Boundless #53: Lessons from living abroad
Nine months reinventing my journey
June 1st, 2019: Greetings from Vermont, USA where I’m attending a friend’s wedding for the weekend.
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#1 Two Months In Taiwan Turn Into Nine
(Pictured: 300 year old Banyan Tree in Penghu, Taiwan)
Nine months ago I ventured out to Taipei planning to stay for two months and then heading somewhere else for a month, perhaps Vietnam. In my first month of living in Taiwan, I ended up meeting someone that shared my goal of designing work around life. This led me to a longer nomadic journey through Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and back to Taiwan.
I’m back in the US for two months trying to make sense of what happened and I thought I’d offer some reflections:
#1 I’ve broadened my imagination of potential ways to live
Getting rid of all my stuff, living out of two suitcases and embedding myself in different cultures has shown me that not only am I able to live in many different environments, but there are so many ways to live a good life. Expectations of the kind of life you need to be happy seems to be more of a product of how one grew up than any universal reality.
#2 Appreciation of food & the culture around it
When I was 24 I tried a hamburger and sushi for the first time Ten years later I can’t imagine a life without experiencing Lu Rou Fan, Khao Soi or Fantuan. Food is often a proxy for people’s happiest memories in their lives and I’ve loved being able to dive into different cuisines as a way to get to know people. I stayed with a friend in Singapore a few months ago and he had a meeting, so his parents insisted dragging me downtown to one of their famous Hawker Centers. This was one of the many cool things I’ve experienced when I throw myself into friendships and see where it takes me (hey Bryan - say hi to your parents!)
#3 Working remotely (in Asia) is challenging!
In the first few months of this year, I worked on a freelance consulting project with two people who run a consulting firm in the US who are building something pretty cool. While I’m proud of the work we did, time zone issues turned an otherwise straightforward project into something that was filled with anxiety and stress on all sides. While this experience helped me cover the bills, I probably took the project because I was afraid of an extended period of non-work. This led me to underprice it and be a bit too optimistic about the complexity of the work. Lessons learned. This project has also renewed my motivation to push harder on developing my own projects and constantly try to re-focus around teaching, writing and creating.
#4 Starting a real learning journey
In the corporate world, learning was something that I said I cared about but in reality it only happened in the first few months of a new job. Over the past two years I’ve learned how little I was pushing myself. The motivation of designing my own work around things I’m excited about has led me to learn more around digital marketing, coding, web development, SEO, podcasting, audio editing, nocode tools not to mention learning Chinese. While my knowledge in the corporate world was good for playing the role of a good worker and getting more jobs, the skills I’ve developed in the last two years have helped me be more confident about creating my own business given this knowledge than ever before.
#5 Social Media can be great, but it seems to make most people less happy
The belief that we’re morally obliged to stay plugged in – that this level of time commitment and emotional investment is the only way to stay informed about the state of the world – begins to look more and more like an alibi for our addiction to our devices. “How the news took over reality” - The Guardian
I’ve made some aggressive changes to how I use my phone, social media and messaging to make sure I’m not spending my days consuming the latest outrage from across the globe. It seems every country is caught up in some version of “these people are the problem.” While there are many issues that certainty do matter, it seems to me that I’m going to have more of a positive impact if I’m actively in the world, rather than reacting to it on the internet.
#6 We need to create more permission for “breaks” in people’s lives
I do regret not traveling more adventurously in my 20s, but I’m not sure I would have appreciated it as much as I am now. Reinventing myself in my 30s has been eye opening - both as an opportunity to reflect back on my achievement focused 20s and to think ahead and dream about the kind of life I may want to lead in the future. Radically lowering my cost of living has given me some flexibility to not worry about the constant busyness of work and also to create some space to figure out what I really want to be working on and with whom. We need to support more people, especially in their 30s when “maintenance creep” seems to be peaking, to take breaks, take sabbaticals, spend time with grandparents, or just have the opportunity to learn and try new things.
#2 Misc 🎊
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