Remember the book Marley & Me?
A young couple, John and Jen, move to the south of Florida and set up home near the beach while working as two local reporters. They get a dog as a practice run for parenthood and Marley the yellow labrador retriever arrives on the scene causing destruction and chaos wherever he goes. Later in the book, the couple have children and the family eventually moves to a rural farm in Pennsylvania where, after falling ill some years later, Marley is put to sleep and laid to rest.
It’s a heart-warming and tender story.
On reflection, the parts that resonated with me weren’t just Marley’s journey through his short canine life, but also the contrast between the couple’s early life with the sun, sea, and hustle and bustle of Boca Raton, and their eventual relocation to a quieter, more tranquil country setting.
In their Florida life, they spent long days on the beach with Marley, soaking up the glorious weather but also working hard as two early career professionals, crammed into a house that quickly grew too small for their family’s needs. They lived in the thick of it, young and adventurous, and I look at our own life here in Sydney as we grow our small family, and I wonder if parallels can be made.
|Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Mel1st)|
Like them, we live in a lively and active corner of the world. We enjoy a fantastic environment on the ocean’s doorstep with near-perfect weather all year round. We appreciate the vibrancy and youthfulness of Sydney, and we practically live outdoors, barely watching the TV, always eager to get outside.
We’re witness to a robust and thriving economy. Wages are high even if the cost of living is also. We’re lucky to live where we do and our hard work to make a home for ourselves on the Northern Beaches is starting to pay off. We have friends and family here, established routines and practices. Our son will grow up spoilt for distraction and it seems obvious that this location is a sensible place for us to be.
But a part of me wonders if, like Marley & Me, this story of ours will one day change.
Marley’s family expanded and they yearned for greater space. They needed peace and quiet away from the intense, hectic early years of their life. They sought out a gentler, less pressured existence and I wonder whether we should now consider the same.
I’m soon to celebrate my tenth year of expat life.
Ten years is a long time to be abroad. It’s long enough that you start to feel comfortable with being displaced and less comfortable with the notion of returning to your original home. Still, I occasionally allow myself to daydream about what life could be like if we ever went back.
As John and Jen did, I imagine a life in the country. I see my son in his uniform ready for the first day at his village primary school. I see us reconnecting with dear family and friends, returning to the favourite haunts of our twenties. I see walks in the countryside, annual ski trips to the continent, weekend getaways in London. I see us experiencing the different seasons in a picture-postcard kind of way – be it enjoying the spring blossoms, sampling lazy picnics in the peak of summer, Elliot’s attempts at ‘trick or treating’ in the autumn, or relaxing as a family by warm and cosy firesides through idyllic winters.
I see our home – a period house oozing with character and charm on the outskirts of a quaint English village. I see us arriving in the warmer months, settling in to our new environment, sitting down at a large kitchen table, carefully arranging the utilities, car purchases, home insurance, household finances and so on. Life moves forward and, as we ease ourselves into a very English way of life, I see a quiet, regular existence. Nothing extraordinary. Simple. Easy. Routine.
Something niggles away at the back of my mind.
I’ve been away a long time and I know, deep down, that I’ve changed as a person. I’m fairly certain this life won’t make me happy – living abroad has shifted my outlook on life, changed what I want and what I appreciate. I’ve seen and done too much, and I can’t settle for this dream anymore. These memories of home aren’t even real any more – I’m remembering what I want to through rose-tinted glasses.
After ten years abroad, I’ve grown comfortable with this expat life, wearing it like a much-loved jumper or a treasured pair of shoes. Packing up, removals, relocation, upheaval – these are emotionally and physically draining things and, with age, I want simplicity, easy living, and a heck of a lot less stress.
Unlike John and Jen, I don’t think I need any more change. My heart might occassionally encourage thoughts of a possible return, but my mind tells me things are no longer quite what they seem.
Have you considered a return home? Did you do it? If not, why not and what stopped you?