What is the biggest lie ever told? You’ve heard it a million times and probably believe every word of it. You hear it at school, at home, on TV and in songs. Still can’t guess it? Well, here’s the answer:
You can’t have your cake and eat it too.*
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In fact, it’s so far from the truth that it makes me literally laugh out loud. For many years (nearly a decade) many people have told me that a globetrotting lifestyle is only for people who abandoned their careers and want to live the backpackers life forever. Well I disagree. Who said you can’t be a professional and travel the world? Who said you can either live a life of stability, wealth and professional success OR travel the world? I say you can do it all. Yes. You CAN do it ALL. And no, I’m not talking about starting an online company which allows you to travel (although if you can pull this off, kudos to you!). What I’m talking about is incorporating personal and professional development into your overseas experience.
Recently, my husband and I decided to reflect on our experience in Turkey. We revisited our reasons for quitting our jobs and moving overseas and agreed that our overall goals are to start a family, save for our future and continue our professional development. Since we don’t have a money-making online business and we aren’t trust-fund babies, we know we must choose how we spend our time wisely. Unlike others who live in the now and aren’t thinking about future, we have to. We have student loans, retirement savings contributions and careers to attend to. As our dream is not to revert back to the college days of ramen noodles and staying in hostels, we understand that we must maximize our time and seek out meaningful opportunities wherever we are in the world. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. If we want to live ‘a grown-up life’ with financial, emotional, professional and physical security, we must learn to find the sweet spot between overseas living and long-term stability.
So what did we do? First, we brainstormed! For those who know me well, I’m an expert brainstormer. Sometimes my ideas seem crazy, but in the end, some of those very outrageous ideas have helped us move one step closer to our dream. Below is a portion of the list we’ve come up with that is sure to help us grow personally and professionally:
– learn a new language
– stengthen our resumes through volunteer, work and study oportunities aroad
– network with locals and expats
– attend workshops, seminars and conferences in our fields
– join professional societies and organizations
– empower ourselves by figuring out our purpose in life
– overcome life-crippling fears (aka learn to push yourself to the limit by leaving your comfort zone)
– pick up a new hobby
– learn about our ancestry and connect with our roots
…and the list goes on and on. We haven’t tried every idea yet, but we’re working on it! After brainstorming, you have to create an action plan and actually do the things you listed.
The most important thing to understand is that the idea of choosing EITHER long-term stability OR overseas living is a myth.
Our life is just as ‘adult’ and professional as it was before we left home. My husband wears a tie to work every day; we mingle with other professionals on a regular basis; and most of all, we haven’t disrupted our career paths. If anything, we’ve strengthened every part of our lives!
So don’t let ‘adult responsibilities’ deter you from making a lifestyle change or planning some extended time living abroad. Instead, think about how the trip can serve the dual purpose of seeing the world and growing both personally and professionally.
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How do you make the most of your time abroad?
*The Tamil equivalent of ‘You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too” is: desire to have both the mustache and to drink the porridge.