My intention is not to go on a narcissistic rant about the merits of living abroad in a foreign country, but I do feel that there are some benefits and lessons to be learned. Sometimes, I think we all need to escape from the monotonous rat-race of our everyday lives and take a chance here and there. Well for me, the move to Finland has been a trip away from the safe harbors of my life in the Bay Area. Of course, I had some trepidation before making a move 5,000 miles across the globe an abandoning more than half of my material goods and renting a house about half the size of our home in California. Also, I knew going into this move that I would only have my current job for so many months, before needing to transition to a Finnish company. I haven't even mentioned the fact that I do not speak the local language nor have I stayed in Finland for a long, dark winter. I think really what I am trying to say is that sometimes in life one needs to step away from their comfort zones, walk out on that limb, take that chance and seek the unknown and undiscovered. We only go around once and don't want to live a life full of regrets, so Carp Diem!
Traveling and living abroad is perhaps the best tonic for opening the mind to new cultures, attitudes, norms and different ways of doing things. Sometimes we find that we might walk down the same familiar paths in life and other times everything may seem so foreign and alien to us. Knowledge is power and a stagnant, unchallenged mind is not the path to personal enrichment. Of course, these are just my viewpoints and I am not attempting to cram them down anyone’s throats. I am merely expressing my opinion for believing in the power of opening the mind to change through travel. I don’t think the only key to happiness in life is a stable, rooted existence. I may have felt after hitting a milestone birthday recently and settling down in the beautiful city of Clayton, CA that my life was pretty much set in stone. While I miss my home and the many friendships made, I know that these next few years abroad can do nothing but enrich me and my family and open our minds and hearts to new experiences of a lifetime. I am also a firm believer that happiness doesn’t come from your residency, but it emanates from inside of you. I think that once one has truly found happiness and confidence within themselves, they can be truly happy living just about anywhere in the world.
I am hoping that my children, currently aged 5 and 8 will take this experience living abroad in stride. They have found the schools to be not so much different from what they remember and have started to slowly immerse themselves into the new schools’ customs and traditions. My daughter is at an international school and has already befriended several girls who speak both fluent Finnish and English. There are also nationals from Germany, England, India, Mexico and several other countries represented at her school. I think this is a perfect opportunity to immerse her into the international culture of living in Europe. My son attends a Finnish speaking Montessori school and at first struggled to understand and speak Finnish but now is learning some phrases and has made several Finnish friends that he plays with on a daily basis. I have met many of the parents along the way and have found the world to be much smaller than I can imagine. In his Montessori school, I have encountered a Finnish couple who lived in USA for 20 years (about half their life) and have met other Finns who spent a few years in the USA. I have also encountered a Brazilian/Finnish couple and an American/Finnish couple. I am finding that even in isolated Finland, I see people from all walks of life. There is nothing better than exchanging cultures, ideas and traditions with folks across many different nations.