Michael and I have long dreamed of living abroad. Michael had attempted it once, in his 20’s, but just before he moved to Paris, he fell in love. And that love prompted him to leave Paris just five months into what was supposed to be a one-year stint in the City of Lights.
I spent six weeks living with a French-speaking host family in Switzerland when I was 16 and wanted to spend a year or at least a semester abroad in college. But when, after her welcome message to the incoming freshman, the chairwoman of the Physical Therapy department asked if we had any questions, the answer to my “Can PT majors study abroad?” was a burst of laughter. Then she realized I was serious. And explained that due to the rigorous nature of our program, that would not be possible. To this day, the only regret I have is that I didn’t study abroad when I was in college.
More than twenty years later, Michael and I hatched a plan. We would do this. Someday. And in 2018, I said to Michael, “I want to put a date on this, because if I don’t, it will never happen. So by 2023, I want to be living or have lived in another country.” Michael has no recollection of this declaration.
I worked on my plan. Namely, what would I do for work? I got certified to teach English abroad only to find that to do so in Europe (our dream destination) was unlikely for those us without European Union passports. I pursued my Italian citizenship—my great-grandfather never became an American, thus Italy considers his descendants Italian, if only we can prove our ancestry. But that takes years (and is still in process). I then got talked into taking a teaching job. And I loved it! And once I had two years experience under my belt, I would be looked at by international schools as “experienced.” Then I learned that 70% of those schools require a teacher to be certified. So in April of 2020, I completed my teacher certification program and started applying to international schools. But then there was COVID.
Michael, meanwhile, was waiting patiently for me. Michael has been working from home for over fifteen years. The only thing keeping him in Asheville was me.
For years we’ve watched YouTube videos of people sharing their experiences of living elsewhere: Ecuador, France, a catamaran sailing around the world. Then, in recent months, my Facebook feed started to show articles about countries opening up to remote workers. “If you’re working from home, why not work from here?” they asked. “Well that sounds like a good idea. . . “ I thought.
“So Barbados is taking remote workers,” I told Michael one day in January, mere days after the attack on the US Capitol.
“Interesting. What do you know about it?” he asked.
“Nothing. I just saw a list of the countries that are welcoming people that can work from home.”
After he asked four more questions I couldn’t answer, I said, “Why do you always shoot down my ideas?”
“I don’t shoot them down. I’m just asking questions.”
“But when I don’t know the answer to the questions, you want me to do more research. But I’m brainstorming. When people are brainstorming, no ideas get shot down.”
“I’m not shooting it down,” he repeated. “I just want to know more.”
“Good. So next time I bring up an idea, instead of asking me a million questions I don’t know the answers to, just say, ‘Hm, that sounds interesting. Let’s look into that.’”
“Okay, let’s try it again,” he said.
“Michael, Barbados is welcoming people who can work remotely.”
“Hm. That sounds interesting. Let’s look into that.”