“The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.”
— Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
Reflecting on a full year as an expat in Portugal I thought of the Shakespeare quote, “All that glitters is not gold,” because it describes this new life I’ve stepped into. I’ve loved being in Porto, but honestly, it’s not always easy.
– As a new expat there’s a need to be comfortable with vulnerability and confusion, with no safety net in place yet and everyone giving different answers to every question. Also patience helps.
– As a library junkie I find myself going through withdrawals with no library nearby. A paper-thin Kindle with a hundred books on it helps, but it’s not the same as walking along the shelves in a library to see what book jumps out at me.
– I miss driving – especially my VW Vanagon. I don’t just miss driving my van, I miss hanging out in it. As Paul Simon said, “If some of my homes had been more like my car, I probably wouldn’t have traveled this far.”
– Many people in Porto speak English and that has made me lazy about learning Portuguese. I speak some Spanish and that helps my understanding of the language, but man, the pronunciation of Portuguese is radically different and hard to master – or even begin.
– Many of the expats I’ve met are older/retired and into things that don’t align with my interests. Or they’re younger and busy with kids/work and don’t have much time to do other things. I miss my circle of friends and people who get my sense of humor. I’ve been a recluse at times so much of this feeling is my own fault. Still, I’ll always be “Other” here, an outsider, and that can leave me with a sense of not wholly belonging anywhere.
Six months ago I wrote something that still holds true: When something ends something new begins. The hardest part is the space in between those two things. Where a new place doesn’t quite feel like home. Where a circle of friends hasn’t yet been found. Where a language hasn’t yet been learned. But that void holds so much potential of who we might become if we’re willing to jump into the deep end of our lives.