I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “What we could all learn from expats” and it was like a burst of windy memories hitting my sails, making me think about the time I spent living in Brazil and the captivating expats I met there. Working for a while in a few hostels, staying for a while in others, and being part of a few social circles for travelers, I had the chance to meet a lot of foreigners, some of which were expats in the making.
As the article mentions, expats are way more likely to be “doers” than planners, and that is evident in the fact that they have left their homes to explore the world. I’d say that it’s the doing which keeps us from placing value on the crazy things that happen when expats get together. The value, or nostalgia, comes later, in the months that follow that last day together, when vague plans are made to somehow meet up again, on some other coast, at some unknown time.
Those are the times that we all live for and, to the likes of which, we wish to return. My gut feeling is that really living doesn’t mean that everyday you wake up and feel inside and out that you’re, in fact, “really living”. I think it’s more about being able to weave together a solid number of “doing” moments in between all that day-to-day stuff that gets in the middle. At the same time, when you’re an expat, those day-to-day things can very well be more interesting and more exciting than what might come to mind normally.
I’ve spent more than 85% of my 32 years on this planet in the same country but, for the most part, the best of times were had in the 15% that happened while I wasn’t in it. Maybe that says something about the expat lifestyle, maybe it says something about my life in the US, or my otherwise normal tendency to plan. Perhaps it’s poignant no matter what floats your boat or who comes a knockin’. Generalizations and certainties aside, I’ve found the answers are outside, of the norm, and of myself.
Those that I almost immediately clicked with were those who weren’t just passing through Brazil, but rather were there for extended periods and with plans to return for even longer periods after they would initially leave. The problem I found myself facing was inherent to the lifestyle and while these people were, for all intents and purposes, my best friends while we were in proximity to each other, we drifted apart when living in the same country was no longer a reality. Either I would leave or they would leave, or I would return to that physical place of shared memories and they would not, or vice-versa. Nonetheless, I know as well as they do that if we were to meet up again, it’d be like picking up a conversation that was once left hanging. Like a joke that just got a punch line, we’d laugh together once more.
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I share your sentiments, as I have also spent time abroad. Currently studying Brazilian Portuguese so I can hopefully get my butt over there someday. But as with any expat community, it’s pretty tightly woven even if the members fluctuate every 6 months. Never a dull moment! I hope that I can reconnect with some old friends, and that the plans to meet again weren’t just hollow words.