The reality of living abroad

I’m sure some of you play with the idea sometimes. To escape. Go back to that paradise you spent your last holidays, sipping on coconuts, tropical surf, where time was endless. Maybe leave an office job behind that doesn’t make you too happy anymore. At least leave the cold.

This is for the wanderlusters, the restless, the seekers.

There’s a hard side to paradise. 

And this is that there are very few people who choose to spend more time than a 2 weeks holiday or a 3 months travel there. Other people pass through, but you will be one of the very few that always stays behind. Together with a bunch of other expats who are adventurous enough to have chosen to actually live in paradise. You look at your fellow adventurers and you think: Is there Anyone who isn’t crazy here? Giving up family, friends, a culture you understand, all for their own fun of surfing and living in the warmth. People that don’t take enough with a holiday. There appears something so detached to this. But if they all are detached and crazy, what does that make me?

There are times when you get used to the temporarity, and you’re having the time of your life living each day without thinking about tomorrow, soaking up travelers’ good vibes even if it’s only for a day, and feeling completely comfortable with the familiar, hardly ever fully deepened, interactions with other expats. Lots of hugs, kisses, laughter, drinks and sunset surfs. But hardly any sharing of your deepest fears and longings. Out of my many friends I have in Nicaragua, there are exactly two friends with whom I share my feelings of utter loneliness this paradise can bring about. And damn sure they feel the exact same.

Paradise never fades, the surf never gets old, I will never not prefer the slow pace of my new home above anything else. I am simply stoked about my life. But paradise doesn’t come on its own. If you want paradise, you have to take its evil little sister called loneliness along. Two worlds parallel. And that’s fine. You can spend weeks on end not encountering the downside. But in the briefest moments, loneliness can come up and strike you hard. Having made a home in more than one place will have you always missing something from your other home. Life is never complete.

Renske, an employee of Surfbikini, to whom I rather refer to as one of my killer partners in crime, came to visit me in Nicaragua. We had two a-ma-zing weeks. Spending pretty much every single moment of the day together never became too much, and it was a delight to share my house, every wave and jungle adventures with her. But what made our interaction totally different than with most of my friends here, is that she lives in the Netherlands. Bringing with her an attitude of complete trust which we’re used to at home, but which can be so dangerous when living in one of the poorest Central American countries. For 2 weeks I experienced and shared paradise with someone that I could interact with without ever having to be considerate. And you probably won’t recognize the value of that feeling until having lived abroad on your own, in a country where your habits are not the norm; where you’re the outsider.

I went to bed last night with an increasing uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and throat, which by now has become a familiar feeling. It’s the knowing that someone you truly care about, someone you can rely on, someone real, will leave and you will be left behind on your own. With plenty of friends surrounding you to share those beautiful waves with, to have parties with, but not to share the real you with. You’re just sharing the moment of enjoying paradise at the same time. But you’re not sharing life.

My friend left this morning with a cab and they dropped me off at a resort on the way to teach yoga. A big hug and then she left. I picked up my bag to enter the resort and I get this thick feeling in my throat. Water accumulates behind my eyes. And whereas months ago this used to take me a few hours, now within 2 seconds I know how to swallow it away. Loneliness strikes, I’m back on my own, back to shallow interactions, a world with a glass roof for emotions. But being sad about it simply doesn’t serve. And so I swallow the thick feeling in my throat away, which sinks into my stomach and will probably sit there for a little while longer. But hey, that’s ignorable. And so I pick up my bag and enter my life abroad again. Undoubtedly just as detached as all the expats I see around me.

Paradise simply will always be paradise. I will never get bored with seeking adventure, with wandering. But there is an endless value in the familiarity of your real home. The comforts of your own culture, despite its downfalls. The trick is to find the right balance. Enjoy best of both worlds.

Thank you Renske, for sharing the incredibly beautiful side of paradise with me, and thank you equally for letting me escape it for 2 weeks.

 

“Paradise. It’s not some place you can look for. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life. And when you find that moment, it lasts forever”. (quote: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Beach, 2000)

 

Stay tuned and read my travel/life/surf experiences in our blog 

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