Friday, May 10, 2013

Living abroad: a new you is born

Change is the law of life. Unlike many people I know, I was never afraid of it. In fact, I sought it.

     2009 was the year that changed my life. It was when I left home and went abroad for the first time. After doing everything “by the book” – school, University, work – I decided to quit my job and be an Au Pair in the USA.I lived with a family in NJ for 18 months and travelled to some of the most famous American destinations: NYC, Disneyland, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Washington DC, etc.

     During that year, there were a lot of firsts: flying, seeing snow, listening to many different languages, travelling by train, staying at hostels, travelling solo, going on road trips with people we just met at a hostel, trying new foods, having a memorable hangover. Sometimes even opening a door or using home appliances or shower was a new challenge. It was ridiculous. And awesome. I laughed a lot with myself and learned with every task I had to do. Oh, I also cried a lot. It felt absurdly overwhelming at times and I had thoughts of giving up and going back to the comfort of my home. Even though you make many friends, in the end you are alone. The feelings and lessons you have to work out - you work them out alone. The big life decisions - you make them alone. Often times I felt lonely and sad, but mostly I felt sure that it was the best thing I had ever done in my life, this living abroad thing.
     When you go off by yourself and face the new every single day, you have no choice but evolving. You become more independent, more mature, more understanding, more flexible. You can reinvent yourself, you can be free. You don’t have to fulfill anybody’s expectations on what you should do and how you should behave. Nobody knows you and that’s an opportunity to open up, connect and have loads of fun!
     Choose your new friends, hang out with people who make you feel good and who can relate with your beliefs and dreams. I made friends in church, Au Pair cluster meetings, parties, hostels, Couchsurfing and more. They include travelers from everywhere, locals, and Brazilian expats. I learned so much about relationships and culture and they were my support team. On the other hand, the sad fact is: most of them will follow their paths and you’ll eventually lose contact. But as I tell myself, “C’est la vie”. Thanks to the internet I still keep regular contact with some of the friends I met abroad and I’m sure we’ll meet someday somewhere.
     My time abroad was so amazing that I couldn’t sit still at home for even a year. After having a taste of what’s out there, out of my bubble, I wanted more! I came to Belgium to be an Au Pair again (I know, crazy) and lived next to a real castle (!) for a year. I visited all the countries I had in mind: Portugal, Spain, France, England, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Holland. I visited friends I had met in the US (went for yet another road trip with the stranger from the hostel, now my fellow gummy bear eater); friends from Brazil; surfed someone’s couch for the first time and had long philosophical and spiritual conversations; and stayed in the best hostel ever.

Gent, Belgium 

     My year in Europe was truly beautiful. Although sometimes I got a feeling that “this is just a city like any other” I learned to be more open to what the places have to offer, what’s special about them and their people. Now my list of places I want to visit has expanded and I want to experience really different cultures, like Asian and Middle-Eastern.
     I grew more and more passionate about living abroad. Many people ask me for advice about it or tell me about their fears, lack of money or other things holding them back. My answer is always: GO! Put your plan on paper, prepare, be brave and go! If you have that itch, it’ll never go away until you do it. The experience of being abroad is so enriching, it’s more valuable than any material stuff you would choose to spend your money on instead. I used to tell my friends back home: “I returned home poor, but I LIVED!”.
    That tearful, scared girl who left her hometown in 2009 never came back. Of course she cries and gets scared sometimes, but it’s different now. Living abroad has changed my path like I would have never imagined. It changed the way I see the world and its people; it changed my decisions; it changed some of my interests, opinions and behavior.
     Yes, this post is mostly showing how AWESOME it is to live abroad and how it affected me in a positive way. Downsides and whining another time + reflections on more specific topics!

*I recently talked to Cate from Small Planet Studio about my return home. You can read the interview here. 

Leave a comment or question if you like and share this with a friend who might relate. Cheers! :)


Luiza said...

Amazing, Ana!

Nossa, amei seu relato, suas experiências, suas viagens.. fiquei invejosa! hahahaha mas num bom sentido! ;)

Há muito tempo que eu sinto que preciso de algo assim... que aqui não é exatamente o meu lugar, por mais que aqui seja meu lugar seguro e onde estão as pessoas que amo. Sair da mesmice e ir embora se virar sozinha é muito difícil, mas tanto mais recompensador e renovadror, tenho certeza! Seu post é muito encorajador, Ana, se vc continuar me mandando coisas assim eu vou acabar fazendo o mesmo!! hahahaha beeeijos!

Ana Elisa Miranda said...

Oi Lu! Fico tão feliz em ler isso. Esse é meu propósito - compartilhar minhas experiências e aprendizado pra motivar aqueles que querem fazer o mesmo. Não tenha medo, a gente aprende a lidar com (quase) tudo nessa jornada maravilhosa que é viver fora do Brasil :)

Viktoriya Belokurskaya said...

Hey,Ana,I believe,one day you will earn tones of money as a famous writer/journalist:-) Your articles are so interesting and so true!!! I thought about myself while reading that:-)
I agree with every word written in this article,always had the same thoughts,but never came to my mind to express it all in paper (or maybe it just had to be written by such talented writer like you :-))
I am sure the article will be very helpful for those who are planning to go abroad,but cannot make up their minds because of the lack of confidence. And for those who have already had such experience of living abroad,it will be interesting to refresh their memories and to make sure once again that sometime in the past they made the right choice.
P.S. The article is really very well-written,I like it!

Ana Elisa Miranda said...

Thank you, Viktoriya! I am so glad you like the article and I wish you good luck on your adventures abroad. I am glad our paths crossed at some point here in Belgium and I hope to see you again some day :)

luandinha =) said...

oi ana! achei seu blog por acaso e adorei o texto! muito bem escrito e me faz pensar em mim mesma. as histórias são parecidas, exceto que estou na holanda agora. e acho que lembro de vc de NJ ainda hahaha de uma amiga em comum.

enfim, legal compartilhar a sua experiência, a gente sabe que é difícil mas é bom demais né?


Ana Elisa Miranda said...

Oi Luanda! Vi pelo Facebook que temos vários amigos em comum, mas não me lembro de ter te conhecido! Que pena, mas vou acompanhar seu blog e somos vizinhas de Europa :)

luandinha =) said...

na verdade nunca nos conhecemos, lembro de vc do grupo do orkut heheh morei em NJ tbm aí fucei bastaaaante antes de ir... e cheguei lá em junho!
vou te acompanhar também, quem sabe não nos esbarramos por aqui?

Ana Elisa Miranda said...

Aaaah, o Orkut! Passava horas e horas fuçando tudo sobre ser Au Pair. Você fica na Holanda até quando?

Vinícius said...

Como sempre, me delicio com seus escritos. ;)