I don’t worry too much about what other people think, except when they start to think like me. Then I’m all like “How come?” and “Since when?”
Two years ago, when I decided to take some time to travel, there were only a handful of people who threw me their full support: my friend Samantha, who once took a Fulbright year in Germany; my landlord, who made his way from Israel to New York by moving boxes and driving pedicabs; and my friend Ryan, who works as a pilot and has not only made his way around the world a few dozen times, but hardly ever pays for the trip.
In other words: people who had done it. People who understand that traveling, relocating and reinventing is not nearly as difficult as everyone else makes it out to be. People who know.
That’s not to say everyone else was a dream assassin. Most people were positive, albeit slightly skeptical. I don’t blame them – I was criminally short on details at the time. Besides, they made valid points, the most notable being that reckless behavior rarely generates good results. Time has proven that I’m the exception to that rule, but no one knew that then.
Regardless, I’m glad I made the change and even if no one else has said so out loud, I think they agree. At the very least, they seem to be a lot less concerned about my comings and goings. In fact, I’m on my way to Serbia and not a single person has yet to complain about how this makes them “nervous.” No one has asked me if it’s safe, if people there speak English or if I’m “allowed” to wear tank tops. No one has made me repeat myself just to make sure that I didn’t say “Syria.”
Maybe people have gotten tired of playing 20 Questions with me. Or maybe they just trust that I already figured it out, so they don’t have to. Either way, it’s progress and I’ll take it.
Here’s another example of progress at work. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been casually floating the idea of applying for residency in Finland – temporarily and independent of a marriage license. Not only has no one suggested that plan sounds like a huge cup of Iced Crazy, but they also haven’t asked me how I expect to execute it. No one – not even my most practical friends and conservative family members – have told me that I can’t up and move to Europe just because I feel like it.
In fact, the reaction has been quite the opposite. When I shared my plans with my mother all she said, “Oh really? Well that sounds great.” And then she started talking about a cat.
It was a response that made me check to see if I had dialed the correct number. I mean, since when? Since when does my mother not care if I live somewhere between Russia and the North Pole? Since when does she not have a single follow up question in matters involving governmental paperwork? Since when does she trust my judgment about living with a man whose idea of a first date is throwing me in a frozen lake?
“Really?!” I asked. “You don’t care if I move to Finland?”
“Well I think you should settle down somewhere,” she said. “That’s probably a safer place than most.”
If you know my mother, then you know that’s huge. And she’s not the only one who’s come around. Where once my friends would lecture me on my dating choices, they are completely unconcerned by my new companion. Apparently, all anyone needed to do to win them over was have great hair and half-heartedly agree to make them a coffee table.
“Enjoy it!” my friend urged when I was home for the visit. “Try it out for a year or two and see what happens!”
“I’m surprised,” I said. “No one’s warned me about a green card scam… no one wants to do a background check… no one’s accused him of being a gypsy who’s after my 401k.’”
My friend rolled her eyes. “You’re the last person we have to worry about having a green card wedding,” she said. “And besides. If anyone looks like a gypsy in this situation, it’s you.”
So that’s where we are now: a few forms short of a residency permit and a wardrobe purge for anything that can be described as Bohemian. The plan isn’t in play just yet, but it will be. It’s exciting – or at least as exciting as things could be for me without getting on a plane to Vietnam.
Speaking of which. Since we’ve all pushed the boundaries of our comfort zone, now would be a great time to tell you that there’s a train that goes from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg. It takes three hours and it costs $95. It’s true that I need to apply for a visa, but the Russian embassy is right down the street from the Ice House.
I know what you’re thinking. But don’t worry. Tank tops are totally allowed in Russia.