Going away, leaving your own country in order to have an adventure living abroad. Following a dream, being a part and not being part (either of your country or the new one), becoming an expat. The very first challenge is to make the decision, then there is the exhausting process of planning what you have to do to be able to go. Once your plan has worked you will face the real test. Besides all of the adaptation process, you are going to deal with people often questioning you why you left, or even if you are not the kind of person that gets homesick.. etc… etc.. Soon enough they will say to you “You can do it because you are not too attached”. Well, things are not that simple and I will try to sketch it out from my perspective. It might be a shared feeling, or not… that is ok, it’s just some thoughts.
I have already heard so many things about my decision. People tell me how detached I am all the time. For them, this is the only reason that allows me to live so far away from my family and friends, obviously. Yeah, it is not that simple. I mean, it will depend on your definition of “detachment”. To me, it means you feel a bit indifferent to people or even that you don’t miss them. It’s because of that I say, detachment is something I don’t feel.
I do miss my family and my friends, a lot. However, over the past few years, I have been learning how to handle the distance. If I’m not wrong I’m on my fifth farewell. To be honest I don’t really remember how many times I’ve gone away. One day I left to finish my education, another time I went away to get a job, another time I left to explore the world. Anyway, every time I’ve left and I’ve always missed the energy of my mum’s house with all the noise, I’ve missed her food, I’ve missed hanging out with my friends and so on. Years later, when I was far from my first nephew, this was hard. I still miss everything, but it’s a kind of good feeling. The truth is I always try to look on the bright side, you know? I do miss the good things, the ones that bring inner peace. Those were beautiful moments in our lives. I’m glad I’ve lived them.
My only concern about the whole story is being distant, not physically, but in terms of being there for my loved ones. At this point, I appreciate what my mum and my sister do. They do a beautiful job of making sure my nephews know who I am. Nowadays, if I have a tough day a quick video call to them is enough to make me happy. Even when the children start talking and the conversation makes no sense. And about friends? The distance doesn’t separate you. The distance works as a filter. Those friends that truly belong in our life will stay.
For all these reasons I can say again, this is not detachment. This is life, full of choices to make and consequences to live with. This is handling with tribulation without putting aside everything you love most.
Ahh there are so many factors to make it possible. The very first time that I crossed the ocean to live abroad, I didn’t adapt to the Irish winter. This is a fact and I don’t intend to hide from anyone. I didn’t adapt to my new routine. I didn’t know how to spend my time wisely. At that time, I would attend English classes in the morning and stay at home for the rest of the day. Maybe I was just too afraid to meet people, walk around, or try something new. Immaturity? Maybe. What I know is that I felt like a fish out of water and came back to Brazil.
Then, five years later, there I was again: packing my things to live overseas one more time. This time, adaptation became a personal challenge. I would do things differently this time. I wouldn’t suffer so much as I did in Dublin. I would stay open minded.
I arrived in Barcelona, alone, and I decided to enjoy my time here. Since my first day, I walked all over the city, I got lost sometimes, I used to have chats with everyone. I didn’t want to look for differences and judge people. All I wanted was to learn more about this new culture and all this Spain/Catalonia thing. I wanted to become part of this new universe.
However, I know a huge change like this is like you have been kicked out of your comfort zone, it’s scary, even for the second time. But it’s less painful if you face it as an opportunity to grow, keeping an open mind. Besides the emotional factors, there are other things like food or products that you used to buy and you won’t find them in your new country. Even the water might be different. That is fine, right?! In the end, we are human beings and not rocks, we’re able to adapt.
I do miss people. No, I don’t miss Brazil though. The quality of life that we have here is better than what we used to have there. Here I have professional opportunities that I wouldn’t have in my country. Besides, looking in from the outside I now have a new perspective when I look at everything happening there, not only related to corruption or violence. I’m able to notice clearly how our social conscience, tolerance and prejudice is and I don’t like what I see.
As I said, yes I miss a few people so much, but that is it. I don’t feel like I fit in my own country anymore.
Summing up the experience
It has been the most fulfilling experience of my whole life. I do believe that when a person decides to jump out of his comfort zone and open himself up to a new culture, without judgements, this person will feel compassion, will care more, will become a better human being. This is something good. This is a new world opening up for you.
Acknowledgement: Sarah, my wonderful English teacher who has been helping me to translate my posts