10 Facts About Life Abroad

 

I am so sorry for my long hiatus from the world of blogging. School, travel, and activities have taken precedent over this project for over a year now. I am writing to tell you that no longer will that be the case. I have kept a journal chronicling my adventures over the last year, which will be published as an ongoing diary that you can find on the home page.

I started Maiainplaya in August of 2013 to tell the story of my family’s adventures as we travel and live abroad, to give an insider’s account of the different cities, and to share our vegan lifestyle.

Almost three years later, this blog still serves the same purpose. I hope that you will find my posts not only informative, but entertaining reads that inspire you to make a positive change in your life, discover the world, and be passionate and present in all that you do and experience.

Without further ado I bring you the first post in eight months…

5 Facts About Life Abroad

Living abroad for the past three (almost four!) years of my life with my five siblings and visiting over 7 countries in that time has taught me a thing or two about the difference between travel and living. Here are 10 facts about living abroad you need to know.

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  1. Culture immersion makes you worldly and wise. This is not news. The more experiences you have, the wiser you become. If you are having those experiences in different environments, it is my opinion that you receive 10x more wisdom and understanding- not to mention the compassion, sympathy, and respect you develop for different cultures and people that last a lifetime.

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2. Traveling somewhere and going somewhere to live are VERY different mindsets. I have been a prolific traveler since childhood, but when I moved out of my hometown in California to Playa del Carmen in 2013, the vibe was much more relaxed than our past “vacations”. Although Playa is home to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, we didn’t spend every day there like a vacationer would. The mindset “I live here” doesn’t take out the majesty or fun of the amazing pastimes different places have to offer- instead it allows one to get to truly understand and become familiar with the place.

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3. You learn all the local secrets. That is actually what this blog is dedicated to: sharing some local secrets with people interested in visiting the places I have lots of experience with. Looking for the best cenote to free dive in? Where do you find vegan ice cream in Guanajuato? Additionally, as you become connected to the community, you meet entrepreneurs, chefs, instructors, and people who can offer great services for friend prices. Giving advice to someone who is traveling to one of the places you have lived? “I know a guy there who can hook you up…” takes on a whole new level of awesome.

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4. Soon you’ll be speaking and understanding multiple languages. When I was in France, I was able to read the menus, hotel paperwork,  street signs, and advertisements without ever taking a class in French. Thanks to life abroad in Mexico that enabled me to learn Spanish, I was able to use my language skills to “read” French. More often than not, the French words looked exactly like their counterpart in English or Spanish.

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5. You become more intelligent and open-minded. Constant change of scenery, dialect, and culture feeds the brain like nothing else. Many people don’t seem to really think about the fact that every place in the world has its own take on life: its own cultural likes and dislikes, medicinal views, eating habits, and overall lifestyle. In Guanajuato, we lived on tortillas, beans, and fruits from the downstairs market, hung out at the plaza on the weekends, and dressed more conservatively. In Playa, we dress in board shorts and bikini cover-ups for church, drink green juice, and walk barefoot to the beach. If the place you live in doesn’t fit, there is another place out there that will. The shifting lifestyles open you up to different perspectives, opportunities to take risks, and to collectively create a lifestyle that suits you best.

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6. Versatility. Living abroad has made me truly pursue good values, but I’d have to say that the most useful trait I have acquired from my lifestyle is versatility. Do you have trouble socializing? Go live in another country and learn to make friends with a language barrier. Socializing in your own language becomes almost too easy.

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7. Resourcefulness and creativity are key. California seems to have every superfood, health store, and organic seaweed on the planet. As organic vegans, we often have trouble finding those obscure ingredients in different countries. Recipes become suggestions and “multi-purpose” takes on a whole new meaning.

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8. You learn to be present. Being present is one of the qualities I value in people the most. When I returned to my hometown in Los Angeles after a year of living abroad, I was struck by the short attention span people seemed to have. I was very conscious of every time old friends took breaks from our conversations to look at their phones. As someone with a lot to say, I struggle to talk less and be a better listener- but my efforts lead to lots of typing on the other end. I have yet to meet someone who lives a traveling lifestyle that could even conceive of doing something like that, and I earnestly hope that my culture will become less self-obsessed and focus on giving more. I know we would be much happier as a culture.

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9. Speaking of happiness, living abroad makes you appreciate what you have, which brings peace and joy to the soul. Sheryl Crow sang, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you got.” I am blessed to have grown up in a country that holds tight to the maxim that women and men are equal, and that I can accomplish whatever I want as long as I put my mind to it. I am blessed to live in a loving family, to have the ability to travel, and to have the faith I do.

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10. The worth you put on material possessions and amount you have of them decreases. One of the coolest things I can say is that all my material belongings fit in a suitcase. I love my hand-embroidered shirt from the mountains of Chiapas, my perfume from France, my bracelet from Cuba, etc., as functional momentos, and the rest I have learned to let go. Decluttering becomes easy, and there is a joy knowing that someone else who really needed clothes or shoes can have them. Because really, all we need is a change of underwear and a couple shirts. (Don’t hate me fashion bloggers!) Living without excess teaches you to put your worth on who you are as a person.

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