Tag Archives: expat

Home Is Where the Soul Is

18 Jul

I had heard of Pico Iyer, knew the name, but hadn’t ever read anything by him or seen him speak. This morning I got this TED Talk in my inbox and I sat spellbound for nearly 15 minutes, just pausing occasionally to quickly scribble down a few quotes that resonated in my heart. I think those of you who know what it’s like to travel, to live in foreign countries, to visit new places, to truly embrace the world in whatever form that takes for you, as well as those of you who, like so many of us, find it difficult to know when it’s time to stop moving and find stillness, will find that this talk resonates with you as well. Iyer refers to the over 220 million people living in countries that are not their own as “this great floating tribe.” Some of his other poetic and insightful observations:

“For more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil, than, you could say, with a piece of soul.”

“Where you come from now is much less important than where you’re going.”

“Home is not just the place where you are born—it’s the place where you become yourself.”

“It’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go.”

“Movement ultimately only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to.”

I was born in Virginia, and by the age of five I had already lived in Connecticut, Michigan, and Washington. Next came Arizona, Delaware, and then finally, Rome.

Rome is where I found my soul, and the place I go back to. The United States is where I derive the basis for most of the cultural and moral values that sustain me. But ultimately aren’t so many of us now simply children of the world at large? When we step back to reflect on these questions, it’s clear that despite all the chaos, strain, and stress that technology has brought into our daily lives, it is truly a divine time to be alive, especially for those of us curious enough to step off the cliff for the next adventure.

Click here to visit Pico Iyer’s website, Pico Iyer Journeys.


Jumping Without a Safety Net

20 Feb

Living life as an expat has so many challenges, and one of the cardinal rules I’ve learned that has served me quite well is simply this: jump, and the net will appear.

It sounds so naive and so reckless, and yet, part of living abroad for me is a continual risk, in the sense that life is uncertain, and trying to pretend that everything is going to fall into place perfectly in the “five year plan” for me is just an illusion.

Let me get esoteric on you here.

Take a look at this image:

This is a Tarot card; this card is the first in the deck: “The Fool.”

He is the perfect example of “jump and the net will appear.” (A quote attributed to John Burroughs)

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, and sometimes, being foolish brings the biggest rewards.

My move to Rome back in 2001 was an act of “foolishness” that has led me down so many various and exciting paths, and brought so many wonderful people into my life, and has asked me time and time again to just walk off that cliff and wait for the invisible net to appear. The archetypical “fool’s journey” represented by the tarot also for me reflects what it’s like to jump into life in a foreign country and make your way through the unknown to eventually come out the other side somewhere, only to then start all over again!

Why do I bother to post this at all? Because I find time and again that articles like my BFF blogger buddy Sara’s recent “Stop Sabotaging Your Own Success: A Manifesto” always seem to resonate with so many people who want to take a chance, but for some reason just hang on the edge of that cliff. As of today, 195 commenters and many, many “likes” and shares attest to the fact that we can take heart that we’re not alone when we want to take a risk but need a push, or feel afraid.

I was recently reading this biography of Albert Einstein, and was pleasantly reassured when I saw that he had tried for so many job openings prior to getting hired at the Swiss Patent Office (and even then only through a close personal connection), that he actually had to take an ad out in a newspaper offering his services as a math and physics tutor:

Sometimes we have to be less black and white about things, and about life in general. The only thing that is certain is that everything changes. Finding a way to balance a scientific and rational view of the world with a more open, curious, child-like and mysterious view of the world, for me has become a tricky but effective combination necessary for a *usually* successful life as an expat. The bottom line is, it’s never too late. And we are often our own worst enemies.

Cultivating faith in life and in the fact that no matter what happens, happens for a reason, has often helped me to get through days where I wondered what the heck I was doing here. And it applies not only to expat life, but to life anywhere, at any time. When your heart is calling, leap, and the net will appear. And most of all, take other people’s opinions into account, but then go with what you feel in your gut is the right thing to do. We give way too little weight and value to our inner intuition and I think that cultivating intuition is one of life’s great gifts, and something we all have hidden deep down.

Years ago I wrote a post about my expat experience, called Bread and Tulips, and I realize now that as I raise three (!!) little half-Roman half-Americans, I’m kind of starting that journey all over again. It’s a 34 year old viewing Rome again with the eyes of that 24 year old who first came here nearly 11 years ago and met her future husband, father of her kids, and future ex, all on day one! Life has its ups and downs. Cultivating faith that in the end, that net is going to be there, is one way of finding trust in life and trust in the bigger order of things.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön