Living and working abroad: big life lessons

Guest contributor Rebecca Brown is a traveller and a translator who publishes roughdraft.eu – she shares a little insight with us on what living and working abroad has taught her about life.

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As someone who spends half of their time travelling and going on adventures, my life is surprisingly peaceful. I’ve spent the last few years travelling more than I’d ever thought I’d get the chance, working as an interpreter and a translator in various countries and learning lessons that will last me for a lifetime. Having spent most of my teen years and early twenties as a stressed, anxious person, I never even dreamed that this kind of wandering, busy adventure would give me such a fulfilling life.

Here’s what it all has made me learn.

Dreams are still important

When I was a teenager, my mom would often talk to me about the importance of education and getting the good old “steady office job.”

While her idea of steadiness was almost a nightmare for me, I wanted to please my mom and I managed to get some work right after getting my MA. I now knew fluent Spanish and French, and it earned me a job in customer service. I longed for something else, but I tried to convince myself the idea was far too childish. I pushed myself through several jobs that simply didn’t fit me, and stress became a part of my life. From the moment I’d get up in the morning, to my last, exhausted thought before bed, I’d feel tense, strained, and unhappy.

The only work that I did enjoy was my freelancing, and the only thing that gave me some relief was my journal. I’d write about the places I wanted to visit, things I’d want to do. I told myself that this was only a dream, a form of escapism, and that it didn’t mean much. But that dream, however ridiculous it seemed even to me, gave me far more comfort than my steady office job. It took me far too long to realise this, but as long as you’re willing to compromise and be flexible, even these seemingly ridiculous dreams and ideas are actually within reach.

Sometimes you need to push yourself to make a change

Stress changes a person. It turned me into someone grumpy and anti-social who complained all the time.

It wasn’t until I took a good, hard look at myself that I realized that I needed to stop pushing myself in this direction where I tried to please everyone, and ended up pleasing literally no one, especially not myself.

With my freelance translating, writing, and the large portfolio and connections I’ve made, the path became obvious to me – pack up my bags and accept all the job offers that I was afraid to accept before.

From human’s rights conventions and government work, to meetings and conferences, my job took me back and forth between several countries at a relentless pace. And you know what? I was never happier.

Being challenged will make you thrive

As soon as I started my new job, I knew that for the most part of the year I’d be living out of a suitcase. I didn’t mind it, and while I became quite busy and always had a lot to do, I realised that being challenged is what made me actually work on myself and improve. Sitting at home and being sad made me stagnate, it made me slow. Doing things that you love, however, will make you sharper, quicker, more eager to try new things.

One of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever had was when I decided to push myself to walk a part of the Camino de Santiago a year ago. The Camino is a famed pilgrim’s path that has many starting points, and ends at the shrine of Saint James the apostle, in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

I walked almost 500 miles on my journey, and I walked for an entire month from a little port town in France, all the way through Spain to reach my destination. Does it sound crazy? I loved every moment of it. I brought my journal with me and I wrote in it every day. This time I didn’t have to imagine anything. I could see and feel and experience all of it.

Managing your time is key

I think that travelling can suit many careers, but to pull it off successfully, you really need to learn how to organize yourself well.

People think it’s impossible to keep everything in order when you’re abroad so often and aren’t quite sure where your job will take you, but I assure you, all you need is a good planner, organizational skills, and a good self-awareness about how much you can accomplish.

I know a lot of people with steady 9-to-5 jobs whose life is a lot more chaotic than someone’s who travels and knows that they need to keep their affairs in order.

Surprisingly, travelling for work meant I got more free time in my life than I ever had before. I simply stopped procrastinating and learned how to fill up the time I had with things I really wanted to do. That’s how I got to walk the Camino de Santiago, and that’s how I use the time when I’m not booked for anything to travel even more.

People crave to be kind

One of the things we fear the most when going to a foreign country is the strange culture and the even stranger people who, we believe, are nothing like us.

From my experience, that’s anything but true. Not only was I always welcomed everywhere, but people went out of their way to be kind and helpful to a stranger. Not everyone will be nice, no. But most people will be.

You will put things into perspective

When you travel, you get to meet so many new people and see so many different lives. Your problems become… different. Relative.

Your perspective on everything will change, and you’ll realise how meaningless it is to worry over small things, to be so constantly stressed and tense.

Having an open mind is essential for happiness

I did not agree with everyone I’ve met on my journeys. There are a lot of different cultures, a lot of different customs, and a lot of different mindsets than what I was used to. And when you’re sitting at home and complaining about people online, it’s easy to hate everyone that’s even a little different.

But when you see them, meet them, hear the reasoning behind their words, it opens you up. You embrace the diversity, you embrace the fact that we’re all so different and varied. It makes you happy.

Most of all, working abroad has taught me to relax and let things come my way.

Opportunities are all around you, but you need to open yourself up to them and take them. Being afraid of change won’t give you a better life, but taking that leap of faith usually will.

 

Feature image by Anete Lūsiņa, Unsplash.

 

Aussie living in Serbia: things I miss and things I don’t

 

Guest contributor, Roxana Oliver is an Aussie living in Serbia – she’s shared her story with us on travellivelearn.com

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About a year ago, I moved to a lovely town in Serbia, Novi Sad. Since I love travelling, it didn’t take me long to discover the good sides of living in this new culture. Its hospitality, the people’s eagerness to socialise, excellent food and pubs, and, naturally, going out at 8pm and returning home at 8am!

Still, there are things about Australia I miss dearly, and others that, whenever I think of them, give me a tiny mental pat on the shoulder for deciding to move.

Things I don’t miss

No doubt about the first one – Vegemite! Spreading yeast extract over my slice of bread has never been a treat for me, no matter how much you try to improve the taste. That brings me to another food (some) Australians insist on consuming – the witchetty grub, sold in many Australian markets. My palate can endure a lot, but wood-eating larvae is certainly not my cup of tea; not raw, not cooked, not in a soup. Just. No. Although, many say it actually tastes like chicken.

Once I’ve moved to Serbia and got used to Serbian prices, it hit me how super expensive life in Australia is. The costs are too high, even though the salaries are quite decent. Sydney, in particular, is among the most expensive cities in the world, whether you’re talking transportation, food, real estate, or clothes.

Another thing that always saddened me was that, in Sydney, I wasn’t able to experience that typical winter Christmas that you can see in so many movies.

Christmas in Australia is in the summer, and somehow celebrating it in hot weather, heading to a beach or going camping is not exactly the idyllic Christmas I wanted – the snow (there especially for Santa and his reindeer!), Christmas lights all over town, cinnamon cookies and hot tea!

Things I do miss

Again, let’s start with food and drinks! The first thing that comes to mind here is the good ol’ Aussie beer. Australians are, mildly put, incredibly fond of it and some of the brands there are so good that your tongue will suffer from incurable nostalgia when denied this delight for a while.

The same goes for my #1 drink of choice. As a great fan of high-quality gin, I miss certain brands of it from back home – a somewhat silly thing to miss when you’re in a country that has excellent wine and rakia. There is the option of ordering my favourite artisan gin online, so I guess I won’t be missing that for much longer.

Chiko Rolls I still shed a tear for sometimes. There’s something about grabbing a Chiko and taking a walk around your neighbourhood or going to watch a sports game. These delicious snacks are about as Australian as you can get – mutton, spices, and veggies wrapped in cabbage and then fried. Our version of spring rolls on the go!

Let’s be honest here and admit it’s extremely difficult to top Australia’s gorgeous beaches. Once you’ve been to a place like Whitehaven beach, it really becomes almost impossible to enjoy any other spot on the planet. The whole place looks like a dream, from the breathtaking colours to powder-fine sand and unbelievably clear water. It makes you not want to leave – ever!

But more than anything, I miss the road trips.

In Australia, travelling from one city to another takes hours, so my husband and I would sometimes jump in the car and drive off somewhere just for the sake of another memorable adventure. The breeze, dusk-coloured landscapes, your song playing in the background, the excitement of knowing that beyond what your eyes can see, nothing else matters at that moment… Something I’m able to experience only back home and nowhere else.

No matter where you go, certain things are bound to charm you, and others will leave you feeling disappointed or indifferent.

The trick, I’ve found, is to focus on the things that make you happy, regardless of whether you’re home or abroad.

 

About

Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family.

Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing following her on twitter. She is also one of the editors at Higstylife Magazine.

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