Jan 7, 2008

Is The Grass Greener Over There, Or Simply Different?

It's 2008 and I am excited about this year for many reasons, the first of which is we have a lot of travel on our agenda. Hello, my name is Kimberley Lovato and I am an addict. I crave travel and writing about travel 24/7. Two things that pay me little (read..NO) money yet bring me such pure pleasure.

I have always yearned to travel. Even growing up in Los Angeles, friends and fellow teens had posters of their movie stars on their walls, I had a poster of the Matterhorn and of Paris. Becoming an expat and having the opportunity to live in a foreign country was a no brainer for me. Done. One of the obvious benefits of living here in Belgium, aside from the beauty the country has to offer, is its close proximity to Europe's major and minor destinations. This has increased my addiction and satiating my cravings has become practically a full time job. Paris: 1.5 hours. London: 2.5 hours. Cheap flights to Venice, Rome, Florence. Last minute trains to anywhere. Direct flights to you name it. It's like a kid in a candy store. Not to mention the road trips. Ah, the road trips. How luxe to plan lunch in Dusseldorf or Christmas shopping in Paris.

But there is a dark side to my addiction, and I have to confess something: I have been caught recently in a late night tryst with a skeptical looking travel magazine, plotting an escape to St. Moritz that involves a plane and a train through the Alps (reliving my childhood Heidi fantasy). I asked my family if they would like to see a a horse race where skiers are pulled behind, across a frozen lake. I waited for the resounding, "Of course, who wouldn't?" to come. I mean where else in the world can we see that?! They looked at each other, then looked at me. "I guess." Whatever, we're going, and you are going to like it!! They can't control my habit. I keep telling my husband he can't quit work because he's my dealer and I don't want my well would dry up. "Don't do it man! Don't do it!! I beg of you". A graveling broad is not a pretty broad. He is a gem.

My latest endeavor was perhaps the purest 'hit' I have yet to experience. A book co-written with professional chef and culinary tour operator Laura Schmalhorst. Ecstasy in 144 pages, this book is. The job: I got to travel and eat my way through the the beautiful region of the Dordogne, and write about its nooks and crannies, its welcoming people and, did I mention eat? I may have found another addiction...duck confit. We met the former chef of Francois Mitterand; the niece of famed French actress Margeurite Moreno; Some local chefs creating voodoo like magic in their kitchens; and local hoteliers, restaurateurs and farming families who are as charming as the day is long in the Dordogne. Insert heavenly aura music here. The book is due to be released this fall, and I should be getting back to my pre-Dordogne weight sometime in mid 2008. Read excerpts of the book here.

As I look back at my almost 4 years abroad, and with another presidential election looming ahead, I realize I am missing a lot at 'home'. But I also realize that this is home for now, and I would not have ever had these experiences or opportunities had I stayed in my comfort zone. One bleary eyed night as I paged through more internet travel sites at 2 am, I suddenly remembered what a woman said to me when she found out we were moving our family to Brussels. She said, " You know the grass is always greener."

Any expat will tell you that comparing 'home' to 'here' is the worst thing we can do. Best to just live life and accept 'here' as 'home' and especially, accept it for its differences. I will confess --- the grass sure is different here, but isn't that the point of moving to a different country?

Go ahead, take off your socks and walk barefoot through the wonderfully green, but superbly different grass of expat living. Happy Travels from Belgium.

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