Traveling and living abroad are like dating. The longer the relationship, the higher the stakes.
Short and Steamy
When we travel to a new city or country for a vacation, we embark upon a romance. Everything about the relationship is fresh, novel and leaves us feeling renewed; if the stars are correctly aligned, we feel as though we are at our very best. Although we know the affair is not long-term, it is certainly great fun while it lasts. Sometimes we love the city so much that we begin making plans to return; we hope to re-capture the magic we experienced during our first visit. I feel that way about Paris, Florence, Hong Kong and New York City; I just can’t get enough of their respective city yummy-goodness. Every once in a while, however, the city simply doesn’t live up to our expectations. Fortunately, we recover quickly because we didn’t invest that much in the relationship. It was just a few days, a week. No big deal. We know that there are many more fish in the international seas.
Relocating to a new country, however, means that we have entered into a domestic partnership. Whenever we arrive with more than a suitcase or a knapsack and no departure date, we are making a serious commitment. As the plane lands, clog-wearing butterflies tap dance in our stomach. Did we get it right? Is this the one?
As international educators, DP and I have lived in five countries on four continents: Canada (the country of our birth), Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Thailand. Each country relationship has been unique; there have been things that we liked and loved and treasured… and other things that we had to learn to tolerate. To endure. To get through.
Factors that determine the quality and length of these country-relationships:
* Is the city/country beautiful (however you define beautiful)?
* Does the climate/temperature suit you?
* Are there activities and cultural events that you enjoy?
* Do you speak the language?
* Do you enjoy the local cuisine?
* Do you have access to English language books and other creature comforts that make your life comfortable?
* Can you afford to live a good life in this city?
* What is your relationship with the deeply held values and customs of your new culture?
* Have you found a community of great friends and kindred spirits?
So what happens when you move to a new country and you find yourself tolerating your new home rather than rejoicing in what it has to offer? Sometimes it’s better to admit that things just aren’t going to work out. Make a clean break and move on.
Although I never kiss and tell on the internet (we think that’s a very good rule!), our relationship with Bangkok is not working out the way we’d hoped. It’s okay. We’ve had some good times here and met some lovely people who made our lives better over the last year and a half.
Hope, however, springs eternal. We’ll be moving to a new international school in Yokohama, Japan in August of 2011. Our love affair with Japan has already begun!