Why live abroad?

When I first announced to my friends and family that I was moving abroad, there were three predictable questions.

Where?

To Prague.

When?

August.

Why?

Excellent question. Why?

Here are some examples of answers I gave:

  • I have an English degree, so I might as well use it.
  • I’m only going for a month, before starting my ‘real job’ as a flight attendant. [something I believed at the time. Clearly didn’t happen.]
  • I’m sorry who told you I was leaving? Please sell me my sandwich and leave me alone.

I do believe I gave everyone who asked a different answer, but most of them boiled down to why not? Why not do this while I’m young? While I’m healthy and okay with being poor (well, mostly okay) and have no real responsibilities? Why not take this wonderful spoon of privilege I’ve been born with and gobble as much as I can with it?

However, none of those are reasons. They are the perfect example of how it’s impossible to prove a negative. Moving to Prague, I found my fellow expats were at a similar loss when asked for their motives. Here are some (paraphrased) answers I sourced from my immediate friend group.

  • It’s one last swing at teaching, before I decide if I need to change careers.
  • I want to discover the education systems outside of America and take back the best aspects, and then take over the world.
  • My study abroad fell through and I already had a plane ticket.

The most eloquent response I received was a shrug.

In an earlier draft of this essay, I had an answer for you. I was going to talk about inner drive and societal expectations and the disillusionment of young people. But none of those are answers either. I have found the closest thing to an answer in a book I am reading.

“If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you won’t understand it with an explanation.” — 1Q84, Haruki Murakami

I have given up trying to explain. I have given up on the blank stares of my friends from home, the questions from my family about my lack of reaching towards the goalposts that they understand. I have given up on myself even. My life would be so much easier if I wanted to stay in my home country and cash a paycheck every week.

I can’t explain the woman that I am, but that’s okay. I have found that, living in Prague, there are people who will understand you without an explanation. They can’t explain themselves either.

Why live in a place where you don’t speak the language? Where there is no money to be had? Where your life is arguably much more uncomfortable than it is at home?

Well, why not?