Life In A Foreign Country: A Dance of Submission and Resistance

Flower: Ecuador

Flower: Ecuador

I received this email today from a dear friend of mine in the US and it was so wonderful, I wanted to share it with you. It so speaks to the Heart of the Expat experience, where we’re always balancing the need for the familiar with our desire for the exotic. Living here in Ecuador, I’ve definitely found that my life in a foreign country, shifting from being one of the Americans living in Ecuador and becoming a true World Citizen is always a dance of submission and resistance. See what you think:

Good Morning Ecuador!
Everyone should have a friend who is an inspirational speaker, writer, and doer! I am so incredibly lucky to actually have that person in my life. Thank you for reminding me to always take the high road, and for offering people, places, and things to think about: for example, Vishan Lakiani and his company Mind Valley. I also have loved reading your posts about all the cooking you have been doing lately. Sounds so great!!! You are really digging in now!

In going through boxes in the garage, I found this little gem destined for Second Hand Books, Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad. So I fished it out. The editor of this anthology, Christina Henry de Tessan, is formerly from Seattle, and now lives in Portland. She published through Seal Press, an imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. This came out the year we came back to the States, 2002, and I remember thinking , ‘that’s my life.’

Here are some excerpts…

When we travel, we are craving a break from routine, so we seek out the different and exotic at every turn because we know that in a week or two, we will be back in our safe little worlds. But when we move away, the home we’ve left behind can tug at us in surprising ways. We go abroad with our sights set ambitiously on change, but find we crave something recognizable and tangible, things we may never have known we needed: flavors and foods, love and companionship, routine and purpose, being understood for who we really are—whether it’s our incandescent wit or our skills as a chef. Instead of fantasizing about the new and exotic, we might find ourselves daydreaming about the familiar: No, I don’t want a thimbleful of bitter French café, I want a huge paper cup full of American coffee that will last all morning.

Having wanted to take travel to its furthers extreme, we end up coming full circle as we learn to cope with the most mundane tasks in a foreign place. Ultimately, real immersion—and the real challenge—occurs during this shift. Balancing the need for the familiar with our desire for the exotic is at the heart of the expat experience.

Life in a foreign country is a dance of submission and resistance. Self-knowledge comes in small repeated shocks as you find yourself giving in easily, with a struggle, or not at all. What can you do without? What do you cling to?

Time and again, the women in these essays display a dazzling inspiring resourcefulness as they struggle to find the right balance for themselves. Forced out of the familiar zone of twenty-four hour Safeways, longtime friends, and cultural and linguistic fluency, these essays are glorious proof of our powers to adapt. They overcome fears and shyness, make themselves understood, re-create a sense of home, find what they need.

These stories make me want to pack my bags once again, but they also remind me that it is not as easy as it sounds. I recall how much I craved friends and colleagues who could understand me, how humbling it was not to be able to express myself as I would have liked, and how quickly I had forgotten the hard parts.

That said, I also remember how gratifying it was to assemble the myriad pieces of a life from scratch. I was as wide awake as I have ever been, for better and for worse, and for that reason alone, I would do it all over again.

I couldn’t agree more.

XOXOX, Laurie

So what are your thoughts?



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If you would like to read my First Impressions of Ecuador, please go to:

Additional Links:

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For more information, to schedule an inspirational speech or interview, please contact Mary Anne at
Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador™: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward unless otherwise credited.
All photos and writing on Footprints in Ecuador ™ are a Copyright 2014 by Mary Anne Dorward. All rights reserved.

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