Only a few more weeks left until I move back to America!
I’ve lived in China for a little over seven months now. Two years ago, I lived in New Zealand for six months, and four years ago, I studied in France for a summer. This isn’t my first go at living abroad.
Living in China, however, is a whole different ball game.
In China, I’m way out of my comfort zone.
Traveling and moving abroad teaches us a lot about ourselves in general. But the farther we go out of our comfort zones, the more we learn.
Here’s what I’ve learned about myself in the last seven months in China. The good, the bad, and the really, really ugly.
More blog posts about the value of travel:
Yep, I have anxiety.
I take anxiety medicine, prescribed to me by awesome psychologist. (Shout-out to Dr. T!)
I didn’t start taking meds until almost two years ago. Initially, I felt weird about taking pills. When I scheduled my first psychology appointment, I just wanted to talk about my stress. I didn’t know I would be walking out with a prescription.
I love that prescription. I love it so, so much. Especially when I travel.
My doctor once told me he didn’t normally recommend patients with high anxiety levels travel too much. I understand why.
Moving abroad is stressful, guys.
Spending money. Planning itineraries. Trying to communicate when you don’t speak the language. Adapting to cultural differences. Starting a new job every time you move to a new city. Beginning your marriage in a foreign country.
Why would people with high anxiety place themselves in this kind of situations?
I don’t know. Maybe we really are crazy.
All I know is that traveling brings out my anxious side. Then again, so does talking to people. And shaving my legs. And cooking. And waking up in the morning.
Sometimes, I’m a little racist.
Yikes, typing that sentence was painful.
For years, I’ve held the belief that traveling makes people more open minded. More accepting.
Sometimes that’s true. And sometimes I feel that travel is having the opposite effect on me.
When I first got to China, my friends and I would say, “That’s so Chinese!” when things would happen that were very different from Western culture. For example, people were pushing past each other rather than standing in line, or we couldn’t find a public restroom with soap.
Then I started saying, “That’s so Chinese!” when a Chinese person would just do something I didn’t understand.
After several months, I caught myself starting to say, “That’s so Chinese!” whenever I meant, “That’s so stupid!”
Whoa. That’s a scary thing to realize about yourself.
I’ve started checking myself now, and I’ve gotten a lot better. But I thought I would learn to be more open to Chinese way of life the longer I was here. How did the opposite become true?
Since I have been here for seven months, I’ve had time to experience so much. When people live abroad–no matter where–there are really difficult days. Chinese food upsets my stomach, or the taxi driver misunderstands me, or I get lost and well-meaning Chinese people give me wrong directions.
Then I take out my frustrations on the people or the culture. Those impressions stand out a lot more in my memory than a nice day, sitting and chatting with my wonderful Chinese coworkers at lunch.
I wish I could say I was above being judgmental of other cultures, but sometimes, I’m not. Ouch.
Maybe I’m so restless because I grew up in the same small city for 18 years. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason, as soon as I graduated high school, I was all over the place.
In college, I spent my summers traveling to Cameroon and Europe. Summer after sophomore year, my travel plans fell through and I was at home for the summer. I remember the prospect of staying at home for three whole months completely freaking me out.
When I graduated college, I moved back home to Arkansas. Then to New Zealand. Then back to Arkansas. Then to Georgia. (The U.S. state, not the country. That would have been awesome, though!) Now I’m in China. That’s been my life for the past three years.
The weird thing is … even though I haven’t been in one place more than 10 months since I graduated, I’m still always antsy to move on to the next thing.
I’m curious as to whether this is a flaw or not. Am I perpetually dissatisfied? I don’t think so. I just like to keep moving. It’s who I am.
Although I will continue to travel, The Husband and I are about to settle in Athens, Georgia, for two years. Two years living in the same city? That’s madness!
But I need my routine.
For someone who likes to keep moving, you’d think I’d be more easy going.
But I love, love, love my routine.
The nomad lifestyle isn’t very conducive to a routine. Yes, I work an 8-5 job. But at least one weekend per month I travel to another city. When people invite me out, I’m more inclined to go than when I’m home because everything is a “cultural experience.” I suffer from FOMO when I travel. I’m all out of sorts!
I’ve been in China for over seven months, and I still miss having a coffee maker. (Yes, I know I can order one online, but I get into that whole fiasco here.) I miss waking up in the morning and having an hour to myself when I drink coffee and read or do a crossword puzzle.
I’ve been working in restaurants too long. Now that I work 8-5, I haven’t found a time I consistently have enough energy to work out every day. So now I just don’t. Don’t tell anyone, though, I’m embarrassed about that.
In some ways, I’m so organized. I write lists, make lesson plans for school way ahead of time, and am arguably too goal-oriented.
But I don’t know where anything is in my apartment. And I never will. I brought a gray sweater with me to China, but it’s gone now. Roughly 20 socks have vanished over seven months. I lost my tax forms needed to send money back to America … twice.
I’ve lost three metro passes since I moved here. How does that even happen?
I’m a terrible packer. I think I’m placing everything in my suitcase in a way that makes sense, but it’s a black vortex in there. It’s scary. And I almost always end up leaving something behind when I come back home.
I’ve tried to be more organized. Also, I kind of assumed I would get better as I got older.
I’m starting to accept that this is who I am. In so many areas of my life, I am responsible. This is not one of them.
I’m my own kind of traveler!
I see other travelers who embody what I think of as the “ideal traveler.” They’re super into yoga. Or they spend weeks at a time backpacking in the mountains of different countries. Or they’re really into partying.
I don’t feel that I fit the typical traveler mold. But I’m starting to accept that.
What have you learned about yourself from living abroad?