The itch began innocently enough with a series of gut pings – the precise way my biggest decisions often do. A trip overseas (ping), an e-friend and former expat’s book release (ping), an invite to Singapore and Amsterdam this year (ping, ping), a slow trickle of friends shifting across the pond for work and play and adventure (ping, ping, ping). With community scattered all over the world, the corners began to close in and my map began to feel smaller – almost as if latitude and longitude’s strings were tying a knot in my soul.
The flexibility of my work is not lost on me. Over the years, I’ve logged hours from the beaches of Los Angeles to the hills of Ireland, from hotel rooms in New York to studio apartments in Portland. I have worked on the San Francisco pier and the Chicago shore, have sipped countless cups of coffee with my laptop in Oakland then Philly then Atlanta then Omaha then Salt Lake City then San Diego then West Palm Beach then New Orleans. My computer and I, my family and I – we are mobile.
And I sometimes wonder if perhaps I was blessed with this job for a reason. If I was meant to let my quest for adventure override my love for the comforts of home – if only for a bit. If perhaps my greatest goal in life – to love my figurative neighbors – can be achieved by purchasing a few plane tickets and switching zip codes for a bit. Because wasn’t it Mark Twain that wrote these words of truth?: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
Ken and I have chatted on and off about what expat living would look like for our family and there are many variables to consider. And yet. It’s sitting well with me right now, this possibility. We’re a long (looooong) way away from packing our suitcases, but Ken and I have always operated with action plans and visual cues, surrounding ourselves with enough flotation devices of information and strategy and prayer before jumping into a sea of change.
So, this weekend, we created a flotation device. We crafted a Post-it Note map (ironically enough, using Post-it Brand Colors of the World collection) based on research created to determine which countries are more or less expat-friendly. I’m not one to accept sweeping generalizations, so this map is a very loose translation of abstract overviews – bright pinks representing countries that can perhaps offer a more seamless transition of living, bright oranges representing the opposite with yellows and corals posting neutrality to some degree. (Here’s looking at you, Australia!) All provide a nice dose of happiness on our kitchen wall, and all are part of the Bangkok Color Collection (here!).
[Sidenote: If you happen to be curious or crafty enough to tackle the project at home, might I suggest a healthy stock pile of patience? This wall is a dry erase wall – perfect for outlining countries and colors and also impromptu Hangman breaks – but the beauty of the Post-it Note, as we all know, is the fun of positioning and repositioning, sticking and resticking. Have fun with it, you know?]
Anyway, there is much to be considered amongst the pinks: language barriers and finances and housing arrangements, but the idea certainly holds appeal. And as we inch close and closer to deciding what our tiny family’s future holds, we’ll be consulting the map – and life – we’ve crafted with love.
So tell me, where would you move, friends? Any expats reading? I’d love tips and insights!
Image Credits: Ken Loechner in partnership with Post-it Brand Colors of the World.