Earlier this year, my family and I spent a week in Kenya for an amazing three-destination tour of the country. We witnessed the majestic strut of endangered giraffes, the playful antics of orphaned elephants, and the peaceful slumber of a pride of lions in Nairobi. In Mombasa, we reunited with old friends and felt the hustle of city life–East African style. At the UNESCO Heritage town of Lamu, we walked the narrow pathways of one of the world’s oldest Swahili settlements and witnessed firsthand the festive fusion of African, Indian, and Arab cultures. For some, this kind of trip sounds like a once in a lifetime adventure that requires months of planning and saving but for us, hopping to Kenya was only $250 per ticket and 5 hours away. Why? Because we already made the decision to live abroad and have found that the rest of the world is much more accessible once you’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
My husband and I have lived abroad for nearly ten years now. Aside from excitement and adventure, we consistently experience greater levels of security and acceptance outside of the Western world. Though many Americans may find this reality shocking, recent events consistently remind us that black and brown bodies unjustly experience discrimination, profiling, and violence on a regular basis in the United States. Some may call it ‘escapism’ to run from our homeland, but we call it global citizenship for our brown children who consider themselves members of the larger human race, as opposed to a minority in America.
Many can’t imagine leaving their beloved hometown or country but fail to realize the financial savings to be realized abroad. Employers know all too well that recruiting from an international market means offering incentives that make the trek worthwhile. What kind of incentives? Furnished housing, annual flight tickets, education and transportation allowances, health
insurance, etc. Even when a given job salary didn’t seem impressive for our one-income family, we realized that the added benefits amounted to us saving way more than we were ever able to save as a two-income household living in the United States.
Quality of Life
You probably have heard of the ‘slower pace of life’ that people experience in other countries. But when it translates to less stress, more time off from work, and more family time, you can understand why people in some countries look and live much happier than your family and friends back home.
Yes, it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, but common sense and evidence prove that life is more pleasantly experienced when people feel financially and physically secure in their environs. The cut-throat competition of capitalism can prioritize the bottom line over health, family, and sanity. However, life abroad can show a path for achieving success with enough wellness and vitality to enjoy it. With lengthy holiday breaks, two-month summer vacations, and shorter work schedules, we have bonded and grown together as a family. Just the thought of trying to see all of our scattered family members in only two weeks of paid annual leave makes my heart start to race.
With so many new countries suddenly within reach, a long holiday or week-long break can affordably allow us to experience an entirely new region and culture. Language immersion takes on a whole new meaning when the sights and sounds of a foreign tongue become familiar and eventually, your own. By establishing a base for ourselves abroad, places that seemed so remote and far are now right on our doorstep. From where we live in Oman, we’ve been able to visit East Africa, Southeast Asia, and other parts of Arabia within just a few hours of flight time. Also, in many countries, we feel much safer taking long road trips and exploring off-the-beaten- path destinations than we ever would in some parts of rural America.
Growing up in New York City, my elementary school was like the United Nations. I was constantly surrounded by various cultures and ethnicities, but they were out of context. All of us as first generation Americans had to evolve and adapt our cultural heritage in a new urban context. So all of us–my Jamaican-American self included–were like a remix of our national identity. We were all struggling to blend in, fit in, and, at times, compete in the melting pot.
Now that I’ve actually met people in their own country or as recent travelers and expats from their homeland, not only do I see more nuance in the cultures I grew up with but also the common threads of humanity painted and woven in so many different shades and textures. I’m grateful that my children can hear people articulate their language, identity, and culture for themselves, as opposed to relying on textbooks, documentaries, or third parties to do the translating for them. And best of all, the more connections we create in our travels, the more friendships we develop all over the globe.
To be crystal clear, I am in no way making the argument that any place is better than home. Every nation and region’s situation is as distinct as its topography. But based on my experiences, I can unequivocally conclude that life abroad has proven itself to be the best place for my family to thrive and flourish at this point in time. Am I turning in my blue passport? No way! But, I have no commitment to staying any place where I feel unwelcomed, even if it happens to be the first place I ever called ‘home’.
This post was originally published at The Traveling Child.