Curiosities: the ex-pat life

I’ve probably overly romanticized it, but there’s just something wonderful and whimsical about picking up my life and moving it to some exotic country.

It’s not that I don’t like Chicago, or the US for that matter, but… The ex-pat life just seems so much more exciting. Given my limited language skills, I’d probably choose returning to China. It’s the place that felt most like home, in my limited international travels.

China_roommatesMe and two of my roommates, Enda & June, in front of the school where I taught.

Though I’ll admit that the first place I truly considered becoming an ex-pat was South Africa, sitting near Table Mountain near Cape Town. We were nearing the end of our 10-day trip, working on a documentary, and I just felt like I wasn’t done. That trip, though it was short, really challenged me on what my place was as a white, North American woman to help anyone… And I thought maybe if I stayed, I might be able to figure that out. Maybe feel like I did some good. But I didn’t stay — I still had the rest of my junior year of college to finish up, a new niece and a terminally ill stepmother to return to.

Table Mountain in Cape TownThe actual moment I was considering staying in South Africa.

There always seems to be something to keeps me rooted, almost firmly, not only in the US but Chicago. I know life without me here would go on, but it’s hard to picture my life here at an end — even if it’s just temporary. Even if it’s in exchange for this exciting adventure in a new country. Being a state away is already hard enough when it comes to being an active part of my family’s lives.

And of course, there’s the matter of my cats. It seems silly, but the idea that I can’t bring my cats with me — nor would I really have a good place for them to go — would definitely keep me from leaving. My mom’s already got one cat, and I know adding two more to the mix wouldn’t go well. They could possibly go to my dad’s, but only short term, and they would be confined to the basement. Their place is with me, where I know they’ll be loved and taken care of. Not to mention, they already have abandonment issues and I don’t want to add to that.

I also fear that my desires to move to another country are just me running away from things here. My job or job search not going well — maybe a new country would help. My writing is slacking or uninspired — maybe a new country would help. My self-esteem is wavering — maybe a new country would help. Those aren’t good enough reasons or excuses to move myself away from everything.

In the mean time, I can keep imagining it. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to continue traveling. Sometimes just a small trip is enough to satiate wanderlust. For now, I’m content with Chicago and the home I’ve built here. Yes, I’m curious, but, who knows where I’ll end up.