Back when I was a teenager I was quite fortunate to be able to study abroad in Spain. I got to live a very frugal life in the middle of Barcelona where I would walk up and down the Ramblas quite often and see the Sagrada Familia from where I rested. It was an unbelievable experience that helped shape me for years to come.
Living abroad taught me about self-sufficiency, exercise, resilience. Living abroad taught me to understand US policies from a different perspective and set of eyes and ears. Living abroad also gave me the chance to appreciate certain aspects of US life; including an appreciation for our ever constant sales, cheap jeans and Oreo cookies. I heartily encourage as many people as possible to live abroad for at least a year.
I imagine that is much easier to live abroad now. I would have to prearrange times that friends and family would call me or that I would call collect. Now there is Skype to help one stay in daily touch without costing a dime. How sweet is that? I would wait eagerly for mail to arrive in my school mailbox. I imagine that has been replaced with Amazon box orders that one oneself places. Care packages are all self-sent, I suppose.
I would like to live abroad again. I have been thinking of it a lot the past few months in terms of getting a chance to introduce my son, in an immersed way, a new culture. He has certainly traveled much for his young age. What is lovely about that travel experience is seeing him adapt and finding beauty everywhere. I often note that “New York City is the best city in the world”. He doesn’t buy it. Just the other day he answered “No mom. Berlin is nice too. The dome was awesome.” While I was aghast that my son would not agree that his birth city is the best there is, I was rather proud of him. I don’t quiet yet know how he will be like as an adult, let alone a tween, but I love that traveling is already integrated into his psyche. Thus, I think living abroad at this age would have an even broader, almost magical effect, on his being.
Where to live abroad is an interesting question to ponder. Japan would most certainly be thrilling. We have already been and have loved it. I could do Spain again just to see how things have hanged and notably, how I have changed. For starters, I would now be able to eat their “delicious” ham. Back when I lived in Spain I was a vegetarian and that caused many issues and funny incidents. While I found Australia to be gorgeous, I think it would (even in this day and age) be too far for me psychologically.
Despite the regional turmoil, I have been considering Israel. I wonder if I could work as part of the peace process and take my community mobilization skills to good work there. Don’t know how an outsider would be welcomed into such a process, however. I could try to go back to my other roots and engage fully in psychological research studies. One of my areas of expertise is stigma and I think I can state with confidence stigma is an electric issue there all around. The land, the history, the people fascinate me and I think it would be a completely different perspective to take in. However, there is much turmoil there.
Perhaps a better place to go would be Argentina where there are vineyards to take in. Now that I eat meat again, I am sure that I can enjoy a steak or two there. Furthermore, it gets me closer to my goal of going to Antarctica. For then, I will have been to all seven continents. That is mighty, mighty tempting.
Where would you consider living abroad? Go ahead and dream big!