This year I will move back to the Caribbean.
I haven’t lived there since I was a child, and for some reason I find myself more nervous to move there than I had been to go to China or come to Thailand.
When hearing of my story, one of the first things people always ask me is how could I move across the world by myself, wasn’t I afraid? And what did I tell myself, if so? My answer to these questions has always been no. I wasn’t afraid. “Really? But .. ” Yeah, I don’t really know how or why and I don’t spend much time thinking about it. I didn’t have any space for fear back then either because I had things to do. There was a process, broken down into little steps that filled up all the space between the decision and the move. Doing one step at a time, albeit rather quickly, kept me occupied. It didn’t hit me that I was actually moving until I was on the aeroplane.
Accepting the job didn’t do it. Buying the ticket didn’t do it. Packing all my belongings into two suitcases didn’t do it. Even saying goodbye to my family at the airport didn’t do it. After all, travelling has been a part of my life since I was little. So it’s always just another trip.
Even if that trip lasts a few years.
This trip in particular has been a 4-year-journey. But, it always starts with just a single step. Isn’t that the cliche?
Each step I took to get here was deliberate. And each step I will take to leave will also be so. What makes it scary this time around, though, is that it has been both extended and exemplified by the current pandemic. I am essentially jumping into the hot spot of the virus, and going back into a society I have watched from afar for 4 years in (mostly) disgust. What I will be leaving behind is essentially a safe haven, where COVID-19 hasn’t really existed and the end result of the lockdowns and travel bans has been a quiet peace that has given nature a chance to recover and us a chance to explore beautiful places devoid of bustling tourists. (Note: of course, we “farangs” have enjoyed it because it hasn’t much affected our work or quality of life, but the economic effects on Phuket in particular have been ravaging, and many locals have been suffering. Still, watching how they have all come together to help each other and share food etc. has been inspiring).
Otherwise, I have also gotten used to some luxuries and comforts that will be hard to give up–some harder than others. For example, I haven’t cleaned my own house in maybe 2 years, and I haven’t done my own laundry or changed my own bedsheets in more than one. Safety has never been a concern, and I’ve enjoyed spending $3 per week on gasoline (and not having to get out of the car to do it), getting to work in 2 songs, having regular one-hour massages for $5-$10, having ample free time to fill however I want, paying little to nothing for good quality medical expenses, not having to worry about getting sick. I have an extremely high level of freedom at school, and the environment is very laidback and peaceful. I’ve accumulated zero debt in 3 years. The pace here is slow, and I can rent a car whenever I want to go on a quick road trip to a breathtaking place. Also, I’ve of course ended up finding community (making it) via the acroyogis that were borne from the convention we had here in November, and all these connections will make leaving that much sadder. Because unlike family and life-long friends I’ve left behind, who will always be there when I return, these folks are like me––roamers. None of us quite knows where we will end up (or when), and therefore the likelihood of us ever seeing each other again is quite slim. (Unless we are deliberate, of course.)
On the other hand, I will be closer to my family and in a position to possibly begin to settle down. I will not have to miss so much of the lives of my loved ones, and will be able to truly grow professionally (I hope!).
I have always been an advocate for getting out of your comfort zone and shaking things up, and I cannot ever fully capture the level of enrichment that comes from living abroad in its totality. But I know in my reverse culture shock, I will begin the process of unpacking what this experience has brought me, and who I’ve become because of it.
And who knows, maybe I will find that I no longer fit into Western society and will end up coming back to settle down somewhere in Asia.
But for now, I’ll see you in the Cayman Islands.