Being an expat for the past 2+ years has really helped prepare me for a long term backpacking trip in many ways.
I’m More Independent
I’ve always sort of been an independent person, but living in a foreign country really can push it to the extreme at times. When I first landed in South Korea I as put into quarantine for a full week due to the swine flu that was going around. They wanted to make sure I didn’t have it, but that meant one week in a new place where I didn’t speak the language. My co-workers were told not to try and contact me, so I was on my own.
Over the course of the next several years, I have become accustomed to venturing out to new places many of which have few English speakers (many smaller towns here have very few).
All of this will be very helpful each time I am inserted into a new environment.
I Have a More Open Mind
Prior to coming to South Korea, I knew very little about it. I didn’t know about the culture, religion, or anything really. Over the years I have met many Koreans but also many people from other countries around the world.
Meeting these people and being around them on a daily basis has opened my eyes to other cultures and ways of life. Even though we may not speak the same language (or in the case of my co-workers we do), I can understand a little better why they do some of the things they do that might be different than what I am used to.
Every country, and even parts of countries in some cases, is different. No matter what language is spoken, people do things in ways you may have never thought of before or even in a way you might think isn’t right. But who are we to say what way is wrong or right. We just know how we have done it, and through communicating with one another we can learn from others.
I have quickly realized that I don’t have to understand something to respect it and I think that goes a long way when traveling..
I’m Willing to Try New Things
You can get stuck in a rut at home doing the same thing day in and day out. To a point I have gotten that way here in Korea after 2+ years which is one reason I am ready to move on for a bit.
Being somewhere new is exciting and it opens your eyes to new things. I have tried more new foods here in 2 years than I ever did back home. Foods like snail, octopus, eel, silkworm larva, and many more I have eagerly tried. Part of the excitement of a new place is the food. Everywhere is different and it can be exciting.
I would have never thought about eating a scorpion or something like that, but now I want to go to Thailand to eat things like this.
And it doesn’t have to extend only to foods. Learning a new dance, or game, or something else can be just as exciting.
I’m More Conscious of My Surroundings
Again you get in a rut back home going to the same places. Living overseas I am more apt to look around and soak in the smells, sounds, and scenery of a new place.
Plus I am aware of what could possibly be a dangerous situation (although Korea is a very safe country).
Being more aware of my surroundings will help me take in the new sights and sounds of a new place when I arrive, which is one of the most exciting parts of travel.
I’m Used to Being Away from Home
I will not have seen my family for 2 years when I next make it home. Going at least a year at a time without seeing my family is nothing new. I am used to communicating by Skype and email. I don’t really get homesick anymore.
Besides, being away from home for a long time makes you appreciate it that much more when you do make it back. When I see my family again the time will be a little more special. I know I’ll only have a few weeks to see everyone, so I won’t take it for granted or waste the days away.
I have really enjoyed my time in South Korea. I don’t look at it like it is coming to an end in nine months, but the start of something new and exciting. I’ll be back one day to work again, but I am really looking forward to getting out and seeing other places I’ve never been.
Have you ever lived abroad or would you like to?