The After Life: Going Home After Living Abroad

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It is always sad when a beautiful thing comes to an end, this is undeniable. But we don’t have to let the end of something also be the end of our happiness. After a year and a half of living in Spain, I have been back in the states for a month now, and guess what – I’m still alive! I wasn’t sure what to expect out of life when I boarded the plane so I just didn’t expect anything. My secret has been revealed.

Zero expectation = supreme happiness with whatever comes (man, I am getting good at math, haha!)

About a month before leaving Spain, I was poking around the internet, reading travel blogs about people who had the same experience I did and were back home after an enriching year (or more) living and traveling abroad. Wow, was that a bad idea. I found a plethora of utterly depressing and startlingly similar accounts of the pain associated with going back to the motherland after an epic adventure. Reverse culture shock, absent friends, disapproving family members, withdraw of adventure, confusion, heartbreak, depression, feelings of being lost and alone, and a deep longing for the road they left. I shut my laptop and pondered my bleak future. “Oh shit!” I thought. “Is this my destiny? Will I end up like these former adventure junkies forever longing for the past? Hell NO!” Because guess what else…I have the power of choice and smiles. BOOM!

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As it is for most people who commit to a life of travel and open-ended adventure, living abroad wasn’t something to get out of my system. It also wasn’t something to cross off the bucket list so I could “get back to reality” and re-join society in living blindly. Moving to Spain was the real beginning of launching a lifestyle I had always lusted after. A lifestyle of loving what I do and who I do it with. A life of working from anywhere and everywhere. A life of freelance and emotional peace.

This adventure is as infinite as I am. There is indeed life after living abroad.

Living abroad forced me to open my eyes to things I previously turned my head to. I shifted and grew and evolved within. I cleaned the windows to my soul, so that light could shine in and back out again, to show people that it is truly possible to do exactly what you want.

I did this for you. I did this for me. I did this so we can all live free.

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Everyone asks me how it feels to be home. The funniest thing to me is that a lot of people approach the question as they would if someone close to me had died – with the utmost caution and concern. I reply to these curious cats with a huge genuine smile and say, “It feels great! Being home is so nice and I am really happy.” They look a bit disappointed sometimes, as if they were bracing themselves for me to burst into tears and tell them how awful my life is and that I’m terribly miserable. But this is the honest truth. Going home after living abroad is not the end of the world. You may not fit the same into the life you left, but if that’s what you wanted then you wouldn’t have left in the first place. You are changed and so is home – but that’s ok. Time passes for everyone and things will inevitably change, but remembering that change is necessary and good will help you adapt, like you adapted to a foreign land – though home may now feel more foreign.

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot

Any traveller will tell you that there is a certain magic after a meaningful trip. The after-glow is something that is embedded deep within and it changes the air around you. There is a sense of knowing and wisdom and a still and peaceful calmness about you. You’ve seen things and been places that made you shift. You met people who lifted you higher and helped your truth shine through. You know what you want and who you are. There is no unlearning or unseeing, there is only forward. And with that knowledge you are invincible. You can do anything you set your mind to…and you believe you deserve it.

… Intention . Action . Creation …

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People also ask me why I came back (again expecting to hear some tragic story). While this question could warrant about a million answers, the real one is my loved ones. I didn’t see my parents or sister the entire time I was in Spain, I am now an auntie, and I am lucky enough to stand by my best friend when she gets married. There were so many reasons to leave Spain and very few (beyond the obviously selfish ones to continue living out my dream) to stay. The timing of everything could not have been more perfect.

Get out while you’re ahead,” they say, so I said OK.

It feels different to be back, of course, because I am different. But I am among my people, my tribe, my loved ones. I will always be me, the wild adventure seeker who will say yes to just about anything. I didn’t leave that person in Spain and I will never not be wild. I changed from one wild habitat to another and it is an adjustment, but in all honesty – what isn’t?

Reverse culture shock?

Yes. It was a real thing for about the first week. But let’s be real, I knew I wouldn’t be walking along ancient cobble stone streets surrounded by Spanish conversations. I was more surprised by the things about the states that I had wiped from my memory. I was shocked by the mentality of people and the general operation of things. I was hit in the face with highways and shopping malls and fast food everywhere. A huge, lifted truck almost ran me over. I have to tip servers now, which is still hard for me to grasp.

But I get to drink IPA again (my favorite beer) and eat super healthy food that is delicious and more in-line with my lifestyle. I get to hug my parents and laugh until it hurts with my friends. I am exploring a new city and finding things that make me feel alive just like I did in Spain. Everything is what you make of it. I am going to say it…and if you know me you can probably guess what I’m going to say…WE HAVE A CHOICE! I choose to be happy here and make this next chapter a good one. I choose to live in the now and soak up every bit of America (the bits I like at least) and take advantage of all my favorite American things. I choose to let the past live where it should and not compare where I am to where I was. This is not Spain, and that’s ok with me. I will miss Spain everyday for the rest of my days but I will never wish I was not here (until I book my next one-way ticket – haha). Make it good because you can, and because self inflicted suffering is just plain silly.

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Pictured above is my Vegas face (yes, it is my goal to be as awkward/weird in photos as possible). I had a blast in sin city for a bachelorette party and it was way more fun that I ever imagined. But, again, I went in with zero expectations and came out with sore abs from laughing. In the past month I have been in AZ, CA, CO and NV. Travel doesn’t have to end just because the epic trip did. Don’t want to plant roots after living abroad? Don’t! You make the rules of your life and if roots aren’t your vibe, don’t plant the seed of staying in one place.

Life is an adventure and it is up to you to see it that way. Not everything has to be so serious. Life is meant to be lived playing. I also saw a unicorn, so I’m pretty damn happy!

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I am fortunate enough to currently be homeless. That is to say that my parents moved from Phoenix to Denver while I was in Spain and I left the flat I was in previously. I have no real home. I have boxes in a garage in Phoenix and 3 more months of US travel ahead of me before I can even ponder the next step. Living the dream continues in true gypsy fashion.

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I quickly realized upon my return that the adventure never dies, rather it morphs and grows and evolves as we do. We must do what makes us happy. We must nourish and cherish our important relationships.

Many of my friends made huge life changes while I was away. Marriages, babies, moving for jobs, buying property etc. I have split-second doubts about what I have accomplished and whether my past year and a half stacks up to theirs. But then I realize that we are not the same and I remember that comparison is the thief of joy. We are bound by love but not by lifestyle. I am different and will always do things a bit different than the rest. I realized that I can now fully commit to the lifestyle I mentioned above. That is achievement enough for me. Different things make different people tick. You’ve just gotta find yours and not take “no” for an answer. There is no right or wrong and there should be no judgement between true friendship. Do you babyboo.

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So what’s next?

Psshh…who knows! Over the next 3 months I will be traveling to NYC, AZ, TX and back again (to Colorado). I will remain homeless until the end of the year and then I will decide where I want to be. I am still writing freelance and teaching English classes via Skype while working on making my next dream come true. I am not done living. I am an explorer and the fire within burns bright for the great unknown.

In the meantime, I am here to inspire you to do you and say YES to your dreams. I am always here to motivate you, to kick you in the ass when no one else will, to tell you what you already know within, and to make sure that you realize how worthy you are of getting what you want.

Email me for any of the above and more, and I will surely calm your fears.

2 Comment

  1. Stephen Steele says: Reply

    You have discovered that life is a journey and I am so proud to know you. As you are one of the most awe inspiring people I’ve ever encountered. I hope that goodmorningflamingo is here to stay and that it is now and always will be a part of your life. For it is through your eyes that we see hope and I hope that somewhere along the path you encounter someone(s) who is/are fully able to appreciate who you are. Because who you are is so wonderful and all of our worlds (real and virtual) are sooo much better with you in it. I’m working on following in your footsteps and hope that at some point I can be as much of an inspiration to you as you are to me. I’m happy that you are happy…life really is short, might as well live it. Hugs and smiles, stephen

  2. ryp says: Reply

    inspiring

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