10 January 2017

The choice to live abroad and its assorted consequences

I was chatting with my Czech teacher after a lesson a few weeks ago and she mentioned that she'd been considering moving to China for a bit, but ultimately decided to stay.

'Oh, thank goodness!' said my mother-in-law who had been keeping Smallest amused during the lesson. 'Think of your poor mother! It's much better not to go abroad. Expatova will tell you how hard it is. You made the right choice.'

This past year has certainly brought to the forefront what I've given up by choosing the path I did. Would I have chosen differently if I'd known all this eleven years ago?

There were an awful lot of big choices this year.

Smallest seems to have some issues with one of his ears, and while we're in the process of figuring out what's going on, his pediatrician was adamant that he should not be flying. I was wrestling with what to do as my dad became increasingly bed-bound - go to the US without Smallest? Not go to the US at all? Take Smallest regardless, doctor be damned?

I decided in the end to go -twice- and to go sans baby.

Fortunately, Smallest was fine, Smalls got over his envy, L probably managed stay-at-home parenthood better than me, our savings account will recover eventually, and I got to pat my dad's lovely dad-hands and sing some of his favourite tunes with him.

There were, of course, many days that I felt like I should jump on a plane to be with my parents and had to choose not to.

To go, to stay - both choices, both opening and closing ways.

There have been a lot of consequences of my choosing to live abroad - some minor (extortionately priced Cheerios, for instance), some much, much larger. I certainly didn't anticipate most of them when I packed my two suitcases and left the US for good.

I was bemoaning this fact to a very wise friend who noted that I wasn't really a special case. Everyone makes path-not-taken choices, expat or not. (Though she did say it in a much nicer way.)

There also would have been consequences for choosing not to live abroad.

And, if we're going to be assessing route-altering choices, there have been many non-expat related  choices I've had to make. University, university degree, getting married...and of course, the arguably biggest (even bigger than moving abroad), was my choice to have children (bless their cute little life-shaping socks).

Just as this year has highlighted the naivety of my twenty-year-old self and the consequences of leaving everything but the contents of those two suitcases behind, it has also helped me understand the importance of acceptance.

When I chose to get on the plane to the US without Smallest, it was a choice made out of love and made with acceptance for whatever the consequences might be. And it's given me a great deal of peace to remind myself of that.

So here's to a new year of new choices. Here's to giving up on trying to find some mythical 'right choice' - especially for decisions in the past. Here's to a future of love-based path-selection.


  1. Hello, I just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog! I'm an expat in The Netherlands, which is not nearly as interesting as the Czech Republic sounds! I have become interested in reading expat blogs from CR after reading two Prague memoirs by author Rachael Weiss. I visited Prague in the winter of 2014 and hope to return soon (during better weather!).

  2. Thanks for your kind words! I hope you have the chance to visit Prague soon (though not too soon - we've had awful slushy, foggy weather recently).

  3. I wanted to tell you I know how you feel, I am a former Prague girl married and living in NYC..yes, this is one of the hardest thing to be away from your family and be so far far...