Thursday, March 21, 2013

no country for hurt feelings...

howdy! i decided to write this post for my fellow expats, backpackers, wanderers and those who are living far away from their family and friends. i want to talk about the confusion, frustration and anger that can consume you when you would like to talk to someone who understands you but are unable to due to time differences, work schedules etc. those of us who are away from home usually don't want to just talk to someone who only understands the language we are speaking, but someone who understands what we are trying to say and how you feel. no one can do that better than the ones you love. unfortunately, it is a common complaint among long term travelers that, once you go abroad, many of the relationships you have at home are tested. 

this pass week, i have had very little communication with anyone back home. i decided to go a week without social media. why, you ask? why would i be 14,000 miles away from the nearest friend or family member and not be online constantly? well, the answer to that is simple- my feelings were hurt. before i took my social media break, i felt like the people i wanted to talk to were nowhere to be found. i was upset and angry at my friends and some of my family members because they weren't showing me that they were thinking about me. or that they cared about what i was going through. i believe that if you miss someone or are thinking about them, you need to do more than just shoot a dry ass email once a week, or mention them on twitter. these last few days i felt isolated. not just alone in china, but alone in the world. and believe me when i say, that is a very fucked up feeling. so i turned off my fb notifications, i didn't tweet and i didn't email anyone. i needed to get to the source of my frustration and my pain. i am not the kind of person who is going to look outwardly for help with these kinds of situations. i tend to trust myself to make the right kinds of choices more often than not. i wanted to make sure that when i started talking to people again, it was from a place of objectivity and love. not from bitterness and rage. 

now let me be 100% honest, i went to china to GET AWAY from people. seriously. i was working like a dog in a place that neither valued me as an employee or as a person. being there ate away at my self esteem and my confidence. anyone that knows me, knows that i am a very hard worker and i keep my word. i don't scare easily and very rarely will i give up on something without giving it 1,000 percent. but, there comes a time in your life when you have got to stop making excuses for your unhappiness and take control of the situation. i wanted to live life on my own terms. but, i am not delusional and i didn't think that in china, my life would be sunshine, rainbows and unicorn tears because- it's not. life is hard for everyone. no matter where you are or what you do, life can beat you up and sometimes the weight of the world is on your shoulders. even celebrities and those we think "have it made" are fucking sad sometimes. i understand that. but i know that my trip to china was a much needed break from corporate monotony and self deprivation. it was an opportunity for me to do something that didn't really make sense logically (according to some people) but it made perfect sense to me. i am a much better person now that i was 5 months ago. living in rizhao is like living on another planet. all the writing and blogging in the world can't capture what it is like to be here. you have to see it for yourself. the town has a lot of old traditions mixed with a energetic population- seriously- people here say hello to strangers in the street. in other words- new york city, it ain't. when is the last time anyone on the street smiled and said "hello" to you? i'm not counting the dirty old man that smells like the 40oz they drank 3 weeks ago- or the woman with 100 bags on the train trying to guilt trip you into giving up your seat. i'm talking about people just having plain, old fashioned, manners. i get to meet a lot of nice people in this city. the change of pace has helped me be more relaxed. i'm less jittery and on edge- i feel great being here most days. i'm even forgetting that i almost got to see china from a small dusty window on the inside of a cement cell. 

by being away from those i care about and without tons of social interaction, i get to see the real me. the good, the bad, and the ugly. one thing about myself that i realized this past week, is how much of a needy person i can be sometimes. not the kind of needy that will land my ass in a psych ward, but the kind of person that has expected, or convinced myself that people would actually be available to me whenever i needed them while i was in china. and that is not the case, not in the way that i believed it to be. oh, i am not saying that my family and friends have abandoned me (i know they would never do that). i am not saying that if i skyped my bestie with a real problem, she would pretend not to see my 3x3 inch picture blinking on her computer screen. but what i am saying, is that sometimes people get caught up with their own lives. they are involved with their own personal drama and situations. and because of that, sometimes, they can't help you with yours. i debated about writing on this topic, i didn't want people to read it and think that i am throwing them under the bus- i am not. i'm just being honest about my feelings. 

i want other expats to know that just because YOU had a major life change, doesn't mean everyone else in your life is on the same page. i had to understand that while, i went around the world to start a new life, the people i love are still working the same jobs and paying the same bills they were before i left. their lives have not changed drastically like mine. they are still going to the same places they have always gone to and living life like i never left- because, life goes on. we expats need to realize that our life changing journey isn't a shared experience completely with our friends and family members. i am sure they are excited and thrilled that you have decided to climb mount everest, or save kittens in africa, or teach english in katmandu- but they can only be there to support you while you do it- they are NOT doing it WITH you. and that is something that took me longer than i like to admit to realize. don't get me wrong, my friends are doing great things- no doubt about that. i can honestly say that all of my friends have a lot going for them (birds of a know the rest). i am very proud of the accomplishments they have gained since we left college. in fact, i brag. i brag all the time about how my team rides for one another. there isn't a birthday, or special event, my girls have missed. we have celebrated life and death together and our love is strong. no matter how mad they make me- i still will always be there for them and they will always be there for me.

it's a little cheesy, but you get my point!
i had to take a step back and understand that part of being an adult- means being OK with being alone and enjoying your own company. part of being a expat is about learning how to let go of the fear that your friends and love ones are throwing parties to celebrate your absence every time it takes them longer than usual to answer your email or missing a skype date. another part of being a expat is learning not only how to live in the country you moved to, but learning how to LOVE it. since embracing this new philosophy- i like travelling around my city and riding around on a random buses- just to get lost. i  have discovered all kinds of cool things i would not have seen while buried in my apartment staring at my computer and waiting on _____ to send me a IM. now, i know how to get to the bank, movie theater (no english movies or subtitles, but chinese movies are HILARIOUS), the cleaners, the bus deport, the bar, to the airport, and i know where to get all of the silk scarves and green tea i will ever need. i feel like this place turning into my home. by fully embracing the culture and the people. i have learned to love china. i no longer fear travelling (it can't possibly get much worse than what i have already been through) in fact, i plan on going to beijing to see the great wall next month, i also want to see the famous terracotta warriors in xi'an this may. i might even get to the island of zhoushang for a tropical vacation right before i leave this june. in the mean time, i am going to visit all of the cities next to rizhao- who knows, i may find a deal on the next iphone400 or something :-)

travelling  and exploring the world can be fun, or it can be a nightmare but that totally depends on your attitude and your outlook. someone smart once said "you can't get ahead, looking behind" and i agree. sometime your feelings will get hurt when you can't communicate with the ones you love. and yes. sometimes you will feel a pang of resentment when your friends go on and do stuff without you. but that it the price you pay for being freaking awesome and living life on your own terms. remember that not too many people have the opportunity to do what you are doing. enjoy your time away from the responsibilities and bullshit that comes with being home and working a 9-5! enjoy the time you have left being an expat. take advantage of every dinner invitation (free food is the BEST food) every close encounter you have had with the police, and laugh at yourself when you realize you thought you told the taxi driver to, "take you to the mall" but  what you really said was, "take your clothes off" (or, maybe that kind of stuff just happens to me, SO embarrassing). your families love is always going to be there. true friendships are not going to be lost by distance or time. in fact, you appreciate people more once you have been away from them for awhile. be grateful that you have had the chance to see places people can only dream about. the next time you find yourself drowning in your own pity, remember: the moment you get off the plane and finish hugging all the people you "missed"- someone is going to bring up that time you fell down the stairs at the club on your birthday and how it ended up on YouTube or WorldStarHipHop....home sweet home!

photo courtesy of

side note: chocolatewonton has over 800 views! OMG! i never knew almost a thousand people would be interested in what i had to say.i am very happy when readers email me and tell me i made them laugh or how they can relate to what i write. don't be afraid to facebook, tweet, instagram or email stories you like  to your friends and family. i appreciate the feedback and the support! 


  1. I just found your blog and as an American who is moving to Shanghai in a few months, I appreciate your insight.

    1. Hello Meredith!
      Thanks so much for reading. I hope your transition to Shanghai is smooth. You can always email me with any questions you may have. Goodluck!

  2. Words of wisdom never sounded so true. It's really awesome that you were able to verbalize what I felt each time I've gone abroad. I can only hope that other travelers will be fortunate enough to come across your blog or at least come to the realization themselves. Family & friends mean well and usually have the best intentions but they can never fully understand our journeys/experiences.

    1. awww Nai, you are making me blush! i hope i helped someone else in this expat life. it's not easy that's for sure!

  3. Wow....Each and every entry keeps me coming back. I really admire the way that you write and your presentation of feelings. Although I have yet to travel abroad, I feel like I'm experiencing it all first hand.


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