Taking Sam Clemens' advice
Travel is: “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” So said Mark Twain in his 1869 travelogue titled 'Innocents Abroad.' So I'd say one thing I'm most proud of at becoming an expat is taking old Sam Clemens' advice and moving from the comfort, familiarity, and ease of home.
Utilizing the old brain cells becomes more important as we age, of course, so any assistance I can get in that department is a good thing. Professor Adam Galinsky at the Columbia University 'B' school is an expert on neuroplasticity as it's affected by travel. In The Academy of Management Journal in early 2015, Galinsky claims that managers with foreign experience are much more creative and innovative. I have no ambition or intention toward working at a real job again, but the studies showing increased brain function based on travel are encouraging. And they seem to show another advantage of 'expatting.'
It's become clear that encountering new and different things stretches and grows what neuroscientists refer to as our 'settled brains,' the cognitive abilities we acquired in our previous, routine existence. By moving to a foreign shore, learning a new language, engaging new people, immersing ourselves in a new and exotic (to us) culture, we disrupt settled patterns and give new life to long established brain cells.
Since moving to Medellin, my wife and I have had to navigate the visa process all over again, locate and secure a place to live, pay bills, buy groceries and get around in a whole new environment. We've had to learn much more Spanish, as very few of the Colombians we've met know any English. We've had to learn our way around the public transport system in a new (and very exciting) city. So I'm proud of giving myself at least the opportunity to replenish my perspectives and cognitive abilities in a whole new setting. Let's hope the experiment is working.