Moving Abroad Part II: The Big WHY

“If your world doesn’t allow you to dream, move to one where you can.”

-Billy Idol

Since announcing my move abroad, I have received an overwhelming amount of support and well wishes. One of the other things I have received an overwhelming amount of are questions. The biggest two being “why?” and “what?”

Why did you decide to move? Why now? What made you commit? Why El Salvador?

These are questions that I had not yet addressed fully within myself. I could answer them at a surface level, but that would be the tip of the ice burg. My response has been tacit in saying mental health, financial stability, and personal health. However, I decided to sit down with myself and journal as I tried to answer those questions truthfully and with all the vulnerability in the world.

Why did I decide to move abroad, specifically what made me move to El Salvador?

There is no doubt of my ever-lasting love for el Salvador. I have come every other year since being born. I have friends that I consider family, a family home, knowledge of the country, culture, laws, and bureaucratic processes. Although those mentioned above seem like enough reasons, there is so much more.

Since my first international trip to Cuba, I was exposed to living abroad and living alone in a country with no outside connections. It opened my eyes to all the possibilities and how much I actually disliked residing in North America. As I continued to explore the world, I realized how much the American lifestyle was not for me. I hated the capitalistic nature and the egocentric views held by the majority of people in the U.S. I hated that all I did was live to work rather than work to live.

Every time I visited El Salvador, going back to the DMV became harder. I would sit in the airplane and cry for about two hours because I did not want to leave. Truth be told, a part of my heart is buried in El Salvador, and that is what makes leaving a little hard. Being in El Salvador makes me feel closer to home. It sounds weird, but I can honestly say that the States has never felt like home, and I do not think anyone place will ever feel that way.

On my last visit in November 2020, my cousin met me for dinner. He discussed how he had encountered an American woman, and they had a brief conversation. She mentioned she would be teleworking and exploring El Salvador. Since then, the idea of moving while my job allows us to telework was planted. The idea kept growing and growing until it came to fruition.

I have been teleworking for a year due to COVID-19. To say I have struggled in all aspects of my life is an understatement. I am super social and love exploring. Since the pandemic started, I felt like a caged bird and little by little my soul was being crushed. I had little to no will to talk to my friends anymore, write, draw, or do anything for myself. I became a person I did not like and could not stand.
I gained so much weight; I was creeping back into the black hole we call depression; I was a grey blob of sadness and frustration.

The nature of my job in itself is very depressing, don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I enjoy doing it because it’s what I dreamed of. Working in humanitarian services helping people. But how could I help others if I was not helping myself?

I was drained. Emotionally, mentally, and physically, I had lost all motivation. Then I remembered the conversation with my cousin.

I ordered a box to ship my belongings, and I stared at it for a month. Unsure if I should do it. I would write down reasons to do it and reasons why not to do it. Then the voice inside my head started messing with me and telling me, “wouldn’t you rather do it and try rather than wonder what if?”

Realizing that opportunities like these do not often come around, I decided I no longer wanted to be a victim of my circumstances. I wanted to effect change and make the decisions that I would be proud of. Decisions that would help me get to where I want to be. Decisions that would make me feel fulfilled.

If I am honest, I did feel extremely guilty. I recognize my privilege in every sense, from teleworking to moving abroad until my job requires me to move back. I felt guilty for my family and friends that have to go in every day and I felt guilty because I chose to leave.

In the past, I have lived abroad for the wrong reasons: for love, to escape my problems and to escape my reality, but this time none of that is true. What pushed me to commit to moving was realizing I had become too complacent and comfortable. The need to feel independent, save money, and create both physical and arbitrary boundaries is what gave me the last push.

I am living in El Salvador with a US Wage. I am forcing myself to live as close as possible as a true Salvadoran. Allotting six hundred a month for living expenses and saving the rest of my income. I am still adjusting, and even though it can get tough I know it is doable. I can eat out with $4 and no longer have access to fast food or uber eats. Which has already allowed me to make gains in my wellness and fitness journey.

As for setting boundaries, I have always allowed others to have access to me; even if it was not beneficial or healthy for me. I have always struggled with saying no and being stern. Moving abroad has not only severed that access but has allowed me to gain more personal space and has enabled me to learn how to say no and not feel guilty about it. I am continuously working at this, and I know it will not be easy, but it has to be done. I am protecting my energy and my well-being.

So why did I move? What pushed me to move? The love I have found for myself and the desire to be a better version of myself is ultimately the answer. I have a deep desire to fully understand myself, fully love myself, and moving has already allowed me to further that process. There are so many factors, but it ultimately comes down to me. I finally chose to do what makes me happy. I decided to take a risk and commit to myself because I deserve that.

If you take anything away from this- I hope it is the following: it is okay to take risks. It is okay to do what makes you happy, even if it is unconventional and scary. Love yourself as fearlessly as you love others and put your wants and needs first. Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup, and last but not least, enjoy the journey and trust the process- the good, the bad, and the ugly.