Living Out Of A Suitcase

This is a guest post written by Vishakha Darbha. Sometimes, you will move abroad and end up living in one city forever, but many times it can be a while before you plant roots in one place. Read Vishakha’s experience as a rover in the U.S. She is a video journalist who is currently based in New York City. Also, check her out on Twitter!

A few days before I left Seattle for New York, my coworkers gifted me a book called “The Cities I’ve Never Lived In” by Sara Majka. It’s a collection of short stories that explore the concept of distance, both emotional and physical, in relationships and within spaces. As I thumbed through the pages, I remembered being 14. It was when I decided that I wanted to be a journalist. It wasn’t just about telling stories; I loved the sense of adventure associated with it.

I dreamt of traveling and working in many countries, before moving back to my hometown New Delhi in my mid-thirties to set up my own production or media company.

After 10 years, three countries, six cities and a book about departures, I’ve realized that this decision comes with some major life changes that I did not envision when coming up with my plan.

Today, a lot of students in India aspiring to study abroad contact me to ask about my experience studying in an American institution, and whether or not it’s worth it. Some even have similar dreams of roaming the world before settling down at a much later date and age.

I’ve never had a straightforward answer to these questions. Living and working in a country that isn’t your own comes with an equal amount of pros and cons. Add constant movement to that mix, and rest assured you’ll have many sleepless nights where all you want to do is quit your job, pack your bags and move back home.

In the past 2 years, I have moved from Chicago to D.C. to Seattle and most recently, to New York City. Before that, I spent a year in Singapore, before moving back to New Delhi for a year to finish my undergrad. While there is no replacing the pain you experience when you say goodbye to the people you leave behind, you get to create so many new memories with people you’d never have imagined meeting, in places you’d never imagined living.

So if you’re anything like me and choose to make the U.S. your home, be prepared to live a life that is far less settled and glamorous than you expect. If you’re willing to accept the excitement with the constant feeling of uncertainty, you’re ready for the move. I promise this isn’t in any way a discouragement. On the contrary, I believe everyone should step out of their comfort zone at least once and try living somewhere new. So being mentally prepared for regular change and a life full of surprises will definitely help you enjoy the ride a little more.

In my opinion, the way to deal with constant movement is to keep an open mind and to believe that you are going to make something extraordinary out of your life (if you aren’t already).

Secondly, give in to the understanding that you might become the person you never thought you’d become. For a highly simplistic example, my attempts at cooking three years ago consisted of extremely burnt rice in a now-unusable pan. But a stint at living alone forced me to learn how to feed myself, and today I use cooking as a stress buster.

Finally, recognize that your life might not be the euphoria you expected it to be, but what is guaranteed is that the people you meet in every new place will change your life. Your experiences, both good and bad, will prepare you to face almost anything that is thrown your way.

Even if you come to the realization that the dream you had when you were 14 might not be as long-lived as you hoped for, you’ve still got a suitcase filled with more memories than clothes and a mattress that might be thin but the sky will be rich with stars. And the stories? There will be many to tell for the days to come.


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