My desire to live abroad began long before I mustered up the courage to buy a one-way ticket to anywhere. Like with many of my life’s outcomes, I never did things the conventional way, so I had never satisfied the urge through a study-abroad program as most college kids do, and my world travels only seemed to awaken this desire even more profoundly. The journey to expat life had started long before I even realized it.
My Journey to Expat Life: A Stable Life – Why Give it Up
Yet it wasn’t until I was around 30 years old that I believed it to be a real possibility and my journey to expat life became reality.
I was so devoted to my job, equating it with my identity and self-worth as they taught us to do in the U.S. social system, and I couldn’t possibly imagine giving up my stable life in New York City.
During my 20s, I worked hard to live a comfortable middle-class life in the big city, with an income that afforded me the possibility to travel when I wanted to visit family on the West Coast, or to jump on a flight east to continental Europe.
It had taken a great deal of courage, patience, and dedication to get to where I was. So why would I possibly want to give it all up?
My Journey to Expat Life: Escaping my Prison – A Dream Exercise
For my 30th birthday, one of my colleagues who had been working at a local prison to help rehabilitate minority men who were about to be released, offered to do the “Dream Exercise” for me. She explained that she was using this exercise to help these individuals reintegrate into society. She was also the publisher of a grassroots Spanish-language publication in New York and invested in humanitarian efforts prior to becoming a NY-state politician. Little did I know that my journey to expat life would kick off here.
So I stepped into her office that afternoon, and she began by suggesting that I think about my life “dreams” and divide them into four categories:
- aspirational, and;
What a task!
What did I dream of doing? Though I had many dreams, this was the first time anyone had ever challenged me to think about and share them aloud.
She went through each category and one by one, listing my “dreams” as they came to mind. Unsurprisingly, I had a long list of professional dreams, but I hadn’t really thought so much about my spiritual, personal or aspirational dreams. It was so easy for me to envision who I wanted to be career-wise, but who did I want to develop into at a personal level?
One item I had listed under my aspirational dreams was to “live in another country.”
At the end of creating these four lists, the publisher looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Every single one of these ‘dreams’ that you have listed is realistic.”
My Journey to Expat Life: Dreams are Actionable Goals
Then she suggested I create an action plan for each item, and she showed me how to make my dreams actionable.
She explained she calls them dreams rather than goals, because the idea of setting goals intimidates most.
But if we reframe it by thinking about our dreams and come from this vantage point, it changes our perspective entirely.
Initially, the idea blew me away. But soon, it sank in that the world truly is limitless.
It was the first time somebody whom I respected so deeply and looked up to tell me this with a straight face. And she was right!
In the years that followed, my appetite for travel became insatiable. I experienced some major life-changing events (job loss, end of a relationship, etc.), and I fell out of love with city life. It was expensive, rough, and I felt like I wasn’t enjoying my life as I used to.
My travels only opened my eyes wider to the realm of possibilities that existed of a different life, and I always had the publisher’s words echoing in the back of my mind: “Every single one of these ‘dreams’ that you have listed is realistic.”
As I’ve continued developing into my truest self, I have realized that adapting such a mindset has helped me overcome my greatest obstacle – the negative self-talk. I allowed myself to respond to my inner voice, letting it be the guide to my decisions.
Of all the hard decisions I’ve made, leaving the U.S. turned out to be one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. But first, I needed to believe I was capable. Ultimately, I have learned that, indeed; I am. Has your journey to expat life begun already? Where will you land?
by: Marjorie Vera