my goals: are they met by staying or going?
Life goal one: Feel inspired and enthusiastic most of the time about our life on a day-to-day basis. Look forward to waking up most of the time. Feel like I’m engaged fully in my life.
Home or away: This is definitely not going to happen in the rat race of work/childcare/short vacation of home life. The chance of it happening is exponentially increased if I take a leap.
Life goal two: Give my daughter a sense of safety, security, and community.
Home or away: This is obviously a big point for home. Kids do like knowing where they belong and they develop a sense of security by forming stable friendships and relationships over periods of time. Do I think that my daughter would adjust to a life on the road? Yes, most likely, she would. Probably we’d both make a temporary home of our living arrangements, and very much look forward to visiting our “real home” in the states as often as we could. She would be a “third culture kid”, yes. Hopefully she would learn to be able to feel “at home” wherever she is in the world eventually, and comfortable and safe as long as she is with me while she’s young. So while I think achieving this goal comes very naturally by staying home, it is totally possible to maintain relationships with relatives long-distance, and create a community of expats and new friends in a life wherever we are. Instead of being something that just happened naturally, however, it would sometimes be a challenge. This point is what makes me wish I had a spouse and several kids. We’d be a mobile community, built in friends. But it’s just the two of us, and that would, at least a lot of the time, need to be enough.
Life goal two: Create memories and have adventures that instill within us a sense of awe and wonder in the world, the same sense of awe and wonder that will inspire my daughter to become a good steward of the planet as well as a global citizen.
Home or away: This is just… obvious. Winner winner for leaving the states. Staying in our current life creates a huge challenge in this area. We learn about the planet by gardening or spending time in nature, but these are side activities. We learn about the world by reading or watching TV, but that’s hardly the same as going and interacting with real people. We take annual vacations to foreign lands… but it’s not “real life” and tourists are not privy to the realities of life in another country. Real and lasting relationships with people who are different from us would not likely occur on vacation.
Life goal three: Eat healthy and exercise.
Home or away: Eating healthy on the road may be more of a challenge. Or maybe not… afterall, if we’re having more fun, living in a place where we work less and play more, and have lots of access to markets with fresh fruits and vegetables, at least for me, I may be less tempted to treat myself with a red bull and Reeses just because I feel like I need something to look forward to in my day. Exercise would be a total win for leaving the states. I have no problem climbing stairs at a temple, trekking to the top of a mountain, chasing down a connecting flight or train, or strolling for hours along a river because it’s interesting. Or because, I really want to get to the top of the mountain so I can rest! Or because, I need to catch that bus! It’s a lot harder to exercise at home, when there’s no other purpose to it. Plus when you live away from your home culture, you end up walking and climbing and trekking more just because you don’t know where you’re going, you want to walk and see the sites, and you visit a lot of places that require exertion. And I wouldn’t own a car.
Life goal four: Unschool my daughter.
Home or away: Not possible at home due to a work schedule and income that would require me to put her in a school that does not have tuition. Living overseas, however, I would be forced to either unschool her or enroll her in a local free school, simply because private international schools cost a mint. She may go to a local school just to experience the culture and be somewhere, but I certainly won’t care what her grades are, or make her take tests. Certainly I’d rather her have a nanny or babysitter than go to school if she doesn’t like it, and only in Asia would that be affordable for me. After age 6 or 7, she could even tag along with me to teaching jobs, if she’s willing to sit and use an iPad or read or whatever.
Life goal five: Spend time with loved ones and bond as a family.
Home or away: At first glance I think home seems like the winner. We’re with my mom every day, my sister and niece at least every other week, and we’re able to make memories and form those relationships that only come with lots of in-person time. On the other hand, we have no money (or vacation time) to visit my dad in Tennessee, my best friend in Vermont, or relatives in New Jersey, let alone a visit to my loved ones in Nepal. I think this one is a give-or-take. What we’d lose in day-to-day life with my mom, and weekly visits with my sister, we’d gain with quality of time in visits and the flexibility to travel. While I’d miss my mom on a daily basis, living together isn’t always the greatest, either, and she certainly craves more space and independence as well. Hopefully she could fly out to be with us for long periods of time, and we’d fly home, too. A ticket from South Korea, to San Francisco (where one of my BFFs is moving this month from Vermont), to Nashville (where my dad lives), to Detroit (closest airport to my lake house), back to South Korea, costs LESS than a single round trip ticket to Nepal from here. So money-wise, I could really get a lot of family visit for my buck. Certainly once debt is paid down, I could take some extra income and fly people out to see us, especially my mom. I will certainly miss my mom and sister and niece, though, and that weighs in.
Life goal six: Travel as much as possible.
Home or away: Again, there is a clear winner here. However, if I want to put extra income toward traveling back to the states on holidays, I will be sacrificing traveling to other places in the world at that time. On the other hand, we’d be a skip-hop-and-jump away from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, making short trips there very easy and affordable. Flights to India and Nepal would also be beyond cheap. I’d be tied into a full-time job teaching, however, so it’s not like we could just roam around. But we would have options. Once debt is paid down and the year contract is up, we could choose to go other places. Or build up more money to live without working for a while in a cheap place. Or go back to the states and do a few travel nurse contracts to put fat wads of cash in the bank. There would be lots of options. If I stay in the life I’m in now, I could maybe take one big trip a year, if I work overtime and sacrifice all the time with my daughter that I get.
Life goal seven: Simplify life. Get rid of stuff and stop buying more stuff.
Home or away: Traveling seems more expensive but… I have a problem in this life I’m in. I’m sucked into the consumer lifestyle every single day. Thanks to Amazon Prime and the ease of credit cards, I often feel like I “need” something, to the point of ridiculousness. My daughter, too, has way more than she needs. This is obvious, since I thought she “needed” a dollhouse, and an art desk. I thought she’d play with them a lot. She doesn’t. I have to sort of sit there and play with her toys myself to make her play with them. The only things she doesn’t need coaxing to play with are things like: sticks, butterfly net for frog catching, shovels, kitchen items (real ones, not toy ones), plastic easter eggs, and youtube. And I always think I can “fix” the problem with the next wonderful toy: a train table and train tracks, a castle complete with toy knights, and princesses, and dinosaurs, puzzles and blocks and play doh, etc and so on. She obviously doesn’t really need these things, because she rarely plays with them. What she wants are real-life experiences, like cooking with me, catching turtles in the pond, sitting in the car pretending to drive, and playing tag with other kids. The clutter in my house overwhelms me, and it’s really not that bad. I go through and clear out toys from time to time, and clothes as she grows. But still. The stuff we actually use daily or a few times a week could probably be put into the trunk of my car. And still… I buy more. I’d like to just beat this addiction, get rid of everything but the basics, and feel free. Obviously, it would take a total life change to do this. Maybe even a life-ectomy, a distancing from this culture of buy-it-to-feel-good that leaves me in debt and stressed and struggling. If we moved to South Korea I could bring with me a couple cooking pots and pans, a couple utensils, two plates and two bowls, toiletries, a few kids books, an iPad, a cell phone, a suitcase of clothes, and a stuffed animal. And I bet that she would play with those few books and one stuffed animal all the time, rather than maybe once a year with coaxing. I bet that experiences would be more exciting, like watching a movie together, if they aren’t available all the time. I bet that a simple set of blocks would inspire a ton of creativity, if youtube isn’t always available, or remote control cars, or simply too many choices.