Expat Life, Travel Lit

Which do You Prefer: Traveling or Living Abroad?

Photo by Helminadia Ranford

I never thought of my ability to live abroad as a skill, but according to Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s something that some people are better suited for than others.

The following is an exert from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book CommittedCommitted is the follow-up book to her memoir Eat Pray Love (which has been described as “self-realization and travel porn for the thinking woman”). In the exert, Elizabeth suggests that foreigners overseas fall into two distinct categories: those who were born to travel and those who were born to live abroad.

Which one are you?

From the book, Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (pages 216-221):

“Like a fussy baby who can fall asleep in a moving car, I have always been comforted with the tempo of travel. I’d always assumed that Felipe operated on the same principle; since he was the most widely traveled person I’ve ever met. But he didn’t seem to enjoy any of this drifting.

…The reality about Felipe, as I was beginning to realize, is that he’s both the best traveler I’ve ever met and by far the worst. He hates strange bathrooms and dirty restaurants and uncomfortable trains and foreign beds—all of which pretty much define the act of traveling. Given a choice, he will always select a lifestyle of routine, familiarity, and reassuringly boring everyday practices. All of which might make you assume that the man is not fit to be a traveler at all.

But you would be wrong to assume that, for here is Felipe’s traveling gift, his superpower, the secret weapon that renders him peerless: He can create a familiar habitat of reassuringly boring everyday practices for himself anyplace, if you just let him stay in one spot. He can assimilate absolutely anywhere on the planet in the space of about three days, and then he’s capable of staying put in that place for the next decade or so without complaint.

This is why Felipe has been able to live all over the world. Not merely travel, but live. Over the years, he has folded himself into societies from South American to Europe, from the Middle East to the South Pacific. He arrives somewhere utterly new, decides he likes the place, moves right in, learns the language, and instantly becomes a local.”

I can relate to Felipe so well! I was definitely born to live abroad. What about you?

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11 thoughts on “Which do You Prefer: Traveling or Living Abroad?

  1. Very interesting… I would imagine the two are very different, but I never really thought about it in this way. I think I am a traveler, and not someone who is capable of living abroad. Home is home to me — even if I desire to spend as little time there as possible — it’s where I go to recharge.

    By the way, I cannot wait to read “Committed!” I adored “Eat, Pray, Love” and actually read it while I was traveling!

  2. @ Ania – Hey there! Welcome back! I’m actually in Guatemala right now studying Spanish. What about you?

    @ Jen – Yeah, I loved “Eat Pray Love”, too. I started to read Committed in a book store and couldn’t really get into it. But now that I’ve read that passage, I definitely want to give it another go.

  3. I can’t really say if I’m a traveller or a “mover” since I’ve never been out of my country. I always used to say I wanted to MOVE to a foreign country so that I could really get to know it. But now I think I’d prefer to just travel. I like the idea of a safe haven to return to and/or where I can store all the silly souvenirs I would inevitably buy 😛

    And you found out about the award already! I was going to comment and tell you but real life happened and I never got around to it. You’re most welcome anyway! I really like your blog and just wanted to let you know 😀

  4. Interesting post. I’ve always seen myself as the type of person who wouldn’t mind traveling and living abroad at the same time. Don’t know why but the thought of living in America for my entire life just seems flat out boring. I gotta get out and explore the world going through mishaps, flight-delays, baggage lost, and miscommunication with natives of the country I’m visiting. Then reality set in. Yeah I love to travel, meet new people who possibly become life-time friends, and learn new languages but can a job regarding either of these provide a decent living in the future? What jobs would I be able to find in the countries I visit? Yeah English teacher in France or Korea sounds fine, though seems like a job that’s too common of foreigners, and what if I wanted to stay longer than a year or two? Would I be comfortable living in a developing country such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Brazil, Turkey, India, or Vietnam? Cause I would love to live in them all if I could. Would I be comfortable w/ the side-remarks and stares I’d receive while in Korea or China?

    Really, I think as of now I sound more like a dreamer who wants to travel to like 10 diff. countries by the age of 30 (my goal..ughh, I have the mindset of anything after 20s means getting old..lol), and a worried traveler who someday may make the leap to living abroad. Reading your blog since you were in Japan I don’t see how you do it Reannon :D. I’m all comfortable here in America with my decent lifestyle, but dont’ know if I’d be willing to give it all up in a flash to live in a tiny-apartment in Japan or rush off to countries like Guatemala. I guess the key to living abroad, and the difference between it with frequently traveling, is to take things one step at a time.

  5. Speaking of that, I was just wondering do you go back to your old blog and look through posts just to recount your travels back then? I know sometimes I still get a kick reading through some of them every once in a while.

  6. I really like living abroad but I don’t think I’m cut out for long term travel. Sure, I enjoy traveling for a few days or weeks here and there but I could never do one of those ’20 countries in 12 months’ sort of trips. I’d much prefer to take that time and do about five, max. I’m more like Felipe in that sense.

    I love getting to know a city really well…Finding my favorite bakery or coffee shop, making friends with the fruit-stall man and the bartender. I like getting to know other expats, too and feeling part of the community. You don’t get that when you’re constantly on the road, changing cities every few days.

    It’s weird because even though I only arrived in Xela a few days ago, I already feel at home in this city; like I’ve been living here for years! It’s an awesome feeling.

  7. @ Edd – No, I never re-read my old blogs! Once I hit ‘publish’, I rarely look at them again. Is that weird?

  8. Really? Haha I don’t think it’s weird, maybe after you’ve experienced it once and wrote about it that was a good enough reminder. Anyways, it will still be on the web for years and years and I’m sure you’ll look back at it one day :P.

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