The courage to leave and the courage to stay

I am from the South of France… where the sea reigns and the mountains dominate. I grew up in Nice with my gaze turned towards an always dazzling Mediterranean Sea. Nice… a city where people dream of going on vacation, but from which I dreamed of leaving to explore new horizons and meet other challenges. At that time, I admit that I did not really realize how lucky I was to have been born in such a beautiful place… This is what life experiences and travel provide; an awareness of the value of what we already have at home and in ourselves …

The departure  for adventure

I also think that I don’t like what is too easy and comfortable. That is how I came to leave family and friends to continue my studies in Paris, to work there… The challenge was great: to resist the grey. The absence of sea and nature weighed heavily on the joy of living. So in September 2018, accompanied by my husband and my little three-year-old boy, we set off on an adventure of expatriation, heading to Vancouver. We left everything, our jobs, our home, our life filled with friends. We arrived with our five suitcases and a work permit. Everything had to be rebuilt and won back.

When I arrived, I immediately thought of my hometown. I had finally found my mountains again, the blue of the ocean… I was at home. We could put our bags down with our heart full of promise.

I am often asked this question: “But why did you leave everything to come and live here?” There must there be good reasons? My partner was born in Thailand; he is from Laos. His parents fled the war to come and live in France. For my part, born in Nice, my Italian grandfather left the misery of his country to find work in France. Our son was born in Paris. I guess immigration desires are ingrained in our family histories. Canada held out its arms to us, and here we are, all three of us in Vancouver.

From travel to life project

The euphoria and enthusiasm of the first months of exploring the city and this new country are followed by difficulties, homesickness and missing loved ones. I started to be disappointed and found myself criticizing, blaming, but for the wrong reasons. Fortunately, this phase passed. We then adapted and learned to probe the hearts of the people who could renew our faith in our adventure and lead us on the right path. The Rockies are not the Alps, the Pacific is not the Mediterranean Sea. You don’t have to compare when you travel, the main thing is not just to discover new landscapes but to grasp this new gaze, the one from which everything takes shape, and it is at this moment that begins the other journey, that of the real love of a place.

But suddenly this pandemic arrived and everything stopped. After the fright, we had to go on living. And there in the heart of this forced and prolonged winter the question came back even more forcefully: “But why did we leave everything and go so far from our family, our friends?” Yes, we felt even more cut off from our loved ones with no possibility of going to see them or them to see us. Paradoxically, going through these long months with courage and fragility gave us an unsuspected inner strength and freedom.

Fortunately, we have had over a year to build ties with our new host country. Its lakes, its beaches, its forests, the smiles of the people (which are unfortunately rarer today with the wearing of a mask) still fill my heart as never before and I take root a little more each time.

My love for Vancouver right now is veiled in pain. The pain of not being able to see the people I love in France. But again, I don’t like what is easy. The most difficult roads lead to the most beautiful peaks and the most beautiful landscapes. Knowing how to get out of your comfort zone every day, to continue learning and growing, this is the example I want to give to my son. There will come a day when he will ask me, “What did we do in 2020 when everything changed?” I couldn’t imagine telling him, “we gave up”. So yes, I will stay – for you, Canada – because I dare to think that you also need us a little. They say the best trip is the one we haven’t taken yet, so the best is yet to come. I want to be confident – I have to be.

Translation by Barry Brisebois