I packed up my things and moved to the Middle East

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

From DC → Dubai → Kuwait

Nearly ten months ago I decided to consolidate my life into two (large) suitcases and spend a year working overseas. The location choice is far from glamorous but seemed to hold the most familiarity for relocation, if that exists when moving to a foreign area.

After over one year of deliberation and multiple conversations with people like Diego and instagram stalking a handful of other #CPCF staffers, I decided that working with fitness company Circuit+ was worth the move. Having full support (albeit some skepticism) from my family and employers; I embarked on my journey halfway around the world.

The goal of the move was simple: to experience a different culture, and to help a community embrace fitness- from CrossFit to Yoga through the power of teaching others.

What I have found since living in the desert I’m sure has yet to fully set in. But there are a few simple work, relationship, and personal lessons I’ve pulled from the experience so far.

A few things to note:

  1. You’re probably overpacking.

There’s no better way to realize how much stuff you actually have than trying to pack it all up. And even better, once figuring out what is “necessary” you’ll probably find that you use or need about half of said necessary items. What an easy way to simplify: is it worth the valuable space in my suitcase?

2. It’s ok to give up control.

Also a key reminder: there is very little we actually have complete control over. I’m still getting a grasp on this but might as well still share it. From travel plans, surprise rules and regulations, to workday schedules- life has a great way of throwing curveballs. We can accommodate and prepare for change, but at times and especially in a different country and culture, these things are unavoidable. Learn to adapt and accept the situation. *Also see patience.

Exploring downtown Kuwait City on my one-month “anniversary”

3. Make an investment in yourself.

I had no idea what to expect when I moved but I went in to this year with specific goals of self-improvement. Forcing yourself into an uncomfortable and unfamiliar situation is a start, but I told myself I would be 100% present for a couple of things:

  • Work: to learn, observe, and be the best teacher I could be.
  • Friends: to make the most of every new relationship.
  • Me: call it being selfish but I saw this year as a big moment of self development.

In turn, this time “away” has been an investment on all of the things listed above. I’ve discovered how I work: things I need to thrive in a professional environment, and how to (fail… then maybe succeed) meld with different cultures. I’ve recognized how important relationships are to me: that friends and social situations are what help wherever I am truly feel like home. And finally, I’ve taken time to re-evaluate for myself: A way to get away from things I thought I wanted or needed, to see if that’s actually what I wanted or needed.

4. Don’t “do it for the ‘gram”

I’d be remiss to say that the lifestyle of living and coaching abroad didn’t sound luxurious. Many stressful (and costly) necessities are taken care of for coaches. The proximity of Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries make it far easier to see the world than traveling from the U.S.

But all of this comes with a cost. The focus is work; and plus you still need to finance your vacations. Working 6 days a week is required.

Additionally you are constantly navigating language and cultural barriers while adjusting a Western lifestyle in a Middle Eastern country. This is not glamorous or easy. The experience is worth it but it’s not all as perfect as Instagram pictures, as is the case for everything. You have to be willing to work and work around many different challenges.

5. Care about the world around you

There is a lot more to our lives than the direct 10–25 people we connect with on a daily basis. There’s a lot more good in the world than we see on the news, and there’s always another side to the story. Being abroad for a few notable happenings in the U.S. (2016 Presidential election being a major one… absentee ballot please) has helped me directly witness the impact that our decisions can have on the world around us- not in a macro sense, but on a far more personal level.

This also entails embracing the local culture. There are definitely aspects of the middle eastern culture that has been quite difficult to understand, but there’s value in respecting the rules and asking questions to help grasp the details…. learning some new Kuwaiti dances are also a must!

6. Find family everywhere.

There is nothing more powerful than human connection. Uprooting your life and landing somewhere new is never easy but leaving a group of friends and family is sometimes scarier than the move itself. Listen, ask questions, share stories, laugh, be vulnerable, get comfortable, get uncomfortable, support each other. The bond made with complete strangers while traveling is unexplainable in a way. It is a bond forged out of necessity at times but quickly gains more strength and meaning. Whether it’s with fellow wanderlusters or locals, you share a connection to a life that many may never truly understand, and that is extremely valuable.

(R) Found a fellow Ohioan (who went to the same high school) in Kuwait, and we both had Ohio tattoos. (L) A post-run group pic with the CPCF Women
From gym selfies to celebrating holidays away from home, these people make it more fun.

Conversely, leaving home also reveals the strength of any relationship between someone who doesn’t leave. There are important moments that you may not be present for, or your friends will miss with you too. There is importance in understanding with times like that. Take those lessons to heart as well. Simplicity breeds the strongest and most faithful bonds.

Whether you read this from abroad, or are considering a move; my single piece of advice is if you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s probably worth a shot. It took me a while to finally commit to leaving the U.S, has taken some adjustments and challenges, but I don’t regret my decision one bit.

Regardless of where the path leads next, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the everyone and everything that has entered my life on this adventure.

Currently Playing: 
JAHKOY: “No regrets”