Though in 2013 it is more acceptable, affordable, and achievable to travel overseas than ever before, Americans who travel long-term or even relocate internationally for work is still not something that happens everyday; many would say I am a bit of a rarity.
Many overseas travelers receive many forms of backlash, disinterest, or lack of enthusiasm from the people with whom they are closest. And that is hard. I am lucky enough to have a strong support system of family and friends both near and far. The vast majority of people support my decision to move to France, or they at least know that moving overseas is something i need to do for myself. However, every time someone asks me what I am up to post grad life and I explain my plans, these are the two most frequent responses I encounter:
1. “Aren’t you scared to travel alone as a female?” No, I’m not “scared.” In fact, solo female traveler is a title I am proud to have and one I encourage others to pursue. The American media takes every chance they can get to spin up a story about how big and scary the world is (only somewhere between 30-38% of Americans possess passports) and how the United States is just so much better and safer (especially for women). The story of Sarai Sierra’s disappearance and murder in Istanbul, Turkey did just that. But in fact, I am just as likely to be harmed here in the US as I am anywhere else in the world. I may as well being doing something amazing.
2. “You’re so lucky. I wish I could do that.” You know what? Anyone can travel–anyone. Even if you’re older than the average backpacker; and even if you have kids. Anyone who makes travel a priority can make it happen. I am not lucky– I worked extremely hard to achieve this goal; I took control of my life and became (annoyingly) determined to make this happen for myself. (And yes, for the record, I realize I am a white American female who comes from a stable upper-middle class family with parents who have college degrees and was therefore provided food, clothing, shelter, proper education and guidance to get me through college. I realize that I am extremely lucky in that sense.) however, regardless of the fact my parents had the means to allow me to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities, I was the one who worked hard. I’ve had a steady job since the age of 16; the income I earned aided in college tuition, rent, study abroad, and yes, a little fun. I piled on 20 credit semesters to graduate in fall instead of spring so I could save more money to travel in the long run (this resulted in much more time devoted to school work, including when I had mono my senior year). I busted my butt throughout college to be accepted to two study abroad programs in France and Japan, graduate with honors, a double major/minor, and a 3.7 GPA whilst juggling various on-campus jobs and internships, leadership positions in my sorority, and a social life. I sacrificed many nights of sleep to be the best I could during practicum and student teaching. In fact, I worked so hard that I landed an amazing teaching job only days after graduation. I also was 1 of the 1100 people accepted to teach English in France, out of almost 3,000 applicants. I wasn’t lucky. I wanted this life path for myself. I worked hard to get here.
With having this goal to move overseas in mind, I have sacrificed (as have my parents) quite a bit when comes to “being an independent adult.” In order to save money for moving overseas, at 23 years old, I still do not have my own car. This means I therefore spent my summers at home working a job close to my parents’ home. Upon graduating from college, I moved home permanently; I also still sleep in the same bed I’ve had since I was a kid (try mentioning that to new colleagues). Though moving to France to teach English is what I want to do right now, it is not going to put me ahead financially. I don’t know what my life will look like come summer 2014, but chances be right back where I started post-grad life. In fact, the third most frequent question I am asked is often, “What happens after France? though I am a planner, I don’t know. I have no idea. I have goals, dreams, desires, but my job and financial situation after 6/13/2014 is simply going to be too unpredictable. So for the meantime I have decided to just enjoy these upcoming 9 months, indulging in the present. Because I have worked so hard to get here, I don’t want to be worrying about what’s next. For now, I am just going to enjoy this opportunity that did not just magically land in my lap, but I worked hard to obtain for myself.
Do you think there’s a difference between being lucky and working hard?