It’s surreal. At 29 years old, I’m one of the oldest of this year’s group of CIEE Spain adventurers. (Honestly, though, I love it).
From what I can tell, only about 10-15% (60-90) of the participants this year are 25 or older. It makes sense. Walking away from predictability, stability, and a life that you’ve poured your heart and soul into building is anything but easy.
I spent years questioning if and when to make the leap to an international move. In the end, there were four questions that were integral in helping me decide that it was time to leap into this new adventure.
If you’re deciding for yourself if this step (or another) is right for you, pondering these questions may help shine some light on your own path.
1. What are your reasons for not going?
Thinking of reasons not to go to Spain seemed like second nature for me.
One of my biggest reasons for not going was it felt like I was throwing away 6 years worth of work. I had spent those years dedicating every ounce of time and energy to teaching high school math in Orange County, CA. I had taught at the same school all of those years and had gotten into a rhythm. I had a secure place and felt needed and wanted. In a lot of ways, leaving felt like a naive choice.
I would rationalize: Why would I leave a life I had worked so hard to build? It would hurt my students and the school if I left. I’m competent at what I do. I have my own place with a predictable income & benefits. What if I quit and run out of money? How can I possibly know that leaving is the right choice when I don’t know what awaits me after I do?
2. What are you passionate about & what do you value?
For some reason, whenever I have a life decision to make, I haven’t experienced many people asking me what I value and what I am passionate about. Yet, in a lot of ways, this is the most important question to consider.
Some of my core values, I realized, are authenticity, honesty, genuine connection, and freedom. I value learning, exploring and open-mindedness. As I pondered these values and the life I currently had, I recognized that these values and the job I had were inconsistent with each other. Due to a number of factors unique to the school I worked for, I knew that it was impossible for me to live in accordance with these values without being fired.
As I thought about my passions, I thought about how I have always been captivated by traveling, learning about different cultures, people, and personalities, and the idea of being able to fluently speak a second language. I’ve traveled to 19 countries and 49/50 states (I’m coming for you, Kentucky!), but I’ve long desired to move abroad and fully immerse myself in another culture. I had tried to satisfy these passions by traveling during my school breaks, but those trips only fueled my interests more.
I began to ask the third question.
3. What step would you take if you followed where your values and passions were leading you?
When I reached this question, the answer now appeared obvious.
The life I had, while stable, would never be in alignment with my core self. When I found CIEE, it fit perfectly with everything I wanted. Teaching in Spain would fulfill my lifelong dream of living abroad, give me the chance to cement all of the Spanish learning I’ve done over the past several years, grant me an opportunity to explore & understand new cultures & people & places, and it would still allow me to give back in a way where I could positively impact students’ lives.
I can’t predict what will happen during this next year, nor can I predict if I’ll love it, but when I quit my job, I did so to start pursuing a life that meant following my passions and living my values.
Which leads me to the last & most calming question:
4. Don’t you remember how beautiful change can be? Because, truly, change can be breathtakingly stunning.
This last question I had for myself was to make sure I wasn’t letting the fear of change control me, especially because I have experienced numerous times how beautiful change can be.
Change is terrifying. And exhilarating. Times of change viscerally remind me that I am alive, I have agency, and I never have to settle.
Change launches me into a new element of life that teaches me new facts and ideas & shows me parts of this world and myself that I’ve never noticed before. I gain understanding, empathy, and perspective. I learn self-trust, adaptability, and getting back up after falling.
Each time I start over, I am reminded of the beauty that can follow a step into the unknown.
I’m about 2.5 weeks away from moving to Spain, and, despite still having so many unknowns ahead of me, I am thrilled I’ve made the choice to take this leap into a new adventure. I have no doubt that this will be another beautiful change in my life and that the choice to uproot and follow my passions is worth it.