What does it take for the traveling partner to make the best use of an international posting in a creative way? We asked here we are global’s Art Director Anne Bundgaard. She said: Be the creative, curious and flexible adventurer. Read more about her journey and creative advise.
At first my answer was: YES! 0.3 seconds later it was: NO!
Wait? What? I can’t say no to this! The 3 weeks long battle begun. I had been dreaming about moving to San Francisco for several years. Then my husband got a job offer that most engineers would love just to fantasize about. The kids would go to school. I got the offer to go with them and stay. Stay. Not work. Not even for Danish clients. I was upset. That was not fair. My dream had come true, with my creative hands tied on my back.
Long story short. I’m creative and thank God for that. It took a lot of gumption but I said yes, and despite of all my struggles and obstacles for the last +2 years I have never regretted it. I want to share with you the short version of why and how. And what kind of obstacles were the hardest.
My best advice:
If you think you’re not creative, get over it. People are born creative and maybe you’re out of shape. It’s like running and you have to find what suits you.
The magic tool: Say what you want. Write it down. Tell people. Even talk to yourself about it. Wish for it before you fall asleep and the Universe will work the magic. Bonus info: You don’t have to believe in it, but it helps if you do.
If you like adventures … well, you’re lucky. But it probably won’t be easy. On the other hand you’re most likely not alone and it’ll be fun!
Rethinking work. No, it’s not only work if you get paid. It’s work if you think it’s work. Think about it. I have given private drawing lessons, taken two courses at Stanford, decorated a restaurant with wall art, made the visual identity for here we are global where I also became creative director and co-founder, illustrated a book about mobile habits (still in the making), went to a Design conference in New York, went to several design or otherwise professional meet ups in San Francisco, I got back to drawing and painting. The list is much longer.
Enjoy the possibility of different and fun experiences you cannot have in your home country, which in my case is Denmark. In California I went to Burning Man, I watched the states of America go from one of the greatest presidents in history to one of the worst, I have been to Mexico two times, went on a road trip through 7 states, visited a friend in Austin Texas, attended a serious local running club, ran Bay to Breakers two times, one more to come. Made new amazing friends along the way. Last but not least I have been around my kids much more and in a much more flexible way than I used to be.
My hardest obstacles have been:
Missing friends and family!
Helping my kids through their struggles with settling in and missing all that is known.
Myself and my self image. I still struggle. For example when I meet people, especially younger and from the start up environment in San Francisco, I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m somewhere else and I have something else to offer. I don’t have to fit in in the same way. In fact the way I can fit in is the exact right one. That goes for everyone. Everywhere. Always. That has been one of the most valuable insights for me to learn.
My thoughts. Don’t go down that path. Go outside instead.
My concerns about how to explain and make people back home believe that I was not just a soccer mom or a trophy wife. I was never any of those. But I’ll breathe deeply and (try to) be patient when eventually I face it.
My limited visa (H1B). Acknowledge it. You can’t do anything anyway. Don’t cry it’s just a fact you have to deal with and you’ll find a way.
So this is what I did:
I made a vision board and can highly recommend it. It comes in many forms. I like it very visible. You can have a hand written piece of paper in your pocket or next to your bed. Or a sheet in Google drive. It doesn’t matter as long as you look at it every once in a while.
I decided to fully enjoy. Also the lazy days. I said: Wow! Today the only thing I did was meet with a friend, we hung out for several hours, had some great conversation. Then I was tired and took a nap and finally cooked a meal for the family. I would be a bastard not to enjoy that!
But, I also became selective with my time. I wanted to spend it wisely. I also became selective with people which is hard in this area since it’s like swimming in an ocean full of interesting people.
I went out. I met people. I didn’t expect anything specifically to happen. I just tried to stay open and talked to people I liked, and I listened. I got my best gig ever that way. Met a guy in a running club. Decorated his entire restaurant with my artwork. This was one of the big dreams on my vision board, and yes somehow being that creative, curious and flexible adventurer made it happen.
These 2+ years have been so different from what I, and we, had expected. As a family we became closer. We have had to stick. And go through. Like in an adventure with fairies and wizards, obstacles you don’t see, mountain lions, breathtaking views and colorful oceans. You find ourselves and each other in new ways and grow both together and as five individual people. That is a challenge and a story in itself. In the family I was the only person who had to find out what to do with every day. Who had the most choices, freedom and boundaries. That said, I’m pretty happy and extremely thankful with my weird, sweet, hard, magical and exciting, American adventure. A place where I one morning, not that long ago, woke up and felt at home. In the Land of the free and home of the brave.
Anne Bundgaard is a graphic designer and illustrator from Denmark currently located in San Francisco USA. She is here we are global’s Art Director and part of the co-founding team. Please also read her blogpost about here we are’s identity. To see more of her professional work go to www.instagram.com/annebundgaard_dk/ www.annebundgaard.dk or www.facebook.com/annebundgaard.dk/
Anne at work