My Life circa 2008
To understand my story completely, and why the impact of traveling on your family is so important , I need to go back; back to when my life felt like it was unraveling around me. This is a time when absolutely nothing seemed right, and my fondest wish was to simply not exist. But why did I feel like this and how did I get there?
Well, I had just graduated college and had moved back home to New York, after attending school in Maryland for four years. As a result, I had no friends in the area and choose to live at home because of financial uncertainty. Couple this with no boyfriend and no career direction, and you get a lost, scared, and alone little girl, pretending to be a woman.
As a result of my depression, I spiraled deep into my own negative thinking and started to hate myself even more, if that was possible. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer the world. I truly believed that there was something inherently wrong with me because I had no one in my life and basically just hung out with my mom at the grocery store every weekend.
I just struggled through life and hoped that one day, I would just snap out of my depression. But I never did. Instead, I believed the voice in my head that told me I was fat and disgusting and worth absolutely nothing. As a result, I developed a horrific eating disorder that crippled me and isolated me from everyone in my life.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone because I just wanted to focus on limiting my caloric intake and working out at least 2 hours a day. On top of that, I hated eating around people because I felt like they were judging me and might say something about my drastic weight loss.
I no desire to hear such concerns because losing weight was the ONLY thing that made me feel good about myself. I felt like my anorexia was all I had and that if I wasn’t skinny, then I would have nothing to offer myself or the world.
Well, eventually, someone did say something. My mom voiced her concern about my lack of a social life, and I knew I had to change something. I needed to escape from my own negativity and the insanity of the house I was living in. So, I decided to leave it all behind and start over, as an English teacher in South Korea.
The Reaction I Expected
The hardest part of leaving the United States, to teach English in South Korea, was not finding a job, getting a visa, or getting a background check. Those things were all a cake walk compared to the idea of breaking the news to my family.
I wanted to share my happiness with them, I really did. I mean, teaching abroad was something I had always wanted to do because I loved traveling. I was never satisfied with standing still and always wanted to explore the world and see what was beyond my backyard. Travel was one thing that always invigorated me and made me excited about life because you never knew what you were going to see, who you were going to meet, or what new cuisine you were going to eat.
So, to indulge my bad case of wanderlust, I decided to teach abroad in Asia. I mean, not only would I get paid to live abroad, but I would also be in close proximity to all the countries in Asia that I had always wanted to visit. Therefore I could save money on airfare and travel even more (No more insanely long and insanely expensive flights to Asia for me!!).
I truly believed that my parents would see all of this and understand where I was coming from. I thought they would know my deep sadness and commend me for making a change and daring to take a different path.
Somehow, I had this idea that it would all unfold like a scene from the Brady Bunch. My parents would hear the news, envelope me in their arms, and tell me how proud they were of me. I fantasized that they would rave about the idea that I was following my heart and experiencing all the things that they never got to see. In my mind, it was like I could almost hear them uttering words like brave, proud, and adventurous (in an admiring tone that commended me for being so unique).
The Impact of Traveling on Your Family
Well, that’s why they call these notions fantasies. Fantasies are not real, and no where in my parent’s reaction were the words adventurous, proud, or brave. Rather, some of the words I heard were disgrace, disappointment, avoidance, and selfish.
I think the worst part about their reaction was not what they said,which was hurtful, but how they said it. I mean, they literally spat venom as they roared, “You’ll be sorry when all you have to come home to is a gravestone”, or my personal favorite, “Mark my words, you’ll get sold into the sex slave trade!” And while deep down I knew they might be displeased, I had no idea they would react like this.
As a result, I was totally unprepared for how I would feel after I told them. And the feelings came immediately, raining down on me like an unrelenting thunderstorm.
All I could feel was hurt, sadness, and abandonment. I mean, I wanted to be excited for this amazing new chapter in my life. But instead of celebrating, I felt like I had let down and lost the only people who cared about me. It felt like the rug had finally been pulled out from beneath me, and all that was left was me, feeling empty, lost, and alone.
The Impact of Traveling on Your Family: Final Perspective
Eventually, my parents did apologize and came to accept the fact that I was teaching English in South Korea. They were not happy (that’s putting it mildly) about my decision, but they supported me because they loved me and did not want to alienate me from their lives completely. And while I have since forgiven them for how I was treated, I still remember how they made me feel and how much it hurt to have the only people in your life turn on you, like rabid dogs.
But these feelings don’t change the fact that I still love my parents, because I know why they reacted this way. Yes, what they did was not right, but I have since realized that they reacted so violently because they loved and cared about me. They would really miss me, only they didn’t know how to say this; so, the words came out in an angry diatribe of hate. Had they communicated their fears and love for me in a more positive way, I would have had a better understanding of what they were going through. Instead, I burst into tears and walked around the town for hours because I did not want to face my parents and their nasty demeanor.Sometimes it’s hard, but I try and remember this.
So, even though I have moved on from this experience (Thank God because it would be really sad if I didn’t), I know that some others out there may encounter such negative reactions to perhaps the most exciting time in they lives. And if you do, you are not alone. It happens. Not everyone may agree with you and think that your decision to live abroad is brave and amazing and awesome. And that’s okay because this decision is for you and not them. You owe it to yourself to take a chance, follow your heart, and see where this crazy journey, called life, takes you.
Just remember that while you’re traveling the world, there are people at home who are waiting for you. They love you and miss you and just want you to be safe. They want to protect you but just can’t because you are so far away, and maybe that lack of control over your life really scares them. Either way, remember that no matter how someone responds to you, it is probably coming from a place of love. And if you have a little patience and a little understanding, they may just come around and learn to see things a little bit differently.