Bethany’s Part 2 of her ‘On the Road’ series continues:
I’ve been here for less than two weeks, and it’s insane to try to compile everything that’s happened in that short time. One of the interesting things about travelling is that your time moves at a different pace than that of your friends and family back home. It’s not necessarily faster or slower or better or worse; it’s simply different. Add a nine-hour time difference to that, and it’s a recipe for potentially feeling disconnected and sometimes frustrated by separation. I went into this new phase of my life having ongoing, very necessary conversation with myself about “the spirit of adventure” (l’esprit d’aventure).
To me, this means having an open mind and an open heart to whatever will come at me. I came here to do something completely new and different, without knowing what to expect, and knowing that aspects of what I could expect are things I wouldn’t normally like to do back home. For example, I came here knowing I would be living in a big old house with four other girls and I prefer living on my own. I came here knowing many of the people who do this program are much younger; many of the British teaching assistants are still in their early university years, whereas I finished mine four years ago. I also came here knowing no one, which can be quite scary.
The great thing about the spirit of adventure is that it has allowed me to take each day in stride, and acknowledge that I am in a different place with a different standard, different culture, and different rules. Rather than freak out and get angry when I missed my stop on my train here, ended up almost in Spain and spent 35 hours travelling instead of 30, I appreciated that by being later, I got to see the sun rise over the Mediterranean from the train. Instead of fuming that it took me three tries to get a local SIM card for my phone because I didn’t have a bankcard with an embedded chip, I just smiled at the same gal in the shop three days in a row. Plus, it was great practice for using my French practically.
In light of the challenges and frustrations of living in a new foreign place, one small thing I have done to keep my sanity is give myself permission to hunker down when I need to. I’m here for at least seven months… I don’t need to pack every day full of activities. I am very clearly an extrovert (anyone would tell you that), but sometimes I need time to be on my own to recharge, especially with the mental exhaustion that comes from constantly switching back and forth between two (and sometimes three) languages. Between the 35 hours of travel it took to get here and jet lag from a nine-hour time difference, I’ve been completely exhausted.
The first few days, I went out with my flat mate and met her friends, checked out a club fair (there were 1200 associations represented, from sports to arts to humanitarian work), and took care of some practicalities like getting a blanket and towels, groceries, a working phone, and figuring out where I would bank. But I also spent entire days in my bed resting and sleeping, writing emails to my friends and family, eating Nutella by the spoonful, and finding balance. Today, I finally went for a run. Next week, I start teaching classes and look forward to creating some consistency and structure in my life.
Keeping myself open and available to take on this adventure has made the last four weeks manageable. Finding my balance and structure will allow me to make the most of the next seven (or more!) months.
About the author:
Bethany Huntley is an adventurous gal who has lived in all four corners of the US. She went to middle school and high school in New Hampshire, and still calls it home in the figurative sense, but has spent the last few years living in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated from Willamette University with a degree in English and French. During her college experience, she studied abroad in Martinique, a French overseas department in the Caribbean, and did a semester at Montana State University studying Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems. Her interests include, but are not limited to, food, dogs, France, wine, and adventures.