This is my desk in Malta:
It’s not what you might expect from your average geeky tech professional. I’m missing the parallel 30″ LCD monitors, the fancy split keyboard and the Herman Miller sitting-on-a-cloud desk chair.
I sit at a converted table, and it’s a tad too high. There’s an old, boxy 17″ monitor (rented for a song from the local computer guy), a cheap keyboard made in China for about 17 cents (with ‘Bck’ and ‘ForWard’ buttons) and a very non-ergonomic straight-backed chair.
I mention this not to look like a corporate martyr, but because lately I’ve been thinking about comfort.
When I tell people about our living abroad, they sometimes say:
“That sounds great, but I could never do that. I’d miss my television (or bed or cat or Frappuccino) too much.”
They’re mostly joking, but there is truth in what they’re saying. Moving to new places means a sacrifice in creature comforts.
I’ve said this before, but when I first thought about living abroad, back in 2000 or so, I thought I knew what the tricky bits would be. I thought we’d get tripped up by driving on the other side of the road or dealing with a foreign currency.
A Thousand Subtle Things
In fact, it’s a thousand subtle, little things that are trickiest. A bunch of these have to do with changes in comfort level. The bed is a little short for my 6’1″ frame. The water pressure in the shower upstairs is, as my friend Joe once remarked, like a 12-year-old peeing on you. There are plenty of new and exciting bugs and lizards to catch, kill and/or release.
Most days it’s easy to justify the sundry unfamiliarities and nuisances. After all, you get to experience the thousand thrills and subtle pleasures of discovering a new country in a new corner of the world.
Occasionally, though, I do think fondly of my ultra-modern Yaletown apartment, with its cleaning service, huge computer monitor and instant access to everything. I’ll be cured of the travel bug when those days of longing for familiar create comforts exceed the exciting days of discovery and new pleasures.
After all, I’m young enough to know that, in the future, I’ll live somewhere long enough to justify acquiring the wall-sized monitors and the Back Massage of a Thousand Virgins desk chair.
I’m also old enough to know that possessions are fleeting, and so is both comfort and discomfort.