Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Perspective Series-Crossing the Pond

This week I'm introducing Michaela from Michaela Rae for the next installment of the Perspective series. This is a series about expats sharing their experience of living abroad and how it inevitably changed their perspectives on life. Michaela's blog first caught my eye when she was featured on Ruche's site in their love story section. And I have to say, she has the most encouraging and inspiring blog I've read in a long time. Not to mention, incredible travel posts from when they lived in England! Take a look at her site, it's definitely worth a read.

Last year my husband, Kurt, and I packed four bags and boarded a plane to London, England. We'd learned that Kurt had been accepted into a one-year Master’s program there only six weeks before our wedding date. Nevertheless, we didn’t hesitate in deciding that England (as if marriage wasn’t enough) would be our next big adventure.

We found our way through the busy city, where the traffic goes the wrong direction and everyone seems to be in a hurry, to a small flat in Wimbledon (yes, tennis!). Little did we know that our time in London would yield much more than a Master’s degree. Looking back now, I know our first year of marriage will always be remembered for incredible travels, life lessons learned and the friendships we made. I want to share two of the lessons I learned which I know will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Before our move, I knew I didn't know much about England or the places we'd visit, but soon into our stay it became obvious just how little I knew. Witnessing the way others live and learning the history behind a culture (even small things like how a proper English High Tea is done), was humbling at times. At first it was tough to admit I didn’t understand something or to ask what I’m sure to them were basic questions. In the end though, it was worth it because I left with a true (albeit still limited) understanding of the country and culture. I now know that a posture of humility is what allows a person to experience a new place to the fullest. It's not about how much you already know, but about watching, listening and asking questions so that you can know more. I know, in part, how tough being “the foreigner” can be but also how rewarding it is when you embrace it.

Realizing that relationships change was the second lesson I grappled with. Without normal face-to-face interaction and the ability to live life with people, change is inevitable. When I struggled with this my husband would often remind me that friendships evolve even with face-to-face interaction. I knew it was true; I just wasn’t ready for it, at least not so abruptly. And just as a side note, I quickly learned that Skype, a blessed invention indeed, still couldn’t preserve relational normalcy. In fact, I appreciated old-school letters more. There are few things better than finding a letter waiting for you from a loved one. All that being said, my realization that relationships change has been a blessing too. It's allowed me to view friendship in a new light. My appreciation went through the roof for the friends back home and it challenged me to be more intentional in nurturing those relationships. I know now too just how much humans need fellowship. We can be in the most incredible places, but without fellowship, still lonely and hurting. Knowing this has helped me not only be intentional in maintaining friendships but in creating new ones.

Us in Söderköping, Sweden.

Being an expat can shape your perspective on a lot of things. When we returned home it was easy for me to see just how much of an obesity problem America has and that our education system is failing us, but what I really want to cling to are the two lessons I mentioned. I want to always remember that humility enables you to live more fully and that relationships, although they evolve and require work, are the biggest blessing and a necessity in life.

If you have lived abroad and would like to be featured, shoot me an email at lostintravelsblog{at}gmail{dot}com. I would love to hear from you!