Leesa Truesdell Shares Her Five Year Update After Living Abroad

leesa-truesdell

As August 2021 approaches and the world slowly opens again, I smile about the happy memories leading up to the moments before, during, and while living abroad in Madrid, Spain. After living abroad for a year, I began working and then didn’t stop. Then, the pandemic approached while I was moving to start the next phase of my life in a new city. The world feels different now and might remain this way for quite some time. What we must not forget is that life will always have ups and downs. It is in those moments of uncertainty that we truly understand our character. Our most trying times are sometimes the best, at least for me they are. I’ve thought a lot as my life has changed drastically over these last five years and this is what I would like to highlight.  

How do professionals who want to travel, work, study and/or move abroad handle a change? Here are the first five answers that came to mind after living abroad. There has been one for each year since August of 2016. 

Year One: 2016-2017 

My Arrival — Go With the Flow Because Nothing Feels Normal

I arrived in Spain on a sultry August day. I didn’t expect things to be like the USA. However, I also did not feel equipped to understand how different the culture and lifestyle is from the American way of life. It’s the complete, total opposite. Americans appreciate a more fast-paced way of life and thinking (especially the younger generation). We have three meals a day, generally. The traditional family eats dinner at night. It’s a bigger meal than lunch. In Spain, it felt like everything was “traditional.” Let’s face it, they’re the land that conquered many others. So, in reality, their way of life and thinking is very conventional in a sense. It’s family-driven and lunch is at 2 PM. It’s the largest meal of the day, and don’t forget your siesta. I felt so turned around but eventually managed to accept the things I couldn’t control and embrace them. 

Year Two: 2017-2018 

The Passing of Tata and Life After Living Abroad

The Resilience Abroad series started when I lived in Madrid. While I was grieving about the loss of Tata, I was also reflecting on what she meant to me and how her living memory would never be forgotten. At the time, I was in a foreign place. I didn’t know it back then, but I was living the life I was supposed to. I was grieving abroad and blessed with time to get to know myself better for the latter half of what was to come that year. 

Later that November, I moved back to my college hometown and began work in a field that was new to me. In this role, I worked around the clock either in my mind or physically at work. It was the job where I took home the issues that went unresolved. I thought about them all the time when not working. Hence, around the clock.  I didn’t realize this while it was happening, but not only was I still grieving, I also experienced the opposite again.

Reverse Culture Shock

I was re-learning the American way of life but now it felt more intense because I had just experienced living abroad during my first real experience with death. While I had been resilient, I hadn’t learned about reverse culture shock. It’s real and somehow I was too busy to see the signs. I had put myself in a situation where I ignored signs and tried to move on the best way I knew how. This job enabled me to focus on work at the expense of these larger issues in my life. 

Unfortunately, I focused too much on the new work to understand the complexity of reverse culture shock. I couldn’t explain the reverse of what was happening to me and didn’t know it at the time. Instead, I tried my best to adapt to a new job in a location that was nowhere near what it resembled before I left for Madrid. The experience changed me. Moving back to a city I once knew and outgrew wasn’t a recipe for success. Live and learn. 

Year Three: 2018-2019 

Complacency is Not OK. Speak Up and Do Your Best.

I knew I was trying my best not to downsize the person I had become and the person I wanted to be. Living in the same place again while losing who I was made me feel complacent. One thing I knew for sure was that my core principles and integrity would never be compromised. I was tested on multiple occasions. Sometimes, when you’re given tests in life, you realize later on that passing might not be feasible. If the test is rigged from the beginning and you are answering the questions correctly, then there might be something else going on. 

Pay to play happens frequently in the states. It’s unfortunate. I spoke up about this repeated inadequacy that I was seeing and instead of getting a thank you, I got a no thank you. Sometimes, life doesn’t respond the way we expect when we follow the moral code we’ve had since elementary school. In our formative years, we’re taught “stranger danger,” D.A.R.E., and how to be a good person. The end result was a tough concept for me to wrap my head around. I lead with principle and teach others to be honest and respectful. Speaking up will always be the best decision I ever make, no matter the consequences. 

Year Four: 2019- 2020 

Accept the Things you Cannot Change and Move on as Quickly as Possible. Life is Calling. Pick up the Phone. 

What I’ve learned is that the past is the past and you can’t change it. You can be bitter and resent something that you can’t change or you can move on and perhaps be a positive influence. It’s easier said than done. You get scars, and the record plays over and over in your mind on how you could have fixed it. But, in time, you learn after one full record or two that it’s time to let go and live for now. 

The transition from 2019 to 2020 was a tough year. The pandemic didn’t make it any easier, but Dreams Abroad did. I focused my energy on all of the positive things I saw in the people who made my life better through this effort. This included the last trip I took before the pandemic. This was the most important trip of my life, and the one I kept putting off because I didn’t have the time allotted. This life event was the most meaningful and therapeutic — the one I needed to take the next step in my life. Don’t wait too long — when life is calling — pick up the phone.

Dreams Abroad became the uplifting resource I needed when others were contributing each week. Thank you to those of you who are reading, your articles not only assisted our community, but they spoke to me too. 

Year Five: 2020-2021 

Embrace Change

I moved to Washington, DC, and learned that the program I moved for wasn’t exactly the best fit. Maybe it would have been had the instruction and research been face-to-face but, hey, it’s OK to say no and move onto the next chapter. If what you thought isn’t serving you, move on as quickly as you can. Many of us can say that the pandemic has closed doors and opened new ones. Embrace it. I’ve learned that what will be will be. Sometimes things are within our control and they aren’t. Recognize the two and embrace change. Remember to always keep the go-with-the-flow mindset if at all possible. We’re halfway through 2021 and things are opening up again. We can do this. 

Wrap Up

Dreams Abroad has become something more than just a website. The last five years after living abroad have been a way for me to meet like-minded, talented individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and principled belief systems. Each person that I have interacted with has touched my life. For that, I feel forever grateful. Nothing can ever replace the loss of a loved one. It’s been one of the hardest things in my life. There is no manual on how to handle your situation. 

One thing I know for certain is that working with this tight-knit group has given me new memories. I feel so very blessed to have found the lives of so many fulfilling and achieving their dreams. It makes my heart smile and soul feel more alive than ever before. This is what makes a good day, good. This is why we are still here after all of this time. 

We want to hear from you! If you want to be a part of our team or have a resource to contribute to our website, please contact us.

 

Returning to the United States: My Life Story Continues

By Morgan Yearout

WOW! I have so much to be grateful for since leaving Madrid three years ago. I joyfully reflect on my time abroad while also appreciating all that has transpired since returning to the motherland. Here is an inside look at the evolution of my life since returning to the United States.

What have you been up to since returning to the United States? 

“I married an incredible man. We did a pop-up marriage ceremony at the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego, CA with our immediate family! I helped my Momma as she fought against Pancreatic Cancer and once she passed, spread her ashes in Oahu. I joined a bowling league for a season with my dad and had weekly daddy-daughter dates at the golf course. While in Washington, I hiked, boated, camped, and enjoyed wineries. I drove cross country three times; twice solo and the other time with my cousin.

During the trips, I was able to reconnect with loved ones and enjoyed pit stops in Arches National Park, Antelope Canyon, and Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf! I am working towards my private pilot’s license, but still have quite a way to go. I’ve also been able to celebrate family and friends’ life milestones of getting a house, engaged, married, and/or having a baby! Life has continued to be one big adventure since returning to the United States.

After returning the the United States, Morgan married her new husband at the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego.

With regards to my career, I worked two and a half years as a Regional Senior Director of Revenue for The Lumen and a stunning, independently owned luxury hotel in downtown Dallas called The Joule. I also had the privilege of overseeing the Reservations Team for the two properties. During my tenure, The Joule ranked Top 10 in RevPAR (a key metric in the hotel industry) for Texas hotels. Additionally, I developed my replacement prior to departing. I have since left and am privileged to be part of the opening team of Hotel Drover, a newly built Autograph Collection by Marriott hotel, in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards! We are set to open in late 2020 and could not be more excited to welcome guests from near and far!”

How has your life changed since returning to the United States from Spain? 

“The major change has been returning to a full-time career in Revenue Management that I love. I really enjoyed my year in Spain teaching English, traveling incessantly, and living with a host family, but there is something so pivotal about working in a field that you are passionate about day in and day out! Traveling has slowed a bit and I am coincidentally more rooted and enjoying “domestication,” too. I am at peace with where life is and enjoy the “mundane” of walks around the neighborhood, home projects of painting the walls, staining the pergola, building furniture, laying new flooring, eradicating fire ant mounds, playing yard games, etc.”

What is the biggest difference between your life in Madrid versus Dallas? 

“Prior to living in Madrid, I felt super uneasy, as if I was “settling” for the big-city rat race of a 9-5, despite loving the work I did. I had a nice house, nice car, a motorcycle, lovely relationships, etc. You know, checking all the boxes so to speak. Nonetheless, I felt as though there were personal interests that I would leave unexplored by committing to that lifestyle for.ev.er. I also grew up with an immense amount of self-imposed pressure to excel at anything and everything that I did. So much so, that I withheld personal grace and had not fully invested time and energy into self-exploration.

Picture of a waterfall taken while Morgan was on a hike after returning to the United States 

Moving to Madrid allowed me to detach from the “supposed-to-dos” and be on an adventure of self-reflection while also immersing myself into other lifestyles. Madrid provided the space, time, and slower pace of life to wrestle with my cognitive dissonance; providing the freedom to dig deep into who I really am. Through the process of deciphering, breaking down, and rebuilding long-standing beliefs, I removed layers of shame and self-imposed expectations. It was incredibly hard, but also freeing. The self-work continues until this day.

Another key difference is that despite Madrid being more densely populated than Dallas, my lifestyle there felt much more relaxed. I really enjoyed the commutes via metro because I was able to read so much! In Dallas, I drive an hour each way for work, and it requires me to be hyper-focused in order to preserve my life. I listen to podcasts and audibles, but it is not the same as leisurely reading while riding the metro.”

What do you miss most about life in Madrid? 

“I alluded to it above, but I definitely miss the pace of life and the metro as a main form of transportation. I also really enjoyed all the green space amidst exciting eateries, shopping, art, pop-up markets, etc. Living in the Dallas area, a commute is required most of the time to experience those things since it is not very affordable to live in the city.”

A picture of lily pads in Seattle that Morgan took after returning to the United States

How did living in Spain change or enhance your professional life

“It helped me settle into myself and acknowledge that I am not a person to yield sub-par results. Instead, I’ve learned to be kind to myself and really tap into my energy levels. For example, when I am feeling super creative, I channel that towards creative, thoughtful work. When I am feeling low on energy, I do mundane and less critical tasks. When I feel super energized, I use that energy to crank through projects that I may have been avoiding and need to hone in on to bring to completion. Spain gave me a year to fully know myself, practice self-awareness, give me courage to maintain my identity in the workplace, and speak up when things are unjust.”

What does your professional life entail now? 

“I am a Director of Revenue for Hotel Drover in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. The hotel is under construction and set to open in late 2020! We are currently selling rooms and event space for the first half of 2021 and will continue to roll in inventory as we draw nearer to next year. 

We are embarking on mass hiring in preparation for the hotel’s opening as well. I will aid in the interview and onboarding process and am excited to welcome many new faces to the team! It is incredible that Hotel Drover can provide job opportunities despite the world being wrought by dire times.”

What do you enjoy most about living in Dallas? 

“To me, it is not about where you live that makes a place enjoyable; it is the relationships you foster. I really enjoy the friendships inside and outside of the workplace that I have been able to cultivate over the years. It also helps that Dallas is unbearably cold to me for only two months out of the year, allowing me to gallivant outdoors often! “

Morgan walking across a bridge with her husband.

Have you traveled since returning to the United States? If so, where did you go and what did you do? 

“I have! I went on three cross-country drives, as I mentioned before, two of which were solo. During those trips I traversed through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. I have done several trips within Washington, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, as well. 

I went to Oahu and hiked, lounged on beautiful beaches, scuba dived, attended an immersive luau hosted by the Polynesian Cultural Center, and ate lots of delicious seafood. We ate and hiked our way around San Francisco with friends. While in San Diego for my wedding, we had a couple of fancy feasts, hiked, enjoyed beaches and visited the San Diego Zoo. I have spent time with family in and around Portland, Oregon. Hoyt Arboretum and the beach in Newport, Oregon are great! I ventured to Minneapolis for a work trip. Additionally, I went to Florida for a girl’s trip in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando for a friend’s wedding.”After returning to the United States, Morgan visited Antelope Canyon and took a picture of a natural skylight.

Morgan at Antelope Canyon after returning to the United States.

What does the year ahead hold for you? 

“I am focusing on opening Hotel Drover so we can welcome guests! Personally, I will continue to appreciate mother nature and the great outdoors. I remain active with running, working out, and meandering down trails. I enjoy cooking, engaging in beach activities, riding my motorcycle, as well as educating myself on racism, politics, and police reform. Social distancing is also important to me. We have new roommates and enjoy family time as a way to break up our routine.

We do have a trip planned for Aruba this year, but we shall see if that happens. One of my cousins is planning on getting married in Washington as well, so hopefully we can have some family bonding time up there come this Fall! Overall, this is a year of taking it as it comes and enjoying the slower pace of life. I have been embracing the lack of “control” over plans.”

Statue of a horse with mountains in the background

Morgan has not slowed down since returning to the United States three years ago. She is preoccupied with the opening of Hotel Drover in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards while leveraging her energy levels to complete a variety of tasks. Morgan has grown more accepting of things she cannot change and embraces the outdoors as the pandemic alters travel plans and traditional socialization activities. She is utilizing this year’s slower pace to educate, invest into her wellbeing, and complete home improvement projects.