Living Abroad for the First Time

A friend is living abroad at the moment and going through some blue times. Sometimes I get weird about sharing myself in black and white, and say the bare minimum. However, this makes me feel like I need to expand it out. Not sure if she’ll ever read this, but I have to share it.

When I moved abroad for the first time, not just traveling but living in one place intentionally with another person, I was so in over my head. I didn’t realise it at the time. I had left a good life but one that I wasn’t feeling fully fulfilled in anymore and decided that I wanted to do something different. I had just ended a long term relationship, had a health scare with precancerous cells on my cervix, and had become very cynical about corporations and their role in capitalism in the world at a time when I was moving more and more towards a more balanced view of living and using one’s resources. Then came along an attractive, charismatic alpha male foreigner who had me in his sights, and him in mine. It started fast like most fires do, and in a short time, even though there were some warning signs, I dismissed them, and soon he was back in his own country. I missed his energy and the way I felt around him, and questioned why I would stay where I was when this whole other life could be mine. I went on a holiday to visit him in Brazil and loved it. I was enamoured by being around him and allowing the flames to engulf us, I enjoyed the lush life he was accustomed to, and he wanted me to return. Within a very short few months, I resigned from my job after being with the corporation for 9 years, gave away everything I owned, and moved to Brazil with two suitcases. I was just 27 and had only lived in low population areas where everyone knew everyone, where I was the big fish in the small pond with a small exception when I was at University where I joined a sorority to counteract and become a big fish again. I had no experience with big city people and he was the epitome of big city and I had no idea what I was really getting into.

The beginning was fun, I enjoyed myself, it was all new, and I would share with family and friends back home about my new findings, the life I was now living which seemed like it was out of a movie, and it was incredible. After a while, the newness started to fade away though. I couldn’t easily find a job like I had before, I didn’t speak Portuguese, I realised that he was a lot different in his regular life than he was when he was traveling, or when I was traveling to holiday with him. It took me a while to understand that society people are very different from country people like myself. I hadn’t realised fully how many masks are worn, or how people associate with others just because of the benefits that they may get, or because they are the right people to know. I didn’t wear the right clothes, the right shoes, the right whatever, I hadn’t grown up in it, and that outward superficial appearance of things wasn’t important to me, maybe a bit, but nothing in comparison to the people I met and socialised with on a regular basis. I joined the “club” and did my best to make the most of it. However, it started to break at the seams.

There are so many more details to add here, but in short, I realised that I was in the wrong place. I was headed down this path with someone who wanted me to marry him, and I had already given away my entire old life. My ego was so big that I didn’t feel like I could go back, I had never actually failed at anything, and there was no possibility that I was going to admit freely that I had made the wrong decision. So I continued my best to make it work. I was depressed. I was living in Sao Paolo, the third largest city in the world, and I felt so utterly alone. I felt like I couldn’t talk about it with friends and family either, not deeply, not fully.

In this time of feeling out of alignment, I was in search of finding what was right for me. I did some dream therapy, taught myself to meditate, even fasted for 28 days to gain clarity. I wasn’t even that happy when I was at the weekend holiday homes on the island or in the exclusive private beachside community on the weekends. I was so out of it. I traveled a bit from there to Argentina for a short stint away, and the message I received when couch surfing with this amazing family near Patagonia, was that it’s not always easy but you make it work. So I returned and tried again. The day before we got married which I only agreed to for health insurance reasons and thought I had made that perfectly clear, I called an Aunt of mine back in the US on a payphone and calling card, and she told me that I could mould him into the person I wanted him to be and essentially I’d be a fool to give up the life I had in order to return to the US in any capacity like I had before. Horrible advice. I even got in contact with some old friends from Yosemite who basically were just like, “what do you have to lose?” I cried the day I signed those papers after the ceremony was performed in Portuguese. I cried and cried. It was like I was on a fast moving train and I just couldn’t get off.

I started indulging in more drinking than I had in a long while, I would smoke a lot of cannabis, and still none of it made a difference. I would go to acupuncture weekly and then listen to this jazz band every Tuesday afternoon and that was like a salvation for me. Eventually I felt afraid to continue being there with him but didn’t feel like I had an out. I had transferred all of my money into his name, which was a ludicrous thing to do but I was so naive and trusting especially when I first arrived.

About ten months after the marriage, my grandmother fell ill and I took the exit opportunity. I told him we were separating, and I left. It was emotional. I got back to the US, and I felt so completely broken. I wore my wedding band and tried not to talk about it with anyone, I just couldn’t. My ego was shattered. I lost my once tangible level of confidence, and I was lost. My grandmother wasn’t doing well, and I spent time with her, and I bounced around from place to place because there wasn’t any room for me to stay at my parents house, that was never a backup or fall back plan for me in life as they never really had it together enough on their own to offer such stability or security. Eventually I made my way back to Yosemite to stay with a friend. My heart was back in tact or at least starting to mend. I learned about Vipassana meditation, and enrolled in the next available course. There was a blip in there where the Brazilian came to the US on a work visa for his American based corporation and terrorised me, but I don’t want to get into that now, but it was so scary as I hadn’t told him where I was staying and he still found me. Meditation helped me to reset, my grandmother passed when I was in between sessions, and I was the most level emotionally I had been in a long time and was able to act as support for my family.

I got offers to work back in Yosemite but I couldn’t I couldn’t go back to a life that I had left. So I traveled. I roadtripped with friends, learned about my own country, went to Burning Man, just lived and experienced life like a rolling stone. It was exhausting. By New Years a year later after returning from Brazil, I was on this three day party bender, and I knew I was also not in the right place. I wrote down that I wanted a flight someplace else in a journal, and an email showed up from the Brazilian saying he had bought my ticket to Australia and to just get on the plane, no expectations, just to come and stay a year. Up until the day of the flight I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, this same person who scared me, was offering this opportunity, he had all my money still, and was promising no expectations of what was to come. I had offered up to the universe what I wanted and it came in a way that I hadn’t envisioned, which does happen often. I took the flight, and soon after separated from him again, and it brought me to Australia. The story continues as does the scariness but it’s all resolved now. It took a very long time and a lot of internal strength to get through it all.

If I have learned anything from all of this is that it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to say that things didn’t work out. It’s okay to return. It’s okay to try again. The beauty is that every moment contains the seed of something new to become. It is because of these experiences that I have grown in ways that I have, and I have no regrets. Also, I listen to my internal voice a hell of a lot more than I ever did when I was younger. I don’t know everything, and am open to seeing what presents itself. Life is a wild and glorious ride.

Only a Friend

I only need a friend right now

I’d love for you to be that for me

but I’m not sure either of us knows how

my intention is not to cause harm or distress

I’m still trying to figure out where I am my best

I hope you know me well enough

to not take this personal…

that I love you, I’m sure I always will

I just have a lot of stuff to work through from Brazil…

A Poem: How Did I Get Here?

How did I get here?

she questions inside

how did I get here

how can I hide?


She found her place

in a lonely space

full of masks and clowns

while living downtown. 


Reality was a blur

everything was grey

never had she planned 

for such a day. 


The greys turned to black

laughs turned to cries

she often thought

of ways to die. 


She was all alone

and out of touch

thinking of it 

all too much. 


How did I get here? 

She questions inside

How did I get here?

How can I hide?


She was almost depleted

nearly extinct 

as she forced herself

she was on the brink. 


It wasn’t her

it never was

but she was there

just because.

Finding Your Passion

Passion is what drives us to do things well, really well. We do our best when we are totally engaged in what we are doing. We always want to do our best, so if that is the truth, then we should always do what we are passionate about. It is interesting that most of my thoughts along this line always head back to “Follow your Bliss” by Joseph Campbell, a great American mystic. This is one of those times.

I saw two great examples of people in action using thier passion to drive them to outdo themselves. The first one was a Badmitton player who was practicing for the big tournament that is being held tonight at the Paulistano Club. He was in the zone. I was walking by and had to stop and watch him. He was so intense, focused and really giving his all to his game. He was totally dressed for the part. He was the oldest of the competitors there, probably in his 50s or so, with a headband, sport goggles, even some kind of patch to help him see better (?) over one eye, a knee brace and new tennis shoes. He was running, sweating and hitting back the birdie every time it came to his court… his passion was unmistakable. I hope he wins tonight, we shall see.

The other was a guest trambone player with Tito Martino Jazz Band, a band that I have been watching every Tuesday Afternoon at the Livaria Cultura on Avenida Paulista since the beginning of the year. He is a tall fellow, I have seen him play a couple of times with them and now that he is a bit more comfortable he just goes for it. He blows that thing with mighty force. He sings the songs right along with Tito, he even does a little dance along with it. He is alive! His enthusiasm and passion draws a great applause each time, creating this great flow of energy which fuels all of us even more. His passion for music and being on stage is unmistakable and you can tell how much he loves it.

Finding and following your passion is everything. First you must figure that out and then the rest can work itself out. Your passion is not going to be the same as everyone else’s, that is why it is our own passion that we must find.

Yes, I can vote from abroad…

I have had many people say that they didn’t know that one could vote from abroad… and to be honest, neither did I until I moved here and decided to find out. There is even a Democrats Abroad group here in São Paulo that I have become affiliated with through the elections. It is wonderful to be around other Americans, expatriates like myself who know what it is like to live in a different culture, living a different reality. It is different, very different yet oddly similar in the same vein…