Friday, 31 May 2013

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing…Whitney Lenox

We have the pleasure of introducing Whitney Lenox tweeting @WhitBNimble as our guest blogger today. Here, former expat, Whitney, shares five ways life abroad prepared her for an unconventional life back home.

After living a life that didn’t foster my dreams for so many years, I identified my passions and found freedom by taking the leap into expat life. Here are five lessons I walked away with that can be applied to an unconventional life as a returnee.

1.   Living with Less

Living abroad taught me to live with less stuff, and fewer expectations. I found that any time I would conjure up a set of expectations; life would always turn out differently in the end. From a simple trip to the grocery store, to figuring out my new work environment, situations were never as I expected. Letting them play out rather than attempt to control them helped me to become comfortable with ambiguity.

In addition to flexible expectations, I learned to appreciate a smaller living space, fewer amenities, and less stuff. The ability to let things go, is setting me up for a much simpler, affordable life now that I have returned to the US.

2.   Being mobile

Once I accepted my position in Korea, I had to quickly tie up all loose ends in the US and prepare to move. This included selling my vehicle, and giving away most all of my belongings. Then, after completing my first working contract in Korea, I took off across Asia for six months. With each step, I became more and more adjusted to change, moving, and letting go of things I owned. This lesson has opened my horizons, and now I’m considering a plethora of options for new cities and living spaces I’d like to call home during my lifetime. Having a “nest”, and planting roots, is less of a necessity than it was in my past.

3.   Comfortable being different

There were many days that I felt like a fish-out-of-water while living abroad. Trying to pick up a new language, and blend in while figuring out a new culture, is nearly impossible at times. The more I experienced that outsider feeling, the more comfortable I felt being an outsider. I care much less about fitting in, and much more about trying new things and accepting diversity. I can apply this new found confidence to so many new, once intimidating, experiences.

4.   Work vs. Freedom

I took a significant pay cut when accepting a teaching job abroad. What I didn’t expect to gain was an immense amount of freedom. I was hooked. I never realised just how much of my freedom I was giving up for a paycheck, in the past. Adjusting my spending to support a lower income was well worth the time for hobbies and travel I gained. I will continue to live this way in the US by managing my finances in a way that leaves room for free time.

5. The adventure can continue

Upon leaving Korea, I knew that the adventure didn’t have to end. I had learned to freely explore, and find joy in the smallest things while living there. Returning to the US brought on a new set of challenges for finding excitement and joy in familiar places. I have risen to the occasion by trying new ways to observe places around me, continuing to travel, and documenting my experiences in a creative and meaningful way.

I hope you feel inspired to apply the lessons you’ve learned as an expat to live a confident, adventure-filled, unconventional life, back home. 

About the author

After living for several years as an expat in Asia, Whitney has returned home to begin the next chapter of her life. She is currently road tripping across the US to determine which city she’ll call home next. You can join her in her attempts at livin’ life to the nimblest, by visiting her lifestyle blog, Whit B Nimble or tweeting at @WhitBNimble.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Country in Review: Cayman Islands - “The Islands that Time Forgot”

Source: Flickr

People often think that the Cayman Islands are all about crystalline waters and white beaches. While this does justice to some aspects of the Islands (see image above), we think that there is a lot more to learn. We thought we would dig a little deeper to find out some interesting facts about what makes the Cayman Islands tick.

Source: Wikimedia

The Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory and to this day they have a Governor appointed by the UK. It is still custom to celebrate the British monarch’s birthday, despite the fact that there are just as strong ties with America and Spain who are geographically more connected to the Islands.  The Cayman Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1503 who named them ‘Las Tortugas’ because of the number of turtles to be seen in the surrounding waters. In fact, in 1586, when Sir Francis Drake visited the Islands, he  reported that they were ‘edible’ because they were so full of the marine creatures.

Source: Flickr

Indeed, Turtles have become intrinsic to Cayman culture. In the early history of the Islands, ships would come to hunt the turtles as sustenance for their crew. Nowadays, with the number of turtles depleting, breeding farms and environmental-education centres have been set up to restore the ocean’s eco-system.  In celebration of this humble creature, the sea turtle is now the official emblem of the department of tourism.

Source: Flickr

Grand Cayman was recently made famous after it was used as a setting – under the name Tortuga - in a popular pirate film. Funnily enough, this cultural reference draws from some truth in Cayman history.  The Islands were occupied by pirates in the 18th Century who were seeking a hideout as they plundered the nearby Cuba while infamous pirates such as Blackbeard are rumoured to have used the islands to hide their treasure.  In recognition of this, the Islands host 11 days of pirate-themed festivities each November. As well as celebrating the actual pirate history, the festivities serve to boost tourism in the country’s low season. Since it was established in 1977, it has grown into a huge tourist attraction and involves everything from music, street dances, costumes, parades, sporting events and fireworks.

Source: Flickr

Are you an expat in the Cayman Islands? Make sure that the Cayman Islands get included in this year’s Expat Explorer Survey by having your say and clicking here.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Expat traits

Some people are just born to be expats; those that are constantly on the move with itchy feet after a short period of time in one location. According to the 2012 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, more than one in five expats have lived in 3 or more destinations. So today we’re taking a look at some of those traits that make a serial expat:

Picture source: Wikicommons

Easy to adapt

Being in unfamiliar surroundings often means the daily chores in life take that bit longer. An experienced expat is good at taking all this on the chin and accepting that sometimes expat life has different challenges to home life. Try to make local friends so you can understand things such as utility bills and the way of taking out essential services such as gas and mobile phone contracts. Also remember to allow that bit of extra time for things. For example if going to an unfamiliar part of town, give it a bit longer in case you get lost or find yourself on an unexpected diversion. 

Language skills

One of the potential obstacles with relocation is understanding the local language or dialect. Having the confidence to try to speak a new language is particularly important and is often endearing to the local residents who appreciate expats making the effort put in. Luckily there are lots of tools to help in the digital age although there is no better way to develop than going out there and talking to people to hone your language skills.

Good at making friends

The serial expat is forever leaving one place and moving on to the next which can entail leaving friends and family behind. One of the best ways to help you deal with missing friends and family is to make new ones in your destination.  Think about visiting local nightlife destinations or going to sports matches, also don’t forget the local clubs and societies that exist, particularly within the expat community, as these can be a great way to make friends with both locals and expats. 

Picture source: Wikicommons

Able to blend in

As an expat it is important to respect the local cultures and customs. Adapting to the local environment and making a new country home can take a long time although the seasoned expat is able to adapt to new cultures easily. For those expats looking to make the culture assimilation easier, think about talking to experienced expats from your country and try to build up a regular lifestyle pattern to help you feel more structured in your new location. 

Are you a serial expat? What traits do you think make a good expat? Leave us a comment in the box below.

Expat Explorer returns for another year! Tell us your experiences today. Just click here to start!



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