There we were, sitting very comfortably in an almost finished, spectacular all-timber home in the hills of Perth. Five acres of natural bush, a gaggle of wallabies and other fauna at our doorstep, or to be more precise, nibbling their way through the herb garden!
I recall vividly, sipping a full-bodied red on the decking, watching a stunning set of cumulonimbus clouds turning apricot colour and thinking I had died and gone to heaven.
I mean - life couldn’t get much better than this – could it?
The next morning the call came, which was to change our whole lives. “Can you come up to Singapore and write the procedures for the biggest project we have ever undertaken and one of the most prestigious undertakings in South East Asia”. Not a problem I thought and proposed to my family that a couple of weeks away in Singapore would be a good experience for me and would not interrupt our comfortable lifestyle too much.
To cut a long story short, I wrote the procedures and was promptly asked to run the project from Singapore, with my family by my side and all the trappings of an expat life. In short, it was an offer too good to refuse and in that decision, our remarkable expat life began. What was to be a two-year stint away in a foreign country has now become a 20-year permanent exodus.
Cultural shock, that insidious disease that creeps into the psyche to resist what is taking place in front of us and compares it with how it is at home. Rarely do the two reconcile and so the inner journey and oft times uncomfortable process begins.
Our travels took us to live and work in Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, America, Africa and Israel – quite a journey and from it, an extraordinary new way of seeing life, people, cultures, food, religions and much more.
Our way of thinking has been challenged. Our values have changed. Our curiousity has been aroused; our taste in food, clothing and music has undergone a transformation.
We have been scared, elated, engrossed and magically transformed by our interaction with people and places. We have grown closer to Mother Earth and revere her with upmost dignity and respect.
Here is an example how she wove just one magic spell upon our souls.
It is 4am on the banks of the Trisuli River in Himalayan Nepal. We are awoken by the metallic clank of enamel mugs and a weather-beaten hand, thrusting steaming hot chocolate into our little tent. The steam from our breath fills the tent as we rub the “sleepy dust” from our eyes and straighten out the cricks in our backs. Slowly we emerge, wrapped in thick blankets and wearing yesterday clothes, which were far too warm to consider discarding for clean ones at that ungodly hour and temperature.
We made our way groggily up the mountain by flashlight, feeling the effects of little sleep and the biting cold, until we finally stopped on a ridge. As the false dawn spilled its first vestige of light over the mountains, we were pleasantly surprised to see standing on the same ridge, in absolute pin-dropping silence, other intrepid travelers congregated for this shared experience.
And there before our eyes, Mount Everest, in all its majesty and bathed in golden light from the sun’s earliest rays, took our breath away. No room for cold now, our heats lifted along with our spirits and we were left mesmerised and speechless at the sheer awe of this magical life-changing moment.
And so, our lives have been touched by people, places and situations that have left their indelible impressions on us, that are absolutely priceless.
Expat life or couch potato confined to your comfort zone – which one would you choose?