Oct 05 2011

Living the Expat Life

Gloria and I moved to Costa Rica on April Fool’s Day of 2009.  For the first three months, we stayed close to home, just trying to settle in and get our bearings.  Our lives were full of changes.  We moved into a small house for one month, then moved again into our present cabina.  We bought a 1996 Toyota 4-Runner through a car buying service.  We lost our beloved cat Cleo. We struggled to adjust to a new way of doing everything – communicating, cooking, socializing, working, and just daily living.

After those first three months, we took our first trip in our “new car.” It was a two hour drive.  Our destination: the Pelican Hotel, directly on the Pacific Ocean.  On that trip, I calmly asked my wife, Gloria,“How do you like being an expat?” I was slightly afraid of the answer as our first months had been fraught with challenges.

Her reply surprised me. “I love it!” she said. She explained to me how different it was to her from our previous life.  She loved the experience. She loved stepping out of the box and testing herself.

She told me she was fulfilling a life-long dream – when she was 20, she had planned to leave Baltimore for LA to work in the film business.  At that time in her life, she chickened out. She was alone and just couldn’t do it.  All these years she thought of what she didn’t do when she was 20 – the risk she didn’t take — and this was her opportunity to make up for that.  This time, with her husband beside her, she wasn’t going to chicken out.

As I wrote this, I thought of an article written by Lee Harrison, Contributing Editor of International Living Magazine.  On the last page of every issue, Lee always has “The Last Word.” In the March 2011 issue, his “last word” ended with the following:

“And when you’re living abroad you’re someone special.  To your overseas friends, you’re an adventurer…a worldly person who’s landed in their country.  To your friends back home, you’re out there “living the dream.”

When you’re overseas, you’re part of an exclusive and well-connected “club” of expats and world travelers…and that feels good.

Most importantly – no matter how long you’ve been abroad – life is an adventure.  You can spend years exploring your adopted country and culture…and if things start to feel routine, you can move on and experience the excitement all over again.

If I let that go, the adventure’s over.  And with one life to live, I’m not ready for that. Arizona? Not for me.”

Lee pretty much summed up the way Gloria felt at that time over two years ago, and I’m happy to say that she still feels the same way today. And I do too.

 

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