Expat Adventures

2017 Reflections: A Year of Embracing the Unknown

Engaging with the unfamiliar is rarely comfortable. Even if we’re excited about it, there’s still a level of discomfort associated with newness. It can feel downright awkward, actually! So much so that most of us find what works and stick with it. We take the same routes to school and work daily, we have set hours for productivity and others for socializing. Many of us eat the same foods and wear the same brands and shop at the same stores over and over. And why not? After all, it’s easy, it’s known! The leg-work has already been put in it so why not take advantage?! Right? Right!

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. I tend to be that way too. Which is why 2017 has been such a banner year for me. It was a year dedicated almost entirely to unknowns: living in new locations, meeting new people, journeying to unknown vacation spots, shopping at previously unknown stores… you name it, it was new and different and daunting and amazing all at once. Let’s break it down by numbers, shall we?

In 2017 my partner and I…

  • Visited nine countries
    • (Six of which were new: Portugal, Morocco, United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia & Singapore!)
  • Divided our time between three main countries (France, USA & Italy)
  • Lived on two continents (North America / Europe)
  • Launched one blog (Woo! Cheers to you, dear readers!)

That’s not to say that the transformation from homebody to world citizen was easy. In February I left the US and followed my partner to France where he was working on an MBA. I had never lived abroad before. Never had to speak another language in a grocery store beyond the length of a vacation or had to negotiate things like doctor’s appointments, transportation and sim cards in a strange country. Yet there I was, in Fontainebleau France (a very small, Beauty-and-the-Beast-esque town south of Paris), making my way. Was it easy saying goodbye to my life in the US? My family, friends and work? No! Absolutely not. But it was the right thing to do, despite the difficulties.

This year pushed me in more ways than I knew were possible. It required me to trust more in my partner. To love more and allow myself to be loved. It challenged me to change my way of thinking from “weird” to “oh, that’s new for me”. It dared me to re-evaluate my priorities in life and think harder about how I spend my time, my money and my energy. I had to wake up every day and ask myself if what I was doing was going to get me to where I wanted to be tomorrow, without necessarily knowing what tomorrow would hold or where we would be. At its core, it was a year of coming home to myself and learning who I am away from all the things I thought defined me: my old home, my old job, my old belongings, my old routines… And that’s not easy.

The amazing thing is that life doesn’t have to be easy to be beautiful. If anything, 2017 taught me to appreciate the moment more. To cherish the power of new friendships. To redefine what it means to be “home”, both in oneself and in the world. To be humble to the fact that there are literally billions of ways of living in the world and that mine is just one. It’s been such a powerful experience that my New Year’s wish for each of you is that in 2018 you’ll allow yourself to embrace the unknown – even if in small, seemingly insignificant ways. What new paths can you take in your daily life? What new communities can you participate in? And most importantly: What good can you bring into 2018 that 2017 lacked? What proved unhelpful and might be better left behind? Write these last ones down and put them somewhere you can see them everyday. Let them be your guide. And, if you wish, share them here. I always love to know what’s going on with you amazing readers – plus, I’ll be with you, continuing to challenge myself to embrace a whole lot of newness as we make (yet another!) move come January. (More on that to come!)

Happy thoughts to each of you as we wrap up 2017 and say prepare to say hello to 2018!

Xoxo,

Vivian

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