It may seem like I’ve made a completely crazy and impulsive decision to move abroad. Moving with my dog to a country like Sri Lanka seems like the most random choice I could have made. But to people who know me and who have known me, this all is not very surprising. Moving to Sri Lanka is kind of like the continuation of a journey I had been on 10 years ago before my mother got sick. Before I had to come back to the USA. Before I started a career and bought a car and got an apartment. Back then, I was rambling around the world. Or at least I was trying to. I had lived in England, Prague, and for a short time in Istanbul. I was planning to go around the world. I stopped in San Francisco for about 10 years, and now it’s time to continue.
Back in the old days, I had my trusty travel journals. I would record all my experiences and thoughts in these journals and glue photos and clippings along the way. That was before everyone had a laptop. Nowadays we keep it all electronically. Thank god for that! Now I don’t have to shlep journals around the world. I can just type in this address.
Isn’t there someplace more temperate? Someplace a little closer to your family? Someplace that has coffee? Well, yes. But that’s not really where the Universe was trying to send me. So many things about the Overseas School of Colombo seemed to align for me: my friend Erika works there and gave me a great impression of her Sri Lankan lifestyle. There was an opening for a 1st grade general education teacher. The position pretty much requires close collaboration with the existing 1st grade teacher. These things were exactly what I was looking for in a job: getting as far away from the world of Severe Emotional Disturbance as I could. And then getting to closely work on a team with another teacher? Perfect. The universe continued to pull me: my sister-in-law happens to have a friend from high school who teaches 2nd grade at this school. The location of Sri Lanka is perfect for exploring Asia and even Africa. One of the people who interviewed me has the same birthday as my sister-in-law and he has 2 dogs. I guess ultimately, when you really want something, you look for reasons why it works. I just really wanted this. So everything could be viewed as a sign that it’s the right thing to do.
The school itself offers a very comfortable compensation package for its teachers, allowing us to have the type of lifestyle that just isn’t possible in the USA. I’ll be able to pay off my student loans, live a comfortable lifestyle, travel all over Asia, scuba dive, and have my dog (and probably adopt another!). All of these things led me to accept the job. Sure, Colombo isn’t the most desirable city in the world, but I’ll have my dog, and I’ll be able to afford to go anywhere I want at the weekends. During the week, I’ll be able to participate in all the hobbies I enjoy in the States: Crossfit, running, dogs, cooking. And then at the weekend, I can travel to other countries, or just to the countryside. Sounds perfect to me.
It all happened very quickly. I emailed my resume to Erika. She forwarded it to her principal along with a beautiful personal reference for me. On Wednesday I had an interview with the principal. The next night an interview with the superintendent. By Saturday I had the job. So I took it.
A City That Isn’t Easy to Love
I’d be lying if I said I’m not at all apprehensive about my move to Colombo. Everything I have read about Sri Lanka pretty much says the same thing: as soon as you get out of Colombo, you’ll love it. People who’ve spent any significant time in Colombo had polite things to say, and could certainly find things to like, but they also recommend getting out. Several years ago the Economist placed it on their list of the 10 least livable cities. Even Anthony Bourdain had a hard time when he went there.
I may not end up loving Colombo, but I love a challenge. I have lived in a few of the world’s most lovable cities: San Francisco, London, Prague. Good times and beauty are handed to you on a platter in these types of cities. Sorry, but not every city can be Prague. It’s time for a challenge and I’m definitely up for it. I certainly don’t shy away from the challenge of a difficult city. I found Hanoi to be very difficult at first. It took me a good week to get used to the way things go in Vietnam, but starting off in Hanoi was a shocker. I wasn’t unhappy there. It was just so different from anything I’d known. Every time I figured something out, I felt so proud of myself. I assume I’ll have some similar experiences in Colombo…with the bonus of always being able to come home to my dog. Sounds heavenly to me, really.
An Extra Special Type of Excitement
There is a special type of excitement you only get when you travel abroad. And then there is an extra special type of excitement you only get when you are planning to move abroad. It’s exhilarating. There is no excitement that has ever compared to it. My heart races every time I think about it. I’m constantly thinking about it. I fantasize about the possibilities constantly: what will my house look like, who will be my neighbors? What will I eat? Where will I go to workout? What will my commute to work look like? I love the fantasy stage of moving abroad. I have to wait a whole 6 months before I can actually make the move. But I think 6 months is an excellent period. I get to do all the fantasizing, and the planning. I get to carefully decide what to take and what to leave. What to sell and what to give away. But mostly I get to fantasize.