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For many abroad, the transition from summer to fall means new beginnings for jobs, projects, and school. If you’re still mentally on vacation, we came up with some tips to help you get back into the “new” year groove:

Reach out and hug someone.

Yes! We aren't kidding. During times of transition, anxiety peaks, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise. One study shows that interpersonal touch can reduce physical and psychological stress. Whether it's with your dog, partner, kids—or even a tree—hugs significantly reduce stress. 

Just say, No.

The start of any new year is often a deluge of events and obligations. Ease into your post-holiday life by saying no to anything that doesn’t serve your new direction...or your sanity.

Reflect. It’s our word of the month for a reason. Now is the perfect time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t last year, and make some changes. Often it's the smaller changes that create long-lasting benefits.

We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips on how you get in your groove!

“Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” 

― Carl Sagan

I love to plan. My earliest memories involve drawing calendars and daydreaming about my future. Maybe you were this way, too. This month, we’re focusing on what it means to explore, a pastime often relegated to summer breaks or holidays. What I’ve learned is that you don’t need Ferdinand and Isabella’s wealth or NASA’s backing to explore. You just need hope. 

Every day, scientists and researchers are pushing the limits of exploration. How can you do the same in your community? Your professional life? Or simply your day-to-day existence. 

Whenever you arrive in a new city or situation, the first thing you do is poke your toes in the water. But what compelling insight would you discover if you just dove right in? 

Today, the farthest human-made object from Earth is the Voyager I probe, a spacecraft launched in 1977 carrying two phonographic records. Carl Sagan envisioned the project. Among the discs’ content are the music of J.S. Bach, greetings from around the world, and myriad nature sounds, including a mother and child. Ideally, the discs told the story of humanity, but Sagan knew they barely scratched the surface of it. To him, they symbolized hope. 

Exploration without hope is like a jet without fuel. You can’t move without it. Animals also explore, but what propels them is instinct. Hope is yet another aspect of our being that defines humanity. 

When I first arrived in Hanoi I wanted to create meaningful work. As I explored, I allowed hope to guide me. Then, one day I found my treasure: a brilliant, young, bed-bound woman who irrevocably changed my life. She flung me on a path towards medicine. And it all began with hope.

For you, hope might be reconnecting with dormant skills, trying a new career, or building the business you always dreamed about. Or maybe it’s closer to home: quality family time, a life immersed in nature, a deeper connection to humanity. To begin to explore, you must ask yourself, "What is my hope?" 

This summer, many of us are leaving our adopted homes for good or for a few months. Summer marks the return to familiar shores, where people ask questions about where you are going or what you are doing next, or—and this is my favorite—if you are ever coming home? It's overwhelming not to have an answer. Just remember, Carl Sagan didn't either.

Voyager I has no plans to return to Earth. It will keep moving into interstellar space. May you continue to explore the same way, always reaching towards hope, or better yet, the stars.

“I couldn’t have gone in the right direction if I hadn’t gone in the wrong direction.”  

—Cheryl Stayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail 

In 2012, Cheryl Strayed set off on a 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Coast Trail. In her book Wild, she begins the trip after the recent death of her mother, a time when she wasn’t making the best life life choices. 

With little more than a compass and a backpack she dubbed “Monster,” Cheryl submitted to the elements, but most of all her need to control every aspect of her journey, including wrong turns. 

“I couldn’t have gone in the right direction if I hadn’t gone in the wrong direction,” she has said of what led her to the hike. 

Wild has since been published in 30 languages and was adapted to a film that won international accolades. Seven years later, her memoir still resonates. To navigate a journey and find our X, we must tune-in to the compass of our heart—and maybe even design a new map. 

Creating a map puts us in the company of a long line of cartographers that begins with the ancient people who mapped out parts of the night sky in the caves of Lascaux. Rather than depicting the land they inhabited, the constellations they drew connected them in place and time, and we can speculate, gave them meaning, too.  

Early maps are beautiful. Ablaze with fiery dragons and deadly whirlpools, as well as tranquil gardens of Eden, they were shaped by the style and culture of the time. How would your map look shaped by your new locale and every day challenges? What are the dragons and whirlpools you face? What are your oases? 

To begin your own mapmaking, all you need is the compass of your heart. 

Next, spend time observing and researching. Just as you’ve probably designed the map that supports the journey of your partner’s career abroad by identifying the best schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods to live in, you need to apply this same level of detective work and dedication to the person you are becoming. 

Finally, with your map complete, you can begin the adventure of navigating a world of your own design.


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