On September 1st, 2015 I boarded a plane at 1 am to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I had told the company that hired me that I could leave the states any time after the 31 of August, little did I know that meant only an hour later.
I don’t think I truly knew what I was getting myself into. I was moving to a new country, where I knew absolutely no one, with only two suitcases. I was scared, yes, but I didn’t really realize how much I was changing my life and yet how little it changed. Overall, I feel incredibly lucky with where I ended up.
I had heard the horror stories: people going to the middle of nowhere China, hired as the only foreign teacher at their school, and leaving after only a few months, feeling isolated and full of culture shock. I wanted to believe that wouldn’t be me. I’d stick it out, I’d be flexible and I’d adapt.
But honestly I still have no idea how I would have handled that situation because I did not land in China. I landed in a country where a large percentage of the population speak English. My coworkers consisted of three other girls from California. I was not alone. I wasn’t full of culture shock.
From day one, I was given so much support from my coworkers, who told me everything from how to set up my phone to how to get birth control. My Malaysian coworkers translated forms to English for me and showed me where to buy the best Malaysian food. I was integrated into friend groups that existed before I got here, who took me in with open arms.
was am lucky.
That’s not to say it has been easy. . I’ve had some trying times, some embarrassing cultural miscommunications, moments of isolated in non-English speaking countries. I’ve cried in the middle of airports, been ripped off because I didn’t remember the exchange rate.
But it has been easier than I expected. I expected isolation. I expected massive culture shock, similar to what I felt in China, one of the few countries I had been to before I moved to Malaysia.
What I got instead was a few days of jetlagged filled daze before settling into an apartment nicer than anything I would ever be able to afford in the U.S.
I’m grateful for the beautiful life I’ve chosen (yes, it was a choice) but I’m grateful for every miscommunication and every mistake along the way. I’m grateful for every opportunity that forces me to learn something new. I’m grateful for the moments where I’ve had to question my own beliefs and practices to understand another view.
I’m thankful for the moments where I’ve had to rely on the kindness of complete strangers. I’m thankful that I was in the position to jump on a plane to start a new job. I’m thankful to have the support of my family who have never told me that I was being foolish.
But overall, I’m thankful for myself. I’m thankful for my motivation to choose what I wanted, to build the life I desired. I’m thankful that I decided to put my desire to travel and to learn about the world first. I want to encourage you all to do the same. I don’t mean I want to encourage you to travel (which yes, I do) but more importantly I want to encourage you to prioritize what’s important in your life. To choose your life rather than letting things just happen to you.