When I decided to leave the country and live abroad for the second time around, I had it in my head that I would be gone for much longer than the first time. I found it difficult the first time to find comfort in the unforgiving landscape of suburban village China, where the sounds, smells, tastes, behavior, and thoughts are so vastly unlike what I was used to back in Canada.
When I returned, I realized how spoiled I was back home. Challenges were as mundane as catching the bus on time or remembering to text your friend back because you were busy dealing with an irate customer at work. It was nice not having to think too much about how to get home because my brain and body had practically memorized it, leaving me free to dawdle in my idiosyncratic thoughts. Everything was easy. Too easy. Boring even. Routine made it impossible to feel like I was accomplishing anything, because routine put me in the exact same position in which I started yesterday.
I guess the main reason why I decided to up and leave again is because I didn’t want to be “that guy”. You know, that guy who goes on about how he should have done this in his youth but didn’t because of some odd reason and if only he could build a time machine and go back he would totally freakin’ do it. Or “that guy” who feels he wasted his twenties by doing what everybody else did instead of forging his own crazy path in life. Not that one needs to live abroad to have a rich youth. Some people are perfectly content with familiarity and don’t yearn to be anywhere else. That’s fine. But for me, living abroad is one of the ways I can enrich my experience here on Earth and immunize myself against regret later in life, especially as I’m not particularly wealthy and don’t have the means or the money to just up and go on vacations all the time. Though I probably would be making more money at home, I would have also been working more hours at a job that is more stressful than it needs to be, spending more money on a whim, and not getting out of the city as much as I’d like to. Living abroad doesn’t feel like a sacrifice; it feels like the right thing to do.
It goes without saying that I will miss friends, acquaintances, and inhaling the sweet, sweet air of home (seriously, our air is like the anti-lung cancer. I could make a killing selling jars of our air on the streets in China and save dying children). But I also miss the challenges of adjusting to life in a foreign land. Some challenges are familiar to me, like getting a visa, learning the language, making new friends, catching the correct bus, and finding a decent spot to chow down and have a beer. Others are less tangible and I’ll deal with them as they arrive. This time I know I’m not alone, and will not only have the knowledge of capable friends but also the company of living vicariously through the blogs of other expats. Having lived abroad before, I feel vaccinated against whatever life here can throw at me, be it language barriers or Japanese encephalitis.
As the future renowned American author John Green said in his famous novel:
“It is so hard to leave – until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”
It IS hard to leave, believe me. But that barrier can be broken and before you know it you’ll be looking back at what you left and seeing how little separates here from there. I want my journey to be just that: a constant breaking of barriers, dispelling of stereotypes and cultivation of worldly viewpoints by finding common ground between different peoples. The first barrier is the hardest to break, but it’ll get infinitely easier after that.
So come on and break barriers with me through food, travel, language, and laughing in the face of stereotypes.