Nervous, I walked clumsily into the ocean from the white sandy beach, trying not to fall on my face. I was decked out in the SCUBA gear I’d rented—back heavy from the oxygen tank. Once I’d strapped on my flippers, I put my face into the water, unsure what exactly I’d see.
The sunken World War II ship off the coast of Bali nearly skimmed the surface, then extended deep into the dark waters. Colorful schools of fish weaved in and out of the algae and coral-covered metal pieces.
I was a brand-new diver who had gotten certified on the muddy bottom of an East Texas lake. Six weeks before, we’d moved to Indonesia, started language school and dived face first into a rocky year of transition. Already exhausted, we took a much-needed vacation to Bali.
That wreck dive was amazing—full of surprises, sprinkled with danger, ribbons of color swimming all around my trembling body.
And that’s about how I’d describe our first year overseas.
Today, we pick up on our last tips for moving overseas. (Go here for tips 1 through 3, and for tips 4 through 6).
7. Celebrate the victories.
As you pass a unit of language school, or finish learning how to drive on the other side of the road, or finally feel healthy again after a bout of stomach illness, make sure you celebrate. That first year can be full of what feels like failures. But remember to celebrate what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve learned, how far you’ve come.
8. Understand that you won’t understand…yet.
This new world you’ve entered may feel like Opposite World, as my friend, Rebecca Cannon puts it. You’ll be confused for a little while. But understanding can and will come with time and with openness to learning.
9. Let the hard stuff grow you.
I used to be the girl who ordered the same thing on the menu, thought onions were too spicy, and had never ever ridden on a motorcycle. But all of that changed within the first month. The other stuff—the deeper stuff in my soul—has changed gradually through the years of living in a world not my own.
It’s easier (at first anyway) to let the hard stuff embitter you. But if you’ll step into the water and look around, you’ll find treasures in the culture and within yourself.
10. Hang in there.
No matter how long you’ve lived in a place, some hard stuff won’t go away. BUT some of the hard stuff is hard because you’re in a transition. Everything’s different. You don’t understand. You’re tired. And you just left everyone who cares about you. Take it from me, who has made 15 major moves in my life. Any move to anywhere is stressful. Give yourself some time to adjust. Hang in there, and don’t forget tip number 5!
Next week, we’ll unpack some of the lies tbat sneak themselves into the suitcases when we move overseas.
photo credit, jeffwilcox