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Is expatriation in the pursuit of happiness utopian?

True happiness often lies in the journey itself, not the destination

par Yves Pepito Malette
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Expatriation, this bold movement that drives individuals to leave their homeland to settle in a foreign country, is often motivated by the quest for a better life, the search for happiness. But is this quest realistic, or is it utopian?

Happiness, a concept both simple and complex, varies from one person to another. For some, it lies in financial and professional security, while for others, it is found in family and personal balance or even in adventure and discovery. Expatriation can be seen as a blank canvas, offering the chance to redraw one’s life according to these personal criteria of happiness.

However, expatriation is not a path strewn with roses. The challenges are numerous: language barriers, cultural differences, social isolation, and sometimes professional or economic difficulties. These obstacles can make the search for happiness even more complex, emphasizing that changing location does not guarantee happiness itself.

Yet, for many, expatriation is an enriching experience that allows for greater self-knowledge and open-mindedness towards new cultures and lifestyles. It can lead to inspiring encounters, learning new languages and skills, and discovering unexpected passions. These positive aspects can greatly contribute to a sense of happiness and personal fulfillment.

So, is expatriation in the search for happiness utopian? The answer is not straightforward. If we consider utopia as an aspiration to an often unattainable ideal, then yes, thinking that expatriation will solve all our problems and bring us perfect happiness can be seen as utopian.

However, if we view utopia as a guide, a beacon illuminating our path towards constant improvement of our condition, then expatriation can be a valid step in this quest for happiness. It forces us to step out of our comfort zone, to question our prejudices, and to grow through challenges.

Take, for example, two individuals who chose Costa Rica as their new country of adoption, each with their unique story and personal quest for happiness.

Example 1: Clara, the seeker of balance

Clara, originally from France, worked in the fast-paced world of Parisian finance. Exhausted by constant pressure and the frantic pace of life, she longed for a more serene and balanced lifestyle. The decision to expatriate to Costa Rica was motivated by her desire to reconnect with nature and slow down her daily pace. Settling in a small community near Corcovado National Park,

Clara discovered a radically different existence. She began working remotely as a financial consultant, which left her enough time to indulge in her passion for hiking and nature photography.

In Costa Rica, Clara found a balance between work and leisure, between technology and nature, thus contributing to her sense of happiness and accomplishment. This example shows how expatriation, far from being an escape, can be a reorientation towards what truly matters to the individual.

«Leaving the frenzy of Paris for the peaceful landscapes of Costa Rica, I realized that happiness does not depend on our geographical location, but on our ability to live in harmony with our surroundings and ourselves. Here, surrounded by nature and guided by a new pace of life, I found an inner peace I did not know existed. Happiness, I discovered, is deeply rooted in simplicity and gratitude for the present moment. Costa Rica offered me a canvas to redraw my life, not in search of happiness, but to live happily.»

– Clara Loisselle, Playa Carate

Example 2: John, the community builder

John, on the other hand, was a teacher in Michigan with a passion for languages and cultures. Attracted by Costa Rica’s reputation for peace and sustainability, he saw in this country an opportunity to create something unique. John chose to settle in San José, where he founded a language school combining English teaching with community service projects. By involving his students in local ecological initiatives and cultural exchange programs,

John not only contributed to the development of the local community but also found a deep sense of personal fulfillment. His project allowed him to forge close ties with locals and expatriates, making his quest for happiness a shared and enriching one. This example illustrates how, through expatriation, it is possible to find a purpose beyond personal satisfaction, contributing to the well-being of a community.

«The journey to happiness, through expatriation, is an adventure that begins with a step out of one’s comfort zone. In Costa Rica, I discovered that happiness is not just a state of mind but also a daily practice. By building a school that bridges cultures and supports the community, I learned that true happiness arises from connecting with others and contributing to something greater than oneself. This country taught me that happiness is a journey, not to a place, but to a way of being.»

– John Steven, San José

In conclusion:

Life abroad confronts the individual with a diversity of situations – from the initial difficulties of adapting to the local culture and language, to the enriching discoveries of new ways of living and thinking. These contrasting experiences are the components of a profound learning process, where each overcome obstacle and each joy encountered contribute to redefining the personal conception of happiness.

Happiness in expatriation is not found in a specific geographical destination, but in the journey itself – in the open-mindedness that allows one to fully immerse oneself in a new culture, appreciate the differences, and find one’s place. This conscious and active integration process into a foreign environment can reveal unknown facets of our personality, unlock unsuspected potentials, and pave the way for renewed personal growth.

By accepting challenges as an integral part of the journey and celebrating every small victory, the expatriate can discover that true happiness often lies in the journey itself, and not in the destination. Thus, far from being a utopian quest, expatriation can transform into a profoundly transformative experience, leading to a richer and more nuanced understanding of happiness.


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