Meet Rachael Lynn

September 9, 2019 in Meet the Women - No Comments

Any Brene Brown fans out there are probably familiar with the idea that vulnerability and courage are often intertwined when it comes to building true connections. But it can be hard to get to that point, especially when you’ve just picked up and moved halfway around the globe and are trying to make new friends in a new place. With this in mind, I was excited to connect with Rachael Lynn, a North American author, and creator of Women Connect Abroad, now based in Dubai. Whether you’ve also found yourself in new geographical and cultural surroundings or are just itching to make real connections where you are, I think you’ll learn something from what Rachael has to say.” – Michaela

The Modern Bee was born out of a desire to create a modern reincarnation of the quilting bees of the past, with the hopes of building a comforting, supportive community for all different types of women, who all have the same desire to connect with other women and find commonality in the most likely (and unlikely) of ways. You’ve also created a community for women to connect in a different way–through the shared experiences of living abroad. What was your motivation for this?

My motivation was selfish at first – I wanted to make friends and didn’t know where to go! At my first networking event in Dubai, I heard someone say “It’s so hard to make good friends here” and in that moment I promised myself not to believe that. I’m not a mom yet, and I also don’t drink alcohol. For some reason it felt like my options for making friends in Dubai were mom groups or ladies nights out (which means free drinks), or business networking events. I found at many events it was difficult to talk to people about anything other than surfacelevel things – and because I wasn’t working when I first moved, what was I to talk about?! I was craving something I had found in Toronto when I first moved there, which was communities that forced you (in a nice way) to talk about personal things pretty quickly. I knew there had to be more people like me craving real connections. So, I created my first Women Connect Abroad gathering event on a whim, and it sold out! We meet every month – and now my motivation is to show other women they’re not alone in desiring meaningful relationships with each other.

It seems like environments that nourish opportunities to connect authentically in a non-professional or casual way diminish the older we get. There are no playgrounds, team sports, dorm rooms, sororities, or the like. It’s as though the need to connect socially falls lower on the list of priorities. What do you think it is that causes some of us to not prioritize this really vital human need as we get older?

Unfortunately, I think that as the world has become more individually empowered, the narrative was lost that being independent doesn’t mean never needing support. Every person on the planet needs support! But speaking for myself, I used to think that it was a badge of honor to look like I had everything together and was somehow magically doing things on my own. This thinking actually made me physically (and mentally) ill. I believe most of us don’t prioritize social connection because we don’t believe we’re allowed to. And then, of course, we convince ourselves that nobody would want to hang out with us, so it’s easier to stay home, be a workaholic, or isolate ourselves. It’s scary to go up to another adult and say “be my friend” like on the playground – but I’ve done it, and it works! For anyone wondering how to start – spend more time hanging out in places where you have interests – like the library, yoga class, a board game cafe, running club, whatever – do it enough times and you will meet someone you’re happy to spend time with. At least you’ll be doing something you enjoy while you wait. 

A friend who spent a year studying abroad in college once told me she was baffled by some of the other people in her program who really refused to immerse themselves in the local culture, get to know local people, survive on local food and who really just stuck to their own ways and groups of friends from home. She wondered why they had opted to uproot their lives if only to live the same life they lived back home. I’m curious about your thoughts on scenarios such as this one as somebody who has willingly left home on a few different occasions.

There are a couple of things at play here, in my opinion.  Firstly, being somewhere new is scary. I remember the first time I heard a Canadian accent in Dubai – and I actually got excited! Even though I was comfortable on my own, the accent was familiar, and made me feel like we could have something in common, even though it was also highly likely that I would never get along with this person. When I traveled to France, we searched online for an English-speaking bar because we were tired of not being able to communicate, and while we were in line I met someone from Hamilton, Ontario, right near my grandparents place! There’s something about familiarity that’s comforting. And sometimes you just want to hear your native language, eat food that’s comforting, and not have to work so hard. I think that’s okay. The challenge is to recognize it early enough and try to do at least something out of your comfort zone, so that you learn it’s safe to try!

Second, and maybe harder to detect, I think there are still groups of people in the world who (consciously or unconsciously) view other countries as not as developed, refined, or “smart” as the countries they’re coming from. Of course, we all have pride for where we are from! We all also step into places with some bias. But in my experience, some people are so attached to their identity either out of pride or insecurity that they travel to have the experience of going somewhere new and telling everyone back home, while subconsciously believing the way they do things is still better. So they’d rather just stay in the comfort zone, critique where they are together, and go home saying they’re world travelers. To be honest, we all do this in some way, but unfortunately, some people really commit to their own way of thinking,

We love a good book at The Modern Bee, whether it’s one that makes us lose ourselves in somebody else’s story or one that causes us to look internally at our own stories. Also, as you might have picked up on, we’re also very into the different definitions and meanings of home. You have a book coming out this November that touches base on a few of these themes. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

My book is titled At Home Anywhere: Feeling at Home Wherever Life Takes You – and I wrote it because I thought I was emotionally prepared to move and integrate in Dubai without much of a struggle, but I wasn’t. There are first world amenities, you can get by with English, and there are tons and tons of things to do. But I became really anxious and sad and couldn’t seem to get out of it – which was frustrating to me because I have done so much therapy and self-care for so many years! I thought I had everything I needed to support myself. 

Everything I found online and books already out seemed to be geared towards women who move with their husband and kids abroad, and oftentimes are either staying at home or working in corporate. Because I am an entrepreneur without kids yet, I wanted to speak to other women like me and walk together through the process of maintaining our sanity,

The book is part memoir, part journal of loving advice to a friend, almost guided them – whether they’re making a move across the country or across the world – on how to stay connected to themselves during such an emotional transition. There’s story and active journaling prompts, activities, and affirmations to have the reader feel as supported as possible. I love the book! 

In James Baldwin’s novel, Giovanni’s Room, which was written when the American novelist was living abroad in France, Baldwin writes: “[p]erhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” If this is the case, what are the conditions that make up home to you?

Connection is the guiding light in my life and my conditions of home. Connection with myself, connections with the people I love, and connection to the place that I’m living. How connected can we be to those things, so that no matter where we are in the world, we remember that the earth is our home? Some may call that presence or being present – which is okay with me! Slowing down and savoring always creates connection

In a world of possibilities, what would you do with your life if failure wasn’t an option? What advice would you give your younger self just starting out or yourself at a trying time in the past that you’ve since overcome?

 I think I can finally say that I would do what I’m doing now. I would create something in the world through my writing, have some kids, and try to feel it all while it’s happening. And then, once I had done all that, I would love to run a farm and eat only things the farm produced. Oh, and in my 50’s, I would become a performer in some way – either through dance or music. I love dancing! That would really be winning to me. I want to have it all, just not all at once. I want things to improve with age.

To my younger self, I would tell her to find a woman she really looks up to sooner, and learn anything she can from her. Go to therapy, keep looking for the right therapist or coach until you find them. And I’d also tell her that even if she does none of those things, that’s okay. It will all work out. She is very smart. 

What traits do you value most in your circle of friends? What traits do you most value in yourself?

Now that I’ve moved even further away from my friends (I moved from Buffalo to New York City to Toronto and now Dubai) – I can honestly say that for my closest friends I really value consistency. That we check in and follow up with each other even when we are busy. Even if it’s a quick hello, this is really meaningful to me. Loving, honest feedback when I come to someone for advice also feels very supportive.

In myself, I appreciate my desire to exhaust all options before I give up on something, or quit. Especially when it comes to interacting with people. I believe people are inherently good and when they hurt us (or others) it’s because something really hurtful must have happened to them. Reminding myself of this often has helped me really learn how to better communicate and be supportive without being stepped on. So, I value that I am always willing to learn and get better when it comes to living and loving. 

To wrap up on a fun note, I always end with some rapid fire questions. Where do you stand on

A sprawling backyard or city balcony? Sprawling Backyard Cats or dogs? Dogs – I had cats all my life but we just got our first dog last year. I get it now! Desert or forest? Forest (Don’t tell Dubai I said that!) Fresh flowers or house plants? Fresh Flowers. I can’t seem to keep house plants alive yet. Coffee shop or diner? Coffee Shop for sure. Decaf, please!

Rachael’s book is coming out in November, so be sure to stay connected with her on Instagram at @iam_rachaellynn and over on her website for all the updates. Who else feels more confident about big life changes after hearing what she had to say here?

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