These days, catching wind of exciting news- engagements, pregnancies, new jobs, house purchases- is as easy as logging into your facebook account. Until recently, I had considered this information overload as both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, living in another country means it might otherwise be difficult for me stay in the loop with friends’ happenings at home (and at the ripe old age of late-twenty-something, happenings such as the aforementioned are increasingly common) so staying relatively informed is good. On the other hand, until recently, it prompted me to examine my own life and whether I was any nearer to any of these ‘life milestones’ or whether I was drifting further on a misguided voyage to mediocrity.
This year marks the third consecutive year I’ve spent the holiday season in a foreign country. Until recently, I didn’t consider this to be much of an achievement. I would open my facebook feed and see a variety of announcements, I’m sure you know the type:
“Just finished my second year of law school…time to celebrate!!”
“My best friend asked me to be his wife…and I said YES!!!!!”
“Closed on our new house today, housewarming soon to follow!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Welcome to the world Darby Grace, a healthy 6.7 lbs!!!!! Isn’t she beautiful!?!? #blessed”
The egregious use of exclamation marks and hashtags made me think, hmm, these must be the things I should care about at this point in my life, everybody else does! When really all I care about is doing exactly as I am doing for the forseeable future…exploring new corners of the world, having unbelievable experiences and learning from the incredibly diverse people I’m surrounded by on a daily basis.
My third consecutive Christmas abroad, I realized recently, is indeed a major milestone for me, and I’ll explain why.
Two years ago, I was admittedly quite lost. I’d spent 5 years of my life studying what I thought was a field I was passionate about only to realize I’d probably rather eat a truckload of toenail clippings than spend the remainder of my life working as a Registered Dietitian (no offense to my amazing friends still in the field- it just wasn’t for me). After a year of equal parts playing and working in New York City (not as a dietitian of course) I packed my bags, said “smell ya later” to the US, and left for Thailand with a one-way ticket just weeks before Thanksgiving.
Initially, the over-arching goal was to experience living and working amidst a culture drastically different from my own. It didn’t particularly matter where, but the promise of a low cost-of-living and vacations on the white sand beaches of Koh Phi Phi and the like helped push me in the general direction of SE Asia (a decision I’ve never once regretted).
The more specific goal was to live and work in Latin America, but I’d done the math, and the higher cost-of-living coupled with the decided lack-of-savings at the time ruled it out for the time being.
Fast-forward to present day: I’ve now been in Latin America volunteering and traveling for just over 5 months and my current location is the gorgeous city of Cusco. It dawned on me that, hey, living in Latin America WAS in fact my goal several years ago (all the way back to my teens actually- Spanish was my favorite subject in high school) and despite taking a little longer than I imagined, I’ve done it! I have some work to do in order to secure a life on this continent, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been and taking steps in the right direction every day.
And that’s what makes this 3rd Christmas abroad so special: by living abroad in the first place, I am staying true to myself (the American lifestyle and I are not very compatible) and furthermore, it’s proof that I haven’t lost sight of a long-standing life goal, and I’ve made real, tangible progress toward achieving it.
There will be no more comparing my own life and personal achievements to those deemed most important by my facebook newsfeed; a silly thing to do, anyway, when I’m 99.99% sure that those things (a house, marriage, babies…) are not what I want out of life right now.
Another unconventional milestone worth mentioning is this, my very first blog post! The idea of starting a blog has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for some time, and it took meeting some truly inspiring people to help bring it to life.
Looking forward to continuing this productivity in 2014, maybe even creating a few more eccentric milestones along the way.