I was just browsing my Twitter feed and came across this glimpse into the psyche of fellow British expat Valerie Hammer, 7 Questions: Val from Great Britain | JetSettlers Magazine.
I smiled and nodded to myself as I read through the questions and her answers and commiserated with her on her limited choice of footwear in Korea, wondering if there was more to it than just flip-flops (or, thongs, for all you Aussies and Canucks)! When I got to question 7, I found that Valerie had put into words my exact feelings about my expat experience. She cited “learning to live and be happy with less” as her greatest benefit of becoming an expat.
Since we left Britain, we have had to live very differently to how we did at home. There’s the obvious stuff, like having to put up with someone else’s colour scheme in a rented house (black and orange in the basement…who does that?). We had to make do without a car for our first year because, as expats, affordable credit wasn’t available to us. Things you thought defined you, in however minuscule a way – your favourite brand of this or type of that – become extraneous when you can’t get hold of them anymore. We don’t have cable, we make do with DVD’s and downloads. I no longer absorb the news through background TV or radio, I now have to actively search it out – make time to sit down and read it, so I’m not so well-informed. Despite my best efforts this becomes glaringly obvious as soon as you get into a conversation with me, TV shows, celebrity life, in short pretty much the whole entertainment section is beyond my scope.
Yet somehow, my life is fuller than it ever was. My head is full of plans, trips to make – Algonquin Provincial Park, whale watching in Tadousac next year – articles to write, people to have round, places yet to visit. When you do without stuff for a while, eventually, you find you don’t actually WANT it back in your life. My mind and my life are less complicated, no longer cluttered with things that don’t really matter. It’s been pared down to the bone allowing the important things to come to the fore, like Valerie said: creating “space for people, creativity and self-development.”
Why the hell didn’t we do this earlier??!!!