Somewhere in there we settled on two years as a good definition of
commitment. We still didn’t much care what we did (outside an
office) as long as we could establish a sustainable income within a
year but we couldn’t shake our draw to an international
adventure. We wanted to be immersed in a foreign culture for long
enough to start feeling like locals. In our world travels we had never
stayed anywhere more that a few weeks, so we craved to get ourselves
integrated enough to see what tourists never see.
The idea of going into a place employed by an external agency or
company no longer really met our criteria. If the idea was to live and
work with locals, then we really needed to establish ourselves locally.
Further, we should prepare for the possibility that we might actually
like it enough to stay beyond the initial two years.
This is where patriotism and cultural identity come into the
discussion. Some people seemed to be challenging our decision because
they found it inherently offensive for someone to voluntarily leave
“the greatest country on Earth.” We are very aware
travels of the advantages we’ve had being American. The fact
though, that we do not feel that the US is better in all ways than all
other countries. We were open to the possibility of finding a country
that suits us better than the US does.
Lots of questions have centered on how we could let go of our current
life. How could we leave our jobs, our house and most of all our family
and friends? Really, this part is just like moving across the country;
any voluntary move has these same issues to greater or lesser degrees.
We had already moved from California to New Mexico, and we were able to
stay connected to our close loved ones and to establish a new
community. Certainly migration might take us much further away than we
currently were from our families, but never more than a day or two by
plane. And in a way, a key part of the adventure was that big, scary
upheaval of going far away.
Fully understanding our criteria for a satisfying adventure means the
difference between a success and a potential disaster. This is
particularly true for a couple deciding together, though we have
watched individuals end up thoroughly disappointed by not picking the
right adventure. We
ended up validating our criteria when we took
a long trip to Alaska before we moved. It was an amazing trip, but
throughout we were restless to get on to our “real”
adventure. As we had realized, that kind of trip, even with glaciers
and bears and the midnight sun, wasn’t big enough.
Out of all that, we found we had reached a decision without having to
choose. In some cases, we have had a number of equally appealing
options which we choose between, knowing we can’t really go wrong. In
this case, though, we had settled on criteria including big personal
challenge, a committed stay in a new country, getting immersed by being
as local as possible. Our initial decision was to try living and
working in another country for a minimum of two years. We were not
seeking to renounce US citizenship, or even necessarily to leave
forever. We weren’t looking for a vacation or a fun job or a
physical challenge. What we wanted was to try making a home in a new
place. And that meant migration.
The word “try” was key of course. Having an agreed
decision was just a platform for a lot of research and
planning to determine whether we could actually pull it