Thursday, January 29, 2015

Feeling at home in a new culture

What does home mean to you? Is it a place? A person? A feeling? 

We, as humans possess a certain hunger for travel, for discovery, and for adventure, yet a thirst for the known and familiar. Of course, it was difficult leaving my family, but in my first six months of living abroad, I realized that you can make just about anywhere feel like home if you make an effort.

Whether you are in a new country for a week, a year, or even longer, I encourage you to throw yourself in head first and live like the locals do. Be eager to soak up everything there is to know about your new city, culture, and way of life. Bring a half-full suitcase so you can fill it up with treasures of your new country when (or if) you return to your roots.
Follow these tips for a smooth transition instead of a rocky road into a new culture.

1. Let go of expectations

Preconceived notions of a place will only lead to disappointment. Sure, minor details of a new culture will frustrate the hell out of you at times, but learn to let go and even embrace the differences. The fewer expectations you have, the smoother your travels or transition into living in the area will be. 

2. Be open to new experiences

In your time abroad, make a commitment to do one thing every day that scares you. Was I 100% ready to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, climb a massive mountain, or parasail thousands of feet up in New Zealand? Absolutely not. Would I have regretted missing out on these once in a lifetime opportunities? Absolutely.

Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone early and often. I've come to realize if you are always stuck inside a warm, cozy box, you are doing life wrong!

3. Disconnect

Truly. If you are constantly glued to your phone and social media, how do you expect to enjoy the present moment, in the here and now? Designate events without wifi or texting. Wait until down time before bed to choose an instagram filter. Look up, down, and all around. There is a beautiful world surrounding you, just waiting to be explored.

4. Meet new people

When you travel, you are inevitably forced to let people and places go. As silly as it seems, I encourage you to talk to strangers! Take the opportunity to smile and engage with the people around you. Whether it’s locals or other travellers and expats, the knowledge you will gain from meeting people from all walks of life is invaluable. 

Take in the new sights, new foods, new people, and new ways of doing things. Join expat meetups, sports teams, or hobby groups to find others you can relate to on a deeper level. Want the best food around? Fun entertainment options? The locals will tell you exactly where the hot spots are, likely better suggestions than UrbanSpoon or TripAdvisor will ever provide.

5. Do all the touristy things

Explore it all while you have the chance. I've taken on the Harbour Bridge Climb, toured the Sydney Opera House, and am soon to visit the Taronga Zoo, things many Sydney natives have never experienced.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Stay positive. Worrying solves absolutely nothing, especially if it is something you have no control over. Rain will ruin your beach day and motion sickness will ruin your anniversary dinner in the 360 degree Sydney Tower Eye. Stressing about the mundane will drain you. 

7. Be flexible

Plan ahead, but not too far ahead. It's important to have a general plan of attack, but don't worry about the nitty gritty details of the future. You will be much happier once you learn to go with the flow and will end up pleasantly surprised by the way things work out instead of stressed when plans fall flat.

8. Go broke

I know this all too well with the outrageous cost of living in Sydney. As such a secluded island, flights to any other country are inevitably expensive as well. Don’t even think about the money, it’s the experience that matters. Living abroad makes you a richer person. The material items will come and go. Our lives are worth investing in moments like these.

9. Bring your own culture (BYOC)

Most countries don’t make as huge of a deal of holidays as we do in America. My Aussie friends had never experienced Thanksgiving before, so of course we had to rally together for a Yanksgiving feast. I made it a potluck to get everyone involved. Although they were hesitant to try their hands at the casseroles, stuffing, and pumpkin pie which were so foreign to them, they stepped outside of their comfort zone just as I do every day. I was so proud with the results!

10. Make your new physical space home

I was afraid to decorate my room in my new apartment for the first few months since I didn’t know how long I would be sticking around. The white walls left me feeling depressed, like I was living in a hotel. As soon as I got bedding that expressed my colorful personality and hung a few paintings and pictures of family on the wall, my mood skyrocketed!

To my fellow expats: how do you make your new country feel like home?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Zealand: Part 1

If New Zealand isn't near the tip top of your bucket list, these pictures of my trip to the south island are sure to convince you. I could have spent months exploring this beautiful country, but sadly did not have time to make it to the north island in a week's time. As stunning as these pictures are, they simply don't do the scenery justice. Trust me, you have to make this trip across the globe for the adventure of a lifetime!


Lake Wakatipu

Gibbston Valley & Amsfield Wineries

Coronet Peak

The Chasm

Apologies in advance for the photo bombardment. This is part one of a four part series, so stay tuned for more eye candy!