A Shift in Attitude – The ‘Living Abroad’ Effect
By Nicole Goldman
People always say, get out of your comfort zone, if you want to really learn about yourself. One way is to move abroad whether for a few months or longer. You’ll find that it is worth the leap of faith because you’ll expand your perspectives in many ways.
If you are looking for a fresh learning experience or just a distraction from daily life, there is little that can equal the process of personal discovery revealed during travel. Immersing yourself in unfamiliar territory requires attention and self-awareness. It quickens your senses, compelling you to take notice of your surroundings, the people, the streets, buildings, smells, traffic, like never before, sometimes catching you off balance since you never know what is around the corner.
My husband and I decided to take a multi-month visit to Bali in 2016. While there my husband and I would take our scooter (he driving, me on the back – you will not catch me getting so far out of my comfort zone to control my own scooter, especially in SE Asian traffic – more like a swarm of bees than actual vehicles) and explore all over Ubud, the central arts center on the island. We’d track down new neighborhoods each day by walking up the streets, looking at the commerce in the area, the people, the restaurants and markets, parks and homes. We didn’t know what we would find on each turn – one time an enchanting trail through rice fields, the next time an unknown temple that we would have never seen from the road. Each time a new encounter would involve straining our expectations just another notch and adapting to perhaps new people or activities, uncovering whether we were welcome to observe, interact, or if we should just keep moving along.
The unexpected responses keep you alert and help you understand the nuances of a culture, which you can assimilate and reflect on either in the moment or later on. This requires your psyche to take it all in, lay a new groundwork for personal discovery and your outlook on the world as a whole.
Being open to not knowing what is going to happen next is both the risk and the key to learning about your new surroundings and about your life back home. Sure, there are many times, particularly if you go to less developed countries, as we did, when you realize all that we have, and perhaps take for granted back home. A valuable lesson on its own. Sometimes when you visit more similar cultures, as the case may be in Europe, the new landscape, architecture, people, food, still jolt you awake pushing at your comfort zone bubble, calling for reflection and consideration of the subtle but still evident differences to your usual environs.
This change of scenery can even open you up to new activities, freeing creative juices, revealing unknown talents and interests. My husband and I are both ‘creatives’ and pursue all kinds of artistic expression from painting and drawing, to writing and all types of paper and fiber crafts. I wanted to take a batik class in Bali and offered for my husband to join me. At first, he was resistant since he is a professional artist and thought he was beyond classes, but once there and given a new medium and technique, he was enticed with the possibilities and options that were suddenly available to him. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks (no offence, honey!).
While there may be nervousness and anticipation when planning such a trip, that nervous energy is almost the point. It stirs things up inside you and asks you to give more to yourself and of yourself. Exposing yourself to more brings back tremendous rewards. All I can say is that it’s worth the process. Get out of your bubble and see what the world has to offer.