Leaving Everything Behind for an Expat Life
Contributing Author: Vivecca Chatila Malkoun
If you’re dreaming or even thinking about becoming an expat, listen up. I’ve been an expat for almost 8 years now. While everyone’s journey will vary, mine is a story of taking risks, living with the consequences (good and bad), and always staying true to yourself and believing in the power of your dreams.
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida in a bicultural household. My mother is Cuban and my father is Lebanese. I grew up being influenced by both cultures and since my parents loved to travel, I learned from a very early age that my world wasn’t limited to just my neighborhood, or my state, but that it was a vast world, filled with so many cultures and places to explore.
I guess my parents can blame themselves for having raised a worldly daughter who dreamed of something more than settling down in the US and having a 9-5 job like everyone else.
During my university years, I became frustrated with the monotony of life and the idea of “settling down” in my hometown scared me. I wanted more. Much more than Miami could ever offer. I would constantly wish and pray for a grand adventure to take my life somewhere, until the day I realized I had to go after it myself.
I graduated from college and decided to travel to Beirut, Lebanon for three weeks in the summer of 2011 to see my dad who was now living there alone. I went with a ticket donated by a family friend, a suitcase filled with just enough summer clothes, my Canon XS, a laptop, and some cash that another family friend lent me.
I had the most amazing three weeks of my life, and when it was time to leave, I just couldn’t. Why go back to a life I hated and a future I didn’t want? So, I didn’t. My dreams of adventure were staring me right in the face. How could I say no? In the heat of the moment, I called the airline, and cancelled my return flight. It was official.
I was too excited with the idea of having just made my wildest dream come true to even think about the consequences of my decision. I had left behind my mom, my grandparents, my dog, my best friends, and my American upbringing to live a completely different lifestyle.
When I realized what I had done, it was too late to change anything, but I didn’t want to. I was finally happy. I was free. I didn’t feel guilty for going after whatI wanted. For making my dreams come true. For the first time in my entire life,I felt like I had done something right for myself. Yes, there were consequences, yes, they were and still are difficult to face, but I regret nothing, and I’d make the same decision 1000 more times if I had to.
Living inLebanon has taught me so much I could write a book (and just might one day). It changed my perspective on so many things, it taught me that I’m much more capable than I think I am, and most of all, it taught me that dreams do come true.
So, travelers, if you really want to become an expat, go for it. Full force. Don’t hold back, don’t make excuses, don’t be afraid to follow your heart. It won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it. Always be true to yourself, always.