Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Downsides - Part I

I am frequently asked about moving to Italy. Many find the blog because they are dreaming of making just such a move themselves. A few thoughtful souls also want to know about the downsides up front, which I think is smart. No place is perfect, and there are some frustrations and quirks you'll experience living here. Most are little things, little quirks that are different; others are more serious. I thought I'd expound on a couple of them, starting with the biggest one.

So Far Away

Remember the old Dire Straights' tune? The plunky refrain repeating "You're so far away from me..." That's one of the biggest hurdles to living in a foreign land, the distance from loved ones. Not being able to see family and friends regularly can be upsetting. Especially at a time like this.

My uncle is suffering from cancer. Not a "normal" cancer that can be attacked aggressively with chemotherapy or that can be removed with surgery, but a very rare type known as GIST (Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumors). He is currently in the hospital with pneumonia and other problems and nearly died this week. My mom is with him and keeping on top of things, keeping him company, and keeping us informed. But it's hard to not be able to "be there now".

This uncle is my mom's younger brother, and he has always been like a brother to me, too. He's one who has always been there, always a stable force in my life, and I hate to see him suffering without being able to offer tangible comfort or a visit and a laugh. Because his condition is currently so serious, phone calls are minimized to let him rest. With tubes up his nose and oxygen pumping, he can't really talk well, anyway. Naturally, I'm worried and upset. So far away, so far I just can't see, as the song goes.

One of the decisions we made when we moved was that we'd always be available to go home at a moment's notice whenever necessary. Our families are too important to us to trifle around, and we'll spend the bucks and move heaven and earth to get there if we need to. If I have to catch a flight, I'll do it without quabbling. This is something that should be considered if you're thinking about moving overseas.

We were fortunate to have already been in the US when my grandmother died, but these are contemplations that merit thorough thought. It really is the biggest drawback.

More light-hearted aspects about life here will follow. What do you consider drawbacks to living in a foreign land?


Leanne said...

I just wrote a blog entry about why I moved to Italy as so many people ask me that too!

I think it is hard being on the other side of the world - Australia is literally the other side from here and not a place you can visit for the weekend.

Roam2Rome said...

Sorry to hear about your uncle's cancer :(

Like you, I also feel family is extremely important, and none of us think twice about dropping everything in order to reach out to one another during hard times.

It *is* hard to be away from loved ones during their tough times. Hang in there...

Barbara said...

Some fellow expats think it's strange that we visit the U.S. twice a year...for us it's a chance to stay connected to our family and friends, and most importantly to spedn time with our grandchildren.

Yes, there are downsides to living as an expat no matter what the country. It's hard to anticipate every problem in advance, and the things we miss might not be the things someone else misses.

We sort of jumped in with both feet, and haven't regretted it for a minute! Others might feel the need to come for a trail period, or to rent out their house before selling and making the move. I think the key is to do as much reasearch as possible, ask as many questions as possible, then follow your heart.

Anonymous said...

I'm an expat too, but from the UK so travel back is only 2 hours. (Didn't say travel 'home' because home is now here.)

Not sure how I'd cope if my family were in the States or Australia. All I can say is that I wish you strength - it must be very hard being such a long way away from family.

Valerie said...

No regrets about moving, but it is harder at times like this. Thank you all for your comments and emails. I have received such uplifting sentiments and sweet ecards...I can't tell you how much it means to me.

We're leaving tomorrow (Thursday) morning for DC. Keep my uncle in your prayers, if you would. I'll let you know when I get back.

J.Doe said...

I just read your blog after several weeks of not being on-line. I am sorry to hear about your uncle. It is nice that you are going there.