Bonjour Bonjour & welcome back!
First of all, WOAH…. what a year/years this has been…
We have all spent a lot of time at home recently, and throughout the course of this last year I’ve used that time to self reflect… on my experiences, on who I am, who I want to be, and most importantly, my relationship with Christ. Despite the difficulties that have come around in this season of my life, my faith has become the strongest it’s ever been…
I don’t want to sound like its been this perfect season of growth though… because like for most of us, this past year has been ROUGH…real rough!
However, I am a firm believer in the positive lessons that come out these rough situations, and regardless of how hard it might be… I always try my best to find the good. In my case, the good was the growth in my in my faith and relationship with Christ.
What was your good?
I was recently watching a church service online (if you guys are looking for a fun and easy to understand message I recommend https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYv-siSKd3Gn9IsliO95gIw) and something that really stood out to me is the idea behind what drives us to live, work or pursue our dreams…
Is it purpose? Is it comfort? Is it money?
What I learned through that message is that one of the best and most productive things we can do in life is to lead with the intent of chasing our purpose… no matter how hard or unpractical it might seem.
The difficult part about that is that most of us don’t even know what our purpose is… I can try and help you find it though, you know those lifelong wild dreams you have in the back of your head? (we all have them)…ever consider that might be it?? And if there’s a chance that you are one of those people that doesn’t have anything going on in the back of your head… don’t you think getting outside of your normal, your comfort, might give you the chance to shift, and expand your mind enough to give yourself the opportunity to change that?
Some of us have the biggest wildest dreams, and that’s AMAZING! But for whatever reason, we don’t follow those dreams because it doesn’t fit into the idea of what life should be like, or what everyone else in our families, communities, or society is doing. Or maybe the clear difficulties that surround your wildest dreams make them “seem” impossible so you don’t even go there. Can’t you see how limiting that is?
A lot of the time we cast barriers on ourselves before we even try something.
I want you to think about YOUR biggest dreams, maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but you haven’t done it yet? If so, why not?
Maybe it’s too scary to make a decision based off of love or passion, and not having a perfect plan is too scary. Or maybe you have a fear of financial instability- so you’d rather continue working at the job you don’t really like just to have money to be able to keep up with the lifestyle you’ve created… EVEN IF that means keeping yourself away from your real passions…
This of course is very specific and dependent on what exactly your dream is, but my most recent realisation was this:
If I can continue to listen to the little messages (from God) in the back of my head (dreams), listen to my heart, and continue to let my purpose lead me… everything else will fall into place (faith).
and it’s weird because when I made the choice to follow my heart to France, that was pretty much my thought process. But then life got in the way, toxic thoughts got in the way and I had to find my way back to where I am today.
I’ve had lots of ups and downs during these last 3 years abroad, but with those ups and downs I was lead to a point where my faith is the strongest it’s ever been, stronger than it ever was before..
My faith got STRONGER during the most difficult season of my life… that HAS to mean something right?
Food for thought: What if the trials and discomfort that come with us being brave enough to follow our hearts, our dreams, our purpose, are exactly what we need to become the best version of ourselves?
What if unconsciously allowing fear, and self doubt to be the leaders in our decision making keeps us from being able to find our purpose? Find happiness? Find love?
What if like me, you had to move across the world to find yourself?
The reason why I want you to think about the answers to these questions is because before moving abroad and growing in my faith, these are all questions I never really asked myself. I was just living life according to what I saw around me, what I learned/thought life should be- which was limited to 22 years of life in my hometown Orlando Florida, and 3 years in Los Angeles.
The point I’m trying to make here is this:
If you met me before my move abroad… and you compare that person to who I am today…I probably seem different.
Because I am.
I have different cares, worries, goals, dreams, and experiences that have all shaped me into becoming who I am today, someone I am very proud of.
If I wouldn’t have found the courage (I honestly don’t know how I found it- we can get into that another day) to follow my heart to France, I wouldn’t be able to share any of this with you… I’d never know any of these feelings and I’m not sure if I would have thought any of these thoughts.
So I recently asked myself, asked God, What is my purpose?
I’m not exactly sure…but, I believe my purpose is sharing these messages with you, my experiences with you… atleast that what I feel in my heart I should be doing. Since starting my blog I’ve never been sure of where it’ll bring me… but all I can hope for is that it’ll inspire you to think a little differently, to make travel a priority and to really aim to live YOUR best most fulfilling life. No matter how hard, difficult or insanely impossible it might seem.
We owe it to ourselves, don’t we?
3 important lessons I’ve learned while living abroad
From an American perspective, when you visit a different country everything seems weird/different.
We say things like:
- Why do they do ______ like that?
- Why don’t they speak English?
- Why is the service at this restaurant so bad?
- People here are _________. They don’t ________.
It might be hard to believe, but at this point living abroad has taught me more about myself, and my own country more so than it has France.
We as Americans are stuck in our ways. Our comforts. We are taught that America is the greatest, the best country in the world… and I’m not saying that its not one of the best… but there are others out there.
Until you completely allow yourself to step outside of your own country, your own culture, you’ll never know much about any others.
Culture: The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
If you think deeply enough about culture and how everything surrounding it has an effect on peoples thoughts, behavior, the choices they make, their cares, likes, dislikes… would it allow you to be more forgiving? More patient with others?
If you’re anything like I was in the past, you’re probably guilty of complaining about things that are different from the US or your home country while traveling. You don’t necessarily mean to do it, it just happens.
Comparison can make us frustrated with some of the encounters we might experience while traveling or even in the US…The US is FULL of different cultures.
When I say living abroad has taught me to think with an open mind, I don’t mean it in a way where I’m free from mental restrictions, and I’m living my best YOLO life…but more so in a way that has made me more quick to consider culture and all of the elements that surround it before passing judgement on a place, or the people in that place.
Not going to lie, living abroad is HARD. It’s probably be one of the hardest things anyone could ever do in their life. There’s a lot that comes with it. More than you might realize.
The French culture specifically… Especially in terms of the way people speak… the way they express themselves… (but we can go further into that another day)…
Moral of this mini story is… thinking with a culturally open mind has allowed me to be happier, less bothered, less married to the ideas of what life and people I encounter should be like, think like.
This has made me less disappointed when the silly expectations I have for people are not met. I’m less mad…less annoyed… If that makes sense.
Since moving abroad, I have become more accepting of others for who they are and why they are the way they are. I have also become more willing to understand and think from different points of view OUTSIDE of my own.
This open mindset has allowed me to fully embrace my experience here in France in the way that you see I have.
Being lonely is SCARY. I know.
But living abroad has taught me that some of the biggest steps forward you can make on the path to self growth can come from those uncomfortable periods of loneliness… that is, if you allow them too.
Although I have made some great friends throughout the last few years, when I first moved to France the only friends I had were my husband, his friends and his family. So yeah, I have had my fair share of expat loneliness… and it still happens to this day.
I didn’t know it at the time, but loneliness has allowed me to escape a lot of things I didn’t know I needed escaping from.
Other peoples opinions, thoughts, fears, cares, worries, passions… especially coming from our loved ones, they influence us all more than we realize.
When you have the opportunity step outside of that, I mean fully outside of it. To a different country, where you are alone more often than you will proabably ever be in your life, the thoughts in your head start to shift… they start to become your own.
The difficult part about that is when social media comes into play, because regardless of where you are you can’t escape those things… unless you try to. (I also have some tips on how to cleanse your social media to make it a happy and healthy space for yourself that I will share soon).
The possible pain and discomfort that comes with being lonely makes you stronger. It makes you realize how capable you are of doing things on your own, it makes you brave, it helps you to know yourself, and it allows you to think your own thoughts, free from the influence of others.
If all that has come from my experience being lonely… there has to be something good in it right?
Tip on how to practice loneliness:
While living abroad takes loneliness to the extreme by putting you in a situation that leaves you no choice, this is still something you can very well practice wherever you are.
Put the phone away, turn off the tv, put your book down, leave your headphones at home and go take a walk somewhere new. Allow your mind to wander, allow yourself to think deeply and filter through the bad, and the good thoughts. Do it everyday or do it often… Either way, I’m sure you’ll learn something about yourself.
This point is very specific to the French culture. Maybe European culture…
I remember thinking that French people were lazy, not just from hearing about the common stereotypes but genuinely thinking they were lazy based on my experience having insight on their work ethic, their constant need to talk about their last vacation or upcoming vacation, the long meals and (what I thought) was very bad slow service at restaurants…
I learned quickly that things in France are VERY slow paced… its just part of the culture.
While hustle mentality does very well exist, especially in big cities, the overall culture allows for a very relaxed approach to life. Meals are long, store hours are short, and there is a very big emphasis on family and friend time.
People in the US live to work… people in France, work to live.
I appreciate being here, and learning from this aspect of the French culture because it has allowed me to find some balance within my fast paced, hustle mode American mindset…
I’ve learned to enjoy meals that last hours…
I’ve learned to enjoy doing nearly nothing on Sundays…
and I’ve learned that yes, vacation and travel is one of the most important things in life and it is without a doubt what we should be living for.
We should all be enjoying life, at our own pace.
Doing exactly what makes us happy, and learning as much as we can along the way.
There is a long list of lessons I have learned from my time here abroad, and I’m still learning everyday… so stay tuned for most posts as I continue to find the words to get them across to you.
I appreciate you taking the time to understand more about my experience abroad. I hope you learned something new!
If you’re an expat, and you can relate, let me know in a comment!
If you have a dream to move abroad, write it in the comments… start manifesting it!
If you liked or didn’t like something that I said… let me know!