In The Beginning
There was a time when I received food stamps, WIC, social security, and lived in income based housing back in Texas. My life was a constant attempt at trying to make it to the end of the month with a limited paycheck. I knew nothing more than a life of struggle and a constant feeling of not having enough. What I didn’t know then but now know, is that I had so much more money than half the world’s population yet every day I complained. I felt I was a victim.
Fast forward to today as I sit on my living room sofa, drinking a hot cup of creamy coffee, and staring out at the beautiful mountainside here in Tirana, Albania, I am no longer that victim. Traveling and living abroad has been a transformational journey that I am so damn grateful for.
When others typically think of a single mom in the US, they don’t think of a woman taking on the world with her kids, pushing past fears, thriving, and creating a life others can only dream of.
Yet, here I am and I have learned a few things along the way.
The Growth Is Past The Fear
Living abroad pushes you to look fear in the face and push right past him. Everything is uncertain and scary at first. Your desire for change has to be stronger than your fear in order for you to live abroad. Why? Because most things will be unfamiliar to you. I remember my daughters’ and I’s first big trip to Puerto Rico.
I chose Puerto Rico because I didn’t need a passport, it was an American territory, and I figured it would be an easy transition.
I was wrong.
When we headed out onto the roads of Puerto Rico in our rental car that afternoon in May, fear nearly paralyzed me. To my horror, there were giant holes in the road. I am not kidding. Holes in the road. And even worse, the driving was out-of-this-world. Like nothing I had ever seen before which I can giggle at now that I have seen driving in Albania.
When we survived the drive and getting lost in the jungle, we had another rude awakening. It might seem so small now that we have been traveling for a year a half but on our first big adventure, it was huge.
The owner told us that we could not flush the toilet paper. We had to put it in the trash.
Do you mean to tell me that you had to wipe your butt with toilet paper and then put it in a trash can instead of in the toilet?
That is exactly what I mean. This shocked me. It horrified me like I am sure it is doing to you right now as you read this.
Now, a year and a half later, it is normal and expected in most of the places we have traveled.
Pointing and Google Translate Saves The Day
Living abroad teaches you to get really good at hand motions and pointing. Once again our first introduction to a foreign language was in Puerto Rico. I naively figured that since Puerto Rico is American territory, most people would speak English.
That was my privilege thinking.
I avoided eating out a lot because I was absolutely terrified of trying to speak Spanish. Most days, we went through the McDonald’s drive-thru because we figured, there, at least someone would speak English. Actually, there were other drive-thrus we attempted but ended up driving away when we couldn’t figure out what the person on the intercom was saying.
In Mexico, we got pretty good at using Google translate and pointing at various items on the menu. I even dare to say we attempted to speak a little Spanish.
Now in Albania, with the most difficult language we have come across to date, we still utilize the whole pointing strategy and we eat out at restaurants nearly every day. We just walk right in which you wouldn’t find us doing a year and a half ago.
It gets better.
My girls actually go off on their own. They go order food down the street, they go get groceries from the local grocery store, and then even go buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the sweet old man in the market near us. They are 13 and 12.
Travel has taught us to be bold.
The World Is Not So Bad
Despite what the news might be telling you. Despite what the latest headline reads. The world is full of amazing and kind people.
Do you know that I rarely if ever watch the news? Why? Because the news showcases the bad in the world but hardly ever shows all the good out there and there is so much good.
The news keeps you scared and living small.
If I had listened to the things on the news, I would have never lived in Mexico, fell in love with Mexico, and made lifelong friends in Mexico.
Actually, I would have never left the protection of my four walls back in the US because if I did I would have certainly died a painful and miserable death.
People are kind. They are helpful. They are accepting.
We are all connected to one another.
The mom in the apartment next to us has to feed her kids just like I do. She has to take care of her youngest when they are sick in the middle of the night just like I do. Why in the world do we tend to see ourselves as so different from others in the world?
The beauty in living abroad is that you see just how alike we all are.
What Living Abroad As A Single Mom Has Taught Me
I need to say this now. The main thing that living abroad has taught me is that the whole single mom victim mentality I had back in the US was wrong. I get it. This was my mentality for so long that it took me a while to break free from its chains. Those chains will keep you trapped.
The first step to breaking free from the single mom victim mentality is awareness. You need to be aware that you are living that reality.
If you often find yourself complaining and saying things like but I am a single mom, but I will never have enough money because it is all up to me, but dad should help, but it is not fair, then you are suffering from single mom victim mentality. It is the poor me narrative you live every single day.
The next step requires you to take action. You have to want to change. You have to get uncomfortable and have a willingness and desire to grow.
This means switching up the things you watch, listen to, and read. This means changing your circle and surrounding yourself with positive and driven people who will help push you to the next level. This means joining my Single Moms Do Travel group and being inspired by all the women who said yes to life.
Hire a mentor.
Go to conferences.
Go to workshops.
Once you start doing these things, your life will begin to transform and that mentality that held you back for all those years will be nothing but a distant memory.