Sometimes my old friends back home have a hard time understanding why I moved abroad.
Just last week I was wrapped up like a polar explorer in borrowed coats, helping a friend I was visiting back home for the holidays shovel the drifting, blowing snow off his driveway.
“What’s the fascination with living abroad anyway?” he asked through the scarf wrapped around his face to avoid losing his nose to frostbite.
Since I was too cold to go into a long explanation of how, thanks to the public transportation where I now live, I no longer need a car or a driveway to keep it in and of how, thanks to the weather where I now live, I no longer own my own long underwear, insulated boots, arctic parka, or snow shovel, I just said, “Better weather,” and kept shoveling.
I also have another friend who thinks that, because I compare the relative safety and lower cost of living in my new home abroad to the rising crime rates, prices, and taxes back home, I’m no longer a U.S. citizen and am in fact a communist. He even accuses me, because I speak a little Spanish, of hanging around with Fidel Castro. I’ve told him many times that I’m still a patriotic U.S. citizen and that I live in Ecuador, not Cuba, but he never seems to get it.
He can’t imagine that I could be a good “American” and still live outside the U.S.—as though lowering my cost of living and not constantly worrying about crime is somehow unpatriotic. (And I have yet to explain to him that there is a difference between being an “American” and a U.S. citizen… Everyone who lives in Central and South America is American, too. One step at a time, I guess.)
I have another friend who no longer wants to hear that I get excellent medical attention outside the U.S. at a fraction of the cost he pays. No matter how many studies and rankings I show him, he insists that the U.S. has the best health care on the planet and that I must be getting my medical care from witchdoctors and shamans. When I tell him that there are actually great doctors and modern medical facilities outside the U.S. that are often so inexpensive that I can pay out of pocket and not even use my insurance (which also costs about a third of what I was paying back in the States), his face turns red and he starts to sputter, so I don’t even bring it up any more.
Better weather, a lower cost of living, affordable health care…all these things and more can result from moving in the right way to the right place abroad. But for some, like many of my friends, who have never lived (and would never even consider living) outside the country of their birth, it can be a hard case to make. Sometimes I even try bringing a copy of International Living magazine with me when I visit back home and leaving it on a coffee table or kitchen counter when I leave.
I don’t know if this helps or not…but you never know.
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