5 Things I Learned About Myself In 5 Places I’ve Lived

A couple of weeks ago, I revealed that after spending four years in South Korea I want to move abroad again; this time to Germany. If you follow me on Instagram, you also probably know that I’m stuck (but gratefully, safe) in California for the time being.

Because Miss ‘Rona is here to stay in the USA for a while and American passports are worthless now, my move has been postponed, likely until next May – a whole year later than planned. *insert eyeroll and crying emojis here*

Yes, it HELLA sucks; but I’m not here to complain further. No, I haven’t fully accepted it yet.

Coming back to not only the city I was born and raised in, but the actual home I grew up in (*Thank you parents for helping me save money on rent while being funemployed!*) I’ve found myself reflecting on the places I’ve lived and what they’ve taught me about myself.

These five places hold enough special meaning to me that they are actually tattooed on my left forearm in the form of coordinates – just one of the 5 tattoos I have. Side note: did you know tomorrow is National Tattoo Day? So it’s the perfect time for this post!

Here are the 5 coordinates tattooed on my arm and what I learned about myself from each place:

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

This is the place I called home the longest – where I was born and raised. The childhood home where I grew up; where I lived for a few years after college; and where I find myself now.

Growing up as a middle child, I was relentlessly picked on – shoutout to my biggest headaches, Aaron & Zara! –  and because of that I also found myself doing my own thing a lot.  

Thus, I learned early on that I’m independent.

SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY, CALIFORNIA

Choosing a college that was 8 hours away, this was the first time I left the comforts of home to take a leap of faith and spread my wings.

I hated living in San Diego at first. I was in the same state, but it was a culture shock not being in the diversity of the Bay Area or a school where the majority was Asian. I was extremely homesick to the point that I applied for a second semester transfer.

Alas, other plans were in store for me. In my Tagalog 101 class, I learned about a volunteer opportunity with the Filipinx-American student organization on campus, AB Samahan. Through that org, I found my people. *Kumusta to all my Filipinx readers!*

That was the first time I really learned that people can feel like “home” as much as a place does. Still missing family but finding comfort in my new bubble, my independence kicked in. I decided to stay.

That decision taught me that I am brave and resilient.

CAPE BYRON LIGHTHOUSE, AUSTRALIA

OKAAAAY, so technically I didn’t live in Australia. But it was my first big solo trip and where I fell in love with traveling. I was there for a month on a volunteer and adventure trip.

Spending one week in a tent during Australian winter, where most nights there was a downpour, then a week in cabins on a date palm farm…it felt like living there. For the next two weeks, our volunteer group traveled down the eastern coast from Cairns to Sydney.

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, white water rafting and jumping off 4 meter high rocks into the rapids, taking surfing lessons, and swimming in emerald lakes; sounds super fun, right?

Not for me! I’M A SCAREDY CAT WHEN IT COMES TO DEEP WATER TIL THIS DAY. Yet, the FOMO was hella real because this was my first time traveling, so I did all those things anyways.

Facing those fears to enjoy my trip to the fullest taught me that I have an adventurous heart.

PORTO SAN GIORGIO, ITALY

My first time actually living abroad was a dream come true. Italy was the top international destination I wanted to visit. I found the opportunity to do so while living with an Italian host family for three months.

Being another volunteer trip, my work was teaching 3rd-8th grade Italian students English for about 15 hours per week. At home with my Italian family, I helped Gaia and Francesco with English homework, and Paola and Daniele – my host mom and dad – with conversational English.

Could I have found a more perfect situation? At the time, NOPE! I fell in love with working with youth and the short hours allowed me to journey all over Italy in my free time.

In the brief time I spent in this Italian beachside town, I learned that I am passionate about teaching.

YEOJU, SOUTH KOREA

When I got this tattoo in December 2016 I was nearing the end of my first year teaching English. With intentions of going home once my contract was finished, I thought that the year with some of the biggest changes in my life up to that point taught me that as much as I love traveling and living abroad, “home” aka California, is where I belong.

LOL…by now y’all know that’s FAR from the truth! Upon realizing that one year there wasn’t enough for me, I decided at the last minute to stay if I could find another teaching job. I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason. When I was hired by the school I taught at for the next three years, I knew in my soul I was meant to stay.

Those life changing events of 2016 didn’t teach me that I belonged at “home.” They taught me that I had a tendency to put others’ needs before mine and do what was “expected” of me.

It took 28 years but intentionally choosing myself 100% for the first time in my life, I learned that underneath all my care for others, I am free-spirited.

Of course these places taught me more than just these five things, but these 5 are the most important things I learned about who I am as a person.

Tell me, what is one place – domestic or international – that you’ve lived and what has it taught you? I’d like to get to know more about my readers!

With wanderlust & ‘til next time,
Ava

6 comments

  1. Living in Mexico definitely taught me more about myself. Growing up in Texas right on the border of Mexico I’ve always known of my Mexican heritage but actually living in Mexico for a couple months taught me to embrace, appreciate and be proud of my roots!

    Like

    • That’s really awesome! If I could live in the Philippines for a bit, I totally would; I know I would have a deeper appreciation and understanding of my roots if I did – just like you.

      Like

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