Deciding to write a blog has to be among the least original ideas of the new millennium, yet I found my initial attempt at sharing my expat experience via video sorely lacking in quality and engagement. I was trying desperately to select a forum that embraced all the elements of my journey; visually, emotionally and most of all, cogently. Alas, it was the latter than seemed to be the roadblock.
This past spring, while sipping a little something red and non-vintage on my patio overlooking Puget Sound just south of Seattle, it dawned on me that this setting, as beautiful as it was, would not end up being my final ‘bliss’. If nothing else, I couldn’t afford it anymore. I hadn’t worked for a year and had jumped through every possible hoop to change that fact. With a killer resumé in non-profit leadership and LinkedIn kudos up the hee-haw, after hosting untold numbers of luncheons, dinners and information coffee klatches, participating in dozens and dozens of interviews via Skype, in person and by phone, and after submitting hundreds of resumes and ’emails of interest’, there was no bright light shining at the end of the unemployment tunnel. I was stuck. In fact, I was so stuck that I entered into a lengthy therapy process with a psychologist whose tag line was, “Helping people get unstuck”. Bless his heart. He did his best and was supportive and understanding throughout our weekly sessions. But, in truth, it was really a decision that I had to make, good or bad, wrong or right, truth or dare, et al.
So the choice was made. I was ready. As the wine kicked in, I let out a resoundingly definitive, “Fuck it” and decided to sell it all and move on. The house was the easiest. It sold in three days with eight bids, all well above the asking price. My dog Buddy? Adopted out to the nicest lady in the world, a mildly handicapped woman living alone in North Seattle who had just lost the love of her life, her previous dog Jackson. Then there were the mementos of a life, if not well-lived, certainly memorable. The house was filled with lots of ‘things’ from decades of inheriting, collecting, buying, Christmas, birthdays and house guest gift accepting all procured from international trips and friends, lovers, neighbours and family over a lifetime.
Estate sales are an act of courage for people like me. The key is to get out of the house while the hundreds of strangers hungry for a deal toddle through your hallways lifting and inspecting every single item within reach. The sale went on for three days. What was left, plus a few important things, went to family, friends and neighbours. The rest was piled into my beloved SRX, also marked ‘sold’, and delivered post haste to the nearest charitable resale shop. Even expats (a uniquely U.S. requirement, I might add) have to file taxes annually, so the deduction was valued.
My decision to live internationally was not a hard one. The hardest part of it all was letting go. Letting go of that illusive American Dream, letting go of friends who termed my decision, “Just nuts”, letting go of personal items filled with memory, and sometimes value. Finally, it was hard saying goodbye to a lifestyle that was intoxicating, but unsustainable.
So ‘Steve’s Big Adventure’ has begun. For now, it’s northern Thailand. Next year, Medellin, Colombia. After that? Who knows. What will be constant, however, is my blog, New Nations: The Expat Experience and my passion for creating new norms in my life. Once you take the leap of faith, the rest is easy. Seeing wonderful new sites, breathing air filled with unfamiliar food smells and speaking with people using every communication skill possible to bridge the language gap. What’s not to love in reliving the childlike experience of daily learning, laughing and being entertained by sights that all seem full of wonderment and adventure?
Many people know that my motto in life has always been, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Living as an expat personifies that mantra on every level. And I can’t wait to continue inventing my own future in new nations around the globe. So, as any good former Methodist is fond of saying, “L’Chaim – to life!”
Robert Stephen (Steve) Browning is a US expat currently living in Thailand who is soon to relocate to Medellin in Colombia. He blogs on his experiences at New Nations: The Expat Experience and here he shares with us some of his motivations for becoming an expat.