I have lived in New Zealand, Dominican Republic, and Thailand for about one year each. In all these places, I have put down roots, assimilated myself into the culture and lifestyle, and called myself a local by the end. Why did I choose to live in these places? How did I do it?
To the One’s Who Doubt You
I remember calling my father while I was in the grocery store: “I am going to study abroad in New Zealand.” His response was: “No, you’re not.” I remember hearing his bewilderment on the phone and a this-is-absolutely-not-possible type of tone. I have always believed that if you want something bad enough, you will make it happen.
I am a dreamer. I fantasize about the future and enjoy planning. In the beginning, my parents were doubtful. I would receive a lot of “Oh, Ally.” My ex would tell me: “Oh, you want to go here now? I’ll ask you again in a week.” There have been very few people along my path who have truly taken me seriously. And there continue to be people who don’t believe in me. This is a natural response to anyone who announces: “I am going to accomplish this big thing.”
I have been accused of changing my mind too often. That I am a restless person who gets bored too easily, but won’t actually make a change. Perhaps they think my dreams are too big. And I have come to realize that people can only understand you as deeply as they understand their own self.
Believe in yourself. Your opinion is the only one who matters. Perhaps you have heard this before…easier said than done. But realize you are the one with the power. And, in the end, some one else’s validation is not going to make or break your success.
Studying abroad in New Zealand was no easy feat. There were many, many roadblocks. I ended up having to go for two semesters instead of just one because the classes that I needed to graduate were not offered in the same semester. All the classes that I needed to take, I had to apply for and submit writing samples. Both the University of Auckland as well as my home university had to accept these classes. I was always running around picking up documents, delivering documents, getting signatures and letters of recommendations, meeting with people, etc.
There were times where I thought that I would never make it. I prayed and repeated to myself: “I will go to New Zealand” all the time. I even changed all my passwords to “newzealand.” Mates, don’t hack me.
In the end, I made it there. And I had the best time. Everything worked out perfectly and I earned my degree.
For all the other places that I have lived, each have their own struggles. I do not live abroad because it is easy. I do it for the challenge, the novelty, and the growth that takes place after making it through to the other side.
How do I choose a place? The place chooses me. It is based on intuition and the natural will of the universe to bring me places where I am meant to be. In each of the places that I have traveled to, I have met my soul sisters and brothers, best friends, fallen in love (a few times), realized my passions, and made lifelong connections.
The way I ended up volunteering in the Dominican Republic is interesting. I had been preparing for a about a year to move to Zambia with the Peace Corps. Two days before I was meant to get on the plane, the Peace Corps called me and told me that they hadn’t finished processing my legal paperwork and I would not be able to go. I would have to wait for the paperwork to go through and I would be reassigned a new country, which could take another 6 months to a year.
I became depressed and joined a half marathon running group to give myself something to do. In the group, I met a woman that volunteers in the Dominican with her family every other summer. She emailed the founder of the organization and they asked me to immediately move there and become a volunteer preschool teacher at their school. How serendipitous.
The desire to go somewhere first comes in waves of ideas. I want to go here! But I am also interested in here! I have the ideas without firm decisions. I am brainstorming.
I wait for more information and for time to evolve. It is a feeling. It is when an idea sinks. And when I decide that yes this is where I want to go, I commit myself to solving all the steps until I get dropped off at the airport (one of the most gratifying experiences for me).
The spontaneity is dreaming, imagining, and choosing a place based on intuition. This just feels right. The planning is coming to a decision and gripping onto the idea of moving to that place.
You can be a dreamer, but, to make your dreams come true, you must be organized, good at saving money, and willing to deal with bureaucracy (visa, bank account, job, living). It’s a magical balance. Head in the clouds, yet grounded.
Where will I move to after Thailand? Berlin, Germany.
I have never considered Germany. Europe is expensive and Western. But I met a German girl while backpacking India who planted a seed. I loved asking her endlessly about Germany and she recommended Berlin to me. She said that I would fit in well and love it. In fact, when I mention this to new and old friends they say the same thing. For some reason, this sunk. I felt, yes I have to go. It’s perfect for me.
I want to go for the music. I want to live in a place with a rich history and proud culture. I miss seasons. I miss clean air. The food. I will have the opportunity to learn a new language. Tall, blonde German guys. It’s a progressive, artistic, creative city. Other places in Europe are easily accessible. The list is endless.
For now, I will stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Working to save money. I am taking German lessons. And I am already formulating my transition. Will I truly be able to make this happen? I know that I will.
See you next summer, Berlin xo