Taking Advantage of the Crossroads
The expat life is sometimes quite unstable. For those abroad on a job post, this job can evaporate and leave you in an uncertain position. Ariana from And Here We Are writes a guest post about how to harness this instability and use it at these times to change your life for the better. She and her family are in such a time of transition, and I wish them all the best. –Andrew
For most travelers and expats, times of uncertainty are a given. We don’t know what exactly will happen when the plane lands, or who we will get help from, where we will be living, or what our new home will be like. There are lots of little unknowns that make up the adventure in our day-to-day lives, and this is often what entices us to choose to travel and live abroad. But sometimes the unknown looms very large. Huge, even. We have no idea what is next. Major transitions come along, and we are flooded with uncertainty. These times can be incredibly overwhelming, and it’s hard to know where to start. Although scary, I think these times can also be a real gift. I’d like to encourage you to approach these situations head-on, making an effort to make the most of these crossroads.
First, it’s best to go ahead and dive right into your doubts and anxieties, to get them out of the way. Hash out your worst fears. Describe in detail your worst-case-scenario, and examine the feelings and logistics that might accompany the situation. Usually, it’s not really as awful as it seems, and nothing is worse than nebulous fear. Identify each of your fears, and examine them. This will also help you evaluate your options more clearly, when they come up. This is also a good time to think through what you would be willing to do, in terms of types of work you can perform, countries and places you are willing to move to, length of stay somewhere temporary, and other factors that may come up in a bumpy transition. Also make a list of resources that would possibly be available to you in your worst-case-scenario. Things that come to mind are unemployment benefits, living with a family member, taking a temporary job, returning back “home” for a time, etc. Sometimes these options are not necessarily very attractive, but it is still comforting to know that these safety nets are in place, should the need arise.
Most of us go through life just doing what is expected, or what is most natural in our current situation. Times of transition provide us a with a unique chance to take stock and make some proactive decisions about how we want to live life. Take this as an opportunity to dream about your most ideal scenario. It’s really helpful to articulate what your dreams are, whether they seem achievable or not. This way, you can evaluate opportunities in a positive and hopeful way, working toward something good, rather than just trying to avoid something negative. Identify and discuss ideas about what makes life fulfilling for you, and how that can be a part of your future somehow. I like to think about and write down jobs that I would find incredibly fun or energizing, and living situations that would make me really happy. Maybe you won’t be finding yourself in those very scenarios next month, but when opportunities arise, you will be able to recognize them as something that could be just right for you. Be creative, think outside the box, and spend time dreaming. Write it all down. It’s important to have a concrete idea of what we want in life, and to be able to reference these things later on, when we are caught up in our day-to-day lives.
Seize the day. Maybe you are going to be leaving a job, a home, or a city that you love. There are probably lovely people you will miss, and places to remember fondly. Don’t forget that you are still there, right now! Enjoy all of the wonderful things and places and people that you have in this moment. It is tempting to start saying goodbye as soon as we learn that our situation is temporary– this is a self-defense mechanism. Goodbyes are inevitable, but they don’t have to come before their time. Make a point of enjoying all of the parts of your life that you love, right now. Take day trips, eat at your favorite restaurants, make dates to see your friends. Seizing the day also includes taking advantage of current contacts and resources. Let the people around you know that you’re unsure about what the next step is, and that you are facing many challenges. Perhaps one of them has just the right contact for a new job, or knows a key person in an area you are interested in. The important thing is to not let your future overwhelm your present. Expect good things to come, and notice the good things that are already here.
Times of transition can be stressful and anxiety-producing, but having the right mindset and an optimistic spirit can go a long way to turn this into a positive opportunity. Fear not– the best is yet to come!
March 2, 2011 @ 10:03 pm
Loved the article and understand the uncertainty of changes.
I’ve been living as an expat now in Switzerland since one and a half years, and because of my job, I’m never sure where I’m going to be, not even the next two weeks. I guess it’s something you learn to deal with.
I also agree on your that, instead of just starting to say goodbye once you know you’re just temporarily in a place, you should enjoy your time. I’m “temporary” all the time!
March 3, 2011 @ 8:32 am
That concept of goodbye is a good one. I will agree with the “enjoy rather than regret” mindset.
March 3, 2011 @ 7:25 pm
Wow, that must be hard! Really exciting, I’m sure, but sometimes even adventure can get old. And now to go read up on your travels….
March 2, 2011 @ 6:42 pm
I love how you are charging on with the change going on in your life Ariana! From a selfish perspective, the more you travel the more we get to read about! 😉
March 2, 2011 @ 6:58 pm
Hey, no complaints here about the travel. I will gladly charge on, for your entertainment!
March 3, 2011 @ 8:30 am
Yay, entertainment. 🙂
Travel and talk about it. I am interested in hearing your stories as well. Thanks again for the article. I am dealing with some change as well in my life and it is good to read this kind of support.