Two years ago I landed in Heathrow to start my life in England.
I used to subscribe to the notion that an émigré should spend 3 years establishing himself in his new life before making any pronouncements on his overall successes or failures. This period of our life is not an emigration, but I will stick to the rule nonetheless.
Instead, I’m going to extemporize on what lessons I have learned in two years of living abroad.
I’ve learned that it is much harder to establish your life anew when you are an adult and a parent, than when you are a young person. The stress is much greater. The sense of wonderment is considerably tempered by the multitude of worries. All the conveniences and habits that you spent getting used to for years of your life get shred to pieces.
I’ve learned that you find new and wonderful friends no matter where you end up. And thankfully, old friends tug at your heart no matter how far away from them you find yourself.
I’ve learned that a stay-at-home spouse has the hardest time of all adjusting to the new environment. Kids quickly make friends at school; work keeps you busy enough to somewhat blur the edges of where you were before and where you are now. It’s someone who needs to search for things to do day in and day out that ends up feeling the weight of the change the sharpest.
I’ve learned that my oft-professed love of travels and of seeing new places was not an idle desire, but a true affliction. We’ve done as much recreational travel as work and school would allow during these last 24 months, and still nothing gets me as excited as the prospect of a new voyage.
I’ve learned, conversely, that there is a limit of how much a family can take of family travels. The logistics, the harassment and delays of air travel, the duration of travel by other modes of transport, the frequent packing and unpacking, the continuous search for compromises between interests of adults and kids – it all wearies even the most dedicated explorers after time.
I’ve learned – very quickly – that London is far from an ideal base for European forays. Getting across the strip of water known as the English Channel is fraught with hassle, no matter whether you use roads, railways or air.
I’ve learned that there are many things besides ease of travel that appeal to me in Europe. Many of them have to do with political issues, religion or other aspects of life that I am reluctant to discuss in a written form.
I’ve learned that life-long dreams do come true if you pursue them hard enough.
I’ve learned that fulfilling a life-long dream is not all that it’s cracked up to be, especially when events out of your control start wrecking some of your plans.
I’ve learned that I occasionally have regrets about having done it. Mostly, from purely materialistic perspective. As counter-intuitive as it sounds on the surface, we are likely worse off financially right now than we would be had we stayed in America and not sold our house.
I’ve learned that I have no doubts that it was a good thing that we took this plunge.
What?! You thought otherwise?!