Expat Life – How do you know …?

“It’s time for movin’ on my friend, hold back all the tears and sorrow, it finally is time to go our separate ways…go as you must, but please don’t forget the yesterdays.”

Lyrics from a sappy graduation song from 1980 keep bouncing through my brain. It’s the kind of sappy song that made even tough football player Scott Dunbar cry just a little. (He’ll probably deny it!)

Thirty-seven years later, once again it’s time for movin’ on. No tears, no sorrow, it’s just time.

But how do you really know when it’s time to break up with a country that has become “home”?

A few months ago, I did a podcast interview and admitted that I didn’t actually fall in love with Taiwan at first sight.

We’re not married, just dating,” I told the interviewer. She chuckled at that description and then titled the interview with that line – “Not Married, Just Dating”.

And that’s how it’s always been with me and Taiwan. We get along well enough and life is good. But, unlike my friend Deborah, I didn’t feel that intense rush of love at first sight. The more I got to know her, the more I just couldn’t think of any good reason to leave her.

My “happy place”.

I must admit, though, I cheated on her a few times lusting after my “first love” – Thailand. My frequent trips to visit my first love only confirmed that feeling. Taiwan would never make my heart soar like my beloved Thailand.

But still, our relationship has grown and deepened over time. I’ve learned to appreciate her incredible beauty on my long scooter rides over twisty mountain roads.

Taiwan mountain view.

I’ve learned about her aboriginal tribes living in small villages along those winding mountain roads.

I’ve grown to understand her history and her people through long discussions with my students.

Our relationship is good and our life together is peaceful. But I have never pictured the day we’d actually get married and I would consider her my “forever home”, my life partner.

How do I know?

Last summer, I felt the first “inkling” that our relationship may be winding down. There was a subtle shift. I had spent three wonderful weeks in Minnesota, reconnecting with my family and close friends I’ve known since 4th grade. Our lives have taken different paths but our deep roots in Zumbrota, Minnesota that will always connect us.

My roots and relationships in Taiwan seemed shallow in comparison.

Why? Partly, I think, because Taiwan attracts a younger crowd. Those just out of college looking for an adventure are drawn to the teaching opportunities. Few fifty-something expats choose to date Taiwan and fewer still choose to “marry” Taiwan, making her their retirement destination.

I realized I was a bit of a freak!

So, that itch to start looking around and maybe start dating again drew me to “International Living“, spending countless hours scouring this online magazine, kind of a “Tinder” or “Match.com” for those searching for a country to date.

I considered giving Nicaragua a try, drawn to the laid-back beach town of San Juan Del Sur. She looked good on paper but seemed to lack the depth I craved, so I swiped left (Tinder lingo) and moved on, through Panama (too expensive), Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, until finally landing on Guatemala…

And then I swiped right. Meet Antigua, Guatemala, my new love.

We don’t know each other well yet, but fate seems to be bringing us together and she’s making me a little weak in the knees. Butterflies in my stomach. Maybe it’s just lust, or maybe it’s more. We’ll find out soon.

A few months ago… I saw an advertisement on Trusted Housesitters for a gig in Antigua, Guatemala. Just mildly intrigued at that point (still searching “Tinder”), I wasn’t available for the posted dates but I applied anyway and asked to be considered for possible future gigs.

And then last month… the homeowner in Antigua responded. We’ve just signed a contract for a month-long house sit beginning in June, ending in July…the day before my Dad’s 80th birthday. (I won’t have to attend his surprise birthday bash via Skype!)

A few weeks ago… when women all over the world were marching in unity, a good friend posted a photo on Facebook of the “Antigua, Guatemala Women’s March”. Turns out, she has spent a lot of time in Antigua doing volunteer work with an NGO (non-governmental organization) working with the indigenous people of Guatemala.

Now THAT made my heart flutter again! Another puzzle piece that added depth to our relationship, making our future life together more complete!

And then a strange and unexpected thing happened – Delta Airlines announced that they’re breaking up with Taiwan after a 67-year relationship! They’re discontinuing all service to Taipei effective May 24th. (I fly standby on Delta at hugely discounted rates thanks to my good friend Laura.)

That Delta announcement felt like a sign from the universe, another nudge in my new direction.

So, how do you really know?

You listen to your heart, follow your intuition and when it’s right, the doors seem to just swing open.

“When you truly want something, all the world conspires in helping you to help you achieve it.” (Paolo Coelho – The Alchemist)

Doors. Choices. Which one will open?

Most relationships aren’t meant to last a lifetime. You learn you grow… and then you move on.

No tears, sorrow, or regrets.

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Expat Life - How do you know...?



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10 Replies to “Expat Life – How do you know …?”

  1. Happy for you!!! New adventures await!!

    1. Thanks, Jane! I’m sure it’ll be amazing!

  2. Well done Andea! As usual…
    xoxoxo M

    1. Thanks Mary! You MUST come visit Guatemala sometime and meet my “new love”! 🙂

  3. Andrea – you are an inspiration in so many ways! Safe travels….and never stop exploring!

    1. Thanks, Deana! I hope you’ll hop down to Guatemala sometime for a visit!

  4. Kind of make me sad… but still, welcome back to Taiwan anytime!

    1. Awwww, Sunshine, don’t be sad! I’ll be back for a couple of months in early April. We MUST get together for lunch or dinner!

  5. Ah, disappointed that I missed you in Taiwan! I’m sure you’ll love Guatemala though… I still hear it calling to me from halfway around the world. It’s a magical country for sure! (and I have met a few older expats there… and everyone who lives there seems to have a true love for the country!)

    1. I’ll be back in Taiwan for a few months. Maybe we can connect somewhere? I’m hoping to spend some time in Kenting and Taitung before I leave. Happy to hear such great things about Guatemala!

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