We recently returned from a short trip to Mexico, in which we visited friends who have succeeded in transitioning to a new life in that warm and amiable land. Being travelers at heart, Mary and I are both keen to eventually create a life in which we can live the majority of our time outside of the United States. Mary lived as a poor young mother of a two year old in southern Spain in the early 80's, and I traveled through Europe and the Middle East as a young man and have been smitten with the travel bug ever since.
Mexico welcomed us with warm and welcoming arms. The people, the language, the food, the general pace of life----these all spoke to us deeply. The cold New England winter with its limited sunlight, copious snow, and biting winds causes us to yearn for a life in warmer climes. While this may seem a pipe dream to some, for us it is a beckoning future which will, of course, necessitate sacrifice, change, and compromise, yet is certain to offer myriad rewards.
Expatriation is the ambition of many in these days of compassionate conservatism, unfettered and irresponsible "pre-emptive" war, and a country which feels as if it has lost all moral reckoning. As our country plummets to ever new cultural and political depths, as the empire begins to crumble, the foundation beginning to crack and weaken, many of us wonder if it may be time to seek out opportunities where we might create a life of a different color and timbre.
Now, you may remind me, it is only the priviledged who are lucky enough to even consider such an endeavor, and you would be correct in saying so. It is our class priviledge to know that it is within our power to uproot, establish ourselves elsewhere, and birth a new life on richer soil. I am reminded that many of my patients cannot even consider escaping the city for an afternoon for a simple walk in the countryside, never mind undertaking the task of enacting major life change. I do not take these priviledged possibilities for granted, and give thanks for the blessings of my current incarnation and all that it offers me.
We would not go to Mexico---or any other country---simply to take advantage of cheap housing costs and abundant food. We would enter the culture sensitively and respectfully, keeping in mind that we are both guests and ambassadors, carrying with us the burden and the blessing of our American roots. It would be our goal to slowly assess the needs of the community in which we choose to live, consider the input of community members and leaders regarding how we could best contribute to the life and welfare of the community. In time, with the utmost sensitivity and awareness, we would offer a program or service which would create sustainable and welcome change, be it improved education, health care, economic growth, environmental awareness or something less tangible but equally important. With experience of growing this type of culturally appropriate programming in rural Jamaica (see http://www.global-children.org), we would seek to contribute in a way wherein the community and the people in the community would benefit in a manner that would foster further growth and betterment for all. This would not be a case of North Americans forcing on the "natives" what they might perceive as potentially beneficial; rather, this would be a project in which the community itself would dictate the need, the shape of that need, and the means to achieve a desired end result.
Living abroad for us will be a change of climate, yes, but also a change of culture and an alteration in perception, both of self and of self-in-community. It is an opportunity for cultural and personal dialogue of great magnitude, admittedly born of a desire for change and adventure, yet also from a deeper desire for connection and service.
Stay tuned as we further explore this future dream.