Sometimes we want to just escape from our humdrum existence and live someplace else. We want to go to a place where we can forget our troubles, wipe the slate clean, and start all over again. This impetus to become an expat is powerful, but we sometimes forget that even if we leave everything behind, we still bring along the “us” who created the life we now want to escape from.
I moved back to Florence a second time under different circumstances. It wasn’t an adventure for something new, but rather an escape from my five-year hiatus in the US during which both of my parents had passed away. I thought that if I could just leave California, my sadness would dissipate. By moving back to Florence, I could start my life over and talk with people who didn’t know about what I had just experienced. I thought that if no one knew about the sadness welling inside of me, I could be happy. But, of course, grief followed me across the ocean and stuck with me until I allowed myself to go through it and accept that it will always be a part of who I am.
It took time to finally be at peace with my grief, but Florence was the perfect place for my escape. The city’s powerful creative energy infused me with love and inspired me to create a fulfilling life for myself.
While the way you arrive in a new place and become an expat might differ slightly, the same challenges arise. You have to adjust to a new culture, improve your language skills, meet new people, and find a balance between fitting in and staying true to yourself.
Being an expat is probably one of the rare occasions in your life in which you will have to open yourself up so much that you are thrust out of your comfort zone. Just remember that the rewards for taking on such a challenge are great and that anything that allows you to discover more about yourself and the world around you is a wonderful gift.
Melinda Gallo is a blogger, writer, and runner, living in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. She is currently working on a book for expats. Watch for her posts on http://blog.melindagallo.com .