In an ideal world, there would be only perfect relocations. A world in which everything goes according to plan, nobody is running around at the last minute all sweaty with stress, and the children are well behaved on every flight and breeze through connecting airports.
In this ideal world, here’s what a perfect relocation might look like:
In a perfect relocation, there is plenty of time to prepare, find renters/buyers for your current house, sell off unwanted possessions, and close your door one final time without a hint of sadness.
In a perfect relocation, you have familiarized yourself with the local language and have language classes lined up to help ease your family into society upon arrival.
In a perfect relocation, you get one last visit with all of your family members, and your friends throw you an amazing farewell party complete with meaningful gifts and inside jokes.
In a perfect relocation, these same friends and family members promise to keep in touch and they do! You chat with them at least once a month, and they remember to send you birthday cards and wish your children, “Happy Holidays!” just when you think you’ve been forgotten. Nobody forgets to invite you to their events even though they know you can’t come.
In a perfect relocation, the accompanying spouse has a mobile career or is self-employed and has all of the necessary working visas to continue his/her career without interruption.
In a perfect relocation, the children are registered in the schools without interruption of their school year, the neighborhood is scouted, and transportation to and from is already worked out.
In a perfect relocation, there is a team of friendly and helpful people who are experienced in assisting newly landed families to navigate the ins and outs of the new city. They are eager to help you and you become friends instantly.
In a perfect relocation, there is nothing but fun and adventure. Everyone looks toward the future, and nobody wonders what their life might have been had they never moved.
But like all hypothetical situations, this perfect situation is unattainable. Instead, we know that reality is nothing like a perfect relocation and there never can be.
Life doesn’t work that way for anyone.
We are eternally grateful if we experience even a small percentage of these “perfect” scenarios. Unfortunately, we can’t shorten the time it takes to adjust to a new country by sheer willpower or experience.
Experience does not lessen the bittersweetness, the ache for people who know you best wherever they may live, or the culture shock.
But experience does help you appreciate the present and treasure the past.
Experience makes you think twice about your future relocations and the impact they will undoubtedly have on your family.
Experience means that you know precisely how much you don’t know before you go (again) but gives you clues for where to look for the answers.
Experience teaches you that living a life in a foreign country is both rewarding and isolating. At times, the pain of living far from family is crushing pain and at other times, life is joyful and plentiful.
Life is happening 100% to you wherever you are. It doesn’t matter what language is spoken around you or what currency is in your pocket. Living abroad provides no buffer against reality.
It isn’t easy to leave behind everything familiar, but you’ll do it anyway because what choice do you have?
While someone else may wait until the conditions are perfect, your bags are already packed, your goodbyes have been said in a rush, and you’re boarding the plane, ready to live your very imperfect life.