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.
32 thoughts on “Time to Go?”
Great piece. Love the honesty. Dating abroad is a strange thing. At least for me, it’s hard to break out of the feeling of “okay, this is fun, but if I’m not going to live here forever and if I don’t want to get married now, does that mean we’re dating on a clock?”
100% agree with that Alex. It can make things exhilarating but also lead to a lot of unhappiness in the end.
Oh Abby, this post made me fall in love all over again! I don’t think you’re sacrificing friendships. I think it’s possible to hold onto those bonds, it’s just…different. My best friends all live away, but I like to think they’ll always be my best friends…but I guess only you can tell when it’s time to “move back.”
.-= Candice´s last blog ..Finally, the Passion Board Unveiled =-.
I agree. I can totally identify with the pain of missing out on big events and life changes though. It’s a compromise and one worht re-evaluating once in awhile.
Lol, it’s funny, because even if I’m away short-term, I get frustrated when I miss out on events…whenever my roommates bring up the story about their epic lobster boil up while I was away in France, I get furious. They’re like, “Dude, you were in FRANCE.”
.-= Candice´s last blog ..Finally, the Passion Board Unveiled =-.
After being back in the US, I don’t think I’ll be leaving Coco anytime soon! I’m very happy there. But for the first time in my life, I’ve been thinking of my longer-term goals. Tough for me, as I thrive on living in the moment. I know I have to keep checking in on this one, as time flies in paradise. Loneliness can sort of sneak up on you. Maybe I should think about the next place? Any ideas?! Great comments — they’ve got me thinking. I’m so glad you guys understand!
.-= Abby´s last blog ..Home again, home again =-.
I don’t want you to leave…you are my family, my barrio!! I was ready to come home to after sometime in the US. I guess CR does that to you…its la tranquilidad. miss you Abbers!
I love all these great comments so far! When I was living abroad (in London) I seriously didn’t want to leave and only ended up doing so because of money/visa issues. Perhaps if I had been able to stay as long as I wanted I would have eventually changed my tune though. I guess it’s just about listening to your self and doing what feels right.
Very interesting story. It sounds like you’d benefit from some soul-searching. What are your goals? What do you want from life? Are you willing to trade some things for others?
You’ve definitely got it good. Sometimes “good” isn’t good enough. I can relate. Good luck and keep searching.
.-= Keith´s last blog ..Be the Excitement =-.
The expat life is definitely a bit different than that of a constant traveler. Once you settle in somewhere, it’s hard to pinpoint if-or when-you want to leave. I’m already starting to feel at home in Nice, and wonder if perhaps I’ll stay even after my six months is over–or by then, will I be ready for a new place?
I definitely feel you on the dating thing. Before I left, my mom (who also lived in France for two years when she was young) warned me against dating anyone seriously unless I really thought I wanted to live in France forever and deal with cultural differences my entire life. It’s a tough thing to tackle.
Although, seriously, your life on Coco seems pretty sweet- I wouldn’t want to leave that either!
See, I’ve been the opposite of you. I’ve thought about leaving where I live and moving somewhere else countless times throughout my twenties. I love where I live, and all my friends and family are all here. I have tons of fun here, I’m happy. But something just keeps coming over me to leave it all behind.
My wife and I decided to cure this wanderlust by going on a year long RTW. Obviously, it was incredible and awesome and life changing and all that jazz. But now we’re home again. And while after a year I was ready to come back, really ready, and I thought my feelings would be different, they aren’t. It didn’t take long for all those same feelings of “do I really want to be here?” to come rushing back. It’s an interesting dichotomy that’s for sure.
.-= Adam´s last blog ..New News =-.
I love your thoughts on this, Abby. It’s true no matter where you live (expat or not, traveler or not), sometimes, you realize you’ve overstayed or outgrown a place. And there are going to be options for your life that you’ve missed out on by doing so. But it’s such a fine line and so hard to know how long is too long (until it’s so obvious it’s painful).
.-= Gray´s last blog ..Solo Travel Confessions =-.
you’ll have way more exciting stories!
I too tend to enjoy moving to a place, rather than just visiting. There’s a connection to the location that you just can’t get as a traveler, even if you stay in one place for several weeks. I really enjoyed being what I call the “local outsider” in Korea, and I found it really difficult to move back to the USA. I have moved 30 times in the last 9 years, and it feels very unnatural to me to not know when I’m moving again.
.-= Kelsey´s last blog ..Scrapped: The Projects That Time Forgot =-.