If I hadn’t been in that place, on that day, at that time.
Looking back on ten years of living abroad, I wonder what the turning point was that led to this life. What was the trigger or event that led to the decision to travel, explore the world, and live in countries far removed from my own?
Life is full of defining moments, of turning points that pivot us in unanticipated directions. What was my own defining moment? Or was there a series of moments cascading into one not unlike a row of dominoes toppling over?
Was it the time I looked ahead to my impending university life and to the gap year that would surely come before my studies? I remember picking up a travel magazine in a newsagents and gazing intently at the array of travel options in front of me. I dreamed of backpacking through Asia, spending six months working in Australia, and even partaking in one of those innovative tours from Australia to China. I visualised treks in New Zealand then North America, eventually returning home as the long lost voyager. I'd ultimately do none of these things, my sensible side choosing academia over adventure.
|Photo credit: Judy van der Velden (Flickr Creative Commons)|
Was it before then when the French teacher at sixth form college suggested a degree in European Studies? Did she inadvertently pique my curiosity in living abroad by recommending a course that would set me up as a bureaucrat in Brussels? An innocent nudge towards a career in Europe and suddenly expat life beckons.
Or was it earlier than this? The school exchange I went on to Normandy, France as a fifteen year old boy. Living with a French family, meeting local students, experiencing diverse food, soaking up the Francophone culture. Did my interest in foreign places and people start with a childhood visit to the Continent?
Or earlier still? The day my grandmother whisked me off to the Black Forest region to meet my Canadian relatives based in Germany with the Air Force. During two weeks away from the UK, a door was unlocked. I walked into unfamiliar territory where the residents spoke a mother tongue I couldn't comprehend. The Schwarzwald was a land of fairytale castles and ancient forests where a skinny young English boy quickly discovered how jaw-droppingly beautiful this world could be. One unique experience as a youngster which may have set in motion a passion for travel, growing and expanding like a snowball tumbling down a hill.
I'm certain these experiences framed who I am and led me to a certain point, but the pivotal experience occurred in a less exotic environment. It wasn’t a moment when the light bulb went on in my head and I suddenly knew it was time to ship out and move overseas, but a point in time when my world changed and when it dawned on me that life as I knew it would never be the same again.
It was the year 2000, on an evening like any other, as I headed over to my local gym. After a light work-out, I bumped into a friend in the corridor. As we caught-up, a pretty girl and her friend interrupted us to ask a question about the gym. Two girls, one quite different accent.
I’m a believer in fate. Things happen for a reason. And in that gym corridor on that average midweek night, I’d just met my wife.
Vivacious and bubbly with an infectious smile, she was the chalk to the cheese of my English reservedness. Full of the energy of life – enthusiastic, passionate, highly motivated – at a young age, she'd already grabbed life by the horns and wrestled it from one continent to the next, from the east coast of Australia to the east coast of the US, from east on to west, then across the pond to the UK.
I’d been waiting patiently for her my entire life.
She freed me from the shackles of my comfort zone and encouraged me to look at life with eyes wide open. She wasn’t solely responsible for the decisions and life changes that soon followed but, without her, they simply wouldn’t have been made. We were instant partners and soul mates with a common purpose and outlook on life.
Thirteen years later, after six years of marriage, three houses on three continents, two dogs and finally our beloved infant son.
On Saturday, we'll celebrate the sixth anniversary of our marriage to each other but this year's celebration will be for so much more than just that. We will celebrate our life together, our achievements, our incredible journey and the miracle that is our sweet darling boy.
There was only ever one catalyst for this life, only ever one defining moment that started it all. I may have been hardwired deep down for overseas adventure, but this one person was the spark that changed it all.
If I hadn’t joined that gym. If I hadn’t trained that night. If I hadn’t bumped into my friend. If she hadn’t walked through those doors.
That gym on that day at that time.
That one defining moment.
Did you have a defining moment which led to moving overseas? What was the turning point that made you decide to leave?