For those of us who travel often, who have moved abroad be it once, twice or as a hobby… there is a time that we are suddenly hit by a memory. Occasionally that memory can feel great, of people, places, laughter, sometimes it can be sad, of regret, grief or betrayal. They come and go as we continue with our daily lives…
But for some of us, or all of us.. well, at least for me.. I get such a strong memory that, I guess the best way to describe it- is bittersweet. As I want to go back there.
I want to drop my current life, job and environment and return to the place that made me feel a certain way, smell a certain type of food as you walked along the streets in the evening, sound a certain way as you rode your bike on a sunday afternoon even, made you act a certain way – to fit in with the locals.
I’ve probably mentioned that I spent a lot of my childhood in southern China, and some time in Switzerland before returning to the UK to complete my education until 18 years of age. A decision my parents made so that I could have a ‘normal’ teenage life (thanks guysssss… I could never understand why until I moved abroad and realized how lucky I was to have had a stable education-English is a strong and practical language).
I returned to China a few times and once, returned to the Great Wall with photos of myself and my parents at the same (ish) spot so we were all reunited people and countries.
It was cold.
Anyhow, at 18, I went to university, mostly in the UK but including a year in Paris and as soon as I graduated I moved to Northern Spain to teach English.
Two years later I moved to Taiwan for 3 years, spending a lot of time in Japan as well, thanks to some very close Japanese friends…
It gets a little busy for a while… After that I spent an autumn in Seville, Spain for a teaching course until the New Year where I moved to Calgary, Canada for 5 months trying to obtain a visa before defeatedly moving back to the UK for a summer and then another season in Southern Spain until I received my Canadian work permit so moved back to the UK for 3 months in preparation for the Canadian Adventure… and the rest you know. Saskatchewan – Ontario.
I feel tired writing it.
I do have a point to all this. I’m just getting a little lost in thought.
So thanks to my ‘career’ choice of teaching English abroad (which I would recommend to any wandering soul – get paid to do it!) I could move somewhere, live a certain lifestyle for a while, get bored or tired of it then move elsewhere and start again.
My first attempts in Spain and Taiwan were for the long run, until they weren’t… I loved… and still LOVE both countries, the passionate Spanish and the considerate Taiwanese… The appreciation of the good life in Spain and the safety and lets not forget spirituality of Taiwan. Great places. But at the time, both were chapters that came to an end. Gaining experience and lifelong friends…
The next couple of years of 3 months here and there were mostly out of necessity for an income whilst I figured out my next big move – as the plan was Canada. People, places and memories are brief, but an interesting time all the same. Skin was thickened and lessons were learnt (if only by the 3rd time).
And now I am currently ‘settled’ in Canada.
Or am I?
Which brings me back to the memories…. (finally).
I have these moments, or sometimes an actual dream of a time in Spain or Taiwan, Japan even, where I’m back in my old life, my old environment and sometimes even the local language. And I miss it. Oh, wow do I miss it. I can pick a particular day or an outfit, a smile from a stranger or flirty encounter, a chat with a good friend over coffee or a night drinking beer served with great food from my local restaurant.
Which occasionally, becomes a problem. As I know I can return and it would be ‘easy’ to start yet again, perhaps not the same spot but at least same country. And with this in mind I think that I never fully appreciate the present. I’m always planning my next trip in my head or revisiting an old one… I compare everything in my present day to my past. People, food, alcohol, work, schedules, accommodation, space (actually surprisingly a big one is space), clothes, health, activities… it goes on. I feel that this is not a healthy yet a seemingly unavoidable way to live…
Is it something that all expats experience? Probably. Is there a cure? I’m not sure. Am I just homesick? I read an article about homesickness for adults https://lifehacker.com/how-to-handle-being-homesick-as-an-adult and I understand the idea that we must be more present in the moment and even try to find some genuine consistency. I know I enjoy my breakfast which is my time alone = me, myself, some good food and my Netflix. No socializing needed. And I’ve certainly enjoyed this solo habit over the years but should there be more?
A good friend of mine and also ‘wandering soul’ thinks that our homes are now in our hearts since neither of us have a base/family nest to return to and we have both been expats more than once. I like her comment, but as humans (and human nature is to build a nest – I’ve been told) should we not be more motivated to stop and settle somewhere? To be content with the current world around us and eventually be satisfied? Or are we ‘doomed’ to wander the earth like hungry ghosts? I add dramatic words for intrigue 😉
I worry that my nostalgia for past lives is a feeling of unrest or ‘itchy feet’ as is a term. These are not just memories but desires to be elsewhere.
And they are not faithful to one place either. Why, last sunday I took myself on a little daytime road trip around the valley (Ottawa not L.A) and found myself going through a longing to return to Taiwan in the morning, (experimenting with a different volcanic, isolated beach my good friend) then Spain throughout the day, (walking around with a group of colleagues in my high heels and short dress feeling feminine and trying out different tapas) and late afternoon France, my roots (driving in the country to visit family members and having aperitif in their flowering gardens).
A soul sista.
It has been a year and 4 months since I left Europe. Perhaps I just need to go back and visit my friends and my family, once feeling refreshed (and grounded again) before returning to this world and moving forward. Until I feel the dragging of the heart again, I can briefly leave and come back later to move on and the circle will simply continue.
But if you always look back, can you ever move forward?
What would it take for peace in the present moment? Is too much choice bad for you? This isn’t a ‘grass is always greener’ feeling, it’s more like looking back with rose-tinted glasses. And I realize that even with all the happy memories of those places, I still chose to leave.
So with all my self-doubt, at the end of the day, I should trust my own judgements.
Don’t get me wrong, I friggin’ LOVE it here and plan to stay a while.
But sometimes.. on a bad day.. it’s just so damn easy for your mind to wander back… “Well in Taiwan I never had trouble….etc.etc”.
Nostalgia certainly hits me hard. I do not act upon it. But it is tempting at times…
Some thoughts I felt like sharing, with some Nostalgia – sending photos (thanks a bunch Facebook memories pffft!)
Below is a photo of me returning to Hong Kong 16 years after leaving. Felt good.