My sister has been travelling for work in the last week and she’s been posting some amazing pics of her drive through North Queensland (Australia) on Facebook. The winding roads along the coast from Cairns and inland through the range, hugging the mountain sides and meandering past quiet beaches, brought back memories for both of us not only of the time we lived there as kids but also of the many visits back post our parents’ separation. And it made me ask myself, how many places can have a hold over one’s heart?
This week, I’ve been interviewed for a blog called Seen The Elephant. The author is an American woman I met through J, who has lived in both the UK and Japan before returning to the States where she now lives in New York. Her fascination is with people like herself, who move away from their ‘home’ country and choose an expat life…away from family and all of those indelibly established traditions, friendships, habits and opinions that we combine to create our ‘life’.
For those who’ve never felt that longing to emigrate, it probably appears that we ‘throw it away’ to embark on some new adventure with little obvious reason to do so…and becoming an expat definitely creates both physical and emotional (at least for a time) distance as both sides deal with the rising crescendo of unanswered questions like ‘Why did you leave?’ ‘Why don’t you want to stay close to your family and friends?’ and ‘(When) Are you coming home?’
How do you explain that you have found ‘home’, a place to belong somewhere else? The place that fulfills you like no other, in spite of all the pieces of your heart held captive by other times and places? Where, for some unknown reason, you ‘fit’?
When I left Melbourne six and a half years ago, I could never have imagined the journey ahead. Maybe what drove me was that yearning to belong, to find my true self unencumbered by the expectations and pressures of the life I’d established for myself.
And from things I read and people I speak to, the permutations and combinations of reasons are as endless and varied and ever-changing for all of us. For some, the search is a lifelong one. And when we do find ‘it’, it seems less to do with one particular thing but rather a melting pot of environment, circumstance and new choices that, if taken on their own, would never be enough.
But truth be told, there probably is no ‘answer’ for me or anyone else…just that eternal rollercoaster of peace and restlessness and peace again as we alternately push against our boundaries and bask in moments of rare contentment.
So well said! And I like the way you choose to look at the glass as half full. I tend to be the other way around in thinking that we expats are permanent malcontents … but as you point out so astutely, we're the kind of people who push our boundaries in hopes of coming up with that ever-elusive moment or two of contentment.
To be honest, I think some of us enjoy the challenges even more than the victories. Otherwise, why did I trade in the UK for Japan? That's like going from Mt Rainier to Mt Kilimanjaro.
To the readers of Kim's blog: I hope you realize how lucky you are to be in the company of someone who does not shy away from discussing the big issues that confront all long-time expats at one time or another. On the contrary, she confronts such questions with honesty and a sense of humor, such a winning combination!
Please do visit her interview on my blog, Seen the Elephant, and join in our discussions there.