Why We Do It
For the last few mornings, I have woken to the indignant clucking of my mother’s chickens. My bedroom at home is adjacent to their coop and they are creatures who rise with the sun. If they have not been released into their enclosure by at least seven in the morning, they have no qualms in regards to letting their dissent be known to all.
Today I rose to the sounds of traffic, people yelling and sirens. I felt panicked, until I remembered where I was – London. What I was hearing was the soundtrack to the city that I once again find myself calling home.
Getting on the plane for the first couple of rounds of expat life was a breeze. I was going on an adventure! I didn’t know what to expect. And amongst the ignorance, I found my bliss. Moving overseas can be really difficult at times. It is a bit hard to imagine exactly what it is going to be like – no matter what anyone says, you can’t know until you have experienced it for yourself.
The one great thing I owe to moving abroad is that it forced me to stop taking my country of origin for granted. Australia is the one place in the world where I feel totally at home, where everything makes sense. It wasn’t until after I threw myself out of my comfort zones that I started appreciating what I had in living there.
On my last night in Australia, I struggled with getting to sleep. I knew the next day was going to be horribly emotional and I wanted to put it off as long as possible.
After an hour of tossing and turning, I threw on my jacket and went outside, to hang with my dogs and stare up at the night sky. I did this often, when searching for answers during my adolescence. It is something I am unable to do in London, as the pollution and light from the city shrouds the stars from our view.
As I stroked my dog’s back and gazed up towards the heavens, I wondered what I was doing. It would be so easy you see, to stay. I have my family here and well-established friendships. I have my dogs. And I have Australia – this beautiful, yet dangerous country, with all its quirks and anomalies. For the first time, I recognise what it costs to leave it all behind.
I wondered why I voluntarily chose to do it – why anyone did. There is a certain thrill in throwing yourself out into the unknown, but as the laws of physics state, an opposite reaction comes part and parcel. The loneliness. The homesickness. The sense of displacement. Why would anyone want to put themselves through that?
All that being said, I know at least for me, the adventure is not yet over. As Dr Seuss wrote in “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” loved by expats and travellers world over:
There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And that’s it. There are still places to explore, foods to be eaten and people to meet. Glorious adventures and opportunities await during the next few months of living overseas. There is so much to look forward to.
The next day, I got on that plane, but I did so acknowledging what I was leaving behind. And in knowing this, I was able to take with me everything I had been mentally filing away over the past four weeks.
I could hear the sound of the kookaburras cackling from the branches of the gumtrees.
I had memorised the way the fading light hits the clouds, causing them to shine silver in the darkening sky.
On my tongue was the taste of the salt in the air at the seaside, gathered from all the moments I spent simply staring out at the endless ocean.
As I closed my eyes I could see my parents playfully bickering in front of the TV and the look my dog gives me, when he knows I’m going, knows it will be some time until we see each other again.
I took all these fleeting moments of life, these snapshots of time, these memories of home. And I locked them away, safe in my heart.
At the end of the day – at the end of your life, all you have are your experiences and your memories. I travel to make mine the best that they can be.
Absolutely beautiful article, actually made me choke up a bit. I totally resonated with it. It’s the perfect article for reminding us expats why we do it. I’ll have to go back and read ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ again, it’s probably been about 20 years…
That book is a tear jerker itself! Thanks Rhi.
I love this post, and can completely relate! Most of my friends and family can’t understand why I chose to move abroad – and, quite frankly, sometimes I struggle to understand the reasoning myself. But I also can’t imagine my life without travel, I can’t fathom not being able to see the world. Your final sentence is poignantly true.
Thanks for your kind words Ashley. I guess you just have to be grateful for likeminded people who feel the same way!
I LOVE this post! I can relate so well to it, and it’s written beautifully.
Thank you Sonja! It’s still a favourite, so I’m always glad to hear when it resonates with others.
It definitely choked me up to read, as I can relate to really discovering my love for Canada only when I was away for three years. On the other hand, I would have never met you if you had not taken that step – so I’m thankful for that!
Oh thank you Bonnie! I never mean to make anyone cry! And ditto. 🙂