As you may have read, I recently took a vacation trip to Mexico with my husband for our one year anniversary. Not our original choice, but one that was made in part due to my friend who had so well sold me on the idea that Mexico was a wonderful place. Last summer, she had visited and stayed in both Holobox and Mérida. In Mérida, she stayed in a renovated Hacienda hotel. The Hotel Julamis is owned by New Jersey ex-pats who had made the decision to leave their corporate lives in America for a much simpler life in Mexico. Their life change dubbed as "living out of the box".
Over drinks after an insane day at work, we chatted about her experience and our common interests of wanting to more from life. That conversation is when she broke the news to me that she would be making a life change.
I first met Abby when she working as a Client Services Director for a boutique marketing agency in NYC. I was one of her clients. She had been living and working in New York since the age of twenty one and after nine years she decided to get rid of her apartment, all of the things in it and her job to travel around the world. She came to this decision after a particularly successful client meeting, when she realized that she was no longer inspired by the life she was living “in the box”.
In the Fall of 2013, she packed up, withdrew her savings and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. The goal: to see the world and how others live, to experience cultures in a meaningful way that her two-week vacations never fully allowed for and to find inspiration in these experience – an inspiration that had been lost after years of 60-hour work weeks, consumerism and the struggle to get further and further ahead in NYC.
Since November, Abby has traveled to sixteen countries around the world and has lived in two, using them as a “home base”. She is currently living in Hanoi, Vietnam where she is eating pho and working on her first novel.
Her advice on leaving it all behind, traveling, living and working abroad:
- Just do it. Set a date, pick a place to start and buy a ticket. No excuses. I have seen grandparents, young families, and single people living an ex-pat life. They make it work and are better for it. It’s not as hard as you think it will be.
- Forget any expectations you may have. It won’t always match up to your romanticized version. But, oftentimes, it will exceed it.
- Prepare yourself for the reality that much of world lives with very little. So you’ll have to excuse them if they can’t offer you a Grey Goose martini. Order the homemade wine or vodka instead.
- Stay with families as often as possible. This is how you really will understand a culture. Not in a hotel.
- Listen and ask questions. Learn as much as you can from fellow travelers , ex-pats and the locals. Talk to everyone.
- Strive for a level of kindness, compassion and humility that almost seems impossible. It will create an openness and trust that people will recognize. And in turn, they will treat you with the same.
- Remember we are all the same and want the same things. Rid yourself of any superior Western attitude.
- Learn to sleep comfortably uncomfortably.
- Have a supply of Cipro so you can eat on the streets.
- Learn how to count to 10 and how to say “please”, “thank you” and “hello and goodbye” in each countries language. Write it on your palm until you remember.
- Find happiness in small things that you would have just EXPECTED before: a jar of peanut butter, a can of really cold Diet Coke, a great dry cleaner, crosswalks, flush toilets.
- Meet people wherever you are through Facebook groups, Meet Ups, embassies, etc. Create a network and stay in touch.
- Don’t be afraid to be lonely. It will happen and then it will be over.
- Be patient. Not everyone needs to know how to speak English or know how do it y(our) way.
- Develop your hand gestures. Sometimes it’s the only way to communicate.
- Bring ¼ of the stuff you think you need.
- Don’t bring the baggage of your old life with you. Leave the toxic friendships and ex-lovers behind. Start fresh.
- Earplugs. Earplugs. Earplugs.
- Don’t let anyone tell you your choice to leave is foolish. They are jealous. And they are boring.
- Be brave.
All photos were pulled from Abby's instagram account. You can follow Abby's adventures through instagram, @abbynydam.
Thank you for reading, I hope you are as inspired as I am.