Once we opened up the map of the world, everything changed. Suddenly, every place that came to our attention and every place that we visited became possibilities. This added a new dimension to our travels in particular. Each spring break, we targeted a tropical location, usually an island in the Caribbean or a Mexican beach. Almost every summer, we took a trip overseas and managed to hit parts of Europe, Asia and Africa that way. While these trips were solely for pleasure initially, after the night of the map, they became a means of gathering relocation information as well. I can’t tell you how much time we spent venturing into local markets to study the food and the shoppers, or striking up conversations with countless people on the streets who had a “local” air about them, or off-roading in rental jeeps as far away from the tourist hot spots as possible. We probably looked so innocuous standing by the curb, but once we were inside their cabs, I don’t think some of our taxi drivers knew what had hit them, with all of our probing questions.
Beyond all of this, LCB was traveling extensively internationally for business, which provided us with first-hand information from the trips themselves and from the worldwide business contacts he was making. Plus, the frequent flyer miles he was stowing away were a nice bonus for our research. Now, when he came home from places like Saudi Arabia, for instance, he’d tell me about any expatriates he’d met and suddenly I’d find myself imagining what it would be like to wear a burka and wondering about teaching jobs there. The shift was palpable.
Initially, the idea of no limitations was exciting. If nothing else, it fueled my imagination. I’d walk around concocting countless fantasies of riding a rickshaw to work each day, or of watching the Shetland ponies outside my window during afternoon tea. Of course, life wouldn’t end up completely different. There’d still be jobs, bills, and household obligations. But I think we both wanted there to be a tangible aspect of daily living that would somehow be different. We wanted the fact that we weren’t in Kansas any more to be at the forefront of our consciousness.
We were running a risk by opening up the whole world as a possibility, however. There was just so much information to gather, that we could easily have become overwhelmed by the whole thing and ended up doing a whole lot of nothing. And, the international considerations added layers of complexity to the process. There was an element of pressure to this. It was like a multiple choice question with literally thousands of possible answer choices. How do you possibly find the right one?
We spent a great deal of time researching from afar, trying to narrow down the options. Over time, this research got easier as we learned the right questions to ask and as the internet became increasingly more informative and visual. Eventually, certain areas began to figure more prominently in our thinking for any number of reasons, although we were a long way from narrowing it down to one country, let alone to island or beach living.
My husband, who always thinks in this manner when it comes to decisions like this, created a decision matrix with all of the desirable qualities that an area we’d move to would have. Each time, I made fun of his nerdiness, as I called it at the time, and then added points to the matrix after I’d finished guffawing. Over time, this matrix evolved. Many of the details have undoubtedly faded from my memory now, but I do remember several places that stood out, including England, Scotland, Germany, Australia, China, Japan, Grand Cayman Island, and the Virgin Islands.
As we attempted to narrow down our choices, two realities began to emerge. First, while there was something incredibly exciting about the idea of making an international move, our experiences of living even within our own country were extremely limited. Second, as we continued our research, it became increasingly clear that we were likely going to have to create our own source of income once we got to wherever we were going. An impending job offer overseas could take forever to arrange if we limited ourselves to only accepting offers from the one place we eventually decided was ideal, and frankly, LCB’s interest was increasingly moving in the direction of wanting to work for himself. Eventually too, we came to realize that in all likelihood, while we were uncertain of the exact financial and career details that would need to be defined before a move could in fact happen, we might be more able to arrange those details in our favor, as U.S. citizens, if we stayed within the United States.
Thus, our focus gradually narrowed more and more, ultimately weighing heavily in favor of remaining within the United States. We were not ruling out an international move forever; rather, we were realizing that at least our initial “move for place” would in all likelihood be within the United States.