29.7.13

Guest Post 13 - Adam Vaught: The Curse of Options



This guest post is from my friend Adam who I lived in Japan with. We explored the country from top to toe and got into some good adventures along the way. Adam is one of the most well-travelled people I know and he has some great experiences around the world. Here are some thoughts from him about being struggling with a 1st world problem many of us face - managing restlessness and the option to live overseas! Thanks Adam for sharing...!

A year and a half ago I boarded a flight bound for LAX and ended an eight year stretch of living, working and studying in Asia and South America. It was a period of non-stop stimulation; days filled with countless challenges, occasional conquests and moments of unbridled failure and sheer embarrassment. It left me with amazing friends across the globe, cultural and language fluencies and memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But more than anything, it left me exhausted. In my eight years abroad I missed seven Christmas', six Thanksgivings, four significant weddings and a plethora of birthdays and other important events in the lives of the people that I care about. As quickly as I made new friends I found myself saying goodbye to them as one of us moved on to another geographic chapter in our lives. 

Over time I grew jealous of my friends back home with their desk jobs, happy hours and steadily increasing incomes. The constant excitement brought on by life abroad gave way to an overwhelming desire for stability. The daily challenges associated with living in a foreign place became nothing more than unwelcome frustrations. I was comforted by the fact the I finally arrived at the point where I had "outgrown that phase in my life" and was ready to go home. In September of 2011, I arrived back to the comfort of California and was immediately surrounded by familiar scenery, family and my oldest friends. I quickly settled into a life in the Bay Area filled with great people, a good job and an overall quality of life that is admittedly pretty amazing. My weekdays begin and end with a bike commute across the Golden Gate Bridge and weekends are spent discoving the Marin Headlands and new San Francisco bars. Of all the places I've lived, my life in the Bay Area definitely has the best ratio of 'pros' to 'cons.' 

Nevertheless, a year and half into this new chapter of my life I'm becoming restless. The comfort I so eagerly embraced has given way to bordom. The novelty of major holidays at home and birthdays with friends is slowly being overshadowed by the over glamorized version of a former life that I often reminisce on. Many of the aspects of living abroad that eventually drove me nuts, the insecurity in Ecuador, the strikes in Argentina or the cultural barriers in Japan, now star in my anecdotes about how exciting it is to experience each of those countries. I find myself dwelling on the few things I feel are missing from my life rather than celebrating everything positive that I have. 

In thinking about my situation one thing I've realized is that on some level my current life at home and past life abroad are mutually exclusive. That the best of both worlds can never completely overlap - so embracing one will always require sacrificing part of the other. And that if I tried to remedy this 'problem' by packing up and moving to Bosnia I would eventually end up sitting in bar in Sarajevo forcing disinterested locals to listen to stories about how amazing life is in San Francisco. As I stew in this realization a dose of perspective engulfs me and I feel like kicking my own ass for investing so much time and mental energy on a problem that is so painfully shallow. And then I wonder: Is it human nature to find yourself surrounded by green grass while standing in a patch of brown, or is it just me?