Phew! What a life, what opportunities! It seems unfathomable that our time in this incredibly beautiful, sublimely peaceful and obviously isolated bubble is drawing nigh but it is time for a new adventure and that means a return to the “real world”!
This got me thinking about my dear Dad, gone over 15 years ago (far too soon, of course) but the lessons he taught often come to mind, not least of which, his curiosity about strangers and in particular his fascination with foreign accents. I guess it had to do with his incredible ENTHUSIASM for life and the people in it, coupled with his curiosity for other’s life stories and adventure. Suffice to say that I certainly inherited his zest for living life through adventurous dreams!
So, bringing me to the topic of anonymity, I have to encourage something of a shift in perspective, especially for our attitude towards “foreigners” because, in a way, we are all foreigners to somewhere in the world. Instead of being annoyed, I choose to embrace the challenges of a new language, culture & society. Here in the rural regions of Switzerland there is a distinct dialect that I could not possibly have mastered in three short months but have learned that the language of a smile is just as good as a command of the native tongue!
Bear this quote in mind: “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of BRAVERY.” – Amy Chua.
The most feared aspect of humanity is the unknown, but that is how we are “fearfully & wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14) in order to protect ourselves but also to force us to trust our Creator. Taking a gigantic leap of faith and embarking on a life changing move from the land of birth to somewhere new, foreign and scary is no picnic, BUT…
A couple of things that might help along the way, some straight away, others down the line.
Firstly, by SURRENDERING everything to Divine timing seems to take the panic of preparation and planning out of the equation. Sure, one still has to actually DO stuff in order to move forward, like pay for a plane ticket and pack a suitcase, but to be able to surrender the big plans makes the small plans so much easier to manage.
When the going gets really tough and the panic starts to rise, use the word ADVENTURE in the sentence and it is amazing how that one word seems to take the sting out of the pain. Every adventure has the excitement and the anxiety element, but it certainly tips the scales in favour of excitement.
Decide NOW that you are going to have the most amazing time (adventure!). You have a choice and that in itself is a privilege. So choose to be content, even happy, with where the journey takes you BEFORE you leave the familiarity of your life behind you.
Be aware of the THREE’s: somehow the “waves” come around the time of three days, three weeks, three months and even three years. Knowing this sort of timing helps to quell the dips of doubt, homesickness and mild panic.
Use technology to your advantage. Stay in touch with family and friends. Video calling helps to familiarise the visualisation of people in their places.
Travel LIGHT! Take as little baggage with you, both emotional and worldly possession. It is far easier to settle into a new home without the struggle of making stuff fit into a new space. Furniture is very expensive to ship and damages in transit, often in the final step of moving it into a new, smaller space. Pictures, be they family photos or beloved artworks, are the easiest way to make a new house a home, filled with memories from your old home, and they are the cheapest to transport as they take up little space.
Perfect time to clear out the closet as the new country may have a vastly different climate but, more importantly, it is a lot less stressful to travel with the smallest, lightest luggage!
Stay far AWAY from expat groups on social media – strictly MY opinion! They seem to be gathering grounds for lamenting the woes of their new lives not matching up to the candy coated lives they’ve left behind, or annihilating the lives they’ve left behind in favour of their new rose tinted specs one.
By joining these groups one locks into a laager of countrymen and excludes one from becoming an integrated local with the chance to make a whole new circle of friends.
Personally, I chose to embrace the new life in a new country, it’s people, language, culture, food & festivities and set aside my old life for memories and for the times I am able to go back, but without regret, either way.
If the despair of doubt knocks you, ask yourself what the worst thing can happen: are you so bitterly unhappy that you want to go back to your life of familiarity, your kin and your countrymen? There is nothing stopping you from doing that but in five years time, would you still feel the same way as you feel in this moment? Give yourself TIME.
Remember too that you would not be human if you did not feel some level of pain, sorrow, regret and serious doubt about making a life changing move at this stage of your life: IT IS HUGE but man, it is SO DAMN EXCITING too – the chance to reinvent oneself and all under the perfect guize of total ANONYMITY, now that is liberating, PHEW!