Hola, Charm City…Here’s What I Think I’ve Learned Since I Called You Home
“Are you a Ravens fan?”
“I’m not much for football,” I had to admit, “but growing up my Dad was a Colts fan.”
“Ah, you’re a true Baltimorean!” my interviewer exclaimed. “The Baltimore Colts…those were real men playing real football…”
That was the start of an hour-long conversation I had this week with a couple of drive-time radio DJ’s in my home town of Baltimore, Maryland. Professional sports was the ice-breaker but not the point. The topic of the talk-radio conversation was why so many Americans are choosing to retire overseas…and where they’re going.
Later in the week I was interviewed by a Wells Fargo reporter who took a more personal approach. “If you could offer one piece of advice to someone thinking about moving overseas,” she asked, “what would it be?”
“My best advice for someone starting a new life in a new country would be to manage expectations. Don’t expect things to work the way they worked back home, because nothing will. Everything will be new and different. See that not as intimidating but as part of the fun, and your new life in your new country will be every bit the success you’re hoping for and a grand adventure.
“Try to show the locals ‘better’ ways to do things or question why things aren’t done the way you’re used to them being done, and your experience will be more frustrating than fun.”
“How has living abroad improved or changed your outlook about life and about the world?” my interviewer wondered next.
“I was shy as a young woman,” I admitted. “I’m more open and comfortable with people now, because I’ve learned that people, everywhere, we’re all the same. We’re trying to do our best, raise our families, provide for the future, and leave some mark. Doesn’t matter where we’re born, where we wander, or where in society we find ourselves. Fundamentally, we’re the same.
“And, fundamentally,” I continued, “in my experience, the world is full of opportunity, not trouble.
“If you get your information about the state of things from cable news and government publications, you’re likely to think that things are bad all over. Go out and take a look around for yourself, and you find that things are, actually, good all over. Bad things happen everywhere, and people do bad things to each other all the time. But, beneath it all…and above it all…the world is a big, interesting, fun, adventure-filled place full of upside.”
I was waxing sentimental, but I’d have to say that that’s indeed what all these years living and working abroad have taught me.
The other thing I’ve learned, I told my interviewer this week, is that the most important thing in life is showing up. Get up…move on…go forward…etc. Just do what you’re thinking you’d like to do. Put yourself in the position or the situation. You don’t know what a change or a challenge or an opportunity will mean or where it will lead until you show up and face it. When you do, you’ll find that, wherever the effort leads, you’ll have a story to tell.