I used to wonder what it would be like, living abroad for 5 years. Would I forget my language? Would I lose my friends? Would I even last that long?
Now I know what it feels like. It feels weird. It feels weird not to be able to drive to my parent’s house and get a hug from my mum. It feels weird having to make a well optimized algorithm just to have a cup of coffee in the sun. It feels weird not going ice-skating in the winter. Or having a proper winter for that matter. It feels weird not being able to see my favorite band in concert.
But the weirdest of them all is the feeling of belonging. I don’t belong here. I did my homework, I know a bit of history, I’ve travelled around the country, I’m familiar with culture references. My alcohol intake has been on point :) There’s people who seem to like my company, people I would dare to call friends. But still, at the end of the day, I’m different. An outsider.
I don’t belong there anymore either. Every time I go to Croatia, I feel more and more disconnected from it. Everything feels like a dream – it’s familiar, but there is this shift in the air that makes the whole experience seem so unreal. I don’t lead the life my friends lead anymore and I find it harder and harder to understand them, to connect. There’s an unbreakable bond between a few of us, a bond that would take a lot more than a couple of kilometres to break. There’s an understanding forged through years of going together through life’s many ups and downs. We’re just on different paths, and it’s ok. Those paths we chose for ourselves and it worked out pretty well for all of us. They led us to places where we need to be at the moment.
So, when all is said and done, the truth is it’s easiest to connect with people just like yourself. The expats. The people who don’t get to drive to their parents’ house for a Sunday meal, the people who sometimes get mocked for their accent, the people who sometimes get lost in cultural references. The people with no home. The people with many homes. The cursed ones. The blessed ones.