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Travel, Expatriation and Living Life in Technicolor

Have you ever tried setting your phone’s screen settings to black and white? Switch the settings back to color and that is the impression I had when I was living in Bali in 2013…

My conversation with Amy Schwartz, founder of Unleash Surf, on The Oceanriders Podcast, got me thinking and reminiscing about my sabbatical trip to Bali in 2013.

Unleash Surf organises a remote working and surf experience in Peru, for people in need of time out, but where they can still benefit the creature comforts such as high speed internet, an instant community and nice comfy apartments. Amy makes sure her guests are totally immersed into the local culture. As soon as they step off the plane, the guests experience what it’s like to live as an expatriate.

This is a brilliant idea, especially for people who don’t have the time to do the research and take those first 2 months to create their own bearings.

What struck a chord in our conversation was when Amy said on my podcast:

“I know, for me personally that (when I’m in a foreign country) is when I’m at my best. Is when I’m able to surf every day, see new things, feel new things, smell new things, taste new things, that’s when I have my best ideas, my best openness to the world. »

Amy Schwartz

Listen to the full episode here

Seeing new things, tasting new things, smelling new things…

My 6 month trip to Bali was absolutely mind blowing. The people I met, the experiences, the language, the food, the fragrances, the colors, the smiles and the surfing!

Everything was different from my life beforehand. In fact, when I re-read my blog posts I can’t believe how far out of my comfort zone I was over there (and how much of a sissy I was) and how more adventurous I am today.

Travel makes you open your eyes, makes you question things like: “What on earth does this signpost mean??”

Travel forces you to navigate on your own, to find shortcuts without Google maps and learn how to drive on the other side of the road.

Travel teaches you to learn all about the natural remedies for tropical ills (papaya leaves and mangostean peels are amazing), to learn to adjust, to adapt and to fit in.

But ultimately, the experience of this 6 month trip taught me how to take time out to let my mind wander, to find a community and develop a “why not?” attitude.

Travelling enables your mind to wander…

In Bali, you are forced to take things slow : you shouldn’t set out to do more than one « chore » a day otherwise it’s a constant deception. Bali teaches you to take time, and to contemplate life differently.

It was exactly during this time that I picked up a book at the Periplus bookstore in Seminyak, a book that would change my perspective on lots of things in my life, the ultimate digital nomad’s guide to independence: The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Not only did this book blow my mind because of the paradigms it shifts, the reading lead me to more and more inspiring books along the way.

Seeing work from a completely different angle gave me the opportunity to expand my boundaries, to think up new business ideas, and that ultimately lead me to quit my job at my husband’s company and to start my own business.

Fast forward 5 years, I may not be earning any more than I was when I left for Bali, but my life is so much richer.

Finding a community : an instant replacement to family.

Expatriation is no easy feat : you’re forced, in a way, to make contact with people, reach out for help (even something as simple as asking for directions) and get advice from the locals. You mustn’t be shy.

In my case,it taught me to replace my family : I had the joy of an “instant” community, facilitated by the fact my kids were at school there (Green School Bali — I’ll dedicate a whole article to that soon). As a Green School parent, I had a chance to connect with some amazing people with the same values as me.

When you’re on the other side of the world the connections you make are so much more intense. Solidarity becomes a norm. I witnessed it first hand when a family couldn’t afford to fly home to tend to a dying relative. Everybody pulled together and paid for the plane tickets. Would that happen in France?

Learning the language made a huge difference. As soon as I had mastered the 150+ survival words to communicate in Indonesian, life was so much more colorful : I was privileged to be invited to local events and ceremonies. Something I don’t think I would have done if I had just been a simple tourist communicating in English.

Incubating a “why not?” attitude

My trip to Bali opened up a whole new attitude for me. An eye-opener for me was when my kids were sick for a week and they missed a bunch of classes. I didn’t know what to do and how they were going to catch up. Out of nowhere, friend of mine said, “why don’t you invite the teacher for dinner? In a couple of hours your kids will have caught up in no time?” Why hadn’t I thought of that? Something I would never have imagined doing with the faculty of teachers in France…

This “why not” attitude has followed me ever since. Why not create a new business in organic superfoods? Why not create an e-commerce website? Why not start a podcast?

Returning to Amy’s quote on my podcast, I see exactly where she’s coming from when she say’s she’s at her best in new environments. I think I am too. The collateral effects of this 6 month trip have had numerous repercussions on my life ever since.

I really encourage anybody to start travelling as soon as possible. It’s never too late: I’m in my mid 40’s now and it didn’t stop me. Travel imprints technicolor memories into your brains.

As a friend of mine in Bali pointed out (and it’s now become a family mantra):

“You know what you know. You know what you don’t know. But you don’t know what you don’t know.”

What are your thoughts?

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