The absolutely worst part of expat living and overseas assignments is the inevitable end date.
December 31st looks like a black hole pulling us closer and closer to the opening of the empty nothingness. It is like a vacuum that sucks air from our everyday lives, and I can feel it when driving kids to school, right in the middle of the workday, or worse – when thinking all of the European destinations we still haven’t seen, although our goal was to travel as much as we could during the three years living in Sweden. It’s not just wanderlust, it’s feeling intoxicating pain because you haven’t seen and experienced enough. In German they have a word for it, “Fernweh,” feeling homesick to all of those places you haven’t seen yet. It’s actually more common to use that word in Germany, than “Wanderlust.”
Maybe this fearing the end of the long travel period is normal, maybe people feel like this on their honeymoons when they travel to an exotic location, eat the fancy food, and are being pampered 24/7 before returning to real life. Our life here in Sweden has been like living in a dream, and in many ways like a “honeymoon,” just like our three years in Germany were.
Sure, we’ve had our difficulties, it’s not easy to adjust to a new culture, different customs, and live surrounded with people who speak a different language than you do.
We have cocooned ourselves living the European dream in a countryside mansion, and cooking family dinners made with fresh ingredients and products, that we have carried home from all around Europe (Oh this simple meat and potatoes dinner? I marinaded the meat with spices and bay leaves from Madeira, Portugal, the Sweden-grown potatoes I just baked in the oven and drizzled with some Icelandic sea salt on the top with some olive oil from Puglia, Italy and by the way, did I tell you about the time we went olive picking in Italy?).
Our own family unit of five is incredible. We have three children, one teenager and two almost teens too (11 and 12 years old now). We don’t have the t(w)een-kids-problems I hear other parents talking about. We spend time with our children, and experience Europe together. With often changing addresses, it’s our family unit that never changes and having each others is the closest to what you could call having “roots.” All of it hasn’t come easy though, for none of us. We could have easily also ripped our family apart, but we chose to work hard to make this crazy lifestyle work for us, even on the days it has been everything but wonderful. It is a choice to make the best out of each day, and put family first, even when it is everything but easy.
We don’t have many local friends, it’s not that we don’t like Swedes, or that they don’t like us, but it is mentally exhausting to make new friends and then have to move to the other side of the world/country. I know, because we have done it so many times. People get hurt because we leave, or people get mad because we don’t stay in touch often enough after leaving. And I get hurt. I hurt because I miss people in so many posts where we have stopped in our travels. I feel homesick to places we have called home, even if I would never want to live there again. And the worst is knowing that our children go through the same thing.
All of it doesn’t make any sense. Having the pain of needing to see more, but yet getting attached to places and people, and feeling homesick after you have left.
I know why people never leave their hometowns, and part of me is very jealous of that kind of commitment, and almost like self-confidence of knowing that “this is my spot in the world.” I left Finland 17 years ago, and we have moved an average every two years, and I still don’t know “my spot.” Maybe I have been just looking for it in the wrong places? At the same time, I don’t understand people who never leave and experience something different. I don’t even know how you can truly even appreciate your own hometown if you have never left. I for sure have much more appreciation to my home country Finland after living in other countries as well.
Not knowing where to go the next can be very exhilarating. The entire world is open for you, and the possibilities are endless.
Could we live in a beach hut in Bali? Or Thailand? Yes, absolutely.
What about coastal Norway? Sounds amazing!
Milan, Italy? Let’s go!
I can see our family living in several different countries (that’s how I judge a place when I travel “could I live here?”, and I try to put myself in the footsteps of the locals), but the reality of physically packing all of our things and moving them to a new location, and starting all over again, including trying to find a job, and a place to live, and putting kids to new schools is scary, and I don’t think it’s doable with three teenage children. Now we are talking about their education and future as well.
And thus, the black hole of December 31, 2014. Our official last day in Sweden, and the unknown future, the unknown adventure that waits for us. The black cloud that we can’t shake, and the end of the tunnel that isn’t bright.
Will there be sunshine and will we be able to make the best of it? Yes, sure. I’m ready to start planning our exit from Sweden, and I’m ready to start making our next adventure a reality. But for the love of chocolate and wine, I need to know what it is, and where we are going, because my waistline can not take any more chocolate.
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