I’ve realised that there have been a couple of differing factors which have meant that I’ve gone through two completely different experiences when living and working abroad over the last few years.
Life hasn’t been straightforward since travelling across the globe with my husband and family in 2007. In fact, it changed the direction my life was going in – which has been both exhilarating and exhausting at times. As my life was all mapped out to be fulfilled in the way english society states is the good life. Which sometimes I think is much simpler than the path I have chosen to walk!
After being at home and bringing up two children for over a decade, travel triggered the freedom in me and since that moment I’ve felt like I was given a second chance at life and I have been striving since then to create the vision I see in my mind, as it unfolds.
Living and working on the island of Gran Canaria for a Tour Operator I discovered bliss, as I began to slowly explore the area I resided in and the surrounding places to visit and see but due to living with and around many young adults drinking and partying as Overseas Reps – something which I’m not interested in and with the different ages and stages of life, meant that most of the time I found myself fundamentally alone. Emotionally, intellectually and socially. Psychologically being in another country and not finding your feet with those around you quickly, can cause some not very nice symptoms, which can be horrible to experience as you find yourself indoors and alone for much of the time – as I did.
In Thailand it was different.
Working within an addiction facility there were huge levels of stress. But my colleagues I worked with, were an international band of people – older with a clinical focus, which meant that I felt more stimulated through working with them and although I needed to adapt to the cultural change of working in a different country and for me under a foreign boss, I learnt to trust them through their responses to my questions – thoughts and way of delivering therapy. It had many challenges but we were all in a similar kind of boat. I was learning and growing professionally as well as personally and I enjoyed that fact.
I wondered what it would be like, stepping out and living alone after being married for so many years but the person I am was still there. In fact I connect with myself and the englishness of me more so, when I’m abroad and I love that. I feel very alive. Whilst at the same time missing my husband.
There were different elements of both cultures which I liked. The tactile nature of the thai women as they would grab my hand to get me to go somewhere with them, or the way they would braid my hair during one of the many massages I had. In Gran Canaria it was the feel of family which arose from deep within me, as I connected with the stories of the island and the love it has of children – it was a place of pleasure and repose. Yet I walked away from there very easily. Happy to return home despite the bliss I felt internally. it was much harder to leave Koh Chang as I was getting to know the place and the people. Was beginning to understand the different villages. Enjoyed working in a place where there were many tourists coming and going and wanted to try as many of the decent restaurants as possible but my routine stayed the same. It took my heart, although I would many times be slightly anxious about what I was going to do at the weekends, yet quickly found a routine of getting up and going out for the day on Saturday. Either enjoying the beach and unpicking my weekly anxieties or exploring the different villages. It took me a while to find my feet and I was initially happy for the security of DARA.
Within the first role it felt a bit fumbled – I was out of sorts. I could see the way the staff were with the young adults around me, that it wasn’t quite the same experience with me. At DARA I learnt a lot and learnt quickly – feeling more suited to the role within this community. But more personally akin to the world of travel. Living in Thailand meant that as a woman in my early fifties I felt comfortable within my own skin. Yet was aware of the cultural differences.
I’d recommend it to anyone to give a go. If you haven’t thought about it before. I think what I enjoyed most was the intellectual stimulation which arose from having to find my way not just professionally but personally also. Living in a new country, on a new island, surrounded by a constant blur of changing people – as well as those who resided on it. It was fascinating and a great opportunity which I’m glad I experienced. Yet I also understand being in one place, because I had an interesting clientele base and was constantly on the move and believed in what I was doing and how it was helping others. That made a huge difference to my experience of this version of travel. My wellbeing stemmed from being intellectually engaged, professionally interested with a new field to learn about, personally being challenged by my environment and the different culture I found myself in. Quickly making friends due to the unique situation and having somewhere to explore which had many elements to it and meant that I gradually stepped out of my environment as I grew more confident.
As a woman in her early fifties I discovered that abroad I am simply me the person. Here, within my own society there seems far more of an age and stage definition. Which I always like to get away from. Have you travelled or would you like to travel as you get older.
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts!