Guys, we’re coming back from three years in Japan. And I’m starting to notice that there are a few differences in the way I talk, act and live than when I was last stateside.
I mean, it’s kind of a lot of little things. But they all add up to a radical lifestyle change.
9 Signs You’ve Been Stationed OCONUS
I’m sure that anyone who’s done at least one tour OCONUS (and I don’t mean Hawaii or Alaska) can check a few of these boxes!
1. Your Passport is full-ish:
When I was last in the US, I had exactly one other country in my passport. And it was Canada. Yup, our friendly neighbor to the north. Sure, I went to Quebec and dipped my toes in Francophone culture. But still, I wasn’t exactly adventurous. My passport wouldn’t inspire travel envy in anyone.
Now, I’ve got pages and pages completely full. Thailand (twice), Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong (also twice), Korea (another two-fer), and Scotland. That tally doesn’t even touch on the times I traveled within Japan.
I’ve hopped flights around the world!
2. I’ve had this dish in…:
When you’ve had pad thai in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, will anything else ever really begin to touch it? Short answer: no.
Stateside, every time someone suggests an Asian restaurant, I’m right there with a cool story about the best XYZ regional dish I ever had. Whether that’s okonomiyaki in Kyoto (little tiny restaurant on a snowy night) or Korean BBQ (great open air spot in a hip neighborhood with a sleeping baby strapped to me), I’ve had that Asian dish on it’s home turf.
I’m sure every who’s lived in Europe or Africa or Australia can back me up on this one. Haggis is better in the Highlands and nothing beat bratwurst in Berlin.
3. Travel pictures to die for:
I posted this photo on my Facebook page:
And immediately, friends wanted to know where I had grabbed it from. Uhhh, my iPhone? And this isn’t even the edited version!
Plus, this is just one of hundred, if not thousands, of pictures I’ve snapped over the last three years. My pictures of Okinawan beaches could fill an entire coffee table book. Which is actually a great idea.
Beyond that, I’ve vacationed in cool locations around Asia and grabbed photos in iconic places throughout. From the lanterns in Hoi An to Wat Pho’s tiled columns, it’s all stored on my phone and on the cloud.
If you’ve been in Europe, I’m guessing you’ve got more than a few cool pictures of castles. Stationed in Africa? I’m betting you enjoyed at least one cool safari or checked out the Nile.
4. Oh, this outfit?:
Shopping is fun, especially overseas. There are such different styles and takes on clothing that the options are endless. And you know that almost no one back home is going to be wearing the same thing as you, ever. Unless they also happened to find that one town in Bavaria with that one little old lady who handcrafts dresses with individualized embroidered designs.
Yeah, didn’t think so.
Which is why I don’t hesitate to mention that my ballgown was custom made in Vietnam. I literally picked out every inch of that design, from the fabrics to the draping. It’s mine. There might be other that are similar, but that purple dress is 100% me.
And I love getting compliments of the handpainted silk scarf I grabbed to match the dress. Plus the traditionally made wrap I picked up in Chiang Mai.
5. Your Walls Tell a Story
I’ve got tons of family photos on my walls. My kids are cute and I know a lot of professional photographers. But my family photos from the last three years feature white sand beaches, castle ruins and Japanese children’s clothing. If you’re stationed in Germany, I’m guessing you’ve got some lederhosen snaps around, too.
Beyond just the pictures, my walls are filled with souvenirs from all over. I made a point to grab artwork from every place we’ve traveled. I have a painting of Taipei 101 at sunset, a silk painting of the river in Hoi An and a personalized scroll made in South Korea.
Yes, it’s a hodgepodge of aesthetics and I love it. Plus, they make great conversation starters!
6. Travel Pro
Guys, I could write you a book about traveling around the world with my two small kids. We’ve been in and out of airports across Asia and into the UK since my youngest was an infant. I can load and unload a security tray with lightning speed. All while carrying one kid on my chest and pushing the other in a stroller.
Yeah, I’ve got this.
As a bonus, I’ve got a lock on all the best ways to get around major cities, even with little ones. I’ve done it all: bullet trains, tuk-tuks, low-cost carrier airlines and even British cabs. Plus, most people I know have never heard of a tuk-tuk.
7. Stories for Years:
Need a cool story? Let me tell you about this one time…
With all the travel I’ve done, and even just living OCONUS, I’ve got a lot of cool stories.
One of the best is when I was attempting to buy loose bean sprouts at a local store. Clearly, I was struggling. Two older Okinawan ladies came over and guided me through the process, nodding approvingly when I finally did it correctly.
Living overseas gives you the opportunity to experience life through another person’s lens and culture. And you’ve got the stories to prove it!
8. International Kitchen
Taco rice, okonomiyaki and sushi are regular meals in our house right now. And I expect this trend to continue for years (hopefully). We’ve got a taste for the local cuisine and learned how to cook some of it, too!
My spice cabinet is filled with local spice blends and cool sauces. We now stock a giant bag of rice at all times, for the rice cooker meals we make multiple times a week.
Coming from another OCONUS location? I’d love a peek at what you’re cooking!
9. Deep Sense of Longing & Adventure
Even after our time OCONUS is done, I’m still going to long for my Japanese home. I’ll miss the rough white sand on the beaches and the peeks of coral reef through the turquoise waters. I’m going to miss the deep respect and sense of community here.
I’m also keeping my sense of adventure. Just because I’m moving back stateside doesn’t mean the travels are over. Far from it! We’ll just transfer all our gusto for travel into exploring the beautiful United States! And maybe hop across the pond or head south every once in a while.
Hey, I’ve got to keep my passport full, right?
What did you take away from your OCONUS tour? Tell us how your time overseas changed your life!
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