Down and Out in Dublin
When is the right time to try again, after a failure? In episode 16 of the Mindful Agility Podcast, Failure in Dublin: Matt Learns Lessons the Hard and Fast Way, through Experiments, we discussed my “failed” move to Ireland in the summer of 2008. After wanting to live in Europe for years, I finally got the chance, but gave up after three months to return to the U.S with my tail between my legs, joining the ranks of the unemployed while living at my parents house in Philadelphia for 10 months at the age of 37.
What happened? The full details are in the podcast episode, but, in short, I moved to Ireland with little purpose beyond wanting to “get out of the U.S”. I had been in a state of discontentment and depression for ten years and thought this move would be the “fix”, but, as anyone who has tried the “geography cure” knows, it didn’t fix anything. On top of that, I had no plan for what I wanted to do in Ireland. I didn’t make an effort to make friends and build a network, and I was unhappy in my job. The depression worsened and I felt i had to flee.
Fourteen years later, at the age of 51, I am moving overseas again; this time to Tirana, Albania. What has changed since 2008 that makes me think things will be different? A few things:
- I am doing this with my partner, Mirela, who is Albanian.
- I am more financially secure and further in my career than in 2008.
- I began practicing Secular Buddhism four years ago and have integrated mindfulness and meditation into my life, and for the past year have been on a Mindful Agility journey with Dan, Mirela, and our Mindful Agility community.
Though I don’t need to have my year in Albania planned out in detail, it will help if I have an overall idea of why I am doing this. My driving purpose is to spend time doing the things I have wanted to do for a while, but felt stuck starting, so that I can be a more authentic person no matter where I live. Examples are writing, learning a second language, and learning photography.
In 2008 I took an “all or nothing” approach to my move. I left my job, signed a three year contract, and moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone without even knowing if I would like it there. This time Mirela and I did a trial run living in Tirana for five weeks in the summer of 2022, including working remotely for two weeks. This let me see what Tirana was really like (as much as I could in five weeks). Things I liked: the weather, the people, the food, and the nature. Things I disliked: the traffic, the dust and cigarette smoke, the disorganisation of things like bus schedules and waiting in lines (Boarding group numbers are useless if a large group of Albanians are boarding a plane!) My overall decision was “yes, I like this place” but I am also prepared for the difficult parts.
It is good to have long term goals whether you are building software or moving to a new country, but you don’t need to try to accomplish them all at once. What are some small steps I am taking?
First, I found an Albanian teacher. We will meet twice a week (at a cafe of course). This is a low cost experiment to see if I really can learn Albanian. The teacher charges per lesson, follows a curriculum, and I can go for as long or as short as I want. My plan is to stick with the lessons, but if I decide at some point that Albanian, or this teacher, isn’t for me, I have only invested in the lessons I have taken, as opposed to signing up for a semester or year-long course.
Mirela and I have also joined a Tirana writing club that meets once a week (again, at a cafe!) This is another low cost investment – a minimum of an hour a week. Hopefully this will lead to hours of writing a week, but it is an easy test to see if I do indeed want to write.
Nothing is too late or too big
I had a “dream” of living in Europe since I was 18. I am 51 now, but I am not 33 years late. I am right on time. It is the same for you. The only “right” time to do something is when you are doing it. Moving to another country is a “big thing” (as is taking a new job, buying a house, or joining a gym), but it doesn’t have to be if you try to keep in mind your driving purpose and do small experiments.
Are you thinking about a new job or career but are overwhelmed by such a big change? Think first why you want to do it. From there, try something small. Is it possible to volunteer, intern or work part time in the field? A new house? Maybe you can live in an AirbnB close by for a few weeks to see if indeed there are neighbors who keep you up at night. The gym? Take advantage of the free trial. Take advantage of all the free trials in your area.
Your driving purpose does not need to change, but your approach can always change. Don’t be afraid to experiment.