10 Lessons I Learned from Living Abroad
I had the opportunity to live abroad for 3.5 years on my journey to Financial Independence being abroad and having my company pay for most of my main living expenses allowed me to invest my base salary annually and moved my FI date up be at least 5 years.
1. Find ways to have others pay your expenses
This is my only lesson that actually is FI related because I believe finance is only one part of the FIRE journey and we’ve heard these lessons over again, but finding ways to house hack, travel hack, get credit card points or doing mystery shopping to get free meals or other freebies. There are ways that we’ve all heard in my case it was having 1 company that paid for nearly all my living expenses.
2. Showing kindness doesn’t require speaking the same language
If you’ve ever traveled before maybe you’ve also experience this, but it is more in body language and actions that show someone cares. Out of my 4 main friends in Brazil, 3 barely spoke English, but I was always welcomed and included and I could feel that energy from them while I was around.
My apartment complex also had a gym instructor who was there for hours every night, she spoke no English, but I was able to participate in all the classes. I knew she was excited to see me and honestly that feeling of kindness kept me accountable to going back.
3. Ask for & accept help
I know when I help someone I get this feeling of gratification. We like to help others, but it’s interesting because in an independent country we feel like we shouldn’t ask for help. I got 2 flat tires in Brazil and never actually changed my tire because people stopped to help. The first time a retired pilot stopped, it was dusk and I was over 50 miles from my apartment. While we chatted I found out that he was a pilot who had flown with my company’s engines and he lived in the same city as I did. After we stopped to see if the tire could be refilled, determining it couldn’t. He followed me the entire way back to the city I lived in to make sure nothing happened to me. And while this might sound creepy in our society, it actually was from a place of kindness and my safety.
I also had a coworker that would make my doctors’ appointments, make sure they spoke English and in several cases went to hospitals or doctors with me in case I needed a translator. Once I tried to arrange it and I arrived a day late to an appointment. This creates a much stronger bond/friendship.
4. Say yes to life
I’ve lived in 5 locations in 8 years, I learned that when you arrive to a place someone will only ask you to do something 3 times before they stop inviting you if you never accept an invitation. You never know where you’re going to meet your future best friend or partner so it’s best to just say yes and enjoy whatever experience is thrown at you including a Carnaval mud block party which I enjoyed and thought was so unique I did not once, but twice.
5. Embrace cultural differences and expand your comfort zone
The first time I tried to go to a post office in Brazil it took my going to 3 different post office with tears in the middle as I struggled to do what seems like such a basic task in your home country, but I persevered and got my work contract mailed out.
The first time I went to Sao Paulo I went to park the car and parked, but it was there I had to hand my car and my keys over in a not nice area of the city and hope that when I came back my tiny sheet of paper was going to get me my car back. It felt very strange in the moment, but what felt right and was right for that culture felt very strange to me, but with time I expanded my comfort zone.
6. Unplug from work
This one sometimes can feel like the hardest thing, it may only be a quick reply to someone or checking work emails, but if something happened to you tomorrow or you quit tomorrow, the company would find a way to move on. They should be able to handle you being gone for a couple of days or weeks while you can do awesome things like ride a camel in the Sahara desert or go piranha fishing in the Amazon.
7. Collect amazing memories
This photos on the left was 2 weeks before I left Brazil. I had no idea the pandemic was going to forever impact my life, but I took my best friend on a hot air balloon ride for her birthday and from the air we sang happy birthday in Portuguese. It was a spectacular day and these are the memories I hold deepest about my time in the country.
8. Have a good support system
We all go through struggles and as an expat who has given up your own culture and food we experience a lot of challenges that can push us to our limits, but I have an amazing family and group of friends both in the US and eventually local in Brazil that were there to chat when I needed them.
9. Speak up
Whether it be at work, for the environment, relationships or our beliefs, it’s important to speak up. You can’t change things that might be going wrong or have things change if you never voice your opinions or needs.
10. GTFO of bad situations
While I do encourage speaking up to make change, it also isn’t your responsibility when it’s at the risk of your mental health. It can take everything out of you. I should have known it was time to leave this job when I was finding different doctors to go to because I enjoyed the time away from the emotionally draining time at work, but it also helps when you have health insurance that covers nearly everything.
BONUS- Take the trip alone
For my 30th birthday I had the opportunity to be away from the office for 30 days and while it was over Christmas and New Years, I embraced it because I may have only had some friends for a couple hours or days, those friendships were perfect for those moments. I grew a lot in my own way. It doesn’t have to be an international trip either, I went to an inclusive resort in Bermuda for my first trip alone and I loved it. I now have a Bermuda family made up of about 4-5 of us that were there and we enjoyed some meals and drinks together, but it made the trip so much more enjoyable and you never know who you’re going to meet.