I don’t have many regrets in life. Having made the decision to relocate 4,000 miles from one country to another, this is probably a good thing, especially in light of some of the challenges that come with such a relocation. That said, it is interesting to consider what my life would have been like had I not pitched my tent anew in the American Midwest, leaving it firmly camped on British soil.
First of all, and I must state that everything hereafter is pure speculation, I don’t think I would have emerged quite as confident from the last seven years as I have. And after exposure to America’s business-like social etiquette, I have learned—for example—that the word “sorry” does not have to precede every single sentence. Nor, for that matter, does the word “please” have to pop up six times in the middle of said sentence. If I still lived in the U.K., where excessive forms of politeness are often used to alleviate conflict with other people, I have to wonder whether I would have grown to be so direct.
Regardless, my perception of distance would probably not have widened as much as it has. Until I moved to America, I genuinely perceived the mileage from, say, London to Paris to be so considerable that it couldn’t justify a mere weekend visit. Now, having taken frequent trips from my home city of Indianapolis to Chicago—relative neighbors in American terms—this perception has altered dramatically. To the point, in fact, that I now wish I’d spent more Saturday lunchtimes enjoying croissants at Café de la Paix. The United Kingdom now seems a much smaller place than I’d ever realized, underscored by the fact that eleven U.S. states have a total area larger than England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland combined. Today, I want nothing more than to go backpacking across Europe, something I’m not entirely certain I would have done had my eyes not been opened to the vastness of the United States.
As a matter of fact, my view of the U.S. would probably have remained fairly narrow too, having been guided for the most part by television portrayals of its people and culture. I would likely still subscribe to the incorrect notion that all Americans are brash and live in a seemingly unattainable state of affluence in the heart of Manhattan. I wouldn’t have come to know that certain other stereotypes, such as loudness, perfect dental care, and perceived arrogance are in no way representative of the majority of Americans.
On the other hand, there is a certain other nation I would have continued to view quite differently—England itself. Living in America has given me an outside perspective of my home country that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. It’s sort of like looking at the back of your own head using two mirrors when you are used to seeing just your face. You become more aware of not only Britain’s position in the world, but its standing among fellow nations. This perspective has given me a greater appreciation for elements of British life I had previously taken for granted, such as the National Health Service, nationwide public transit, and, dare I say it, the weather. Indeed, these were all things I used to moan about profusely; however, after experiencing high U.S. health-care costs, Indiana’s highly minimal transit system, and the extreme climate of the Midwest, I’d take it all back in a heartbeat. And I probably wouldn’t moan ever again.
And from a personal point of view, how could I? After all, it was only after moving to the U.S. that my professional life finally took off. Now don’t get me wrong, it has taken a few twists and turns along the way. For instance, when I lived in London, I was—in my spare time—trying to forge a career in something not noted for its formidable employment numbers: acting. The very fact that I moved to Indiana, where these numbers were even lower, meant I was forced to dream another dream: that of the writer—because we all know how lucrative that position usually turns out, right?
Thankfully, however, moving to the U.S. has given me a breadth of subject material that simply wouldn’t have existed otherwise. And while writing is not the chosen profession of most expats, I call to your attention something the late Terry Pratchett once wrote: “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” More than anything, this is what I would have missed out on, and what all travelers of the world would have missed out on, had they set up their tent in one place and refused to seek out other campgrounds.Read More