I belong to a league of over 250 million people who leave their home and move to new countries for better prospects. I am an expatriate. To many in my home country, I am just that. Someone who just left to make more money. But is that the whole truth? Is it just money that drives so many people to leave behind everything that they have learnt to know, their homes? Or is it an innate human habit that we chose to embrace? After all, human migration is what created nations, societies and economies around the world. According to some research, migration began with the movement of Homo erectus out of Africa across Eurasia about 1.75 million years ago. Homo Sapiens are said to have travelled to Asia from Africa almost 270,000 years ago; eventually spreading to Australia, Asia and Europe by 40,000 B.C. This always made me wonder; am I a settler or should I keep moving? I chose to move.
I was in my early-thirties when I decided to move to a new country. I had lived my entire life in the city that I was born in. I knew this city like the back of my palm. Every street, every nook and corner had a memory associated to it. My friends, my family and even those who I didn’t like very much, were all there. I worked a 9 to 5 job, walked my dog on the same route every evening, and entertained my friends and family on the weekends. I had everything that one desires from a good life; except for one tiny void that grew bigger as time passed. I needed to see the world; that as of then, I had only read in books or seen on TV. I wanted more, experience more, and broaden my perspective of the world. Although I was financially secure, the recent and repetitive economic slowdown had left all of us in a bit of a crunch. I decided to move to another country; and within a year of hunting for jobs and getting my documents in order; I boarded my flight to the unknown.
I was thrilled about the move; excited to experience a new land and its culture. At the same time, I was terrified and disappointed about leaving the only city that knew me. The first few days after landing, I was like a tourist. Excited to see new places and different people. When I started working is when things started to finally sink in. It is difficult being a stranger in a new country. I didn’t know anybody here; I was iffy about speaking to new people. I was adjusting to an entirely new work environment; being as cordial as I could. Within a couple of weeks, it struck me. Homesickness. Visions and memories of my city, my streets and my people began to haunt me; to a point where I considered going back. At that point, a better pay package seemed like the only good thing about moving to a new country and I can honestly admit that it was the only thing that kept me going. And time passed.
Within a month, things in this new, unknown dimension started becoming familiar. I started developing a relationship with the streets, nooks and corners, and the people of this country. The more I met new people, the more I realized that people are generally the same in every country. They have similar qualities, desires, flaws and fears. As a person, I became more accepting of a new culture and its nuances. I met people with different perspectives and ideas. I spent weekends traveling around the country, witnessing its history and geography. I started to fall in love with this new country. It didn’t feel new anymore; it felt like home. I realized that the country had opened its arms to me the day I landed; it was me who had been reluctant in embracing it.
I did miss home and the distance only made my heart grow fonder for the people back home. Every payday, I headed to the nearest money transfer center to send a part of my salary to my folks back home; something I couldn’t do with my pay back in my home country. Even now, every time I send money, I feel connected to their lives. You see, it isn’t about the money; it’s about being an active member in the lives of the people who matter.
I have been here for over 5 years now; and what an experience it has been. I have created memories, bonds and a sense of belonging to a country that was once new to me. I keep meeting expatriates from all over the world here and it’s great to talk about our initial days in this country. It’s surprising how common our stories really are. Millions of migrants do leave their countries for better prospects for themselves and their loved ones; but what we get in return is bigger than just money. I have been thinking about it again. Should I stay here any longer or is it time to move? After all there is so much of this world left to experience.
Written by an anonymous writer who doesn’t wish to be named