One Year Anniversary and Time to Leave
This week we celebrate our one year anniversary back in New York by packing our things, and scheduling another international move.
It was magical to be back in New York City for Christmas time last year this time, but we all felt deeply saddened we had left Europe after living in Sweden for three years, and after just having visited Paris on our last vacation, on our way out of Europe. We arrived right on time for the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree lighting in New York City – and the demonstrations that surrounded it last year; immediately giving us the harsh reality how much had changed in the three years we had been gone.
It’s odd now to look back. Just last month the terrorist attack happened in Paris and the situation in Sweden is very different too after a year. I don’t wish we were still in Sweden, but I also wish we hadn’t come here.
Truthfully, we felt like we failed by moving back to the US and by not staying in Europe, (or not moving to Asia). But we tried to make it work. We thought buying a nice house would help. We thought putting kids to good schools would help. Kids got caught up on the three years of New York schools in a matter of weeks, and all three are honor roll students. It truly is true: world travels, exposing to new cultures and going the hard way in life helps kids to excel at school, and not just in theory.
Truthfully, we have not enjoyed our time in Binghamton, NY, area. We live in Vestal. It’s “the town” when country people say they are “going to town.” I can find every big box store and chain restaurant just around the corner from us. Our “town” is a four-lane road full of strip malls, and I didn’t even buy a car so I don’t have to drive it through any extra times I don’t have to. I don’t like the fact I have gone to Target more times the past year than the past ten years before that. And yet, sometimes, I feel like going to Target is the highlight of my day here. I don’t want to be that person. And I feel like a snob saying these things aloud, and I don’t want to be that person either.
And it is funny, especially because I am so far from a snob. Second car isn’t the only thing we didn’t buy when we moved back. We also don’t own a TV, any gaming systems, microwave oven… or even beds. Now I realize how sad it may sound that we have hoped to leave so desperately, that even in the seven and half months of living in our house we haven’t even bought beds, and are still sleeping on mattresses on the floor. For the first four months I also kept my clothes packed, hoping there was a mistake, and we can move out soon. This is the reality of nomadic living. Living out of boxes, sleeping on the floor, living in hotels, and not owning many things. And we are OK with that.
Now I feel relieved, and even smart because we didn’t spend all that money on things, and we didn’t stop hoping and working for a way out. We didn’t settle.
People often ask from us which has been our favorite place to live in, and every time I answer diplomatically that every place has its good points and bad points, and a lot of your happiness and your content depends on yourself. That’s what SKIMBACO really is. It could be “skiing in Colorado” or “shopping in New York” or “museum hopping in Paris” or “sailing in Finland.” You just need to find what is the best in the place you are. I still agree and sign that statement, but maybe I am having a mid-life crisis or something because this time I am screaming and stomping my foot on the ground, and I am determined to argue that this place is not for us, and we should just leave.
It’s not the place alone, I know locals like it here. It’s me, it’s us. We kissed the world, and we liked it. We don’t have to settle, if we don’t want to. I don’t have to find the silver lining in Vestal, NY, if I don’t want to. It’s not that life is hard here, it’s almost the opposite. It’s too easy.
Things are never one-sided, and there isn’t a perfect place (do you know one? I’ve visited 30+ countries and lived in 20+ towns, none of them is perfect.). I am not naive, and I know that running away isn’t the solution either. If I am not happy in the inside, I am not going to be happy wherever in the world I am.
I’ve had many flashbacks to memories and feelings I had when I moved to the USA the first time in 1998, and had the biggest culture shock of my life. When we moved back from Germany in 2002, I was too busy with two babies, pregnant and renovating a house upstate New York, that I didn’t even have time to think of culture shock of coming back. I think Matt had it the worst then, and he had really hard time settling back in the USA. I was just trying to stay positive, because I didn’t think we had any other option but to stay here.
We waited for the opportunity to move back to Europe for ten long years. Matt started working for his current company in 2008, when we moved from Colorado to New York. One of the main reasons he took the job, was a hope to get international assignments in the future, and move back to Europe. Then finally we moved to Sweden four years ago. It’s funny that many, even those who know us well, say “how easy it is” for us to move and leave. None of this has been easy, and I know it won’t be easy. But it is worth the pain, worth the hard work, and worth sleeping on a floor and not having the latest and the greatest of anything.
When we got to Sweden, I started posting my “Good Morning from Sweden” photos on Instagram (follow me?) every day. I was just thankful for the sunrises I saw every day. I was in a place where I felt like home, even though it wasn’t even home. That’s what I miss in my life. The small moments of gratefulness “I can’t believe this is my life” and “I am so lucky to live here.” It’s the feeling I had every time I landed at Arlanda airport in Stockholm and smelled the cinnamon buns; the smell that combines my childhood memories in Finland with the new memories of baking with my kids and the gratefulness of living in Sweden and coming back home. Those are the things I miss. The small things. Life fills with small things.
It would be easy to say that we want to run away from the USA because of political environment, level of education, cost of healthcare, gun laws, GMOs and FDA — and a list of many other things. Technically it is all true, but ultimately we are just people who want the best for their kids, and enjoy life to the fullest. To me it really is quite simple: I want to look outside my window everyday, feel excited and safe where I am, and thankful for my life. And preferably I want the view look pretty too, and to be something that draws me outdoors to explore more. I want the best for my children, and I want to help them to make educated decisions for their future. They all have two passports, speak a few languages, and I want to continue to help them to become global citizens who have a wider view of the world.
It pains me to say how much I want to leave. Especially because many of my best friends are American, and you live here. Many of my dearest friends live in state of New York (and I would most likely feel very differently if we lived closer to NYC). I love this country like my own. But honestly, I had these same feelings when I moved out of Finland. I love Finland, and so many things and people there, but enough was just enough, and I was so ready to leave. I would love to return back to Finland, and I am sure one day I will be happy to return to the United States.
However, we are heading to a completely new country, where we haven’t lived before. Not in Europe, but staying in North America. We are moving to Canada. Now, what could go wrong, eh?
Post by Katja Presnal
“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.