For many, working and living abroad has an enormous appeal. Perhaps it’s the excitement of venturing into the unknown. Maybe it’s the thrill of learning about a completely different culture, or the possibility of discovering more about themselves. That, or it is boredom with their local cuisine that drives them to the ends of the Earth.
For me personally, it was mostly adventure that I was seeking when I headed off to Taiwan, but I did learn a great deal about myself as a result. This may be why Taiwan will always hold special personal significance. But three months in, I was not expecting it to.
Leaving everything I knew behind, the novelty of it all was quickly replaced with frustration. I could not read, speak, or write the language. I had left my home country where I had just completed an undergraduate degree only to come to a place where I would be completely illiterate.
As if that weren’t enough, I was there to do a job for which I had no formal training. I was there to teach English as a second language.
Within my first three months in Taiwan, I was ready to leave. Were it not for the friends I had made there, I would have. Slowly, the people and the place grew on me. I did struggle immensely with the food (and lost a lot of weight because of it) and the traffic (and lost a lot of hair because of it), but grew spiritually. Stepping out of my comfort zone was, at that point, the most difficult thing I could have done, but also the most beneficial.
Once the culture shock wore off, I began to appreciate how well foreigners were treated in Taiwan. In some ways, we were treated like super heroes; English fluency being our super power.
Unfortunately, despite our linguistic abilities, we were unable to influence the weather.
Taiwan’s weather does take some getting used to. Even after living there for over four years, I never did. I found the summers too long and too hot, and the winters too cold. With apartment complexes there built to withstand earthquakes, insulation is not a given. In our apartment in Taiwan, it was often as cold as it was outside.
Whether going abroad is motivated by climate, cultural inquisitiveness or a good old fashioned sense of adventure, those that seize the opportunity are bound to grow immensely because of their travels. And for those who love the food of their new homeland, their weight is likely to follow suit.
Food for thought: here is some great travel advice: