Why The Heck Did We Move to France?
Travel has always been an integral part of my life. I learned from both my parents and my grandparents that experiencing different cultures is an essential way to keep an open mind, embrace the differences among communities, and appreciate the uniqueness of an individual.
I’ve been very blessed to travel to many countries, and I can say without reserve that experiencing and appreciating the uniqueness of each culture has made me a more empathetic, curious, and compassionate person. This has translated into a greater sense of gratitude for my home and my family, a gentler spirit as I interact with people daily, and the ability to give a higher level of cultural competence as I care for patients as a nurse.
Learning About Other Cultures Was Engrained in My Childhood
Our vacations were full of exploring, walking through cities, taking tours of historical sites, and appreciating nature. A friend in high school once told me, “You know, your family vacations sound more like field trips then actual vacation!”. I found it difficult to lay on a beach and sip drinks for vacation as an adult, because I grew up thinking “vacation” was a way to go explore the world.
My parents taught us how to travel on a budget too – we’d pack sandwiches for the day in a backpack, and we’d stay with family or friends, in budget airbnbs, or in hotels by using points. Sometimes, we’d camp to save money. It was always an adventure!
My parents always encouraged my sister and I to go explore the world. My sister lived in Brazil for a year between high school and college and discovered through her compassion for others that she wanted to be a doctor (guess what!?! She’s a doctor now!). She also lived in Argentina for a semester in college. She became fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, making her even that much more valuable to her patients.
Inspired by her, I took a semester off college and lived with my cousin and an Indian family in Hyderabad, India for three months. Though I didn’t learn the language, immersing in a new culture for the first time as a young adult definitely helped shape my view of the world.
My Husband is Always Up for an Adventure
My husband traveled a little while in high school, but he really embraced traveling once we began dating. Not only did he embrace travel, but he embraced the cultural-immersion style of travel that I grew up with. Our honeymoon to St. Thomas included taking the local “safari” (bus) as transportation, and we packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our backpack for lunch. We spent three weeks in Europe a few years ago, and that really solidified our desire to one day live abroad.
Chris and I have always said that travel brings out the best in us when it comes to our relationship. Experiencing something or somewhere new together tends to bring out more patience and empathy for each other. Moving away from our typical routine, even for a weekend, helps us appreciate each other and our home. Often when we travel, though we thoroughly enjoy our vacation or trip, we look forward to coming back home. I always say this must be a good thing, as it shows us that we enjoy our daily lives as well!
Another reason travel is good for our relationship is the way it bonds us together over shared experiences. Moving to a new country, though a little scary, has already been well worth it. We’ve had to lean on each other during some of the most frustrating times (one day I’ll write about our crazy move into our new apartment), but we also get to celebrate together as we experience some pretty incredible moments (walking over a bridge in Venice, trying traditional French cuisine, having a picnic under the Eiffel tower…). Even the day to day tasks, such as grocery shopping and walking to the doctor’s office, add something special to our lives. We have found that immersing ourselves in a new culture makes our lives feel extraordinary, purposeful, and exciting!
Experiencing Diverse Cultures Makes Me a Better Nurse
Empathy and compassion are especially necessary in healthcare. Patients are often scared, confused, and vulnerable. Achieving a heightened awareness of the uniqueness of each culture allows a clinician to give respectful, thoughtful care to a patient and his or her family. Traveling and appreciating diverse ways of life have helped me bridge gaps in communication, empowered me to improve the patient experience, and helped shaped my nursing approach.
Furthermore, I believe that experiencing a health care system so different from the United States will help inspire new ideas. As a patient, I have already experienced unique differences between our health care systems. Keeping an open, inquisitive mind as I enter each new health care encounter has allowed me to really reflect on differences and similarities in care.
My hope is to use this information to improve my capabilities as a clinician and help other health care providers develop new skills. I hope to use this information to help shape health care policies, teach and train students, and impact the health care culture. My experiences as a patient in another country will no doubt impact my future as a clinician as well.
Our Dreams Became Reality
My husband was approached with a job opportunity that gave us the ability to move to France for two years. We have been living here for one month now. Though I had to give up my job to move here, we believe that the positive effects of experiencing a new language, culture, and customs will spill dividends into our lives in ways we could never dream. We believe our pursuit of growth as individuals and professionals will be exponentially increased by our eye-opening and soul-awakening experiences living in a new country.
We are also expecting our first child this January and believe this opportunity will positively impact our child. Since experiencing other cultures makes me a more grateful, empathetic person, it will no doubt shape me as a wife, daughter, sister, and mom as well.
We are so grateful for this opportunity. My hope is to share as much of it as I can with you!