International Lifestyle: Moving Abroad In Your 20’s
Last year I was approached by some fellow expats in Thailand about writing a chapter for a book they were putting together. Laura Gibbs and Jason Berkeley wanted to compile stories from people that had moved abroad in their 20s. They wanted to give some perspective to those students back home just graduating and considering the big move abroad. What is expat life like? What are the great possible outcomes and of course the inevitable detriments? One major purpose of their book was to explain why moving abroad in your 20’s is by far the best time in one’s life to take advantage of such an adventure.
The book was titled International Lifestyle: Moving Abroad in Your 20’s and here is just some of what you can look forward to reading in it.
The book brings together stories from all kinds of different people. In the chapter “Lost in the World” by Antonnino Brunot, you learn about what it’s like to live abroad as a mixed child trying to find your place in whatever corner of the world will accept you and that you accept and then realizing that maybe being lost is actually being free:
The sensation of being lost makes up some of my earliest memories. I remember sitting around the backyard, kicking dry sand and trying to make the time go by, feeling lonely while waiting for my mother. Sometimes the kindergarten women would say something to me, but I wouldn’t understand them. Their voices, though not unfriendly, were undecipherable sounds to me. I would shake my head and look away feeling confused. I didn’t speak their language. But I soon would. I would learn quickly, as all children do.
At first I refused to speak both languages, but my mother, a sole provider, insisted on it. Thanks to her I became bilingual, speaking Finnish with her at home and Spanish with my school friends. I still never developed my language skills enough to be quite like them. I didn’t speak like a true native in either language. I pronounced one in a strange way and formed odd sentences with the other. I also looked strange. I was too tall and pale for a Chilean, yet with features too dark for a Finn. So I turned out to be an unusual mixture, always something in between: a foreigner wherever I went. Most people have only one homeland. I have two, yet I have none. And in this strange in-between space, somewhere yet nowhere, I stayed and still live now.
In the chapter titled, “Shantaram, she said” by Tracey Evans, she shared what it was like to live in one of the most densely populated countries in the world as a foreigner and as a woman and how the feelings of anger, shock and frustration made way for excitement, happiness and more. The lessons while living abroad are endless:
My time in Bangladesh was filled with professional challenges, personal frustrations, new friendships, cultural clashes, and exposure to heart-wrenching. Poverty, crowded streets, hectic rickshaw rides and visits to some of the most remote villages in the country, gave me glimpses of how the vast majority of Bangladeshis live. Hardly a day went by when the word “Shantaram” wasn’t uttered under my breath:
Bangladeshi cultural norms have it that I am unable to wear a skirt or a tank top without being seen as a whore and that when living in most areas outside of Dhaka, I am expected to conform to the country’s traditional attire for women: Shantaram.
I am unable to go for runs in the street because it is culturally inappropriate for women to do so: Shantaram.
I am forced to stay inside my apartment for weeks on end because this country’s own government is allowing the opposing elective party to bomb-raid the streets as they move forward with an undemocratic election: Shantaram.
I sit in on meetings with new business associates who refuse to look me in the eye and only choose to address my male counterpart: Shantaram.
I get into a car accident and have bricks thrown at me because this country believes in vigilante justice as a means of compensating for their poor legal system: Shantaram.
I am stared at with every step I take, everywhere I go, because I am a foreigner and because staring is not considered impolite in Bangladesh: Shantaram.
These are only but snippets of the stories and there are plenty more in the book to enjoy. From those travelers that just went abroad for one year to those like myself that went abroad for one year and it turned into eight, a family and so much more, there’s a story about so many people and it’s for so many people. If you find the time, check it out. It’s worth the read.