This And That: 10 Things I've Learned After 3 Months Living Abroad
Since 2016 is coming to an end, I've been thinking a lot about the past year and how much my life changed and stayed the same since moving to Hong Kong. Here are 10 things I've learned in three months living abroad.
1. Good news! I have figured out the secret to life.
Two words: Motorized blinds.
You know that scene in "The Holiday" when Kate Winslet jumps into Cameron Diaz's cozy bed, flips a switch and blackout shades automatically descend from heaven? Well I have done nothing in my life to deserve such a luxury but I have that setup in my new apartment (we moved a few weeks ago). It is glorious. It is a necessity. It is, simply, why life is worth living.
2. Yet -- even with the aforementioned perk -- I am still not a morning person.
In 2016, I vowed to sleep train myself as a 30-year-old adult, desperate to become a morning person. By exception of the few days I woke up at 6 a.m. due to extreme jet lag, I failed. Next year, I'm going to embrace the fact that I am definitely not an early riser. I'm just a lovely breed of mediocrity that enjoys waking up around 9 a.m., and calling it a day around 11 p.m. Eh, 10 p.m. Okay, 9:45...ish.
3. My husband and I have never spent this much time together -- ever -- in the history of our relationship.
It takes moving to the other side of the world to turn formerly mundane errands like grocery shopping into an exciting outing best experienced together.
4. And of all the things we do, having dinner together every night is the greatest of 'em all.
Far from exotic, the most exciting thing about living abroad with my husband is knowing that we will eat dinner together, every day. It's a small thing, when I think about it. And we don't plan anything elaborate. But the routine has a compounding effect. We rarely ate dinner together when living in NYC (Dov ordered food at the office almost every night, so I ate by myself or made plans). And a whole new world of our relationship opened up when we got into the rhythm of eating together every night. It feels like we were dating again.
5. Not having my regular ol' TV setup is liberating.
I think I may have had an addiction, or at least I felt very chained in an unhealthy way to watching "my shows." Sometimes I picture myself just a few months ago, spending hours on the couch after work some days just skipping between Bravo and cable news and Netflix. And I wonder why I didn't get myself up, go out and do something. It would be totally ridiculous to spend three hours after work doing nothing but watching TV in Hong Kong, and I truly hope this motivation to watch less TV sticks around.
6. I procrastinate! All the time!
When I shared this astute observation with my dear friend from college she was surprised I was just coming to this realization so late in life, saying she's known this about me since we met. I procrastinated learning that I procrastinate.
7. Soup dumplings are basically impossible to make. Do not take them for granted.
I know this because I spent seven hours attempting to make eight of them and only managed to pull off one semi-successfully. These are terrible odds. I will devote an entire post to this type of dim sum in the near future but just know that you are eating a magical stroke of culinary genius when you bite into a soup dumpling.
8. Time is going by so fast, but life in general feels more manageable.
I don't know if this is just a New York thing but I always felt like I was playing catch-up with my own schedule. Time was going by so fast because I couldn't keep up. I'm aware that our experience abroad is flying by, but I'm not rushing. I'm not fussed. I don't feel over- or under-programmed. I just notice that the days go by quickly, and that's okay.
9. Life abroad feels less (mentally) cluttered.
Ninety-eight percent of my possessions are sitting in a storage unit so it's no surprise I feel a bit weightless by comparison. But I feel like I have more mental space and energy than before. And I firmly believe physical clutter and mental clutter are related.
10. Few things can make one feel more gratitude and love than when family and friends travel 16 hours to visit.
Our families visited during our third month living abroad to spend the holidays with us. It's a grueling, uncomfortable and ridiculously expensive trip to make. Simply saying "thank you" feels like the understatement of the century. There's no doubt in my mind that living abroad for a year feels as fulfilling as it does now because we are so supported and loved along the way. Thank you.