A common response when people find out we’re moving to London is to ask “Why?” Sometimes that question is asking us what’s taking us abroad, in which case our response would be work. But other times, why implies, “Why would you leave when your life here is so great?” It’s always a little disconcerting when someone asks me that, and sometimes I want to respond with, “Well, why not?” and turn on my heels and walk away. But instead of being offended, I try to explain as best I can why we’re making the decision to move overseas.
My response would date all the way back to 1999 when I left Singapore after living there as an expat for three years. Ever since that day, I’ve wanted another opportunity to live abroad – to travel to as many countries as possible and immerse myself in each of their unique cultures. This was so important to me that before we were married I discussed it with Cory, making sure that we were both on the same page and that whatever jobs we took would allow for the possibility of foreign exchanges in the near future.
A few years after we were married, reality set in. I was still in college and Cory was working 90-hour weeks just to keep his job. Lexie was very young, too, and fitting in a move overseas at that time just wasn’t in the cards for us. Instead we moved to Florida – a small enough move that it didn’t require a complete life overhaul, but a big enough change that my wandering spirit was appeased, for a little while.
Sure enough, within three years I was ready to move again, and so we came back to Tennessee to try farm life for awhile. We liked it so much that when an opportunity to move to Hong Kong came around last March, we declined it. At the time, I reconciled that decision in my mind as one we made because we were content and felt settled here. But the more I thought about it, I realized it was more about settl-ing than being settled. It was easy to stay here, and hard to move. My wanderlust was slowly being consumed by the comfort of routine and familiarity.
After our trip to India a few months after we were offered the move to Hong Kong, I realized we were at a crossroads, a point in our lives where we could go one of two ways and whatever choice we made would influence everything else to come. I knew if we stayed here much longer, we would probably never leave. But if we left, we’d likely never get what we have now back either. These thoughts consumed me until one Sunday morning in church I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was time for us to go. We hadn’t even been served our chips and salsa at lunch that afternoon before I’d blurted out to Cory that it was time to make good on that promise we made to each other to never lose our sense of adventure. In less than an hour, over some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, and with Lexie’s input, we decided we were ready to tackle living abroad.
It took me three weeks to choose a paint color for our living room, but only a couple hours to decide I was ready to live on another continent. Funny how some of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make are often the easiest. We gave ourselves a week, just in case any of us changed our minds, and then Cory let his boss know that we were open to any and all overseas opportunities. Then the waiting game we’d play for the next eight months began, but that’s a story for another day.
So when people ask me why I’d leave a perfectly good life for the unknown, I just smile and tell them I’m an explorer, and explorers never leave a perfectly good life – they take it with them.
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
I don’t much care where –
Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.
– so long as I get somewhere.
Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland