Twenty-four years ago my husband took a job with the Department of Defense Schools in Okinawa, Japan. We had 2 small children, one aged 3 years, the other a 4 month old. We went for one year and loved it, reupping to live in England and Belgium. We were also tied to the US Military and NATO, to me another foreign land. In all of these places, including the military bases, we had to change and adapt to new people, new environments, new food, and new problems. Every day was exciting and an adventure. Less than a year ago we returned to our hometown in Colorado and I brought my beliefs that I had formulated in those 23 years living as a foreigner in other countries.
I believe in being adaptable. Coming home everything felt new, the people, the food, the environment and the problems. I needed to adapt as if I had moved to another foreign country. Living overseas taught me that change was good and flexibility was important.
I believe in being open, because without an open heart, experiences pass you by. In life and travels in foreign countries I learned that every encounter or situation is a learning experience and being open to it leads to an enriched life.
I believe in being tolerant because with tolerance I was giving myself an insight into our own humanness and our connection to everyone we met. I learned that we are the same as everyone in their desires for love and acceptance and family. I saw that there was more to unite us than divide us.
In everyday life here in the United States, I believe we need to live our lives as if we live in a foreign country. In traveling and living overseas, every day became an adventure. We adopted an attitude of world travelers ready for experience, spending vacations across Asia and Europe, sometimes Africa and South America. But I believe that living in our hometown every day can be like a world travel day every day, an adventure. I cherish the adaptability and openness I adopted as a foreigner in foreign countries while living right here in Colorado.
While living in Japan, England, and Belgium we learned new languages (yes, we did have to have some British expressions translated). We also tried to learn the language wherever we traveled which opened doors for us because it is such a compliment to the local people that we made the effort, even though we did do a lot of smiling and nodding. I believe in learning new languages, even here in Colorado. A few words of someone’s language will make them smile.
I believe in listening because every person is valuable. To listen and absorb is wonderful. In this way while traveling I felt I could give people acceptance no matter what social or economic class they came from. And friendship seemed to me universal. Now there are so many people for me to meet in my hometown.
I believe in being culturally sensitive. In many countries we had to dress appropriately or follow cultural rules. I learned to celebrate these differences. In the United States I can see there are so many times I need to be culturally sensitive, perhaps to people who are struggling with being foreigners in a foreign country like we were. I believe in celebrating the differences in our own country.
Here in the United States still a world traveler, I can experience so much more in my hometown than before we left for overseas. I believe that to have a travel adventure every day in Colorado, I need to be adaptable, open, tolerant, and culturally sensitive. I believe in learning new languages every day. I believe in being open to situations further afar from the comfortable and familiar. I feel like I have moved to another foreign country and am excited to find adventure and thus richness in every day.
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