4 Tips To Living Abroad
Paolo Coelho States, “travel Is Never A Matter Of Money But Of Courage”
We are a family of learners and explorers and exposure to cultures, foods, religions, architecture, history and landscapes brings us joy, intellectually stimulates us, and brings humility. I’ve been blessed to visit 5 of 7 continents, ~30 countries, and countless cities. I’ve experienced remote parts of China, Rwanda and Canada; took a horseback African safari; played golf at a very white, private club in South Carolina (loved the prideful smile from an older African-American butler). Creating those memories with my family…priceless
Who am I? A 50+, working mom who took domestic & international roles who married and had kids “late”. Shelton (my husband) and I saved enough so, as a family, we could watch Messi play in Barcelona & eat just-caught grilled fish at Malaysian night markets.
So, with the exception of some early-entry blues, my family should be considered as “move masters.” I remember our kids’ opposite reactions about our big China move. Erin (then 6) leaped for joy while Jordan (then 8) burst out in tears! To help with the transition, we web-surfed China, took cultural training, said tearful “see ya’s” and flew 13 hours to Shanghai, the adventure was real. We were instant celebrities…an African-American family with 2 kids (remember the 1 child policy in China?), boy and girl (lucky in China). We worked/studied hard and played harder… visited 9 countries, international swim/soccer meets for the kids, serious Chinese & kickboxing classes for Shelton with an incredible “village” of ex-pats and local friends, making our 3 years “hella wonderful”.
Let me share how we became such smooth movers:
- Pre-visits are a must… spend a week as a resident including after hours neighborhood drives; school walk throughs; local eats; event attendance; coffee chats. While doing those things ask questions such as is it affordable? does it feel right? safe? schools good? what’s the sports/culture/arts/food scene? what’s the political/race situation? is the city growing? What’s the mix of diversity, culture, job options? Is there a place to worship?
- Share that you’re moving…let good people know to help you build a village in advance! Keep naysayers away and absorb wisdom from folks interested in your happiness and success. Keep in touch when you move and pay it forward to others.
- Pay attention – moves are a big deal. Your family’s mood/adjustment (along with yours) to new surroundings take time…everyone won’t be happy at the same time or all the time. Be understanding, be where you are vs. where you were. Be tourists, take fun classes, find free events, visit museums, get library cards, adapt to the city vibe. We’re now in Seattle – outdoor lifestyle, cultural diversity and a great foodie scene. We’ve found a church, sports teams and a nice social circle. Shelton landed a great job after managing our household for 10 years and my “sistah” network of like-minded women keep me balanced!
- Stay in touch…don’t let miles and time differences deteriorate your remote family/friends’ relationships. Prioritize calls, invite visitors, share pictures and experiences. Remember they matter and keep you grounded!
We encourage everyone to travel more or relocate! Someone did it before…so network, give it a go and remember you are not alone.
#Me3project Discussion Starters:
- If given the opportunity to live abroad, would you consider it?
- Have you discussed with your child what it’s like to be a child in another country?
- How do you expose your child to other countries?
Jacquelyn Howard is a graduate from University of Delaware and Duke University. She resides in Seattle, WA with her husband and 2 children. Her background and experience consists of a variety of international roles in Supply Chain marketing, sales, and promotions.