Just as I interviewed Christian Rytting for his experience about living in Saudi Arabia with his wife and young children, I was also impressed to ask Kelly King Anderson about her experience with working and living overseas.
“Kelly, What does it mean to you and your family to live and work overseas? What is your most favorite reason for being overseas with your family?”
Her beautiful answer: ***10 Things I hope I never forget from living abroad***
1. Relationships are the best souvenirs!!
I can’t even imagine our lives now without the wonderful friends we’ve met in our travels and in sharing bonding experiences and making memories on trips and at our kids’ international private schools abroad with incredible, proactive, inspiring families and staff. When you’re living in sometimes challenging circumstances you really do become family with other people having similar journeys and you share openly and widely about how to make the best of it. We also have been very blessed to find key business partners unexpectedly from our travels, one we met on a cruise in Europe, a few randomly at yoga classes, and many in our associations with families at our school. With Facebook we keep in touch with these friends often and it has become a great joy for our whole family to expand our circle internationally.
2. Less is more.
When we sold our house, furniture, and cars we started to realize that we really were fine without a lot of possessions and we didn’t even think about the things we put in our storage unit. When we travel we usually just take a small backpack (school backpack size for the kids) and if longer, like six months to one location, we just take a carryon or small suitcase. I have never regretted traveling light. You have an excuse to buy something if needed and then you don’t overburden yourself in public transport like trains or buses. Now I really prefer minimalist living.
3. Give to the Community, Don’t Just Take.
When I got to Bali it was obvious that people came to receive healing, enlightenment, and to learn from holistic mentors. But what really inspired me was not the people who came to receive, rather, the people who also came to give. It was inspiring to see when a friend supported local kids education or seeing students who advocated people stop using plastic bags and use reusable bags instead, or my own daughter who spontaneously started a beach clean up one day in Mexico. Just yesterday my husband saw a need at our school in Sayulita with the library and made a donation to help the remodel. When we seek to uplift and inspire those around us, lending a hand and contributing to our community and local congregation as much as possible we all benefit more as a result.
4. Be Curious and Respectful
When we travel we try to ask questions about the local customs, culture, and aim to follow the traditions and observe their holidays whenever appropriate. It was particularly wonderful in Bali since they are 98% Hindu and it was so different from Western religions. It was incredibly tender to witness their devotion and commitment to put religious convictions first in their lives. In Mexico we learned quickly that it is really important to greet people coming and going with a kiss on the cheek and to be very appreciative of anything people do for you, complimenting meals, and other acts of service, much more verbal than in the USA. Everywhere we travel we see there are specific ways to show respect and honor their way of life.
5. Capture the Moments
You’re going to want to remember the special experiences of your travels so find a medium that works for you. For me it is Facebook because I can quickly share a photo and a little message about it and then I know it is saved and my family and friends can get an update and I can reference it later. I tried to start a blog when we started traveling but I found it to be too intimidating and difficult to share regularly. Instagram became a silly addiction so I dropped that right away and felt this was efficient. We also sought to have some professional photos of our family taken a few times over the years we’ve been traveling, once in Rome and once in Bali and we have really great images now that we will love forever.
6. Ask the Locals
When we were exploring moving to Bali we became friends with some people right away who gave us advice on where to live, eat, and shop, how to manage transportation, travel to other areas, etc. It was absolutely priceless support. In Mexico the same, our local friends helped us to adapt quickly and easily and learn about the best the community had to offer. I could go anywhere as long as I had a friend or mentor who had been there at least 6 months to help me out. The local area Facebook groups helped a lot too!
7. Support is a Bonus
I loved having support in both Bali and Mexico with cleaning, cooking, driving (in Bali), and shopping. I felt we were extra productive in these areas because our time could be focused on learning, doing projects and work that we wanted to do. We became great friends with some of the people we had working for us and they became big part of our experience in learning more about the local customs and helped us to be more aware of their needs.
8. Slow down
Walking became a big part of my experience in Bali and Mexico. I didn’t drive in Bali and so if I wanted to go anywhere I had to either hire a driver or get Matt to take me on the scooter. Often I just wanted to walk which took an extra long time but I appreciated the time to observe the locals and area. I learned a lot by slowing down in Mexico too. Generally speaking travel in the USA is all about getting to the destination as fast as possible without much thought about the journey whereas when you walk it becomes an event- how bumpy or uneven it is, the trash you might have to walk around, the dogs you pass by, tropical flowers around you, the neighbors who greet you, etc. I often spent time in reflection and letting go of time restraints and expectations of what I was “supposed” to accomplish and be more spontaneous if I wanted to go into a shop or get a coconut to drink, etc.
9. Open Heart, Open Mind
As a conservative Christian family there are many things that are often surprising and unexpected when we travel. We seek to be safe and always use good judgment in what we participate in and choose to do with our kids yet sometimes you just cannot predict what you will see and when you will see it. We have had many life lessons on opening our hearts and minds towards others who are much different than us. Just at our kids school in Bali (Green School) there was families there from over 55 countries! We got to learn to be more loving, patient, tolerant, sensitive, and accepting of others at school and in our community. We have become friends with people we would not normally have had a chance to meet and expanded our understanding of the many gifts that people have to offer and share with each other. We have learned to love learning other languages and cultures, become more politically savvy, and inspired by the many ways people seek to make a difference in the planet.
10. God is the Best Travel Companion
I have found that when we include God, and seek inspiration in our travel plans and stay open and flexible to what we should do or where we should go, it has always worked out. In three years we have been very happy and safe. I have rarely if ever felt that I was in a dangerous or harmful situation because we have always prayed for protection and guidance. We have seen things that we would never have had experienced if we had planned it by just being ‘at the right place at the right time’ and meeting people who helped us find the best place to stay or even to enjoy a meal because of their advice. It feels so beautiful to know God is taking care of the details!! Once my wallet fell out of my purse and a woman in Paris found it in front of my hotel, found my business cards and emailed me immediately saving me much grief and stress, particularly since I had an early flight the next day. Another time we mentioned to a cafe owner we were looking for a special home to rent and he emailed us when we saw an advertisement in the newspaper a few days later, seriously!? who does that!? It was incredible and our favorite home ever. Another time I was praying to know whether I should say in Bali or move to Mexico and I randomly saw a sign that said, “Mexico Beach” in the very moment I was praying! I cannot express the love I have for God and how close we have become because we have put our lives in His hands. We feel so blessed, happy, and joyful when we stay close to Him. I know He loves the adventures and surprises that await too.
I love, love, love to see people live their dreams. Her response reminded me that it’s important to be clear about your dream and trust that it will all come together the way it’s supposed too.
Safe travels, my lovely friend!