There comes a time in every expat’s life when you feel the need to go back home to the comforts of what you grew up with, whatever that means, wherever that is or feels like to you. If only to see if you have made the right decision by moving away in the first place. If only to see if everything is still as you remember. Last August we were booked and ready to go home to see if returning permanently would be a viable option for our family. We wanted to check out a few neighborhoods, job possibilities, and universities for Daniel. Then COVID-19 and quarantine stopped our visit cold in our tracks. So what now?
I guess we have to take another giant leap of faith! We can hope things line up for us, but are prepared to stay as long as necessary to put all our ducks in order.
Whatever the reasons were for leaving there are always good reasons to return as well. As they say, the grass is not greener, it is just a different variety, with different things built up around it and is growing on a different hill. Every country has strengths and weaknesses, and from our three countries where we have lived, there is no clear winner.
However, this past year I have been a little more nostalgic, thinking more and more about Canada; Vancouver in particular and the lower mainland where I spent my teens and adult life but also Vancouver Island and along the coastal communities where I lived until 12. I remember the pride I felt as a child knowing I was from such a beautiful place and called myself an island girl. The giant tall forests and open pastures surrounded our town, flowing rivers and right on the Pacific Ocean; it was a child’s dream childhood, discovering nature. There were always animals in close proximity, often we saw foxes, deer, and the occasional bear or coyote lingering near the woods. Our home and native land, sang the students at the assemblies; and my young mind would flash images of the wild just steps from the door.
Even though we live far away today and we sport the name ‘expat’, short for expatriate with ease, we still view ourselves as people simply living outside of our country and now we have the idea of returning. The second part of the definition is not actual true for me. An expatriate can also be an individual who has relinquished citizenship in their home country to become a citizen of another. This does have a negative connotation, and it conjures up images of us leaving our people, and perferring or picking another country. Our anthem goes; From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. Now this makes me think of a mixed group of people who make up the multicultural society of Canada coming from all over the world. Those who appreciate their freedoms, those choosing to start a life in Canada who are allowed to bring their individuality. We together make up Canada, which means becoming part of something very special. I want to return to that country.
Anyways, I don’t feel you can just leave Canada. It stays with you. It intertwines with your spirit, and as us Canadian expats travel the world round, we take those open point of views with us; loving and learning, teaching and leaving an impression upon the world one person at a time. Growing up in a ‘politically correct’ society based on equality, with social systems in place for the people to thrive; like social security that takes care of the old, sick and poor; leaves anything short of this strange. We believe that a country should work to protect its all its people, especially the weakest amongst them.
There are other things I miss too! I grew up watching the Vancouver Canucks hockey team and skied the snow-capped mountains. I do miss outdoorsy things; Grouse Grind and walks along Jericho Beach but above all I miss liberal views, letting other opinions exists next to mine and being ok with that. Here in Europe there are some hard lines that go with so many borders close together. I took for granted the vastness of my homeland, the ridiculous idea of someone fighting us with such a sparse population and so many resources to harvest. Canada is incredibly large. In fact if another country popped up in the middle of Canada, I don’t even think we would notice, there is nobody to witness the take over!
I want my hard work that I put into my life to be worth something in the end. I like things to at least appear fair. There are some cultural differences I will never understand like how Europeans bundle their kids up in piles of clothes when there is a slight breeze as where I am from, being outside does not mean only on warm days. Also thermostats set to 27+ degrees, so crazy expensive and totally bad for the environment. I miss ecological lifestyle so closely connected to nature. Some say Canada has no culture, but I say it would be a culture based on ‘green’ values; biking, walking, site seeing. Oh how I miss the smell of rain.
Going into a shop and being treated with respect and greeted as if I just met a long lost friend is something I do miss. The best part of shopping in Canada is that the employees know where everything is in the store they work in, what the items they sell do and are used for and overall how to make a satisfied customer that will want to and not have to come back because it is the only shop that carries what I need. I know it is superficial, and plasticy, but I do love it!
I miss having family to share milestones with watching each other’s kids grow up, and perhaps being there for the not so good moments too to help and support each other through the rough times. Family cannot be replaced.
I think running away from all the death that hit our family just before we left, for me was not an answer, but a cure. I had to leave to heal and to grow as an individual away from my family. There is something about being faced with our own mortality that either petficies you or jolts you awake into the moment. For us, death of fathers and grandfathers, uncles and close friends made us want to live our own life to the fullest. I did not want to leave any dream unfulfilled. Hungary and southern France were dreams that for us came true. If we never went, we would always wonder what it would be like to live there. Especially Hungary, because seeing where our ancestors come from, and living it is far different than visiting. I now know where I stem from and it explains a lot about my determination.
Now I can go back stronger than ever, and there is nothing weighing me down. I feel I have finally come into my own and not a moment too soon! I feel confident, know myself far better, and have experienced some lovely places, people and countries. I know my place in the world and what I would like to do for the second half of my life. This is one of life’s classic blunders, as soon as the brain sorts things out and finally gets it all right, the body starts to fade. Ironic.
Back to Canada, I have been thinking about eventual retirement, walking to the park, seeing my friends, getting together for the retirement special at Ricky’s, drinking the neverending cup of coffee at 5:00am, and doing low impact water aerobics at the senior centre. My idea of retirement is simple. Once I wanted to retire in Europe to be close to many countries, and now it is only Canada for this gal, but more specifically B.C. I still have a ways to go, but at least I now know which continent I want to live on! The vagabond in me has finally calmed down.
The next steps are simple. Sell the house. Make a long list of things to do. And eventually make one last move home. Eh voila!
Stay tuned for the exact location of our future move, planned for June 2021!