“We’re moving,” Maestro declared firmly as he walked in the door. Now, if you haven’t met maestro in person, he’s about the mildest-mannered individual you can imagine. If you wanted to have a screaming match, he would not be your person. I have only heard a handful of imperative sentences come out of his mouth, and usually it’s to help someone avoid being hit by traffic. For him to decide, unilaterally, that we were going to make a huge life change is complete unheard of, and completely magical.
On this particular day, Maestro had been out having dinner with a friend who was telling him about his work overseas and how his family would be moving again soon. Maestro commented that he wanted to move, too. He had never planned to live in his current city forever. His friend looked at him with a discerning eye and said, “You have a job, right? And a house? And kids?” to which the answers were all, of course, “yes.” Then he added, “I hate to tell you this man, but you’re not moving.”
That set it off. Of course, the friend was right – people with steady jobs and children and a house don’t typically move. Plus, we were living the American dream, weren’t we? Two cars, one house, a pool – what more could we want?
Maestro found himself asking this question as he drove home. What was it that he, and we, really wanted? Was it just the mortgage and the every-weekend trips to Home Depot? Did spending more time cleaning the pool then swimming in it bring us happiness? Did he like that we spent all our time working to try to continue to afford it all?
No. He didn’t. And neither did I. We had done all the things that society told us to do – finish graduate school, buy a house, have kids, work hard. And yet, we felt like all we could do was to keep working to make the student loan payments, pay the mortgage, and so much of our free time went to continual house maintenance. We had the American dream, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as we thought it would be.
Thankfully, both of us had been thinking about alternatives for a few months at this point. I had been following the adventures of the Family on Bikes, and read How to Thrive on a Teacher’s Salary, both of which involve teaching overseas as a way to help increase income. But what was most interesting about these families is that they had decided to live how they wanted to live. Their lives are their own.
So, upon meeting up with the declaration that a move was imminent, I was prepared. “Great!” I answered. “I have some ideas!”
From there we applied and accepted jobs out-of-country. It was exciting and a bit scary. This would be the first stamp in Maestro’s passport, and it came with a 2-year contract to stay. We rented out our house, sold the cars, and gave away most of everything else. We scanned all our pictures and left early one morning with two suitcases and one backpack each. Our world would never be the same.
Now we live and teach abroad. Our kids are happy and becoming bilingual. We have less stuff and more experiences. Our bank accounts have not suffered, and for the first time ever, we feel like a serious illness might not completely bankrupt us. It’s peaceful, and we don’t spend any more weekends at Home Depot. We travel, we swim, and we hang out on the beach when we have had a long day. We have learned to live boldly and not to be afraid of change or the unknown. We have learned that life is possible beyond the American dream. You can choose your own path. It just takes courage.