What’s Your Curse?

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Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, December 25, 2018

I read the disclaimer when I immigrated to Canada. I was okay with learning a new language from scratch, leaving my relatives and friends behind and adopting a new lifestyle—it was part of the deal. A few sections of the disclaimer didn’t apply right away and only made sense years later. For instance, it’s surprisingly challenging and counter-intuitive to raise a kid in a country you didn’t grow up in. You’re also never quite done with the expected culture shock and no matter how hard you try, there are aspects of your new life you won’t embrace fully or even plainly reject. Sometime, you wonder if you’ve ever going to fit in, a feeling usually triggered by the most insignificant comment, like a well-meant “I love your accent!”

But there was some fine print buried in the wall of text that I missed or just didn’t want to see.

Starting a new life in a land where none of your ancestors even set foot on kind of messes you up permanently. Something breaks inside you—not dramatically but insidiously, you won’t notice it right away.

The moment you leave “home” and jump into the unknown, you’re opening Pandora’s box. You’re cutting the cord, you’re no longer tied to that place you would have probably spent your life in by default, like most people on earth.

There are tons of reasons why people find themselves in a plane with plans that don’t include your usual two-week holiday in an all-inclusive hotel. Some are running away from a life they don’t like, others are looking for new experiences or their true self. Many don’t have too much to lose.

And once you start travelling—or after you immigrate—you always have that little voice in your head that whispers, “eh… how about checking out other places? You’ve done it once, you can do it again!”

That would be my curse.

I have a theory about curses, I think we all have one following us throughout life. For some people, it’s financial issues—no matter how hard they work, they’re never comfortable and always struggle to make ends meet. Other people can’t find their soulmate or build a family—having kids sounds easy until you try and can’t… Chronic or ongoing health conditions—a very unfair curse—, finding passion and purpose in life or being different in one way or another can also be common curses.

I consider myself lucky, I ended up with mild curse—I’m apparently unable to settle down.

I don’t want a home, I need “homes,” plural.

I got addicted to travelling when I was a teen. Exploring the world in your twenties is fairly common, even encouraged. But at one point, you’re supposed to just stop and nest. Instead, I decided to build a nest egg to keep on travelling.

I have zero interest in owing things. Last summer, I finally got around to sorting out my closet. I listed everything I had, kept everything I used and got rid of the rest. It’s not much but it’s enough. Having too much stuff freaks me out. I like my life to be portable.

I don’t think it’s a quest for identity. I know who I am (… I think?) and I’m perfectly happy immersed in a culture that’s not mine, sticking out like a sore thumb or passing as a local. I don’t act differently, I just adapt to survive but I’m the same person no matter where I am. I like expressing myself in languages that didn’t make sense to me just a few years ago. I hate routine and I enjoy getting lost in various cities around the world.

My ideal life is a three-stage cycle—Canada, France, travelling.

In Canada, I’m productive. It’s a good place to work and I master North American business relationships. I wouldn’t have dared to embrace a freelance career in France but in Canada, there’s an “everything is possible” smell that makes me more confident, more flexible and allows me to make a living.

In France, I feel safe. Even if I left the country a long time ago, it’s still my 老家 like Chinese say, my “hometown”. I understand the culture, the people, the language and the mindset. I’m surrounded by relatives who know me well and I trust them. I feel useful, I feel loved.

When I’m travelling, I feel inspired. I collect experiences, learn about the world, use my body and my mind.

Hi, I’m Juliette, I’m addicted to travelling.

I don’t want to quit, by the way.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

6 Comments

  1. What a inspirational post, especially for someone who loves diversity/tavelling like you 🙂
    When i was living in Sydney, i used to travel on a monthly basis for work and sometimes conveniently stopping by my 老家for a quick visit. I think it was one of the interesting periods of my life.
    Life with kids now is slightly more complicated haha
    Enjoy your exploration!

      • I felt at home in Australia, i felt really free. It is the same that i feel really comfortable now in the Netherlands. It took me a while though to ‘integrate’ into this country due to the language barrier 🙂 I think what matters most is that those new experiences are stimulating and enriching me. Imagine when we look back our lives when we are 80, we can proudly say that we have truly lived it 🙂
        It is great that you are embracing all three lifestyles/identities in France, Canada and the world and it makes you happy.

        • I completely understand what you mean by enjoying all these life experiences–this matters a lot to me as well, even though change can be challenging. You have a fascinating life! Dutch sounds like a very complicated to me. After learning Mandarin (which was the first foreign language I learned) none of these long-word languages make sense to me (German, Dutch, Russian, etc.).

  2. My curse would be : I’m torn between being Malaysian or French. The ration would be 50% Malaysian and 50% French for a while, then go back to 90% Malaysian and 10% French and vise versa. I have two value systems and it depends on my mood, one could be perfect and the second day it is totally crap. Like freedom, I value it a lot in France but when I see how people just destroyed public assets and it has become a habit, I’m not sure if people make good use of freedom anymore. We were driving from Brittany and most of the speed cameras were burned, and it was tolerated by most of the people, I wonder if the money spent on replacing all these would have have enough to host refugees in the country.

    • You expressed it beautifully! I love the way you explain with percentages your two identities, I feel the same.

      I’m having issues with several value systems too, although the Canadian value system is probably closer to the French value system than the Malaysian one… but when it comes to Mark, Feng and I often argue over what’s “common practice” because he refers to his own Chinese education and I tend to rely on my own French education.

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