Perhaps it had to do with visiting Thailand at six years of age. Or maybe it was that German woman who visited us when I was a child. She cooked potato pancakes that were mighty good. I remember flipping through her English/German language book with delight. I thought flugnummer (flight number) was so much fun to say that it’s the only thing I remember.
When I was sixteen we came back to Thailand and on the train we sat across from a German family. I said, Guten Tag! I watched their faces light up.
Back in Hawaii I used to watch the planes overhead crisscrossing, taking off or landing and wonder where the people in the plane were going. When we lived on the Mainland my dad used to take us on weekend road trips. My mom would pack sandwiches and my father would pack us into our white Ford Granada.
So I don’t really know who or what to attribute this desire to travel to, especially given the fact that I suffer from motion sickness (that’s right I said suffer!) and the dis/ease known as I-couldn’t-find-my-way-out-of-paper-bag.
Folks who intuitively know where they are and where they need to go, I don’t think realize what a treasure they possess. People like me have been stuck with the booby prize of compasses and wander in circles, in the rain, with a twisted ankle. When we need to head north we head south. My ex- used to ask me which way we needed to go and then proceed in the opposite direction.
And I’ve thrown up more times from traveling than from drinking. Mind over matter can get me to the toilet or the road side but all the same, I wish I had those seaworthy legs. (Do people in first class ever get as sick as those of us in steerage?) I’ll grimace through the journey because I want to reach the destination.
I don’t fit into the retiree genre either. I’m not a trustafarian. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck. And if you think it’s stressful in your home country, try doing it abroad. I see those expats who are stuck and I shudder at the thought of becoming one of them.
I must then like the idea of being different. My family, who I love and who love me are waiting for me to return home. My friends think I’m some jet-setter. This makes me laugh because I’m not well-travelled. I’m working on it through.
Jet-set by definition means a rich person who travels for pleasure. Hmmm. Maybe my friends are right. By conventional standards I am by no means wealthy or well-off, maybe off-well. I moved all over the US it seems in hopes of finding home, a place where I belong and then I finally reached the point where the map looked flat, felt flat and I got exhausted from looking.
Sometime during my first month in Bangkok I decided I would never go back. If life is about experiences, if you can’t take your house and car and clothes to heaven then why would I want to live in the country that reveres those things? I was giddy over how little I needed and could travel with. And since I moved so frequently back home I had continually lightened the load.
Every single time I go back to the States I mentally tick off more things to donate to goodwill. Stuff is starting to look like junk and when that happens, you know that it is. This ain’t the Great Depression although my fellow citizens are greatly depressed and maybe that is another reason to get away from the herd.
During my 20s I watched friends go to Europe to backpack, heard about this adventure and that while I worked 2 sometimes 3 jobs. I felt like life was passing me up. Then when opportunity brought the boat by I realized I had to try out the dream of living and working abroad. I got in. This wasn’t my first attempt mind you.
But when I did I knew this was home. Not SE Asia specifically (although I knew Thailand was closer than Ecuador) but the expat lifestyle. I love meeting people from all over the world, hearing their stories and making new friends. When I think about Vancouver BC or New York City I think about the people not necessarily the sights. (Although a place can be beautiful because there are no people.)
It comes down to my philosophy or purpose in life; I believe we are here to be the best people we can be. And traveling takes me out of my comfort zone. If I already have motion sickness and am directionally challenged, why not go with it? Why not accept these are the things that I have to work with? Your shortcomings are the baggage you can never leave behind.
Because I don’t think you can be the best person you can be physically, spiritually, socially, intellectually without stepping outside your zones of comfort. Obviously there are many ways to achieve this goal but being an expat for me is the greatest way to experience life.