Not long ago, I received a note from a high-school friend I haven’t seen in many decades.
“Did you follow a dream to South America?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “but I’m not finished. I’m still following my dreams.”
The thing is, I don’t know where my dreams will take me. I have a very full bucket list of places I want to visit. Who knows how long I might be seduced into staying in any one of them?
This is not to say that I’m fickle or flighty…although just about every day I search the Internet for the next destination that calls to me. (I so hope my husband isn’t reading this.)
In the past 13 years, we’ve lived in six destinations in Latin America (seven if you count the month we spent in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca). And while the honeymoon stage of discovering and settling into a new locale is exciting, so is the ability to say: “This is home.”
It’s nice to walk in the door and be welcomed by the things you love… your pots and pans and bedding and books…the special spices in your cabinet…your photos and hobby things…your pets…
It’s a blessing to have good friends a phone call away who will join you for a drink or dinner or to listen to you talk about something exciting that has happened, or even some tragedy that has struck.
So yes, I understand the appeal of permanence.
It’s wonderful to know, without a doubt, that any one place is the place you are meant to be. But how do you know that? In fact, how do you know if you are at all cut out for the expat lifestyle?
It takes introspection, of course. And research. And planning. And it certainly takes commitment and a certain amount of courage. The more of all these you can muster, the more successful your expat experience will be.
I’ve said it before: the one trait all expats share is a thirst for adventure. For sure, some are thirstier than others. But if, by and large, you enjoy the challenges of the unknown and you consider yourself a problem solver rather than a problem causer…you’re probably cut from the right cloth to be a successful expat.
We all have different reasons for wanting to move to a foreign country, of course. You may be politically or financially motivated to make a move. But I can tell you without reserve that you will be far happier if you make the move because you love to explore new cultures and places and want to experience a lifestyle that is completely different than the one you’re leading now.
As a neighbor here in Ecuador said about her decision to leave the States, “I wasn’t running from anything. I was running to something.”
So here’s my challenge to you: Put aside your fears, concerns, and objections. Don’t dwell on the negatives of your current situation, but decide what you want from the future. And then go after it… No matter where those dreams take you.
As for me, if this life is a dream, I hope I never wake up.
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