I have been fortunate in that I had many opportunities to travel to various corners of the world, whether for business purposes or leisure. More blessed, is the fact that I was actually paid to relocate between different cites/countries every 2-3 years as part of my international executive contract. A lot of people thought I was “living the dream”. And god knows how long I was hiding behind my own facade of happiness.
Some people like to travel, I do too, but being a tourist for 7 days in a city is a completely different thing to living in that city for a year or more. Only then do I get to experience the real life and culture. Every city I lived in has shaped me in a way or another. Some good, some bad, some exhilarating, some miserable—its hard to compare cities or say which city do I like best, which is a question I get all the time.
Each city has its friendly aspects and each place has its challenges. Every country has its stories, and more importantly, people. Do I remember every detail from the places I’ve lived in? Not really. But what I do bring with me is the kindred spirits I met along the way and who are dear enough to continue keeping in touch with me, especially during 2010 for obvious reasons. Locals I have met in each city have also flamed alive the culture for me to understand first hand. I would not give this experience up for anything else.
It is quite glamourous you might think: professional team of movers packing up my sofas and stuffed toys for me while I sit and watch them relocate my life in a cargo container, driven around by real estate agents to some of the best properties for rent in the city, and other perks that come with it. And for a while, I maintained that image of a happy, contented me, enjoying my “high life”, being young and free.
But for every benefit there is a cost. And many cannot see the hidden cost.
I didn’t either, and basked in my own superfluous indulgence. What I thought was a thrilling challenge was actually eroding my spirit. I thought I had it good. I thought I was contented. I believed it wholeheartedly and so tried to make the most out of the opportunity. I still wouldn’t give up that experience for anything but how many of us find it a breeze to work in our third or fourth language? Spending effort to make friends and meet new people in a new country each time was taxing. Romantic relationships were hard to come by with the fleeting nature of my postings in each city.
Life takes a toll on us sooner or later.
It did to me 18 months ago. Behind the glamour is undue stress. The perks & benefits from being an international executive makes a vain attempt to smoothen out the wrinkles but accumulated stress cannot be ironed out so simply. 30 days annual leave a year while constantly expected to reply to emails via blackberry cannot make up for the lost sleep.
Stiletto heels get caught in drains and break when too much pressure is exerted.
Yet, it was a price I agreed to pay the moment I signed on the contract. It’s give and take. I’m not complaining nor do I regret my decision. It’s just that I need to see both sides of the coin and acknowledge my little dream bubble. Some people can do this for 30 odd years – I must admit to myself, perhaps I cannot.
Today I’m trying to shed off the vanity of titles, high salary and all the perks with it. Health is, as cliche as it is, my first priority. What more can I do if I have not health. Money is besides the point.
Time to burst the bubble. Be real.