Life-Changing Lessons From Living In A Foreign Country

One week. That’s how short of notice I was given that the following Tuesday I would be in business class, making the 15+ hour flight to my new home away from home… Wellington, New Zealand.

Seven precious days to pack my bags… wait, I even needed to grab a new suitcase; and spend as much time with my two girls, Melissa and Storm, as possible.

This was only my second time out of the country in my life. Despite traveling between New York and Los Angeles more times than I can count on my fingers and toes, you could consider me a travel novice. Talk about a crash course on travel and adventure.

Flash forward five months, I’ve officially lived in another country.

Best part? I not only got paid to do it but also accomplished my biggest career goal. As a coach, you could say I got called up to the major leagues.

Despite the struggles of missing my family, I am living my dream.

When I make my return to American soil, the lessons I’ve learned from this experience will be coming with me.

The transition back to “normal” life may be tough. Considering, I haven’t made my bed in five whole months. 

Unlike my bro who has revolted against my parents’ bed-making wishes, it’s not because I’m lazy. It’s just someone else has been making it for me. I also haven’t had to wash my bathroom towels, park my car, or even wash my dishes. 

Let’s say I have been extremely spoiled with daily maid service and weekly gifts compliments of the hotel. Wine and Whittaker’s chocolate, anyone?

Since my arrival in the “Land of the long white cloud”, I have lived like Kevin Mcallister in the Park Plaza Hotel. Well kinda…I still have yet to hit up the room service. There’s still time, though. 

Talk about a crash course on travel and adventure. The experience has been most eye-opening and rewarding, to say the least. In that time frame, I’ve grown as a coach, a businessman, and most importantly, a human being. 

These are the life-changing lessons I’ve learned living 9,000 miles away from home and in another country. 

Human Interaction Can Make or Break Your Experience

Fresh off fifteen hours of flights with a stop in Auckland before arriving in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, I was buzzing as I proceeded down the stairs to baggage claim. No amount of jet lag could damper my high on life. Patiently waiting there was a man that greatly resembled Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Golden skin, bald, and a serious set of calves. At the very least, he could have easily been his stunt double. 

This massive, Maori individual warmly greeted me with the most genuine smile. He would be my ride for the day. Five hours later, I had devoured a delicious lunch at his favorite spot, met a ton of new faces, was forced to take my picture for my studio badge (some jet lag was still present there), and got a personal tour of the entire city. The next night, he even treated me to my first cricket game. Thankfully it wasn’t one of the five day long events…

Any intimidation I had coming into this new experience had completely vanished, all because of a gracious reception. If I was going to call this place home for the next five months, the people allowed me to kick my shoes off and throw my feet up right from the start. 

No matter where or how far you travel, people can make or break the experience. A genuine smile can make all the difference to making an outsider feel more comfortable and welcome in your home. 

There are a shitload of coffee shops in Wellington. I swear Kiwi’s are taught to make mean long black or cappuccino from their adolescence. Let’s just say you could get a great espresso almost anywhere – including a gas station.

After visiting an absurd majority of these coffee shops, I found myself primarily visiting the same two. With the playing field of quality pretty even, I decided to give my business to the shops where the employees were the most friendly and conversational. The same could be applied to the restaurants where the food was delicious, fit my macros, and the people were exceptional.

In a short time, I even became a regular at these shops. So much that they already knew my usual order before I could even spit it out. Pretty awesome. Plus it made it much harder to go off my macros. Double-win. 

Outside of the team (aka my NZ family) I directly work with, I have created some great relationships with locals. I absolutely adore and will dearly miss my masseuse and boxing coach.

People are the difference maker. 

My new mate, Shane Rangi, for life. You may recognize him as Dagan in Spartacus or a bunch of stunt roles (like Witch-King) in The Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit.

 

Embrace & Indulge In Culture. 

"Sweet as, bro."

I was fairly certain he was saying sweet ass. Breaking through the accent, I finally caught on that I was mistakenly adding another “s”. 

This is one of those Kiwi things were they respond with an adjective followed by “as”. It typically means good or awesome.

Cool as, right?

Initially, I thought it was kind of strange and funny. Within a few weeks, I was responding to my new New Zealand friends with these exact responses. 

Coming from the United States, you do not realize how much of a melting pot our culture truly is. There are influences from every single nation in our food, fashion, music, and much more. 

Here in New Zealand, there is a very strong history of the native Māori culture ingrained within its structure. From attending ceremonies to experiencing the Haka (a traditional war cry), I’ve gotten an up-close and personal taste of their traditions. My curiosity overpowered any ignorance I had and truly allowed me to indulge in their customs. 

It’s been an eye-opening experience to learn about their rituals and folklore. I have come to truly appreciate how much pride they have in their history and in not only preserving it but also raising it’s awareness so that it can be passed on. 

Most importantly, I now acknowledge and appreciate the pride that comes with being an American citizen. All politics and bullshit aside. We’re pretty damn fortunate and lucky. 

Indulging in other cultures, no matter how different they may be, allows you to embrace not only diversity but also appreciate your own. 

 

The Wind of Change. 

It’s not called Windy Wellington for shits and giggles. The wind here is no joke. 

All you need is one look at the mess of my hair as it blows in every whacky direction possible. Bad timing to grow it out somewhat, I guess...

The weather and temperature is completely dependent on the wind. When the gusts come from the South off the glaciers of Antarctica, it becomes quite frigid and at times, relentless. When it comes from the north and humid Auckland, it’s warm and quite splendid. After all, they say “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day”. 

It can change from a north wind to a south wind within a day. Sometimes, there seems to be a tug of war as it goes back and forth between the two extremes. That’s why most Kiwi’s - the smart ones - are always prepared with a bag of clothes in their cars.

Talk about some powerful shit, eh?

This wind of change is a great metaphor for perspective and mindset. For one, the wind and weather are completely out of our control. Sure, it can be annoying as all hell but there’s nothing we can do about it. Instead of complaining, we must learn to focus on the things we have the power to control. 

Make conscious decisions such as how many times you’re going to smile today, what foods you are going to order off a menu, or if you’re going to skip that workout again. 

Within our minds, there is a constant battle between a positive outlook and a negative one. The beauty lies that we make that choice and the wind can always change. 

 

I Say Sweet Potato, You Say Kumara.

Things get put into perspective fairly quickly when people ask you where you’re from because of your accent. 

The first time I got asked, I was stopped in my tracks. How did they know? Hold up, you’re the ones with the accent. Not me. You quickly realize this isn’t your homeland any longer...

I’m the foreigner. 

Thankfully, the country I was shipped off to uses English as it’s main language. Although, there is still a distinct Kiwi accent and a ton of new words. You could call it Kiwinglish. 

This made the initial trips to the grocery store or ordering off a menu pretty interesting, you could even say difficult as I was trying to count macros. 

The first time I tried to pick out some cuts of meat, I was lost. A legit 20 minutes later and I decided to just stick with chicken breast. It reminded me of that time we found our father cluelessly staring at all the jars of peanut butter and completely paralyzed by the number of choices to get for our mother. I feel your pain, Pops. 

After a lot of patience, a few purchase mistakes, and a tiny bit of research, I finally decoded the different cuts. 

Here, a sirloin steak (one of my go-to lean cuts of beef) is called a rump steak. A sirloin steak here would actually be a porterhouse in the U.S. of A. The so-delicious rib-eye is called a Scotch fillet (said fill “it”). 

When it comes to chopped meat (called minced meat here), there are no percentages of fat listed. Instead, the keywords are:

  • Premium: Less than 5% total fat
  • Prime: Less than 10% total fat
  • Standard: Ranges between 10 to 20% total fat

The upside is that 90 percent of these beef cuts are grass-fed. That’s just how it is here. Actually, corn finished is trendy. 

Don’t even get me started on the lamb. There’s a completely different lingo for those cuts. 

 

Some alternative words I’ve come to learn and use are...

Kia Ora = Hello/Welcome

Take Away = Take Out

Kumara = Sweet Potato

Capsicum = Bell Pepper

Rocket = Arugula

Eggplant = Aubergine

Courgette = Zucchini 

Beetroot = Beets

Fizzy Drink = Soda

Jandals = Flip-flops

Car Park = Parking Lot

Hire = Rent

Lift = Elevator

Rubbish = Garbage

Pissed = Drunk

Those are just a few of them. As I began to connect these new words to my own definition, learning and understanding alternative words and sayings allow you to embrace another culture and it honestly makes it a lot easier to communicate what you want.

It’s completely fine to conform to another society's way. Just don’t be ignorant or that bro that has to order a 16 ounce coffee at Starbucks because you refuse to say “grande”.  Chur.

 

The Right-Wrong Way?

Upon discovering that I would have to drive on the opposite side of the road, I legitimately prayed that New Zealand had Uber. 

While they do, I can proudly say I didn’t need it after all. A few hours after my arrival, I was completely fighting my instincts and driving on the left side of the road. In all honesty, I may drive better on that side. 

However, it took me a hell of a lot longer to walk on the other side of the sidewalk. I’m still fighting that one and now I get why every damn tourist walks on the “wrong side”. 

When I do arrive back on U.S. soil, I’m definitely going to be confused on which lane to drive in and what side of the street to walk on. I think I’m going to split the difference and stick to the middle. 

Kidding. 

No matter how long you have been doing things a certain way, stop being so against acquiring new skills or doing things differently. It may be exactly what you need to produce better results or refine your skills. 

To relate this to training, you may be doing a certain exercise, training routine, or exercise order a specific way for years. Maybe what you need is a fresh taste of something completely different to spark more muscle gain or fat loss. 

From the last lesson to this one, there is not a right or wrong way. It’s simply a different way. There are no right or wrong exercises. It’s all in the context that it’s used. Have a more open mind to at least give it a try. 

 

Learning To Count Again. 

Expanding on my trips to the grocery store and eating out, I could have easily said screw it and used that as my excuse to not count macros.

Putting ego aside, I put a little time in and learned a new system. I learned how to count again. And then again. and a few more times.

It didn’t stop with macros, I’ve had to re-learn a ton of different systems. From the weather and air conditioning in Celsius to the speed I’m traveling in kilometers per hour, it didn’t stop there.

The price of gas is in liters instead of gallons.

Weight is in kilos. That’s the easy one for the meathead in me. Multiply the number by 2.2. Perfectly fine when it comes to training, but always throws me off when it comes to food weight from the extra step of kilos to pounds to ounces.

Calories are in kilojoules.

Currency is different from the NZD to the USD. Thankfully, it’s in my favor.

And don’t even get me started with time. After five months, I still cannot wrap my head around the time change between New Zealand and New York or Los Angeles. All I know is that I’m a day ahead of my family and friends. I’ve wished happy birthday’s a full 24 hours ahead. Most days I’m going to bed while my bro is getting up and starting his first training sessions of the day.

Two pro tips: Add locations to the World Clock on your iPhone. Google is your best friend for conversions. You can thank me later. 🙂

 

Losing Yourself To Find Yourself In The Moment. 

It’s easy to say get off your phone and disconnect. I won’t lie, I actually have two phones and two numbers now. It’s a pain in the ass, to be honest.

However, I only use my U.S. number when I’m on wi-fi. On my New Zealand obsolete iPhone 4, I decided to not download any apps. No Facebook. No Instagram. No Snapchat.

Why?

Well, first off…the phone just can’t handle it. Trying to load any of those social media apps would be more of a headache and might lead to a broken phone. But it was a blessing in disguise.

It allowed me to lose myself in the moment of this unreal experience in this beautiful country. I was able to truly be present at times where I would normally miss the little details.

Without any GPS, I would wander around the small city of Wellington and discover new places to eat, shop, or grab a coffee or drink. It serves as a little reminder to not always be in a rush to your destination but get yourself lost sometimes. Who knows what you might find or experience.

But then again, it's clutch to have your phone to capture cool shit like this:

 

The Universal Language of Fitness & Health. 

No matter how far you travel, a smile is universal.

Across different languages and cultures, laughter and tears always mean the same thing.

Funny thing is health and fitness are equally as universal. If someone wants to grow their biceps, they’re going to do some type of curl variation and pull-ups. It doesn’t matter the country you’re in.

When people learn my occupation as a trainer, they always have concerns about their health, a specific diet question, or any tips for losing fat and building muscle.

Squats and curls are as universal as smiles and greetings. Health and fitness cross boundaries and connect humans together.

Realizing that was extremely powerful to me. It gave me even more confidence behind my passion and career. That awareness makes writing this blog, recording a video, or posting a tip completely worth it.

It makes me recognize that the message of Sons of Strength can reach beyond the people we train in person, online, or within our home country.

Before my homecoming, I will depart New Zealand as a better human being. I will leave my temporary home for a short stay in Hong Kong with opened eyes, unforgettable experiences, and life-lasting friendships. You could even say there’s a tiny bit of Kiwi in me now.

These are my life lessons from living in another country for six months of my life.

 

Now, let us apply the lessons we’ve learned on our fitness journey to transform your body and achieve the ultimate physique. Since we will be reuniting in the coming weeks, we want to celebrate by opening up 5 exclusive coaching spots.

To those that are hungry and ready to take action, we are both coming off training and physical prep for two huge blockbuster movie projects. Now, we want to help a lucky few build muscle and lose fat with the same exact principles and methods. Click here to claim your spot right now!