Guest Post: 10 Life Changing Things I Learned From Living In Another Country For A Year
By: Annah Rose of AnnahRose.com
It was January 21st, 2015 and I found myself leaving the country to embark on what I had thought would just be a month trip that turned out to be a year of living outside the U.S and having the best adventure that I never imagined I would experience in my life.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning.
Having had been to Asia a few months before, my then boyfriend and I had this idea to leave the country to live and work in Argentina for a month. We had some friends that were about to do the same so we would have a mini community upon arriving. I was totally on board.. I mean of course who wouldn’t be right?
We were living in Austin at the time with a plan to move back to LA immediately after, so we packed up our things, put them in storage and left the country.
Enamored with the Latin culture since I was a kid, I was immediately in love with Palermo Soho where we found an amazing 3 bedroom 2 story AirBnB for next to nothing. Already it was turning out to be a great trip I had thought to myself.
Two days into the trip, my boyfriend and I broke up (it was a long time coming) he left to Uruguay and after much thought, I decided to stay by myself with my friends nearby. Having never really been in a country alone this made me nervous but also excited. There was a whole city out there just for me to explore and experience and that’s exactly what I did.
I found myself eating the most amazing food, sometimes alone and venturing off on mini explorations during the day also sometimes alone. I found myself sparking up conversations with strangers and then sitting for hours chatting with them. It was an interesting experience and just the beginning of my journey.
What was going on was that I had started to taste this freeness inside of me, this itch to keep going, meet more people, speak Spanish everyday, and be completely outside of my comfort zone.
My friends decided that we should all go to Uruguay for a week during my last week. So 5 of us set off on the most epic week I ever had in my life at the time. We took the ferry to Colonia, stayed in a hostel in Montevideo, drove on dirt roads next to farm animals to a special little place called Cabo Polonia which isn’t even on map and then got an AirBnB in La Barra, just a few blocks from the beach. It was amazing and these people became apart of my heart. By the end of the trip we were making jokes that we were siblings, gave each other nicknames and have still been planning future trips together.
On the way back from Uruguay to Buenos Aires, I was talking to my brother in Sayulita, Mexico where he was spending a few months chasing waves while it was cold in New York. He had mentioned that our mom was coming to meet him. Having just spent a month away from the U.S, and feeling like I had just started my journey, there was no chance I was coming back soon. So I found a cheap one way flight from LA to Mexico and timed it to be super close to arriving from Buenos Aires.
And just like that I was on my way to Mexico for an undetermined amount of time. Upon arrival I was greeted by my brother, he showed me around the beautiful small fishing village, introduced me to some of the local people and it really became history from there.
I made friends with the most amazing people I have ever met in my life.
I experienced things I never imagined.
Things like walking around town with no shoes, eating fresh fish caught by friends literally caught a block away from my apartment, hiking through the jungle to secret beaches, staying on the beach with friends until 6am, spear fishing (although I got seasick), scuba diving, watching whales breach from the shore, snorkeling in an old volcano that is now a hidden beach and lots of tequila.
It was never my intention to stay, it just happened naturally, in fact I was on a secret jungle beach, watching the most epic sunset (photo right below) with new friends that solidified staying for me. Initially I thought just for 3-6 months, but that quickly turned out to be a full year of growth, change, adventure and self-love.
Here are 10 life-changing things that I learned from living outside of the U.S for a year in no particular order.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
This was the theme of my trip. I wanted to do as much as I could as meet as many people as I could. I sparked conversations with anyone I found interesting at any time without hesitation. The only downside was always having to say bye to people who are now some of my great friends. I have now built a tribe that live all over, from Canada, Brasil, Australia, Asia, Europe and Mexico.
Happiness is from within.
I was actively working on this at the time but, everything that I was working on internally kind of just clicked here. I was cracked wide open in this place, ready to take on the world, own my own crap and work out my baggage. I learned by being solely responsible for my own happiness that I then became a lighter human. This all simultaneously happened from mindfully acknowledging that I indeed create my own happiness and by proxy not only are you happier and more appreciative but everyone around you as well because you aren’t putting your inner crap on them.
Your relationship with yourself is most important.
I was essentially by myself so this allowed the space for me to see in what ways I was loving myself and in what ways I wasn’t. I was able to have a clear mind.What I learned was that I was creating my own insecurities in my mind and my own fears. When you are traveling alone you can’t hide from yourself. You meet yourself in the most vulnerable way for the first time. I needed to learn to fully love myself and feel comfortable with myself in order to be fully present in my experiences. Without the self love that I was giving me, I wouldn’t have been able to feel super comfortable with new people in a new surrounding. (See 7 Ways to Love Yourself More)
Anything can be an adventure if you allow it.
I had always thought that adventures were just something like jumping off a cliff into the ocean or something of that nature, what I didn’t realize that any moment can become an adventure if you let it. Something as simple as saying yes to something you were hesitant to do before can become an adventure, like surfing, scuba diving, trying a new restaurant alone, taking a bus to a new town to explore and meeting people along the way. When you allow adventure in your life you will instantly feel more alive. It’s really great for the soul.
Grounding yourself in nature is good for the soul.
Nature is massive; it’s the ground we walk on, the air we breathe, the ocean we swim in, the waves we surf on, the woods or jungle we hike in. I learned how grounding myself in nature, appreciating it and feeling at home in it helped me ground myself in me. I was able to take so many quiet moments to admire the earth by sitting in the sand and watching the waves, walking through the jungle or climbing hills to see beautiful views and sunsets. Just simply walking barefoot (which I was doing all day everyday because Dorito kept eating my shoes) grounds you into the earth. The earth holds such boosting energy, and it is waiting for you to just plant your feet on it. Once you do you will immediately feel invigorated and it even has anti-inflamatory and calming properties which you can reep the benefits of once you simply walk barefoot in sand, grass, or soil.
Living Simply creates more fullness in life.
When you’re outside of the U.S not everything you’re used to is readily available. There was virtually no AC, not many people have phones and no supermarket in town to get things that you think you need. At first I thought I would need things and made lots of trips to the nearest Walmart an hour bus ride away… but then I realized, I really didn’t need anything.. I could shop local with the fruits and vegetables that were in season and live with the things already provided to me in my apartment like; blankets and kitchen stuff. I didn’t have to spend money for things just because I thought they were better quality. I learned you don’t need excess in anything. I found myself weekly going through my clothes and giving them away. I no longer needed excess. In fact, I only owned one pair of flip flops and one pair of vans… that was it. And when my dog would chew my flip flops I would walk barefoot until it rained or something and was time for shoes. I found my life fuller from simply de-cluttering my living space.
Disconnecting from technology regularly creates space for presence.
The wifi wasn’t the best and not everyone owned a phone or had a data plan. So I learned the second most valuable lesson which was to be disconnected, to really appreciate the moments with the people I was with. I didn’t need my phone which I had always felt like I did. Interestingly enough, I have found myself now being more disconnected than I was in mexico. If I don’t have to check my phone I won’t and I have learned the gem of do-not-disturb when I’m sleeping. I also have been incorporating not checking my e-mail or phone upon first waking up as well which is the hardest thing for me. This disconnecting has also helped me live more presently, and more simply.
Time is relative.
When you’re not really on a particular schedule, time doesn’t actually exist, it’s something we create. I was working on my own time and so was everyone around me. We never really knew what day or time it was unless we had something scheduled. This allowed for all of us to develop deeper friendships with each other and your time to be spent more wisely since with so many new friends coming and going it was always someone’s last night. I learned to fill my days up with experiences and even on days where I wanted to just chill at home, I would run into someone while I was walking and end up doing something. This is the most important thing I learned that has now carried into my daily life. I am very contientious about tasks that are time wasting not time spending. I have also found myself attracting new friends in with the same mindset.
Freedom is a choice.
I learned what the feeling of freedom actually is. The feeling to go and do whatever I choose each day from morning to night, the freedom of routine, of monotony, of judgments, of belief systems, and of U.S society even. I learned how other cultures see the world all differently while all living in the same village… I learned how many other’s view the U.S especially during election times. I learned what it’s like to just be me fully and to create a life of fullness and aliveness. All of these are how I define freedom. This feeling is something that has changed my life, a way I now live every day without hesitation. Freedom iscomplete authenticity and vulnerability every waking moment of my life and I EFFING thrive in it.
Change is the seed of growth.
This interesting thing happens once you leave the country no matter if for a weekend, week, month, year or indefinitely; you change and grow. You learn to see the world with totally different eyes. You pick apart your belief systems and judgements and let them go, at least that’s what I did. With all that change comes worlds of growth as a person and as a women. I can’t explain just how at home I now feel in my body and mind. I have become more free, fearless, light as a feather and completely authentic. A me that I was striving to become for years.
These are the most valuable lessons that I have ever learned in my life. This way of thinking and living are now deeply engrained in me and have completely changed my outlook on life and my internal self.
We as people are in endless change and growth but what I will say is, if you want a crash course of getting out of your comfort zone, head out of the country for a bit and take a moment to meet yourself for the first real time.
A year ago, I left the country with a boyfriend, came back single, full of love and immensely full of inner happiness more than I ever have before.
I have only been back in the U.S for 2 weeks but if I could do it all over again I would…but then again I probably will, who am I kidding
Want to follow Annah's journey? // Sign up for Annah's newsletter here