A Reason To Vamoose
As The Clash so eloquently put it, should I stay or should I go? Should one park themselves behind their white picket fences, stick many roots into the ground, and thus wait patiently for sweet, sweet death? Or should one explore, learn, experience, and teach? (Yea, I might have a bias here).
If you’re in the “Why should I travel elsewhere? I still haven’t seen all of my hometown yet.” camp, perhaps this isn’t the best post for you. You’re more than welcome to stay, but please be aware that I might be blaspheming periodically. For the rest of us, we must first start with my reasons for wanting out, and the long process of how I got here.
To get to my now, I need first to go back to my then. My over thirty years ago then. I was raised to follow the tried and true path of American Grace. Get married, produce children, and acquire that white picket fence. Work hard, get promoted, and buy a larger house with a whiter fence. And then watch as your offspring go forth on their own American Quest while you stay and semi-patiently wait in that large (and now empty) home for grand-offspring to show up once a month. And follow that path I did, to an extreme. Praising the great god of building wealth. Content with my lot in life.
Only … none of that fit me. Not one single bit.
I had always like to travel, but it was always couched in terms of what a suburban denizen would do if they were adventurous. And it was always in a loop, as in from home to a designated place for 1-2 weeks and then immediately back. Stays were in hotels and food was in restaurants. And thus journeys could be shared and marveled at by others of my clan.
And then I met Nikki.
Now I cannot honestly say that she “showed me the light”. That is way too simple. Rather, because of her persona, the light was now much more available. I still had to reach out and grab it. Which obviously I did. 🙂 There were many trips to many places seeking adventure, but it wasn’t until our first jaunt to Spain/Europe in 2017 that I became alive. I had been on the practice squad until then, getting ready for the big game. And what a game it was. Barcelona opened my eyes and my soul. To what life could and should be.
There is something about living a life that that is surrounded by so many things unknown. So many cultures. Having the ability to run and play in any direction. To learn what it’s like to live as someone else. The three glorious months we spent being gypsies changed my life. So much that I absolutely had to do it again. And in 2019, we did. And next year in 2020, we’ll make it as permanent as we can make things permanent. (Which is to say, who knows, the wind hasn’t blown yet).
Countries … and don’t get me started on my opinions of fake, made up dotted lines that define their boundaries … have rules that govern who can enter, how long they can stay, and other nuances of visiting. For Spain and many parts of Europe, there is an agreement called the Schengen Area. Basically, when you come into one country in the pact, it’s similar to flying to Florida. Once in, you can then fly to Virginia without dealing with borders, for instance. Which is nice, it makes things simple. But the Schengen Area has rules. Like the fact that within any given six month time frame, you can only be in the zone for three months. Really limits one when they want to experience it all. :-/
A lot of folks get around this by flip-flopping between the Schengen Area and other zones. For instance, the UK has a similar thing, three months out of every six. So you just spend three months in Europe, then three in the UK, lather rinse repeat. And we seriously considered that ourselves. In fact, on our 2019 trip we did that very thing to be able to legally extend our excursion. But I wanted more. Far, far more.
This means getting a different visa than the one automatically granted to a tourist. And deciding on (and acquiring one) is a much larger post than this allows. There is a “starter post” already in progress which discusses the mechanics, and a video is in the works for our exact experiences, but basically we decided to go with what’s known as a Non-Lucrative Visa. Which is a pathway to residency. Lots of paperwork and official blessings, and a requirement to be in-country for a minimum of 183 days a year. But once granted (and as of this writing, one that is still ‘in the works’), we will be free to move about the Schengen Area as freely as we please.
What In The Fresh Hell Is This?
Now I would be fibbing if I said that life outside of the US is easy. And I would be seriously stretching the truth if I said I didn’t cheat. It can be hard, and cheat I did/do. At times, life feels just slightly outside of normal in Barcelona. At other times, I’m completely lost. Language isn’t an issue, until it is. And my cheat is that Spanish is Nikki’s native tongue. And I rely way too heavily on it.
But for every difference and difficulty that makes you pause and reconsider your life choices, there are tenfold more that make you wonder about what else you didn’t yet know. And in a very good way. Everything from how others gather and prepare food, to how they transport themselves, and even to how they raise children and pets. If you can take your “I already know the best way” blinders off and watch, there is so much to learn. Not to simply absorb, but to take all of this knowledge and combine it with what you already know. And then reflect it back out. It’s incredible, and if you allow it, becomes the very reason for travel and life outside of your fences.
Now, I know I can be a bit of a pollyanna, and that there are many, many things that can befall someone in another culture. I’ve made many a video on it, and wrote about some very scary experiences in my book, Letters To A Dead Uncle. And I don’t mean to gloss over those potential nightmares, but this isn’t a post meant to frighten you. It’s to enlighten you instead.
OK, now that I’ve semi-convinced you to be a selfish son-of-a-bitch, let’s discuss those offspring you’ve thrown behind you.
I’ve experienced the difficulty one gets when you simply move a few states away. I was born and raised in Virginia in the United States. Just over five years ago, I decided to move to Florida … a thousand air miles away. And my parents, kids, and everyone else I knew stayed behind. It has been at times difficult, especially dealing with the guilt of not being a short car drive away from immediate togetherness when family needs/wants me. The feelings of doing something different than the clan. The hardship of putting responsibility on others for the things I cannot do from afar. And the combined seven months I’ve spent overseas has shown me that it can be even more difficult when the mileage increases.
So what’s the answer? Stay where everyone else stays? Deny yourself and your desires because the majority cannot or will not break from what is considered the norm? I fight this internally every single day, and truth be told, will probably never “get over it”. And maybe that’s OK. Maybe those feelings will be what keeps me more connected from a distance than I ever could be from up close.
I think the best response to this, and one I’m still fine-tuning, is communications. Not just hoping that others understand (and that goes both ways!), but by being very clear and concise. On why things are as they are. On what they will be and which direction everyone wants to go. How responsibilities will be shared. And by trying to enjoy each person’s choices with them, even if they don’t necessarily match your own.
I think I want to leave you with this final thought. One that I’m still trying to master. And that it’s completely OK to be who you are. And for others to be who they are. It’s not a competition to see who is “right”. We can all walk our own path without trying to trip others on theirs. It’s kind of a life lesson we can all use everywhere, right? But in terms of where you want to physically and emotionally be … even if it’s the white-picket-fence thing I made a little fun of earlier … that’s where you should find yourself.