Six years ago, I left Croatia. In two big travel bags, I packed up 30 years of my life and left. Because I wanted to know. What it’s like to leave a country you’re almost fused with, the land whose every single pore is known to you, every corner. The land which you love and hate at the same time because you are comfortable enough to call it yours, to take it for granted and grunt about it, the way you usually do with everything you love.
I left because I didn’t want to spend my whole life wondering: What is out there beyond its borders? Is it really better there or worse? Or maybe I’m in the golden middle, so it’s best for me not to move anywhere. After all, there is no place like home.
When something bothers you, you always have a choice; keep going, aware of the annoying nagging inside your head which is not so terrible, only sometimes it gets on your nerves, or you’ll pause and try to tackle with it. After many years of feeling bothered, I paused. I stepped outside my comfort zone to finally answer myself the eternal question: Is the grass really greener on the other side?
Whatever others say, until we see something for ourselves, we always, always doubt.
As much as we’re alike, we are all so different. One man’s blessing is often another man’s curse, so can we really put other people’s beliefs ahead of our own? Can we accept them blindly, hoping they’ll match ours?
The truth is, we can’t. We shouldn’t, anyway. We go, we see, we try. We weight all the pros and cons, and we decide. It’s the only way we can be at peace with ourselves, without that nagging voice inside our head. Not because somebody somewhere told us that the ex-pat life is nothing but blood, sweat and tears or milk and honey, and we agreed, but because we went and saw it for ourselves.
When I was leaving, the palette of various emotions sent me off. Some people rooted for me, some expressed a lack of understanding. Some called me crazy, some brave, some careless, and some told me with a patronising voice; you’ll see, you’ll return. It always bugged me that such predictions were given to me by those whose the only contact with the outside world was a school trip to Italy or Spain.
I never understood why people have this need to project their fears, desires or limitations on someone else’s choices? And why they can’t resist interfering?
All of us have the freedom that, as we grow older, we seem to use the least; the freedom to live our lives the way we want.
Without the chains that we alone had put on ourselves. Most often it’s a chain of fear, the one that keeps us in one place and prevents us from moving around freely. It’s funny how we often love to use our freedom of speech, hidden behind our screens or within the circle of our friends, where we gossip the ones who dared to step out of their comfort zone. We are loud, smart and full of wisdom for everyone but ourselves. When it comes about us, we suddenly become silent and enthusiasm disappears.
Over time I’ve realised, it’s not at all about whether or not the grass is greener on the other side, nor should we passionately advocate for our choices. Like children; whose toy is bigger, prettier, better… It’s about that nagging voice inside us, whether we have it or not. Is it still there or is it gone. Whether we want to get rid of it or not. And whatever the answer is, it’s only ours, it doesn’t concern others, just as the answer of others shouldn’t concern us.
Comparisons are meaningless. Highlighting the benefits of our choices is pointless if it serves only to condemn someone else’s choice.
Every single place under the sun has its good and bad sides, and the most important question is, in which of these places we see and find ourselves?
This kind of thinking is woven into me by default. I’m always surprised when someone says to me that I’m atypical, too open-minded. When they accuse me of not loving enough the country I came from, and proudly conclude that, to quote them: there is no life out there. I don’t know. I don’t condition my love with the place where I took my first steps, and that outside world where life apparently ends… Isn’t that just a limit set by the human hand? If you ask the sun, moon and stars, they don’t care. Wherever you go, they illuminate your path.
*This article had been published on OUTSIDE online magazine.