Moving has always been an integral aspect of civilizations and an indispensable one for their survival. While people had always moved in tribes and groups, they always preserved a part of their home wherever they settled. Today moving did not stop and it will never do, but it indeed changed drastically from what it used to be; and with it, people and their notion of home have also changed. Moving has become an alone quest, and when not alone, you go with your small family taking only memories of a home that would sooner or later frame all what you will live and experience away.
Traveling is an exciting experience that moulds you and changes you like nothing else. You pack what you always thought of as indispensable belongings and leave to fulfil your need for movement inherited from centuries past. You meet new people and know new cultures. You go to new places and discover new hobbies. You taste new foods and go on thrilling adventures. You become independent and get to know yourself in depth never possible without this nomadic pursuit that once determined the life and death of your ancestors. You become the one “away” back home.
You may have moved for work, studying or seeking a new beginning. It doesn’t matter, you have set your goal and willing to bargain on your life to attain it. You know where you are heading, you establish a social life or choose to remain lonesome. It also doesn’t matter, you have a more important purpose and you are heading there. You talk to your loved ones and stay connected with your home. You feel accomplished and try to convey your sense of success to the people you used to know. You tell the people you meet about your home and share your memories with them. You learn immensely about the world around you and the world within you.
However, the lesson you will never forget is when you start realizing few years later that the indispensable belongings you once packed were only insignificant fragments in the background of a precious home and valued people you left behind. Your goal remains very important, but you learn that your family and home are the most important. You cherish the adventures you lived all these years, but your memories of home begin to frame all other memories and every experience. The amazing people you meet become your family in the distant land, but your childhood friends will always be the ones who know you best.
Most painful of it all is that when people you loved pass away. Whatever sadness you might have felt is nothing compared to when you realize how the place is never the same without them. The children in your memories have become young adults showing you the true meaning of time. You understand then that time will not spare your own parents who have become much older and weaker than you can remember. You still follow your goal nonetheless, because you have no other choice at this point. If you stop now, you destroy the only lesson you need to make sense of your choice years back. As “the one away”, you realize that this being away casts a whole new identity on you, leaving you barely able to remember who you were once in the midst of all these gaps in your memories of home.
As bittersweet this experience may be, you know well or you must know well that you have paid for it with the most valuable asset you have in this world, your irretrievable days and years. Your best hope is for your lessons and goals to be as worthy as these days and years. Jodi Picoult says “maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.” When you experience these poignant symptoms, you know then what Adam Gopnik really meant when he said: “The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.” And you know now who you are … an expatriate!