Each time I go abroad I get this powerful longing to never return to my regular life. But I always go back. It happened again, but this time was different. I felt the most solid sense of home in Croatia and, in part, this is because it’s where my family comes from. I grew up immersed in the culture and most of my family still lives in the capital city, Zagreb. I’ve visited several times but it’s been a long 23 years since my last. Since then, I have grown so much. This was the first time the reigns were in my hands and as familiar as it all was, I realized there was much I missed noticing in the past. I picture myself living there with visions of the start of each day. For me, life in Croatia feels sensible and balanced.
The locals I know there aren’t caught up in the pursuit of more. Working long hours for more stuff is not a popular aim. Time is more valuable. Coffee comes in a real cup and is enjoyed alongside a real person. “To go” is not a big thing there.
People are friends with their neighbors, and engaged in their communities. Spontaneous visits are not uncommon. Families live in close proximity to one another, often with separate suites in the same building, making it easy to care for, spend time with, and help one another out. Croatian’s who don’t live on the coast, drive there as often as they can to enjoy the nourishing Adriatic and leisure time with friends and loved ones.
There are many reasons to stay permanently. I imagine living amid Croatia’s ancient buildings, walking the same paths walked for over a thousand years. Culture is plentiful. Many borders are just a short drive away making it easy to experience even more. The mild weather is warm to hot for 5-6 months of the year and the winters are mild, especially compared with Calgary’s harsh ones. We would be closer to most of our family, if we moved. We could see our Irish side (Hi Sarah, Laura, and Elmo!) more often and it would take less time to get to our family in Thailand, compared with the current 24 hour trip.
I loved getting food from the market each morning rather than stocking our freezer from the supermarket weekly. Eating food that is in season and picked when ripe makes sense environmentally and has huge health and flavor benefits. Oh, to grow an abundant assortment in my own garden! I can see olive trees and lavender already!
Our ideal situation is a piece of land with 4 separate residences, having space to grow a garden, and a garage to use as a workshop. One suite for my parents, one for my brother, one for us, and the last one for our guests with the future plan of it being Ana’s. This builds a family legacy to someday be passed down.
The truth is that I have always been afraid to take a risk that may end up in financial distress. I’ve been there before and would like to avoid going back. But I’m starting to realize that its not all about financial security and that we could give some things up.
All we have in life is time (and not enough of it!) and the way we are spending ours now is a waste. Isn’t it worth taking the risk to fill the rest of our days with more of what really fulfills? I say “YES!”. The potential exists to set ourselves up for a much better quality life, even if we have less stuff. It will just require adjusting to change and making a few good decisions.
Some of the most challenging obstacles we face, if we are to go ahead:
- How to earn a living? It would be nice to be self-employed or work from home. Ideally we could try to start something now that we can do from anywhere.
- Convincing my entire family to go along with us. They may not be up to a big change and it would be really shitty for me to leave any of them after all they continuously do for us. We want to be there for them as they get older, too. If they are happy with the life they live here now, how can I convince them to go?
- Jack and Ana need to start learning Croatian. Possible but we need to commit.
- How do we get enough money to make this a comfortable (-ish, because seriously, moving is never easy.) move?
- How do we make this happen before Ana starts high school? We have two years -MAX! I have the sense that if we miss that window it will be too difficult.
I am willing to live with less but better. Jack and I are not interested in an ever-accumulative state of being. Our happiness can continue with a little more time together and by doing things that make a difference for more than just ourselves. We never know which is the right path to take but I believe that making an intentional, well-thought-out move will open the right door.