Time to Go?

Guestpostravaganza continues for the time being (weigh in with your opinion here) with a really interesting and honest contribution from Abby Tegnelia on a side of travel nobody likes to consider:

Ever since I conned my parents into letting me jet off to Europe on a senior trip with a high school group I didn’t know (I was 12), I’ve been a bona fide traveler. But after many, many trips, studying abroad, backpacking, the whole thing, I slowly began to develop a brand-spanking new obsession: moving. It was no longer enough to see a place for a few weeks or even months; I wanted to live there. I jaunted from NYC to Austin to Las Vegas to LA, and then I knew it was time to branch out from the US. In August, I landed in Costa Rica, on an extended “vacation.” Eight months later, I love being an expat.

But I’ve just started to wonder: “How will I know when it’s time to go home?”

I am now settled into my Costa Rican pueblo, Coco, where I live in a tight-knit little barrio. I have no intention of moving anytime soon. Yet, I’ve recently started debating whether or not I should begin to think about moving “back.”

A few weeks ago, I started getting ready to fly back to NYC to be a bridesmaid for one of my dearest friends. Since I couldn’t attend her bridal shower in person, my best friend sent me the traditional “How well do you know the bride?” questionnaire that they’d be using at the party. Long story short, I didn’t know a single answer. Had I really been gone that long? I’d still been living in NYC when they met and was around quite a lot during their first year together; I’d even grilled him on his intentions like a father from the 50s. Yet, I know nothing about her life now.

It was a small catalyst that soon had my mind racing. Had it been too much of a sacrifice to travel the world in search for… what? Had I alienated myself from my friends, just to be left single and off the career track? I knew this was the old me thinking, not the new (emotionally steady, happy, centered) me. But you know what? The old me wasn’t exactly a dumbass.

What would my future be like if I stay in Coco? When is it time to go?

My biggest frustration is the dating scene, a common complaint for women expats. When you’re just passing through town, it’s easy to notice with a tourist’s eye the 70-year-old gringo with a teenaged local girl on the back of his scooter. But when you get to know everybody, and you know whose ex-husband that is on the scooter, it takes on a whole new meaning. Guys my own age tend to have a certain type of local draped on their arm. I’ve accepted all of this, but I’m wary of my feelings on the subject. I plan on leaving before I grow bitter, if that’s what’s going to happen.

There never really is the perfect time to decide to go. Even though I’m not really ready to leave, do I need to move on?

By the time this is posted, I’ll be in the US for two weddings on the opposite side of the country, two weeks apart. This means 14 days in Manhattan, the city I lived for the longest, where all my friends have stayed, where I love the sharpness of the people and how I can blend in no matter what I do or wear. When I go back, I’ll be nothing short of at peace with the lifestyle I’ve chosen, the experiences I’ve gained. But will I feel the same way if I go back in another five years, still single, in my late 30s, and doing who knows what to make money?

In NYC, I’ll be feeling it out to see if I think I really could make the move back, to using the subway (which I love) and wearing winter clothes (which I detest). I’m open to anything, even something falling from the sky to make me want to stay in Coco, but I do know that I’m listening to the signs and will move back if that’s what events tell me to do. If I stubbornly stay in Costa Rica longer than I need to, I risk the same malaise and unhappiness that kicked off my moving around to begin with. And how counterproductive would that be?

Am I an adrenaline junkie who wants to move around every few years or so and will never be happy settled down? Or if unhappiness rears its ugly head, is it simply because I’m not content settled down here.

Writing this down is the most discussion I’ve had on the matter. I’m actually not over-thinking this one. But knowing that my doubts are there, I’m open to anything, including moving on. Just waiting for the signs….

After more than ten years covering Hollywood for Us Weekly, In Touch, OK and Star magazines, Abby Tegnelia moved last August to Playas del Coco, Costa Rica. There, she runs a celebrity news agency out of her tiny casita, running reporters in LA and NYC for sales all over the world. But she has the most fun on her blog, http://thejungleprincess.com.

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32 thoughts on “Time to Go?”

  1. american in paris

    totally feel your pain, i’m in paris now, have a good job, like the people i work with, and things are going well for me, excpet for the loneliness and dating bit. i’m just not attracted to french guys, in general i find them a bit effeminate. i speak fluent french and have lived in france as an english teacher before as well as a student, and sometimes the cultural gap only seems wider the more you understand french people- definitely find it easier to get along with other anglo saxons like germans and dutch. people say you only have your youth to travel but your family won’t be around forever either. i haven’ tbeen around much since i left for college, so i think about that. and i’m genuinely curious about what it might be like to live in the us (and to get less taxes so its easier to pay off my debts and save up some cash)…not really sure what to do, last time i fell in love it was with a real red blooded american man and i just can’t seem to shake it off. also its word when you are so out of touch you see the new t swift song like ten years later…
    its definitely a good problem to have though and my social life is getting better here so hopefully things get easier

    1. As a Frenchman, I have often heard about this complaint from American women regarding us being effeminate. I’m just curious as to why this is the case? Is it our language? The way we present ourselves? Our taste in wine? Our performance in World War II? I’m genuinely curious. It probably doesn’t help that I’m living in America and have an attraction towards American women either.

    2. Effeminate? Well I’m French, and to be perfectly honest, I find you American women to be far to masculine, so the feeling is mutual. It’s obvious that you are NOT happy in France, so please feel free to leave and marry your “red blooded” American, madam.

  2. I understand completely. Grew up in GA left at 19 to the central coast of Cali for four years then straight to Alaska. Lived in AK for 9 yrs and now I am in GA BUT I CANNOT live here. I am headed back to AK in a few months and not sure if I want to stay and settle….I am 33 single female and yes lonliness and “societal expectations” creep up on you. I have left and returned to AK five times during the 9 yrs….to Cali and GA and even a stint in NC by the beach. I feel lost not able to return to “home” to GA but possibly outgrown AK and the cold weather. However at the end of the day I realize I was most content there….NO IDEA where I should be now. I am actually sick of moving around but I am not 100% OK with settling in for sub-zero temps half the year. The PacWest, HI seems doable. Where to go……..??? not sure but I have soul searched….and I am in a quite peculiar place. Thanks if anyone listened!!!!!

  3. Steph,

    I know the feeling well. Whenever I’m “home” I’m dreaming of hitting the road, and when I’m abroad I’m thinking about going back.

    And maybe that’s the thing. As travelers the main thing is to “go”… it doesn’t matter whether it’s home or abroad. As long as we’re moving, we’re happy.

    Just my .02 😉


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