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Monday, February 8, 2016

How Living Overseas Changed Me: A Guest Post by Lisa Shunk

Today I'm so happy to welcome Lisa Shunk to the blog! She was kind enough to befriend me when I was the new kid in seventh grade, and we've been friends ever since. Here she shares about how living overseas as a teenager in Haiti changed her.

As an aside, it's been my privilege to watch these changes in real time over the years that we've been friends. Lisa really does live simply, and beautifully! Here she is:


Moving to a third world country shortly after I turned 17 messed me up. That is, messed this Midwest girl up in some of the best and hardest ways possible.

If I'm honest, my experiences there are still messing with me 15 years later. And, hopefully it won't ever go away. I don't want to return to the self-centered, perspective-less teenage girl I was (and not just because the teenage years are weird), mostly because the change I see in my life is for the better. Let me explain.

I care more. After I experienced land ruined by trash, deforestation and overpopulation, I care about the environment. Haiti made a tree hugger out of me! After I saw rejoicing over what seems to me like a simple rainfall, I appreciate every drop that comes from the tap: doing dishes, washing clothes, taking a shower and (most importantly!) that act of filling a glass with clean water and drinking until I am no longer thirsty. Knowing that I will probably never wonder where my next meal would come from, I realize how incredibly blessed I am. Completely without reason. I own more than two pairs of shoes, can find a job rather easily with my experience and degree, can hop in my car, fill it whenever needed and drive across town ... I am filthy rich and please do not forget that, self.

I live more simply. Living overseas launched me into the simplicity movement and towards a minimalist lifestyle. The thrust of success and ownership in our American culture is meaningless when viewed from the perspective of the overwhelming majority in the world. Needs versus wants are redefined. I can live in solidarity, give more, and get caught up in the rat race less. Don't get me wrong, I still really enjoy decorating my house and I like fashion (very insignificant on the needs vs. wants scale, but I love it regardless). I indulge in lots of "unnecessaries". But it's not a contest (for more, better, best) and I attempt to live my life purposefully. I also recycle, eat more whole foods, shop less, handmake more and even dream of homesteading sometime. (Complete with goat, chickens and garden ... if only I liked to be outdoors more than I actually do! Still working on that.)

I have a healthy unhealthy large dose of skepticism toward charities
. This is one of the not-so-good things I've gained since living overseas. I rarely give my money away if I'm not sure of where it's going as there is SO much corruption in the process. Everywhere. I'm still not quite sure what to do about this as I'm not in the position (having two small children) to actually go and do something about the injustice in the world. But I have too much experience with corruption to be confident in putting my money where my mouth is.

In every season, I'm still figuring it out. As a college kid, as a college grad and volunteer living in Europe, as a newlywed, and now as a young mama, I've had to grapple with what it looks like for me to live with perspective, live with gratitude and live generously in our unjust world and self-centered society. I'm confident this will keep evolving, I'll keep learning and it won't be a perfect process.


Find more of Lisa's writing at -- you can start with her work on Simplicity.


What about you? Have you lived or traveled far away? How did it change you?

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