Living Abroad – Robyn

15942791_10157952729555265_572933388_oI met Robyn, well once actually. She was in town for the summer, learning French and long story short I ended up spending an evening with her and some of her group. It was super fun. I have been following her journey through FB and when I thought of starting this new series, I though she might have some really interesting things to share and boy was I right. She has been travelling and livin’ the life. This is the first of her 2 parts portrait on her travels, her lifestyle and life elsewhere on this beautiful planet. Thank you Robyn for your generosity, honesty and kindness. I can’t wait to follow your next adventures!

YVR – The World

Name/ Robyn Griffiths
Home Base/ Kelowna, BC
Astrological sign/ On the Cusp between Aquarius and Capricorn
I’m often perceived as \ people tell me I’m/ Very determined
Job/ To be a good human on the planet by giving more than I take

Where did you travel in the past few years?
I got my first taste of travelling when I was 21. I travelled in SE Asia for 7 months with friends, a month with my sister and on my own. I went to Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. After coming home from that trip I knew that I wanted more so I looked at my options and found a way to work and live abroad.

Teaching was the best option for me at the time and that is how I decided to live in South Korea. I ended up teaching children ages 4-10 in Seoul for 14 months. I loved that year. I worked extremely hard, but made sure to get the most out of my time there. I was able to do some travelling within the country, but mainly explored Seoul itself. It was extremely difficult sometimes, but looking back on it, the hard times are what made that year worthwhile. Due to the length of time that I was in South Korea I was able to build an amazing community of lifelong friends and form a better understanding of South Korean culture.

After my contract was over I made plans with my sister to travel to India and Sri Lanka. Our intention was to go to Australia and work within six months, but things change quickly while travelling and we ended up in Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand, travelling for a total of nine months.

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What are particular highlights or your travels?
This most recent trip was full of highlights for me. I took some courses and got involved in more share projects. I received my 200hr Kundilini yoga certification in Rishikesh, I went on a seven day trek in Nepal, I spent a month in Goa doing a work exchange at an organic cafe and eco stay, I participated in a silent meditation course. I tried surfing and an aryuvedic cleanse, ecstatic dance classes and worked on a mindful farm, I even rode a camel for four days in a desert. Honestly, the best part of the trip was the fact that I was able to share all of this time with my sister, whom I absolutely adore.

Overall I tried this trip to push myself in new ways, especially when things made me uncomfortable. There are a million more things that I wish I had done. I no longer want to go to places just to check them off some list and then claim I have been there. I think travelling slow is the best way to actually immerse yourself into a culture. “Travelling” has evolving into something more important. It is an exchange of ideas, I want to be able to give back just as much as I received from each place I have been.

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Were there any specific reasons as to why you choose those destinations?
I was always inspired by my mother. When she was younger she backpacked and drove a van though Europe and into Greece, turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal. A few years later she traveled to other Asian countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. I guess hearing her stories and seeing her photos sparked my interest. From then on those places have been in the back of my mind.

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What were the cultural differences that surprised you the most?
Public manners and acceptable mannerisms have been shockingly different from country to country. Some “socially acceptable” actions have made me shake my head in disbelief, laugh out loud and even reconsider my own personal conduct. Koreans are extremely respectful, especially towards their elders. It was so nice to see individuals consistently giving up their spot in line or seats on busses and trains for the older generations. In public spaces people are very orderly and quiet. My friends and I were once called out on a bus for speaking too loud. Saving face is of the upmost importance. Koreans tend to be very reserved with one another. When walking down the street very few people even make eye contact with me and I almost never experience someone stopping to say hello.

Going from South Korea to India felt like going to another planet. People talked loudly on busses, and often played music at deafening volumes on their phones on busses, trains, even hiking in the mountains. The idea of a line up did not exist. You had to be ready to throw some elbows, even towards elderly people to hold your spot. There is not much thought or education put towards how people dispose of garbage, so it is simply just thrown on the ground or out the window. On the other hand, Indians are extremely friendly and open. People were constantly making eye contact, smiling and waving. Individuals would always come up to my sister and I asking us questions and having conversations, sometimes much longer than expected or always comfortable.

These are just a few noticeable differences that contrast my own Canadian culture in a more extreme way. Going to another country and trying to really understand the culture can be a bit like swimming in the ocean. You are completely surrounded by the water and are caught up in the wave of it. It has a unique flow that works for the place. But you are a person and not the water, making some norms feel awkward and hard to sink into. This does not necessarily make certain customs wrong or even better than other places, it is just the natural current of the culture. Sink or swim.

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What do you feel travelling has taught you?
Well maybe not physics…but seriously, I have learned more about myself, others and the world than my four years at University. I keep traveling because it is a form of education for me. Time is the most valuable thing we have. How you spend your time and with whom you spend it with is extremely important. Life goes fast, so do things now.

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What is your next destination?
In February I am moving to Australia to live and work for a year.

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Photo credit @ Robyn Griffith

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