How did Emily know this is exactly what I needed to read today? ~Danya
Some duty stations are easy to love. You wake up in the morning, sip a cappuccino under an orange tree, watch the waves crash against the beach for a while, and then stand up, stretch, and start your day. (Don’t tell me if that’s just a fantasy, okay? I’m clinging to the hope that I’ll end up there one day.) Other duty stations take effort. Maybe you live in a small town, not unlike the last small town you lived in, and you wake up every morning, gulp down a cup of black coffee, and race into the arms of another routine day. Or maybe I have that backwards. Maybe you hate the beach; maybe small towns make you happy. The truth is, there’s no way to predict which duty stations are going to feel like home to you and which ones are going to have you clenching your teeth and counting the days until your next PCS. With a few simple tricks though, you can make any duty station unforgettable, in the best possible way.
Educate Yourself: Overseas assignments always begin with a formal orientation. After all, the more you know about a culture the better you’ll function. You don’t have to be halfway around the world to find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings though. The United States is an enormous country and, in some ways, the regional differences here are still acute, so before you move from the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest learn as much as you can about the local customs and culture, and remember to stay open-minded and respectful. You should never feel like you have to change yourself or your beliefs to fit into a new environment, but that doesn’t mean you should be an antagonist in that environment either. Strive to be non-judgmental. The more open you are to differences, the more you’ll learn; and, the more you learn, the more you’ll enjoy your tour.
Let Your Interests Overlap: I love to read fiction, so whenever we move to a new duty station I seek out the literature that developed in that place. When we lived in Sicily, I read Giovanni Verga. In Japan, I discovered Haruki Murakami. In Mississippi, I turned to William Faulkner. If you love to cook, experiment with the local cuisine. If you love art, research the local masters. Find out how the region you’re in (or the country you’re in) contributed to the things you already love and you’ll start to see your surroundings in a whole new way.
Explore the City: I know that not every city has a lot to offer, but make a list of at least five things you want to see before you move: an old theater downtown or an art museum or a quirky local bar or a farmer’s market or a hiking trail or a cake shop or a derelict restaurant that serves Southern-Thai fusion, and then go see those things. As you get out more, you’ll find more places to add to your list. Some of them will be better than you expect and some of them will be a disaster, but it’ll be fun to find out which one’s which, right?
Road Trip: Now that you’re exploring the city, widen your scope. Are you near a beach? An old battlefield? A cute small town? A big city? Make a list of everything you’d like to see that’s within driving distance and start planning road trips. Remember, you only have a few years in this place, so learn the history, learn the culture, and then make sure you see as much as you can.
Ditch the Lists: I really believe in taking an organized, intentional approach to each new duty station, but some of my favorite moments have happened when we’ve ditched the lists and formed a spur-of-the-moment plan. Whether you’re climbing a staircase you found in the middle of a forest in Japan or you’re following a sign toward a waterfall in Mississippi, some of the best adventures happen when you least expect them.
So, wherever you are, remember every duty station has something good to offer. Just stay open to the opportunities for adventure all around you, and go out and explore. It’s fun!
During her years as a military spouse, Emily Sovich has traveled through five continents and approximately thirty countries. She’s climbed the Great Wall of China, gone swimming with sharks in Australia, and ridden a camel around the pyramids in Egypt. She loves culture and adventure, but she’s happiest at home with a book in her hand, a child in her lap, and a cup of coffee on her bedside table. You can read more about Emily’s life and adventures on her blog, Keeping Time.
For more of Emily’s fabulous blogs, please click here.