Are Canadian vagabonds ever really ready to move home? No


Yesterday I folded up all my clothes and neatly placed my worldly belongings into two very large suitcases, one carry on bag and a large purse. When I look at it I find it strange how small a life can be reduced to. What makes a person a person; if it is stuff I have sadly failed. A 70 kilo cubic metre that is essentially my life. A few trinkets, goodbye cards, a handmade oil dispenser… half the stuff we sent ahead, who knows if we will ever use any of it again. Doesn’t it seems strange that we can cut and move on so easily. Or can we?

I have been struggling. Not rocking back and forth in a hysteria of emotion or anything like that. Actually, you cannot tell as there are no cracks on my surface facade or tears streaming down my face, by I know because I have had problems sleeping; my “for certain” sign that something is not quite right. Also my lower back is aching and I am holding an extra kilo that doesn’t want to shift; all signs that I may not be dealing as well as other journeys we have done.

So I have to ask myself the question. Why?

When we left Canada for southern France we were 38 & 40 years young with two little kids who were 5 & 7 at the time. Then when we moved to Budapest we were 43 & 45 years old with a 10 & a 12 year old. Both scenarios we were fit, energetic and eager. These moves seemed more like adventures, going against the grain and status quo, to prove to the world (but mostly ourselves) we are different than those before us; fearless, putting ourselves in the face of diversity to show our children the world and all the stuff they read about in books. We felt we were conquering the world, trail blazers, explorers… We wanted to spend all our time together in a close knit, supportive and every prolific little hyper bubble. Whereas this time things feel different, well at least for me. One, we know where we are going, we know exactly what to expect and what sorts of people we will encounter. Second, the children are not children anymore. Daniel is nearly 18 years old, 6’2″ tall, freshly graduated from high school and can drive himself around. Angelina is almost 16 years old, cooks for our household since COVID-19 began and is starting grade 11. If left her alone she could easily take over a corporation or small country! She is highly autonomous. Our kids are independant, well-rounded creatures who barely need us at all. I suspect these are the first signs of empty nesting syndrome. This makes this trip back to the start of where it all began bittersweet. We have taught them all we set out to teach them; the languages, the culture in Europe, the history, the monuments, the traditions… Being that we are already Canadian and grew up there, I guess the cork has already popped. This last step in our gap decade will be about routine, rooting deep into the community, and making sense of all we have learned along the way and to perhaps share these lessons with others.

In Budapest (Solymar) Hungary, we have tall pine trees outside our living room window, and every year since 2016 there are two small black birds with orange beaks who come back to the same spot to nest. I think they are called Eurasian blackbirds. Consistently, there are two big blue tipped winged brown birds that come and eat their chicks once they are born. They make their nests on the opposite side of our home in an electric pole. These are the territorial German Jay. I am sure I could find a parallel to WWII if given a minute, but I am not myself today and my whit is on low supply. I noticed the big birds nested early this year, and at the beginning of spring it suddenly got cold and the blackbirds did not return as usual but nearly 2 weeks later! This gave the German Jays enough time to nest and fly away before the black birds could have their little ones making a racket, singling to the Nazi Jays that it was time for lunch! Instead, they silently sat on their eggs, not a sound, stealth-like hardly speaking, using signals in the air with tails until the cover of night when the insects made the most noise. Then you could hear them communicating, little peeps and chirps. It was the first time they were able to have their little family without the invasion of the axis troops. Two nights ago when I was watering the garden, I saw the mamma black bird feeding one of her babies on the ground. She flew to where he was, opening her mouth to feed him, doing her best at keeping his safe. She was working hard. In turn the father also visited the little guy who hopped around the garden, hiding under the variegated hosta. This chick must have fallen out of the nest, perhaps broke a wing. The others seemed to have flown away without a problem. Mamma and Pappa relentlessly fed him. Both parents looked disheveled, so exhausted perched on the high wire above the treeline on the lookout. I don’t know what happened, but Alfonz saw feathers at the end of the driveway. The message to me seemed that we are the same. No matter what happens in life we keep on going, after successes, after failures, no matter what we kept on working so very hard never giving up hope, always working to the very end. I guess the metaphor is that you can prepare, plan, hope and dream but in the end eventually you will get to where you want to go. Every obstacle you learn from and adapt to. Every challenge you find a way to compensate. I haven’t seen the birds again. They too have flown the coop. They knew it was time to go. Even if you do not know what will happen around the corner, we must keep trucking forward always doing your best. I was so happy they finally managed to have offspring with so many problems in the way. I was happy it wasn’t Elvis who did the deed to their baby because I think I would have been more upset. And although it did not turn out perfectly, I know they will come back next year to give it another go and perhaps have an even better outcome.

Survival of the fittest also comes to mind. COVID-19 did not kill us off completely but it did hit us hard. We managed to adapt and find ways to survive and even prosper. I forsee big things and I am already happy in Nanaimo. Why? Because I have already decided. Perhaps it is already decided… I know I have said this before, but it seems to always ring true. No matter how much you try to deviate your route, you will always end up exactly where you are supposed to be. It is like all paths lead to the same place. We simply do not have that much influence on the cosmic stars to really make astronomical changes. As they say, it is already written.

Going home might seem like failure to some people but we learned so much from these past 10 years, I don’t think anyone could honestly fault us. We planted little seeds and some grew and others didn’t. We went, we tried, we learned, we adapted and we eventually grew. Eh voila! Such is life; colourful and amazing, full of obstacles and experiences. I am in awe of it all, happy to be here and learning as I go. I love my life. I still would not trade with anyone on the entire planet.

Our bags are packed, our boarding passes are printed off, negative PCR tests in hand, the house is clean, the garden is in order, the floors are washed, and our goodbyes are said. Crossing our fingers that all will go well.

There is a Hungarian song that goes like this:

  • I need one more word from you before you go, I need another hug that will last you all the way, On the road please sometimes think of me, this land is yours, if you leave, it will still be here
  • Look at me and you will see that your path is already written, Look at me and you will see all your suffering is gone. Where the trees reach the sky and touches the sun, fly on falcon wings, beyond the three mountain tops. Fly away, and I’ll be waiting for you at the end of the road
  •  You must understand, that you are not going in vain, to the place where you live, it is the best of all the world. If the branches of your life do not prosper, live as if you are the best flower among the other flowers
  • Look at me, don’t make me any promises, look at me don’t be afraid, if there is not space where you are going, head back home to me!

I always thought this song spoke to me personally. Telling those of us Hungarians that have been gone for generations away from home to come home again to their home land, that all is finally safe. I felt that no matter where I am in the world, or how long I am away, I can always go back to my roots and my people in Hungary. That part of me will always be Hungarian; that there will always be a place for me here if I so chose. My family fought for this land, they died for this land and my blood is somehow mixed into this land. I couldn’t deny it if I tried.

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Our mission is to share our family's move to France, and now to Hungary, how to slow travel with kids, and give tips and ideas as to what works and what doesn't being an expat and a travelling family in Europe. Expat experts on an adventure!

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