When we told people that we were going to be living in Cyprus, people had all sorts of reactions:
“When can I come and visit?” or “Sounds like fun!”
– to –
“Ooh, sounds like it’s going to be a ‘tough’ life.” (wink, wink.) or “Wow, I wished I could go on vacation for that long.”
Vacationing, traveling, etc. – whatever you want to call it- and living abroad, in my opinion, are two very different things.
I was a youthful, naïve 21-year-old college student when I traveled on my first overseas experience. With my cohort in a World War I/II semester studies program, my classmates and I got to see many of the battlegrounds fought across the Atlantic. It was truly an eye opening but difficult experience for me who knew only five words in French. I had a hard time adjusting to the people, pace of city life, language, and immense (even intense) amount of walking. I knew that I didn’t have as rich of an experience as some of my other classmates because I didn’t have an open mind about traveling abroad.
Since my time in college, I traveled to other places around the world for work, which gave me the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures new to me. Slowly, I began to open myself up to learn about the people, places, and things in each country I traveled, but again, they were all very short trips – a few days here or a few weeks there. There’s only so much time you can glean from a place when you visit it for such a short period of time.
It wasn’t until I met my husband, now a professor, who helped me to see and experience life overseas: 1) when he proposed in Paris, 2) when we took our honeymoon to Italy, 3) living abroad as a family in the country of Cyprus.
Now, living abroad is not exactly the same as vacationing abroad because you’ve got to get to the basics of living: working, school, family life, groceries, making friends (e.g., making a people connection). That isn’t something you have to do when you are on vacation. When you are on vacation, you are taking a break from the daily life back home and become a person who enjoys the culture and life of a new place purely from an observational standpoint. (Isn’t that what a vacation is about – getting away from it all?)
Having said all that, I feel that living abroad for 10 months is like sitting on the fence between vacationing abroad and living abroad. On the one hand, we can see and experience many new things on an island completely foreign to us as a family, such as visiting castles and beaches on the island. On the other hand, we do almost all the same things we do back home here in Cyprus – go to school, work, church, playgroups, after-school activities,, run errands, etc. We know that we have a home to go back to, so any experience good or bad in Cyprus, will be an experience to learn from and to take back with us.
Finally, I must say that I have noticed that our time in Cyprus has been divided into two waves – the first half as a see everything you can every weekend we are here, while the second half is filled with meeting up and having dinner with new friends.
We are so grateful to have met our new friends, thus far, who have opened up their hearts and homes to us. We hope that these friendships here will remain as one of a lifetime or long lasting friendships for decades down the road.