Published: July 20th 2011July 19th 2011
There's a reason that people who live abroad, live abroad. Instead of living in whatever country it is, you are really living in a place more aptly named Never-Neverland. There is a sense while abroad in which you do not age, you do not suffer consequences and until you return to the aptly named “real world,” you can be whoever you want to be, because no one is around to know the difference.
I never really took advantage of the latter in either of my living abroad experiences. I always found it harder to be someone other than me. As Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything,” I guess I have a bad memory.
I did however reap the other benefits of Never-Neverland. Though I'm not sure reap is the right word. I turned 30 in Honduras. I remember thinking, before I was certain I was leaving, when I still thought I'd be stuck in the US of A, how horrible it would be to turn 30 in the states. Somehow, I had this feeling that it would be so much more significant, perhaps worthwhile, to grow older in another country. The idea of staying in one place was completely unappealing to me and my birthday seemed to amplify that notion.
At nearly 30 years old, I was the oldest in our endearingly named row of houses, The Compound, the fellow teachers and I lived. I took solace in the fact that the really old teachers lived by themselves and so I, was therefore, not the oldest of all the teachers, just those in the compound. I suppose it was little solace.
Perhaps it was their youth that I reveled in, perhaps it was simply being around those who did not know from where I came. If I wanted to, I could have very easily lied about my age, told everyone I was a ripe, young, 25 -year -old, exploring the world. I could have let my other two friends, only months my junior take my place in seniority. But simply being there was enough for me to be ok with turning 30. If one has to turn 30, they should surely do it in another country.
Lets talk about consequences. There are certain rules in the states that do not apply in most of the rest of the world.... yet. I used to tell people when they would ask me why on earth I was moving to Honduras, that I was moving so that I could smoke where ever the hell I damn well pleased. My departure date aligned with the start date of the no smoking ban in Colorado Springs. I had, before than, somehow avoided the law in the states. I continued this avoidance through my arrival back in the states in Chicago a year later, a welcome, welcome, till I arrived in Colorado the next day. A right I had managed to keep all my life, was finally taken from me. I found that reason enough to live abroad at the time.
When you're abroad it is easy to think of it as a very long vacation. We all know, on vacation we do things we might not normally do at home. It is, after all, supposed to be a break, is it not? It is hard to lose that mentality while living abroad. You have very little sense of permanency, especially in the first year or so, and so you live as though you are permanently on vacation. I must admit, not exactly a bad way to live.
Abroad, I smoked when I wanted to, drank too much and often, stayed out too late and ate whatever I wanted to, or could. Not having a car, and, therefore, having to walk nearly everywhere, made up for the latter. I was always amazed when I would put on a pair of jeans, and they still fit. I was even more amazed, whenever I might find a scale, to find that I had not gained any weight.
My other vices were more of a problem. The party aspect of living abroad was always appealing to me. I somehow found a way to rationalize all the things I could not have rationalized in the states. You can't get cancer in Chile right? You can't get fired, or piss off a best friend in a foreign country. Drinking too much isn't a problem when you've got no one holding you accountable. My jobs never suffered from my late night shenanigans because it was often me who treated them as more important than my employers. Another fact to add to the Never-neverland effect. Yes, I had a job, but no, it was not exactly a priority. My jobs were simply a means of getting me to the next country. And it seemed, most employers knew this. They'd take what they could get. Especially if the resume said I was good at what I do. And I was. I was good enough to do it half assed day in and day out and still impress the bosses.
In the states my job was career, in Honduras and Chile my jobs were a joke. My jobs were a way to a pay check, which I saved month to month so I could eventually quit and travel some more. And I did. In Chile I traveled south through Argentina and Chile, zig zagging my way to El Fin Del Mundo, Ushuaia Argentina and eventually making it all the way to Antarctica. I traveled north to Peru and east to Uruguay. In Honduras I traveled first north to Guatemala and then south, to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. I knocked out all of Central America except for Belize. Another time I told myself.
I suppose this Never-neverland is what I still dream of now. Here in the states, where my job is a career, my boyfriend is the same guy I go to sleep with every night and my cats need feeding every day, it is easy to get comfortable. In fact I think I have, and this scares me a bit. Ok, a lot. I think there is nothing in this world more frightening than being complacent. So I dream, I find places to go and travel and see and I plan. And while I may not ever live abroad again, unless I can figure out a way to get my cats and my boyfriend there, I will most certainly continue to travel; and travel, even more so than living abroad, feels a lot like Never -neverland.