America was built on a venture – immigrants came from overseas and built this great nation called The United States. As a multilingual American immigrant, I’ve been lucky enough to travel across a good part of the planet. For some folks, this might be a snooty point of pride. For me, it’s essential to life as a global financier and journalist. Our existence on this Earth — now that we’ve gained some comparative cosmic perspective — is exceedingly short. It never made sense to me, even when I was child, to spend an entire life fixed in one localized geographical point.
Living is about experience, the good and the bad. If you’re committed to a variety of life experiences, you’ll have to head out into the world. Two weeks in Paris, London or the Bahamas just doesn’t cut it, although to be fair, that’s not a bad start. If you’ve ever thought about a move abroad, here are six exceedingly good reasons why you ought to give it a try. We all need a little nudge from time to time.
It’s easy to fall into a repetitive groove. People drive or walk the same route for years on end, shop in the same stores, go to the same cinemas and restaurants and hang out with the same friends. By living in a foreign county, that all gets shaken up. Outdoor markets, bartering for goods, food items you’ve never encountered before, trams, funiculars, water taxis, new friends and new places to explore — even if it’s only for something as simple as buying groceries — suddenly become yours.
A Fresh Set of Eyes
When you live and are immersed in another culture, it becomes possible to gain some perspective on “home.” Some things might seem amazing in your new locale, and better than where you come from. You’ll see how “group think” often ties people to a certain (and not necessarily healthy) way of life, simply because they have nothing else to compare it to. A diversity of life experience can make a theoretical reality in your brain (foreign healthcare systems, gun laws, food cultures) a tangible reality that you can learn from and compare with what you were told by others about how the greater world works — or doesn’t work. To borrow a phrase from Sergio Leone, you’ll get to see the good, the bad and the ugly all for yourself.
Learn a New Culture and Language because it expands one’s brain
If variety is the spice of life, why spend your one life (unless you believe in literal reincarnation) living inside one culture and one language? Unless you’re a toddler, you wouldn’t want to eat macaroni and cheese for every meal for the rest of your days, would you? Seeing how people go about the business of living and what’s on offer in a foreign land, ranging from places as dissimilar as Spain and Japan, is how you can spice up the “meal” of life and make it more than a few simple entrées. Aren’t food metaphors wonderful?
Losing the Notion of “Other”
When you hear a news report, which is generally bad news more often than not, about something going down in another country, it can often be like reading a history book about an event not connected to your modern timeline.
If you have no experience of a place where something is happening, it’s just images and facts being reported. Once you lived there, and made friends with or at least interacted with people from the local community, they become more real and less “other.” That doesn’t mean you’ll like or agree with everything they do or say, but they’ll join your mental map of the human race. This should broaden your horizons and keep you less bound to the local “tribe” you belong to, which is often defined by region, religion, language, race and nationality.
Italian wine, topless beaches in France, bacchanalian bashes in Ibiza, fresh Czech beer, psychedelic brews in Ecuador, Carnival in Rio, half moon festivals in Thailand … Who said living abroad had to only be about becoming a deeper person? While American house parties are awesome, a truly committed party animal shouldn’t be limited to the partying customs of a single continent. Why not take the festivities on the road?
A Better Quality of Life
Many places, especially in Europe, enjoy a better quality of life than the average American partakes of (not that we have it all that bad). People live longer, receive better and more affordable healthcare, enjoy more intimate social surroundings in their local community, aren’t stuck in their cars as much, have more vacation time and are less obese. While there’s plenty of social strife to go around, and nowhere is without its problems, if you choose wisely, not only will you learn about another culture, you just might add a few years to your life while adding to your collection of things to enjoy about it.
The latest Panama Papers sensation is a truly shallow taste for less traveled, narrow-minded people with hardly overseas experience. America proudly calls herself the land of the free and the leader of the world. Leaders cannot lead effectively unless we learn what the world is like. Make sense? Dump the Panama Papers in the trash, get your backpacks and see the world America.