We’ve been tossing this ex-pat idea around for a few years. By which I mean living in another country for many months in a row, or maybe forever. Forever is too bewildering to tackle, but even the thought of a few months abroad used to make us panic a bit.
We can’t afford two rents; we’ll have to do this without a home base. What will it be like without a home address? We have stuff. Where would that go? We have family and friends whom we treasure. Can we go without seeing them?
Still, the desire lingered on. At last we decided to try a baby step. We would go overseas for a month and see if we would handle the strange customs, the constant company of each other, the lack of a friend and family community, and living with a small endlessly recurring wardrobe.
We chose France: I speak the language and it is my ancestral mother country. We were enchanted. The strange customs of everyday life were intriguing, not exasperating. A long pause at lunch? Terrific. A drink at an outdoor cafe after dinner? Sublime. The constant company was not a problem; suddenly we had a load of new things to talk about, and to laugh about, and to share.
We were not there long enough to crash European social circles, but we made new friends among our fellow long term visitors, who were warm in their welcome. They were always ready with stories, adventures, and advice. They are eager students of the world who see home as a globe, not a town. We made French acquaintances who were delighted to be in our blog and told their friends about it.
The limited wardrobe was not a problem; in one medium suitcase I actually brought more than I needed. And with our stateside children and friends being so far away, we communicated more intensely, and even learned to Skype. Watching the kids in their natural environments – with the one’s office décor on view, the other’s cat performing live, and our shaky video tour of our rented house for their benefit – was more intimate than our usual phone chats.
The whole trip took six weeks, and here’s the revelation: upon returning home, we knew we could do more.
So, no more detachment panic. Well, okay, not as much detachment panic. I tell myself that lots of my cohorts did Junior Year Abroad in college. I did not. Lots of them lived in foreign countries for business. I did not . But then, at this point in life, can I not assign myself to a foreign country or two for a year? Or longer? Why not?
I’m sure that further panic is going to take up much of the next ten months. Panic, and excitement. One little step at a time.