This is not one of the lessons I write about in my book but rather something that has been on my mind before, during and after writing Nine Years in Bangkok: Lessons Learned. We chose to live outside of our culture and our comfort zone in foreign countries for the better part of 15 years. Why did we do that and what did it mean for our family?
In 1991, when relatives, friends and neighbors found out that the Bazants (my husband, myself and our two teenage children) were selling up, taking two suitcases each and moving to Pakistan, everyone thought we were crazy. Why would we choose to leave our safe, quiet little cul-de-sac and secure jobs for parts unknown? Well, it was time–time to explore, time to do more meaningful work, time to show our children how other people lived. And we all learned so much–first in Pakistan and then in Thailand.
Yes, we travelled extensively and our kids were well-educated, both in and out of school. But we also found that, when we came back to visit Canada and then finally when we settled back here, many people (including those who thought we were crazy to leave in the first place) perceived that our overseas life had been privileged and easy. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
All those who move to foreign countries, either temporarily or permanently, make many sacrifices. We were far from family and friends and we had to build new lives in brand new surroundings, some of which were totally alien to anything we had ever known. Strange cultural values, language barriers, illnesses, dangers, hardships–so many adjustments with each move.
Domestic staff were a necessity for many reasons–food and water safety and preparation being at the top of the list. We worked long hours most days of the week and it was impossible to look after household issues on top of that. As well, we provided secure jobs and good salaries to local workers. And yes, we did travel widely but part of that was work-related and, when you live in Asia, recreational travel in the region is cheap.
There is so much I could say about ex-pat. life–about what we gave up and what we gained. My book describes our adventures in living colour. Hopefully it will give some insight into what it means to give up everything and embark on the journey of a lifetime.