Straddling Countries – The Perfect Life Or Sheer Drudgery?

I’ve discovered a new meaning of the formula e=mc2 – exhaustion equals multiple countries squared. As we wrap up our summer in Canada I look back at a wonderful two and a half months of beautiful weather in gorgeous surroundings of Northern Ontario, a smattering of guests (both family and friends) and on the last day, the purchase of my first kayak! Interspersed with all the company was, of course, my freelance writing and a little yoga. Sounds delightful, right? My vote is in and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year but right now… I’m exhausted!

The Crash of Jet Lag

My eyes are as heavy as my heart as I leave family behind. I battle the jet lag and find my chin dropping to my chest as a sleepy blanket envelops me. No amount of caffeine will help. You just have to go with it. Some people say you must ‘power through’ and fight to stay awake and get back on the local time zone as soon as you can.I say sleep when your body tells you to and find something to do when it inevitably wakes you up in the wee hours of the morning. No matter how many times I experience the sensation, it still takes me by surprise and I wonder if anyone got the number of the truck that must have hit me. They say it takes one day for every hour of time difference to get back to normal. That means for 11 days, I will go through life back in Thailand as a zombie, which is frustrating for me as a writer with deadlines!

What’s ‘Normal’?

So, that’s the drudgery part. However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I know once the haze in my brain has passed and my sleeping patterns even out and we return to ‘Thai normal’ life, I will again revel in the sounds of the birds in the trees, happily inhale the pungent curry wafting through the streets of my little town of Bang Tao and pop by my favourite spa for a desperately missed Thai (or oil) massage.

For those living abroad, the word homesick takes on a whole new meaning. I have two homes – the one I grew up in, where my mother still lives, and the one I have made in Thailand with my husband. It seems when I am in one, I pine for the other until I realize that there’s no need to be sad. I am so fortunate to have two places in which I feel so ‘at home’. I try not to be melancholy when I leave either because, as my very wise mother says, “If you don’t leave, you can’t come back.”

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The Logistics of Straddling

I have to admit, one of the toughest parts about straddling countries is what to do with my cat. When we lived in the U.S. there were pet boarding places that were so elegant that I would happily have stayed in them myself. So, leaving him behind wasn’t quite so heart wrenching. It’s not as easy to find acceptable accommodation for a four-legged family member in Thailand. Cats and dogs are certainly kept as pets by locals, but they’re usually not coddled quite as much as their western cousins. I’m not particularly fussy but I wouldn’t leave him for one night in the ‘boarding’ places I’ve seen. Sure, he’d be fed but that’s about where the care would end. There must be others but I hadn’t found them in time before we left but I’ll keep looking.

Fortunately, my friend Kan (who taught me to differentiate between edible and poisonous when picking wild herbs from the side of the road) was willing to step in. Disaster averted! I had seriously considered taking him with us but after I outlined all the logistics (vets, shots, export/import permits, four flight legs… all x 2) sanity won out. Finding someone we could trust to cat and house site was definitely the way to go.

So, is there such a thing as a perfect life?

In a perfect world all my favourite people would be living with me in Thailand and I would be a famous novelist. In the real world, not everyone likes the humid heat and year-round sunshine like I do and my first novel hasn’t even been published yet (but hope springs eternal). Straddling countries appears to be the perfect compromise and for now, it works. Compromise isn’t always easy but when you weigh the pros and cons, if you still decide to make your home in another country you have to embrace it with every fibre of your being if you want to be happy… and, isn’t that what we all want?

The upside to leaving during the summer months? Missing monsoon season! One of my favourite sayings is “Attitude is the difference between Adventure and Ordeal” and I’d much rather have an adventure. Nothing’s perfect but this is pretty darn close!

A published author and freelance writer, Anne O’Connell, has been an expat since 1993 when she and her husband escaped the cold of Toronto, Canada and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They enjoyed the sun and sand for 14 years, while she worked in the PR field, and then decided it was time for a new adventure. Heading for even more sun and sand, they moved to Dubai in late 2007 and then on to Thailand in 2011.

Anne has been working as a freelance copywriter and communications consultant since 2007, specializing in marketing, corporate communications, public relations, social media and website content. She and her husband have a passion for travel and that adventurous spirit has taken them all over the world. Anne grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a bachelor of public relations from Mount St. Vincent University. You can visit her website at www.anne-oconnell.com or her blog at www.anne-writingjustbecause.blogspot.com.


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