacations. These travels sparked my first interest in learning Spanish.
My parents always encouraged my adventurous side. So they allowed me to take part in two separate language exchanges: one in Costa Rica when I was twelve, and another in Guadalajara, Mexico, when I was fifteen. These two experiences allowed me to gain some independence and see what it was like to live in another country. Although I was young, I remember loving every single minute of the experience. Me? Homesick? No way!
My Journey to Expat Life: University
As I got older, I continued to travel whenever I could. Europe, Asia, Central America, no destination was off limits! My love for languages and exploring other cultures also influenced my decision to double major in Spanish and Anthropology at Seattle University. During my time at University, I would study abroad in Salamanca, Spain for three months where I continued to improve my language skills.
My Journey to Expat Life: Now What?
But when I finally graduated from college, I felt lost. I spent a few years working in the United States, being unsure about what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted to live it. You could say that I reached a ‘low point;’ you know, that time in your life when you feel you have nowhere to go but up? I was at the bottom and needed to change my life.
The Pivotal Moment: Decision Time
One day, I was on a bus traveling back to Seattle. It was right then and there that I made the decision to move abroad. I didn’t yet know where and how I would do that. But I knew that one of the easier ways to go about it was through teaching English abroad.
My Journey to Expat Life: Making my Dream a Reality
In the summer of 2015, I moved to San Francisco to complete my CELTA teaching certificate (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults). It was a one-month intensive program that sets you up with the basic teaching skills needed to be a certified ESL instructor. I was engaged, learning, and loving every minute of the course. When I finished, I saw an opportunity to teach in Medellin, Colombia. Six months later, I was touching down in the City of Eternal Spring.
My Journey to Expat Life: Falling in Love With Life Again
I have been living abroad now for six years. Five of them I spent in Medellin, Colombia. For a few months now, I am even exploring Paris, France and learning a third language. My ‘why’ was a deeply personal experience as I was in search of something. I felt I needed a drastic change in my life. And the best way I knew how to do that was to throw myself into a brand-new environment.
For those of you who are thinking about making the move abroad but are too scared to do it, take the leap of faith, and don’t look back!
That’s not to say that I didn’t have fears and doubts along the way. But I can truly say that moving abroad was without question the best decision that I ever made for myself.
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by Erin Colton-Enberg