Sometimes we don’t choose to become an expat; sometimes it chooses us. We fall in love with someone, but he or she is “geographically incompatible.” We try living apart (in different places or even in different countries), but we know that the distance is a strain on the relationship. We are willing to do just about anything, like leaving our lives behind and moving across the ocean, to stay in love’s embrace for as long as we can.
While I was living in Paris, I fell in love with an Englishman who lived just outside of London. Within a few months, I decided to quit my job to become a freelance consultant and to move to England for him. And that was my mistake. I thought I was moving for him when I was actually moving for us. In my mind, my boyfriend was the only reason I left France. Later when the relationship began to crumble, the line between him and the country became unclear. Anything that I didn’t like in England suddenly made me wonder what I was doing with him.
After we broke up, I made a point of staying in England. I couldn’t let myself leave a country that I had called home for a year and a half without truly knowing it. I dove deep into my life in England, trying to immerse myself in daily life, to expand my knowledge of it, and to meet more people. I eventually left England because I was ready for an adventure, not because I had become a disgruntled expat.
I found it rather challenging living in a country that I didn’t choose. I had to make a concerted effort to create a connection with my new home. I realized too late that I couldn’t let someone else be the link between a country and me because I wasn’t able to appreciate England until I created my own connection with it.
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 .