The price of becoming an expat

Written by on May 25, 2012 in 30 Life Crisis, Americas, Nevada - 32 Comments

 

Curled up in my lap, light blue eyes heavy with sleep, Jagger barely whispers to me, “will you bring my back a coconut to drink from?”

I fight tears as I twirl his blonde shaggy hair between two of my fingers.

“Absolutely,” I promise, even though I know there’s no way I am going to be able to leave Thailand with a coconut. I promise myself to figure it out before I come back to Las Vegas.

As his eyes close, sadness washes over me.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt like this since I’ve made my decision to become an expat.

I don’t want to leave him, or his eight-year-old brother, Presley, or his mother (and one of my closest friends in the world), Kyla. They are my Las Vegas family. And leaving them makes my heart hurt in that way impending loss just aches through your entire body.

When I come home, Jez greets me on the stairs, meowing a conversation to me. She neck-dives into the carpet, turning up her chest for me to scratch. Then, Keeley, the cat I’ve had since 2007, comes down, too. Meowing her approval at my return.

It’s gotten worse lately with the cats. It’s almost as if they sense I am leaving. That I am passing them along to a new home, and the bond we have created, the relationship we have, will cease in a few short weeks.

That tears my heart into shreds.

Even sitting on my couch, taking stock of my Las Vegas life, my gorgeous condo I rent, the paintings that hang on my walls … the life I have here … it makes my head swirl with doubt. With second thoughts.

Am I really ready to exchange this for a new life?

I knew when I returned to Las Vegas it wouldn’t be forever. This is my home, but it isn’t the place I want to live right now.

I know very well that my future does not lie in the southwest desert.

But, as I sit, nearing my last weeks in this town, in this life, I wonder to myself if I really know what it is I am doing.

Within a matter of weeks, my life has changed entirely. I have accepted a position with Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. I have quit my job and gone into business for myself. I have gotten a non-immigrant visa to live in Thailand for one year.

Life changes oh so quickly.

And now … I am leaving the life I have lived since November 2010. Since returning from my long-term travels. I knew this life was not permanent. But suddenly, it’s just so hard to say “goodbye.”

When I left to go on my travels in 2010, I didn’t feel like this. I knew I would be back. I knew it was temporary. This is, too. But, it feels far more permanent. Maybe it is because I am getting older. Maybe it is because I know in the next few years I want kids, and by leaving, by uprooting my life once again, it means I am still as far aways as ever from that goal.

Does it delay me from the inevitable growing up? Or, is this my grown-up life? Where nothing is permanent? Where I live my dreams but at a price of not ever having a truly stationary existence?

The other day at lunch, an editor asked me where I saw myself in five years. I looked at her, dumbfounded.

Five years? I can hardly imagine five months.

The truth is, I don’t know what I want for my future.

Nor do I know the extent of what I want to give up.

Leaving Las Vegas this time is bittersweet. I leave all of my loves behind. My best friends. My cats. My life. And, a few weeks after I leave Las Vegas, I leave my parents, my brother, my niece …

And I exchange it for something brand new. And entirely different. And beautifully wonderful.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2010 she quit her job in PR to go on a solo backpacking adventure and tackle her 30-Life-Crisis. After seven months abroad, journeying throughout Europe and Africa, she returned to America and relocated to Las Vegas. Following a year-long stint back in PR, she once again quit her job to follow her dreams; this time her journey took her to the elephants and Elephant Nature Park where she is involved with raising awareness about responsible elephant tourism. Recently, Diana was named a finalist in the Destinology Travel Bloggy Awards for travel writing. She has been a regular contributor to Viator and recently served as the Las Vegas contributor for OneTravel.com and CheapOair.com. Her work has appeared in print and online, including The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Vegas Seven, World Nomads and more.

32 Comments on "The price of becoming an expat"

  1. Erica May 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm · Reply

    But the new chapter begins and right now all you can do is look forward (says the girl who just snapped out of horrible depression).

    We’re all rooting for you. And to be honest, you have bigger balls than many of us do.

    Hopefully see you in Thailand sooner than later? <3

    • Diana May 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm · Reply

      Thank you, my love. I appreciate it. I hope you and the hubs make it to Thailand this year. Or, I will just have to bop over to my “homeland” to see you.

  2. Federico May 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm · Reply

    Great for you. I am sure it’s a decision you will never regret, and will teach you very valuable life lessons, as well as being able to enjoy wonderful Thailand!

    • Diana May 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm · Reply

      I agree!! You will have to make it over to SE Asia sometime and visit me!

  3. Camels & Chocolate May 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm · Reply

    Ugh, that’s how I feel every time I leave Ella. It only gets harder and harder!

    • Diana May 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm · Reply

      I know!! Leaving them the first time was terrible. This time, it will be worse. Especially because I just don’t know when/if I will ever be able to provide them with a stable home. And they deserve a wonderful life.

  4. Jenna May 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm · Reply

    Every change in life should be met with this kind of contemplation because we almost always give something up in order to gain something new. Your new adventure sounds so exciting, and I look forward to following along. I often think of the roots and wings metaphor when it comes to travel/living abroad–spread your wings, but remember that your roots are always there for you.

    • Diana May 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm · Reply

      Yes … that is a great way to look at it, Jenna! My new adventure will be amazing … it is just a hard transition to make but I know will be well worth it in the end.

  5. Leyla from Women on the Road May 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm · Reply

    Leaving is so hard… but starting over is such a precious experience! One day you’ll leave Thailand and will probably feel the same way you do about leaving Las Vegas. Congratulations on the move… I moved to Thailand for 2 years in the late nineties and although it was Bangkok, I loved it…

    • Diana May 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm · Reply

      Thank you! I am really looking forward to Thailand. And I know, the leaving will never get easier. But, as a very wise person in my life said to me today, and now the song is in my head, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” I think that sums it up perfectly.

  6. Gaelyn May 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm · Reply

    You’ll be back, sometime. So live and enjoy the now. You’re poor head must be twirling. You’re going to work with elephants! We could trade.

    • Diana May 27, 2012 at 10:44 am · Reply

      Absolutely! I am definitely enjoying the now, but there are such bittersweet undertones sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. I am so looking forward to working with the elephants! I’ve been obsessing about it for 9 months and finally get to live it!

  7. jmayel el-haj May 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm · Reply

    why not bring the cat with you? we moved to thailand and couldn’t leave our dog behind. If we did we hhave gone back to the UK already i think.
    http://8milesfromhome.tumblr.com/post/23668603393/exporting-a-dog-from-the-uk-bringing-a-dog-to

    • Diana May 27, 2012 at 10:43 am · Reply

      I thought long and hard about bringing them with me, but in the end, it just wouldn’t be fair to them. I don’t want to put them through the awful flights. And I don’t know what my future holds. As much as I would love to have them with me every step of the way, I know my life is not stationary, and they deserve to have a life that is free from stress and filled with love. While I can give them the love, I can’t give them a permanent home right now. :(

  8. Stephanie - The Travel Chica May 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm · Reply

    I just read that “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I don’t believe that making a big life change like this puts you any further from having a family. You can meet someone anywhere, and because you have made yourself more open to new experiences, I think you have a better chance of finding what you want.

    • Diana May 27, 2012 at 10:22 am · Reply

      The more I think about it, and the more I experience life under my rules, the more I know you are right. :)

  9. Bobbi Lee Hitchon May 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm · Reply

    It is hard isn’t it? And I definitely agree with you in that animals sense when you are leaving. The owners of the last two houses we lived in have cats that Ric and I got extremely close to. Both times we left they had been acting funny and hanging around our luggage the week before. But you have so much to look forward too. It doesn’t have to be forever and it might not be, so enjoy the opportunity while it’s there. I’m sure you are thinking that anyway. Best of luck with the move :)

    • Diana May 27, 2012 at 10:20 am · Reply

      It is SO hard. But, I just keep reminding myself the experience I am going to have will be so incredibly amazing. :) Thanks! Looking forward to crossing paths with you in Thailand!! xx

  10. Dani | Globetrottergirls May 27, 2012 at 1:58 am · Reply

    We can totally relate to this – I had to leave my cat behind (he’s living with my mom now) when I moved to London, and in the three years we lived there, we never had any pets because we were traveling so much. Having pets is one of the things we’re missing most since we’ve become full-time travelers. At least you will have some elephants to play with, and all the dogs and cats at the park – that will help for sure, no? ;-)

    • Diana May 27, 2012 at 10:16 am · Reply

      Yes, it definitely will. I keep telling myself I am losing two cats, but gaining 35 elephants, hundreds of dogs and cats and more. :)

  11. Christine May 31, 2012 at 7:04 am · Reply

    There are always ups and downs to expat life. It’s not as glamourous as many make it out to be! Wishing you all the best, D!

    • Diana May 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Christine! I am looking forward to becoming one. I am glad I am going to be in a place with a large expat community!

  12. Hogga May 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm · Reply

    Giiirrrlll. It can be stressful and create insane anxiety, but you just gotta take it day by day and not think about the future TOO much. Be safe, but don’t dwell on the decisions. Ride the wave, pura vida!

    • Diana June 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm · Reply

      Pura vida, baby!!

  13. Our Trip To June 5, 2012 at 10:39 pm · Reply

    Having been an expat before I can relate to what you say. It feels like you are leaving everything behind to start this new life in a world you can’t really comprehend yet. Those things you leave behind are the most difficult.

    Our experience was that the time goes so fast and before we knew it we had visitors or were taking a trip home. It actually was the fastest period of my life as I sit back and reflect. However, it was the best.

    • Diana June 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm · Reply

      I feel like life is just flying by these days! Less than one month until I am in Thailand!

  14. Britany June 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm · Reply

    I feel that anxiety just thinking about the possibility of leaving home for ex-pat life – a decision I am seriously considering right now. I have a feeling reading about your adventures at the elephant camp will be motivation to move in that direction. Your stories are very inspiring! Good luck on this exciting journey! (Will you be at Tbex this weekend? If so, I’d love to connect at some point! I spent a month on an elephant camp last year and I’m intrigued by your opportunity to work for one!)

  15. Kathy June 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm · Reply

    I’ve been an expat for 4 years and the cost of not seeing my nephews, and leaving friends while it’s high. The other side of it is the amazing friends and new family I’ve made overseas. I’m leaving one to gain another. The memories and happiness I’ve gained by doing what I love and the experiences more than make up for it.
    Plus you’re going to an amazing place. Have a great road trip and just sit back and hold on. It’s a wild ride when you start to build a life in a new country where you’re going to live for awhile.

    • Diana June 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Kathy. It definitely was not an easy decision. I do take comfort knowing that the experiences I will have are going to be simply amazing and the people I will meet will be friends for life. I appreciate the note. :)

  16. oldtimetraveler August 28, 2012 at 1:03 am · Reply

    New expats always have the same ‘awakening’ and in doing this they lose their sense of self. I admit they gain much from the experience, but what they learn must be embraced in addition to whom they are as themselves. This is growth.
    The long-term expat loses himself, he gives up all the people who love him and he settles for much less; disguising his pain as a choice, as culture, never admitting he lost everything that truly mattered.
    The intelligent expat knows the stress is too much when it takes a toll on his family, his loved ones. There is a time to be away and there is an even more important time to go home.
    We see in every country and culture the same needs. The need for acceptance, the love of family, and providing for wives and children. There is no amount of money or experience that can take the place of living amongst people who love you.
    In each country the dreams of the natives are exactly if not better than the lives expats left back home. ..a loving wife, family, parents, food, shelter and clothing.
    There is no amount of money or experience that can replace being where you belong and being loved unconditionally.

    • Diana August 28, 2012 at 9:21 pm · Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have to disagree with you though. I love my family, but where my family is is not where I want to be. And, while being here, I am creating a new family, new friends and a new life. I actually have discovered more about myself from being away, not lost myself. What truly matters to me is living my life, and that is exactly what I am doing. While I know it may not always be great in terms of being away from my family, I know I am only a flight or two away.

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