I have been feeling divided recently and thought I would try to explain why. This post is more open and personal than others I’ve shared. Maybe some of you are experiencing similar emotions and might find it comforting that someone else gets it and can empathise. Those of you who have lived in – or spent lots of time in – different cities or countries may relate to this: the more you travel, the more pieces of your heart you leave behind, in the places and the people you meet along the way. The more you travel, the more you become shared, scattered.
Some backstory: I left Rome last December, only a few days before Christmas. I remember crying as the plane taxied down the runway. The tears weren’t just because I had lugged 40 kg of luggage from my sixth floor apartment – no lift! – to the airport and every muscle in my upper body burned. It felt like I was going through a breakup, not from someone but somewhere, a city I loved and was truly happy. It is no exaggeration to say that my time in Rome was the happiest of my life thus far. Everyone should live in Italy at least once. It was a wonderful, unforgettable experience, and leaving was truly heartbreaking.
So why did I do it? Since moving to Hamburg, every new friend, student or acquaintance has asked me that question in one shape or form. “What brought you to Hamburg?” “Why did you leave Rome?” “Why did you choose Hamburg?”. I just want to add that although I am seriously missing Rome, I am not unhappy in Hamburg, nor do I dislike the city. Hamburg has welcomed my boyfriend and I with open arms and we’ve met some really lovely people. We are not going to be here forever but that’s OK. Many international workers emigrate somewhere and stay longer than expected. It’s easy to do! They predict a year or two, then two years becomes three, three becomes five, then suddenly they realise they’ve made a home for themselves in what was originally a stop-gap. Maybe one day I’ll live in Rome again, maybe it will be the place I put down my roots. Or maybe I will make a home somewhere completely different that I haven’t even thought about yet. Who knows? All I know is that time is far, far from now.
Before I can consider going back, I want to keep moving forward. When we decide it is the right time to leave Hamburg, we will move again…and again…and again. My boyfriend and I have big dreams to live around the world, living in different cities, in order to immerse ourselves deeper in the culture than we would if we were passing through on holiday. Slow travel isn’t for everyone but I think it has a lot of benefits. When you live abroad – pay rent and bills, do weekly shops in local supermarkets, make friends, become familiar with your neighbourhood & neighbours, deal with the silly frustrations of day-to-day life – I believe you get a much deeper understanding of your chosen country, its culture and its inhabitants. When you know it’s temporary, you maximise your time more. You are curious and adventurous. You want to explore your new city, meet locals and fellow expats, go to different neighbourhoods, dine out in different places and go on day/weekend trips. You want to make the most of your time there.
That is our adventure…. but it’s not easy. I have already written about the sacrifices one makes when living away from their home country, from their family and oldest friends. It is also very difficult to say goodbye to the new people you’ve met and formed a connection with. Tearing yourself away from a city you know and love, with its familiarity and treasured memories. It is especially difficult when that city is Rome. There are so many reasons to fall head over heels with Italy; the quaintness! The traditions! The people! The history! The architecture! The weather! THE FOOD!
As I’ve mentioned before, I fell in love with Rome eight years ago. I promised myself that I would live there one day. How I feel about Italy now confirms that we are doing the right thing. I am excited about all the other cities I haven’t lived in yet, the ones I may like or love or decide just aren’t right for me. Where else do I want to go? Well, that’s a long, long list. I want to live in Asia. In South America. In more European countries. In countries I’ve not even considered yet. In places I struggle to pronounce or pinpoint on a map.
I am aware that it is a privileged position to be in. Everyday I am thankful that my mother tongue language enables me to teach and find employment overseas. It’s such a wonderful opportunity and I won’t waste it. Even when it hurts to say goodbye, when I feel nostalgic, when I feel overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone. I will not look back on my life and say ‘If only….’. I refuse to be filled with regret about the things I did not do, the places I did not visit and the risks I did not take.
The Curious Sparrow