“…well, I guess you must have a touch of crazy in you to move to and live in China. But I think for some, that craziness comes in the form of strength and creativity; and in such cases, you flourish.”
During a recent semester-culminating professional development session at Xing Kong in Kunshan, China, I was asked to share with the group what I deemed to be my “happy place,” or the one time or place that I have felt “complete bliss.” Such a heartfelt question was a bit tricky for my notoriously restless soul, however my answer drew itself quite clearly: my place of happiness is not just one place at all, it is actually a feeling, an all-encompassing overwhelming that is so specific and so poignant that when it comes I get physical goosebumps. For me, nirvana is waking up and venturing out in a place that I have yet to explore, whether it be a city, village, campsite, or beach. Bliss is knowing that a truly unique moment is entirely mine and that in it, I am completely free. Euphoria is the temporary ownership of time and space to explore, get lost and indulge in all before me.
Personally, the sparkling manifestation of what my life was “supposed to look like” has evolved with changing hemispheres, nationalities and languages. I am now overtly aware that in order to balance unavoidable adulthood while simultaneously nourishing my gypsy-soul, I must have a career that allows both travel and financial stability. This has become a reality for me while living in both Taiwan (previously) and now in China, both of which were with Banyan Global Learning schools. However, being disconnected from your everything at home while living abroad – and, more specifically, teaching abroad – is not always easy and is even less glamorous. There are days of small triumphs and beautiful glimpses of the traceable footprint you leave behind in a culture that you will never fully understand… but there is also a creeping sense of isolation that comes with living a world away or “in the future” (as my friends in the States lovingly refer to it).
Yet, through my personal experiences I have found that much of that which is left behind stays constant as it is me who grows, changes, expands and blooms. It’s impossible to write of the excitement that ensues when you are able to plan a weekend get-away to Hong Kong or Macau, or a four-day excursion to South Korea or Singapore. In order to find honest contentment with your path and lose yourself in the adventure and constant wonderment of living abroad, it takes wrapping your mind around the fact that you won’t be gone forever (that is, if you don’t want to be).
One way to do this is by connecting with other expats, both at your place of work and while traveling throughout the region. Through my travels I have met some truly incredible people: explorers from all over the globe that wholeheartedly believe in and embrace the challenge of life outside of the norm; People that live and see life through a uniquely scoped lens; individuals that I admire, trust and love deeply. The greatest gift has been meeting and loving this select group of wanderers. They have taught me to believe in the truth and sanctity of every moment that surrounds me. Through these relationships and the rare mirrors that they provide, I recognize the my undisguised vulnerability along with my softness to new experiences, rare cultures and unique souls. In a world where vulnerability is so quickly coupled with weakness, I choose to wear mine on my sleeve and to allow myself to be unrelinquishingly real. This, in turn, allows me to connect more genuinely with the people with whom I share these experiences.
So, as I sit here, in this lovely cafe in Xintiandi, a small pocket tucked away in the bustle of Shanghai, surrounded by locals and fellow nomads alike, I think back on and embrace the past five months of my life in China and the past 4 years working with BGL. I leave in the morning for Thailand – an adventure I have hoped for since I was a child – and then will be reunited with friends and family in the States for a few short weeks. Very few jobs that I know of offer such a substantial mid-year perk with time off to travel the globe and have your adventure-dreams come to fruition.