Things I’ve learnt from living abroad for 6 years

I can’t believe it has been just over 6 years ( 24 September 2012) that I packed my bags and moved to South Korea. What an absolute adventure it has been.

So much growth, change and challenges over the years, and I don’t regret any of it, and I am so grateful for the journey so far.

When I left for Korea, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Honestly, I didn’t even exactly know where Korea was on the map… I also didn’t research at all before I left, and had no idea the seasons they had. ( I left in September, so pretty soon it would get really cold, and I went over with maybe two jerseys and a pair of sneakers. This South African had no idea that winter was coming… )

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2012
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2015

But you know what, I survived and got sorted once I was there. Sometimes, too much planning  and organizing causes more stress than actually just jumping in and doing! (Advice that my current self should definitely take from my 6 years ago-self!)

A little background, I lived in Cheonan, South Korea for 3 and a half years, and currently live in Bangkok, Thailand, where I have been for the past 2 and a half years.

What have I learnt from living abroad:

  1. That life is not always easy, but you can always make it work.

Every situation and experience seems hard while you are in it, but there is always a solution, a way out or a way to make it work. Living in Korea taught me that. I moved there all on my own, started a new job, lived all by myself for the first time in my life in a county I didn’t know. You  can get overwhelmed and get “culture shock”, or you can choose to jump head first and start to live. Make new friends, do a brave thing every day and when you get as sick as a dog in your first snowy winter, and need to take care of yourself, you make it work. You learn to be resilient and embrace the challenge.

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Fall in Korea
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Only other place than SA I call home

2. You truly see who your friends are, and realize that oceans and distance can be hard,         and it takes work and effort to keep friendships and relationships going.

Moving across oceans can be hard when keeping in contact with friends and family. From day 1 it has always been a big priority of mine to stay in contact with all my loved ones. Over the years, it has build stronger relationships with some and with others it has fizzled out. I am truly grateful for all my friends that have put in the effort to continue a long distance friendship. Maintaining relationships with people back home, can sometimes be challenging, but to me it has always been a priority and living abroad, you have no idea what a text message and random call from a friend back home means. WhatsApp and voice notes make it so easy to pop in and say hi and just have a bit more of a connection with people. Everyone has their own lives, and life goes on (no matter where you are in the world), so reaching out, connecting and nurturing relationships can sometimes be hard, but so rewarding and worth it.

3.  As much as life is different here, it is so much the same.

When visiting a doctor on a trip back in South Africa, I told him I live and work in Bangkok. He was very surprised and curiously asked what I do on weekends and if I get to go to the beach every day. (I wish ;)) Life here is as normal as it  would be in a suburb in Cape Town. I work hard in the week, take weekends to rest, visit parks, get in some fresh air, do laundry, study and bake. Learning to settle in a new country is key. Making it your home and living like you belong.

4. You become an expert at communicating without speaking.

Living in a country where English is not a first language can be really, really challenging at times. Not being able to direct a taxi, get medicine at a chemist, or even just ask why my grocery store has been out of chickpeas for 3 weeks can be frustrating at times. (Me trying to google images and google translate -ask the clerks why there are no chickpeas, turned into a 40 minute hustle and ordeal with shelves been packed out, managers of the whole MALL being called to explain and try and figure out that I would just like to know if they will still be getting in chickpeas at some point. The answer: No “no more chickpeas, the boat with the chickpeas doesn’t deliver to Thailand anymore”. Ok, I have my answer.)  Learning a new language can be hard, but it has been so helpful to just learn even a few new phrases and words to get by a little easier. Korean was definitely a bit easier for me, and Thai has been a real challenge. )

5. Age, religion, nationality and language doesn’t stand in the way of real true friendships

Over the years I have met so many amazing people, from different walks of life, different backgrounds and different upbringings. And I have made some life long friends. Living in a country where you are the foreigners and connect with fellow foreigners , you truly get to know people. I am so grateful to the amazing friends I have made. They have taught me to be more open-minded, to be myself and to be brave. Live a life of wonder, take risks and be adventurous, and step out of your comfort zone! In my head I am planning a world trip to go and visit all my friends I have gained through my years in Thailand and Korea, and I can honestly say I have close friends in most continents and literally can globe hop and visit them all and travel the world! Connections with people have been the most rewarding gift from living abroad. Building real relationships with people who I would otherwise never would have met. I am grateful for all of my dear expat friends.

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Our Bangkok condo view
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Krabi, Thailand

6. The world is so so big and beautiful

O my goodness, I have not even traveled a fraction of the world, but I have seen some of the most amazing places I could ever have dreamed of. I have had the privilege of staying in the most picturesque places and seeing the bluest of blue waters, and the greenest of green jungles. I have visited small islands and had snow fights, I have celebrated my usual winter birthday in the middle of summer, and lived in a country where I haven’t worn warm clothes in 2 and a half years. I am truly in awe at how beautiful and big the world is. How much beauty there is in every place you visit, from dirty Bangkok, to the tropical islands, from peaceful Cheonan, to a small little sea town way up in Korea, close to the north Korean border. With this said, I have also seen how we as humans, are messing up the beautiful earth, the ignorance, the cruelty, the audacity that we are better. Seeing the hurt and dirt breaks my heart, but makes me more aware of how I can make a difference, no matter how small. We need to step it up and take care of this beautiful planet we call home.

Living abroad for 6 years has truly changed my life and shaped me in a way that would never have been of I didn’t leave Cape Town on September 24th, 2012.

I am so grateful for all the memories, lessons learnt and experiences, friends and travel. It’s something that is not always easy, but so worth it.

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Bangkok by boat
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Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn

O, and ps. My grocecry store is back at selling chickpeas again! The boat must have found its way to Thailand!

 

 

How to eat more plant-based

We all know that eating more fruit and vegetables are good for us. But, sometimes it can be quite intimidating and daunting to switch to a majority, or full-on plant-based diet. It doesn’t need to be that way and transitioning to a plant-based diet can be made so easy. There are so many resources and ideas out there, these are just some of my tips and what helped me adopt a plant-based lifestyle.

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There are so many benefits to eating a plant-based diet. Some of these include lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, decreasing your risk of cancer, building a better immune system and aiding in digestion. The benefits are endless, and I really found that eating plant-based has changed the way my body functions. (in the beginning it was the main reason why I went vegan) I have more energy than before, my digestion has improved dramatically, I have lost weight and overall I feel “lighter”. Not necessarily just lighter in weight, but lighter in the sense of eating better quality, high fiber living food, makes you feel energetic and alive! I know all bodies are different and might require different things, but adding in more whole plant-based foods can only be beneficial to your diet and lifestyle. Continue reading “How to eat more plant-based”

How I minimized my closet

Living in a country that has mainly just one season, (hot) it is kind of easy to have a small wardrobe. But still, when I got to Thailand 2 and a half years ago, soon my 23 kg belongings and clothes, from arriving here, started to build up. Market trips, cheap shops and big chain stores started to fill up my closet. I never felt like I had enough cute running shoes, or enough gym clothes or enough pairs of shorts from H&M.

In the beginning of 2018, when I decided to make the decision to not buy any new items of clothing or shoes for 4 months, I also started to evaluate what I currently had in my closet.

I decided to go through all my clothes and really decide if this item was useful, adds value to my wardrobe and is decent quality. When I go through my closet I always make four piles.

  1. Keep – Items that I wear and are useful to me. I make sure that I don’t have doubles, or that I am keeping it just because I feel sentimental towards it.
  2. Trash – Any clothes with holes, that have been worn too may times, and that are not of good quality. It is easy to sometimes hold onto items that you think “O, I will for sure fix this soon, or I can stretch this T-shirt for a few more years”. Let go of all clothes that honestly rather belong in the bin.
  3. Donate / Sell –  These are clothes that might be too big or too small, that you don’t feel like suits you anymore, are doubles, or clothes that have been pilling up that you just don’t wear anymore.
  4. Unsure – These are clothes that I still feel I need or use, or can’t let go of yet. I will keep them in my cupboard for maybe a month and then re-evaluate. Did I wear these items during the month?  Would I miss them if they are gone or would someone else find more joy in them.

These four piles make it so easy for me to evaluate what I have and need and let go of things that I don’d have place for anymore. Now, I actually get to enjoy and wear all the items I still have. (I still feel like I can let go of a few more things, and I am in the process of doing so)

The idea of donating clothes also brings me such joy and gratitude. We have so much, we have more than we ever need and there are so so many people who can only dream of having a fraction of what we take for granted. Looking at belongings from that perspective has been so eye-opening for me, knowing that I already have so much and that there are so many people that don’t. Sharing, donating, gifting, is such an amazing way to help out some people who actually need some clothes more than I do.

Another factor that has also been making it a lot easier for me to not go on shopping sprees was watching the documentary “The True Cost”. (Just watching the trailer now again, has brought me to tears). I don’t want to walk around and know that these cheap shorts that I bought were made by workers who were treated badly, not paid well and who work in horrible conditions. It doesn’t seem worth it to me. The poverty, greed and horrible conditions break my heart.  I don’t know all that much that I can actually do about it, but I know, that by not supporting these big chain stores and buying cheap clothes, I am taking a stand. Through this I am saying I do not support that, and don’t want to be a part of people being treated badly, and even dying because of their work environment.

Just being more conscious of what I wear, where I buy it and what I actually have is the key to having a minimalist wardrobe.  Keeping that in mind ,when I sort through my wardrobe, has been so helpful.   I am ready to scale down even more, and work on some fun capsule collections and Project 333. (Where you only dress in 33 items for 3 months!) Investing in quality, local and ethically made clothes and supporting conscious individuals when purchasing clothes is my goal.

Minimizing my closet has been such a fun “project” and has spilled over into other areas of my home. I want everything I own to have a purpose and add value to my life. Evaluating items with these questions have really helped me.

Next, I will be working on a post about how I minimized the rest of my home. x

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Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Easy Energy Balls

One of my favourite snacks to make is, for sure, some yummy energy balls.

They are so easy to make, and you can basically add whatever you want (or have in your fridge) in them.

They also last quite long and you can store them in the fridge.

They are super handy to throw in a small container and have as an on-the-go kind of snack, when you are running late, on the way to the gym after work, or as a sweet little treat after lunch. I love preparing them for when I go on vacation, a nice and easy airport or plane treat!

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Continue reading “Easy Energy Balls”

Minimalistic Living

Learning to live a more minimalist lifestyle, didn’t start off that easy for me.

I always liked stuff. Little things on my dresser, decorations and clothes. Lots of clothes, shoes, handbags and products.  I am also very sentimental, so every card, every note, every book, every gift, and bag I would keep and store away.

When leaving for South Korea, I had a bunch of boxes in storage with books, notes, clothes and memorabilia from University. I could not let go and throw stuff away.

Once in Korea, I lived by myself for the first time, and suddenly I could buy things and hoard up even more unnecessary things. Too many clothes, too many shoes, too much stuff!

When leaving Korea after 4 and a half years, I had accumulated quite a lot of stuff that I needed to fit in 2 suitcases to lug back home to South Africa. This was a mission, but I managed to donate, sell and get rid of quite a few things and felt happy that I could let go of some of these. Continue reading “Minimalistic Living”

Easy week night dinner idea – Creamy Rosé Sauce

Sometimes cooking a whole food, plant-based meal can seem intimidating if you don’t know how or you are not use to cooking only plant-based meals.

Vegan dinners don’t need to be fancy and complicated, or on the other hand, it doesn’t need to be just a bowl of leaves and cucumber.

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This is one of my go-to sauces. It is so so easy to make, and it is so versatile. It doesn’t need any fancy ingredients and can be whipped up in about 30 – 35 minutes.

Once the sauce is done, you can add it to some rice spaghetti or pasta, add some of your favourite veggies and even some baked tofu. Continue reading “Easy week night dinner idea – Creamy Rosé Sauce”

How I Quit Smoking

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Photo by Abdiel Ibarra on Unsplash

Everyone knows that smoking is really really bad for you! But it can be such a hard and daunting habit to kick and it might take some people a very long time and even a few attempts to quit.

I started smoking during University.  It started off more as just social smoking, but soon became a daily habit.

Well obviously I was addicted to smoking (since I smoked every day), but I also really enjoyed smoking. I loved sitting and having a cup of coffee and a cigarette, a bottle of wine never tasted as good as with a few ciggies with it. When people always said they are trying to quit smoking, I thought, O no, I don’t want to quit, I liked smoking too much. Continue reading “How I Quit Smoking”