As I’m traveling SE Asia, the go-to place when you take a vacation longer than ten days or the place you go to when you given up your job… I find that many people introduce themselves with three locations: where they’re from, where they’ve been and where they’re going.
When it’s my turn to share, I begin with my solid three- I was born and raised in the USA, I taught English in Italy for the past two years, and now I’m traveling Asia until I figure out the next step (translation: I don’t have a fucking clue)…
After some head nodding and arched eyebrows, some people ask why I moved to Italy and others want to know how I can “live the life”… so I’m going to start off with this quote…
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greather joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” -C.J.M
I knew that wanted to step outside of my comfort zone, actually I knew that I needed to step out of my “norm”… so with that said, below is my mini-story which was chosen out of 170+ articles to be published in a new ebook called “Travel Means Freedom“, enjoy it here first on LITTLEMISSLOCAL.com =)
A SERIES OF QUARTER-LIFE CRISES & REVELATIONS
by Justine Ma
QUARTER LIFE CRISIS #1:
Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat.
I got a job straight out of University and although happy for my success, I really didn’t know my place in society. Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat. became a familiar pattern and I started to question what I was doing.
Tired of this day-to-day routine, at the tender age of 23, when friends were starting to consider which ring they wanted for their engagement, or worse, which dress they wanted me in as their “future” bridesmaid, I decided to take initiative.
I searched the internet for a job overseas. I interviewed. I packed. I literally crossed an ocean and arrived in Northern Italy to be an English Teacher, while finishing up my Masters Degree.
Looking back, I had no-clue what I was getting myself into; my worse fear was “no take-out”.
In my mind I had nothing to lose… if it didn’t work out, I just told myself that I’d go back home to Mom, Dad, and my Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat. lifestyle.
Two months after I arrived in Italy, everyone asked me how the transition was going, and I’m not exactly sure how I responded, but I recall saying, “my domestic capabilities are non-existent”.
Never mind changing countries, learning a new language, and a completely different culture… my culture shock started in the kitchen.
I wasn’t willing to cook because then I’d have to clean; since I didn’t want to cook OR clean, I limited myself to pizza shops around the corner when local bars weren’t open for their all-you-can-eat aperitivo.
But, enough was enough. I slowly began to accept the fact that my Mom was not there to cook dinner and I was not in NYC anymore. So I started to learn how to order food in Italian, I started to cook, I started to experiment and I started to enjoy living on my own.
QUARTER LIFE CRISIS #2:
One year passed.
I finished my Italian work contract.
I finished my Masters Degree.
I knew how to order more than “pizza”.
I nailed the pronunciation of “gelato” after my 100th scoop.
I knew how to “cook”.
I felt independent and I was prepared to go home to NYC.
But then I fell in love.
So I searched for a job, I interviewed, I got the job, and then I contemplated my next step.
Living in a different country is not easy, however, it is rewarding. I went back and forth about whether I should stay in Italy or if I should go back home to NYC. But no matter how much I struggled during my first year overseas (this includes learning about cultural sensitivities, and of course my “no take-out” phobia), I noticed how much I was learning about life, love, family, friendships, value, culture… and wanted to learn more. I wanted to understand what makes me happy. I wanted to discover me.
QUARTER LIFE CRISIS #3:
So I signed another Italian work contract to buy myself one more year in Italy, and found myself at another crossroads. Professionally, I felt undervalued, unappreciated, and every negative “U” term out there, which made me question my purpose in Italy. Am I here for my boyfriend? Am I here for me? What am I passionate about? Who do I want to be in the future? Should I stay? Should I go? Where will I go?
I spent hours, days, weeks, months, trying to figure out what makes me happy. I tried to write lists, but my mind would draw blanks.
So I’d walk to the café for brain food, and as I stared into my chocolate muffin I thought, “What job would I want if I wasn’t getting paid to do it?”
And that’s when the light switched on. I finished out my Italian work contract and decided not to renew it. Instead, I created LITTLEMISSLOCAL.com, a blog about life, travel and food.
Self-declared as a Local Food Enthusiast, I’m taking this year to travel the unbeaten path to understand & experience culture through cuisine. Who knows where I’ll go or where I’ll end up, but I’m willing to find out.
Thanks to my series of quarter-life crises, I haven’t been happier or more confused in my LIFETIME. Follow LITTLEMISSLOCAL.com as I meet, greet and eat local food around the globe while figuring out where to take my next step.
HAPPY 2012 EVERYBODY! And buy the book!
PS: I got my year-end report from WordPress and I’m quite happy with my results! I started LITTLEMiSSLOCAL.com in July, wrote over 160 posts, had over 11,000 visitors and I have readers in every country- especially the USA, Italy and Canada! So please feel free to leave me a message on the site, I love hearing from you!