“Life is a Journey and we must keep traveling until we discover the destination where we feel ‘Belonged’.” ~ Mani Mukhija
I was born and brought up in India. Travel has been a big part of my life since my early 20’s. My Husband and I have been living a nomad type lifestyle, exploring different countries on different continents. And this is not for our love for travel, however, this is more because we are trying to find a humble abode where we can have ample opportunities and we can feel ‘belonged’.
Over the past 15 years, I have been fortunate to have traveled over more than 12 countries, lived in 5 countries over 4 continents. My husband’s count is much higher than mine. We have experienced different countries as a tourist as well as an immigrant.
Being a tourist is completely different than actually living in different countries. Being a tourist, you end up highlighting the best things you have experienced in a particular place and enjoy every moment because you had been waiting and planning for this trip for long.
Living in a new country throws different challenges. With every passing year, few things could fall under the exciting things bucket while the rest still made it to the challenge bucket. Having lived in different countries teaches you way more than what one can imagine. You get to see the World’s Wonders, learn and experience different cultures, languages, cuisines and different perspectives of human psychology. You get to experience different foods that you had never imagined, never heard of and never smelled those unique flavors. Among those unique experiences, the common things between people in different countries at the end of the day is that they all have a heart full of emotions although their ways of expressing are completely different and that’s probably because we all have different cultures and roots.
So, it’s not easy for a nomad to experience the feeling of belongingness that soon. You maybe need to spend a lot more years at a place before you could actually feel ‘belonged’. Or maybe your whole life is less to get to a point where you feel ‘belonged’ in a foreign land. However, one great thing is that you at least learn to find a common ground with strangers. Be it a sports-related talk with your boss or a discussion with a newly made friend over a recipe from some different cuisine or discussing cultures from across the globe during a chat with your colleague over lunch break.
When I lived in Mexico, most of my friends associated that stay with warm weather, beaches and Tequila. However, the truth is completely different. My stay in Mexico was much more than this. As a newcomer to this place, I certainly enjoyed the fancy things that define a real Mexican Life. The Mexican culture certainly taught me a lot. Different people, different language, different cuisine, but there was always something that was missing. With each passing day, I figured out what that was. I started to feel like someone who is a guest to that place and my heart didn’t feel ‘belonged’ to that place and I started to think about exploring a somewhat different place which I had never even imagined in my dreams to have visited or lived.
The country that I moved next was Denmark. I moved to Denmark in the month of November along with my husband and daughter. When I was planning to move to a completely unknown country, God had also started crafting his plans for us. The year that we moved to Denmark was surprisingly brought the worst snow storms after almost two decades. So, we were welcomed with too much snow that I had never experienced in my life before. Mother nature was putting us to test by throwing those challenges. After two months of my stay, I decided to return back to India and never come back. So, I moved back with my child while my husband stayed to complete his committed assignment and decided to return after the project was over. However, after moving back to India, I realized that I shouldn’t have given up so soon and I returned back to experience Denmark a little more.
This place opened up a lot of opportunities for us in terms of living in the “World’s Best Place to live on the planet”. The country had a lot to teach us in terms of economic and human development, the social security system, health, lifestyle, a work-life balance, importance of staying physically and mentally healthy, using the world’s best managed public transport system, cycling to be a norm, importance of eating 5 different fruits everyday, learning one of the difficult languages ‘Danish’, enjoying the International Cycle Race, witnessing the very unique daycare experience where my 14-month-old baby was made to sleep in a baby pram outside in the roofless backyard while it was damn windy and snowing hard. The Danes’ theory behind outdoor napping for kids in the sub-zero temperatures is that kids are exposed to fresh air which in turn is healthier and very important for their overall physical, emotional and cognitive development. While I agreed to their research, I got goosebumps and my heart sunk at the sight of my child sleeping outdoor even when it was pouring or snowing.
Having experienced all the best and unique things that no other place could offer, I still missed feeling ‘belonged’ to this place and the journey and the search for the place where I could feel ‘belonged’ continued.
The next destination was the United States of America. The place which fascinates almost everyone around the world with the opportunities that this country offers. We were also enchanted with the charm of the USA and wanted to try our lucks on this land of opportunities. We started to weave a lot of dreams and began our journey with a heart filled with hopes.
We created a lot of new friendships that we would cherish throughout our lives. We experienced a lot of good and bad things. Years spent in the states were no less than a roller-coaster ride. Life went through thick and thin. We remained resilient to the odds and thankful to the evens. The country had so much to offer in terms of exposure, opportunities, lifestyle, affordability but those dreams remained barren without the prestigious Green Card. The Green pastures of this land stopped looking Green without a Green Card.
Even after spending 5 years in this country, we always felt unsettled and spent those years in uncertainty. While we were hopeful and kept fantasizing about the Big American Dream, at the same time, the feeling of uncertainty couldn’t leave our minds and there wasn’t a single day when we wouldn’t have thought about the fallback options. In a nutshell, we always felt like a family who is beyond a traveler but still lacks the emotion of feeling ‘belonged. We were almost certain that it’s almost time for us to move yet another time and we finally decided to continue our search for feeling ‘belonged’.
Our next destination was Canada. We embarked on a new journey with an open mind and the hearts were filled again with a lot of ‘Hope’. It’s been a year in Canada now. We have almost overcome those negative Visa related emotions and struggles which we had become habitual to in the United States. In the beginning, our minds were resistant to this change, kids were not happy,the awesome memories that we had created with friends started haunting our minds, it felt as if we have left behind something very precious and our hearts yearned for running back to the US.
However, we kept training our minds to be stronger and not think about the past as we were making a new beginning in this unknown place. Slowly, the things started falling in place. We started accepting the new life, got used to the long commute distances, high federal taxes,long winters and snow storms, beautiful freshwater beaches, a very diversified nation and lots more. So, now the question is again if we feel ‘belonged’ to this place or not. Well, it’s too early for us to mark a permanent stamp with that emotion, but our heart says we are almost closer. I have been counting the reasons that make me think closer to feeling ‘belonged’ to Canada and the count is still on as our journey to explore this nation, even more, is still ‘ON’. I would definitely like to point out the reasons that make me think closer to feeling ‘belonged’ and my list goes as:
I am living in a country which keeps me closer to Mother Earth,
I am living in a country which offers equality, respect & safety,
I am living in a country which is peaceful,
I am living in a country where my voice is heard in respect,
I am living in a country where raw natural landscapes are in abundance,
I am living in a country where peace is our right,
I am living in a country whose foundation is built on diversity,
I am living in a country where immigrants are allowed to build a community and a country together,
I am living in a country where healthcare is a right and not a privilege,
I am living in a country where no one has to go into bankruptcy to pay for treatments,
I am living in a country where I feel accepted, safe & free,
I am living in a country where you can be you, and I can be me,
I am living in a country that teaches mutual respect & trust,
I am living in a country where your talent counts,
I am living in a country which is the most multicultural country in the world,
I am living in a country where most of the people love Tim Hortons and poutine,
I am living in a country which is known to be the Land of Maple Leaf,
I am living in a country which is popular for its Maple Syrup,
I am living in a country which proudly owns the spectacular Horseshoe falls,
I am living in this beautiful & God’s own country ‘Canada’.
I hope that we start to feel ‘belonged’ to this place and make this our humble abode, however, as I mentioned in the beginning that sometimes your whole life is less to get to a point where you feel ‘belonged’ in a foreign land. So, my dear friends, the journey is not over yet and the search for feeling ‘belonged’ continues with each passing day….