The time has come for us expats to take pause from our blissful existence and face a reality that is coming at us faster than a speeding bullet: it’s time to decide our next move. It’s easier said than done, especially for us wanderlust folk who are constantly in conflict between the vagabond lifestyle and a little bit of stability.
Here’s the good news: you are not alone. This roller coaster of emotion and indecisiveness you’re riding knows no boundaries, and it’s at max capacity with a never ending line.
As someone who’s finally getting off the “stay or go?” ride for the interim, I’d like to share how I came to make my decision to stay another year in Shenzhen. It wasn’t fun (wine made it easier), but I got where I needed to be and one day soon you will too.
First things first — bust out that legal pad and start a pros and cons list. My friends and I have spent ample time discussing the pros and cons of our next moves, which is a great start, but once it’s actually on paper it becomes more substantial. Plus, you can make adjustments as needed without forgetting your original thoughts.
Secondly, write out a list of questions and considerations, and then answer them out loud and as honestly as you can. Sometimes you need to hear the words coming out of your own mouth to find out how you really feel. Do this alone so you don’t hold back and are comfortable to truly let your guard down. Here’s a sample list of questions to get you started:
- Am I happy where I am right now?
- What is my career goal? Is it teaching? Could it be?
- If I continue to teach abroad, do I want to stay in China? Where else would I like to live and teach?
- What do I want in life? Do I want to travel for a few years? Start a family? What are my timelines for this, and can I do it all?
- If I move home, where will I live?
- If I move home, what will I do? Where will I work?
- If I move home, will I need to go back to school to find a job that makes me happy? Can I afford that?
- Do I want to go home? Am I feeling pressure from family or other relationships to move home before I am ready?
- Can I afford to go somewhere else for a year? If considering a teaching position elsewhere, how does the package compare (pay, savings, vacation time, and perks) with China? If my goal is to travel, do I have enough money saved to actually go?
- What would staying in China do for me? (Think about your personal goals – financial, career, travel, fitness, etc.).
- How have I changed since coming to China? Am I happy with those changes?
Last step of the process — spend time reflecting. Lots of time. Discuss your findings with friends and family. Your friends will most likely validate your human versus self-conflict resolution capabilities, but your family may be indifferent. It’s hard for people outside of the traveler lifestyle to truly understand it, and they probably just miss you and want you to come home. Take comfort in that, but don’t lose focus and don’t let guilt spin you around or change your mind.
So there you have it. Solemn advice to keep in your back pocket as you make your way to the inevitable fork in the road. I hope my advice has helped you in some way, and whatever choice you make leads you exactly where you want to be.