Make a new plan Stan: An exercise in creating an expat life
By Karla Freeman
For some advice, let’s turn to Paul Simon’s 1975 song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” which in our case refers to leaving an old life and culture.
“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”
The problem is all inside your head
She said to me
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle
To be free
There must be fifty ways
To leave your lover
For more of the lyrics, click here.
Here’s a simple exercise that shows you how. It also shows you how to establish new goals for your life. I call it the “pie process.”
- Make a list of eight to 10 areas of your life as an expat that you consider most important.
- Take a sheet of paper and draw a circle – or a pie. Then divide the pie into slices. Try not to exceed eight to ten.
- Label each slice with one of your “most important” things. Then look at each one and ascribe a number between one and 10 for its importance in your life, one being the most important. For example, if catching the bus (Gus) is important to you, but not at the top of your list, you might rank it eight or nine.
- Then, one at a time, ask how much time and energy you spend for each area of importance. Is the time and energy invested consistent with the ranking that you’ve assigned it?
- Now you have a map for your life and can consider making time and energy adjustments where necessary. Maybe you are happy with your life except for one important thing you’ve neglected. Or, you might decide you need to make changes to your ranking.
- Then comes the fun part. Pick an area, or areas, to work on. Suppose it’s Spanish (did I say that?). What simple actions can you take to put more emphasis on learning your new language. Maybe it’s a simple thing like writing down one Spanish word a day in a notebook, learning its definition and then using it in a conversation. Warning: Don’t try to do too much too soon (that’s a set-up for failure). Make your goals simple and achievable.
So what do you put in your pie? It’s entirely up to you but some suggestions include learning Spanish, making new friends, exploring Ecuador, visiting indigenous communities, attending a symphony performance, or … hopping on a bus
We are all free to make our own map and decide how we follow it. So, don’t be coy Roy, and Joy.
Finally, learn to celebrate small changes.
We have all heard the phrase, “the only constant is change.” So, why do we resist it?
The good news is we are all capable of learning new things — and of changing. Did I know, seven years ago, that I would living in South America today? No way. It all started with a two-week trip to Buenos Aires to learn the tango. That’s when I had to revise my pie and make a new map.
What’s next for you? What’s your new challenge?
What’s your new plan. Stan?
Karla Freeman, expat, traveler, tango dancer, writer, currently lives in Cuenca and is the author of Creating Magic in Midlife: 101 Questions and Answers to Reinvent Your Work, Relationships and Life! Available on Amazon Kindle and at Carolina bookstore on Calle Hermano Miguel in Cuenca.