WELL, THAT HAPPENED: The Traveling Pants

By on May 3, 2016

Bounding over the hurdles of expat depression.

Stunning scenery, even Iceland’s, cannot fill the void for human connection and a sense of belonging. (Photo: andrew munz)

Stunning scenery, even Iceland’s, cannot fill the void for human connection and a sense of belonging. (Photo: andrew munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – I only have one pair of pants left. Of the four I brought to Iceland, three have been grease-stained, hole-ripped, and seam-split to the point of oblivion. In a normal situation (i.e. living somewhere that isn’t rural Iceland), I would be able to easily head out to the store and make my way back home with a brand-spankin’-new pair of jeans. That would be the end of it. But when the closest men’s clothing store is a four-hour drive away, I’ve come to truly appreciate my last pair.

Today, I split the seam between my legs while lifting a crate of dessert plates.

I won’t lie and say that expat life has been a breeze. It’s been incredibly challenging, and I’m not just basing that conclusion on my pants dilemma. One of the biggest tribulations I’ve had to face is the hopelessness of making new friends in this tiny town. Not only am I working almost every day of the week, but I’m living in an area that has long since been vacated by single 20-somethings. Most of these individuals are drawn to the capital city of Reykjavík. With its allure of a vibrant culture and social norms, it stands out among the fishing villages and farming settlements scattered around the country.

While there are definitely a handful of wonderful people that I’ve met here and there, I’ve been altogether stripped of having a circle of friends who are not connected to work. I miss being able to have those simple conversations over drinks—the ones that have nothing to do with my work responsibilities. The problem is that when I do offhandedly meet new folks, I don’t have much to talk about other than work.

I won’t lie and say that I didn’t romanticize my move to Iceland. I had certain expectations that were influenced by my travels over the years, things that stuck out as special and unique. I wanted nothing more than to gobble those special things and insert them into my everyday life. What more need I think over?

The reality that has hit me since I’ve been here is that those special things (waterfalls, Icelandic traditions, fjords, etc.) start to become less special the more you’re exposed to them. I imagine there are plenty of Jackson people who can relate to my experience. As much as you hate to admit it, the view of the Tetons start to lose some amount of their “gosh, golly, wow” luster after a while.    

It’s been difficult to really enjoy Iceland to the fullest without my own means of transportation. Even if I had a car, I don’t have many days off to drive around and explore. I’ve found myself in the exact same spot so many of us find ourselves: Working at the expense of living.

Expat depression is something that happens to so many people around the world. It’s a courageous move to leave your home country and toss yourself into a foreign nation, especially when the language is different. Not being able to speak the language hinders your ability to make friends and understand your surroundings. Even though I’ve been slowly learning Icelandic, there aren’t enough people my age to practice the language with. And without any outlets to cut loose and have a good time, I split my time between working and watching Netflix.

Don’t worry. I’m not standing at the edge of the dock with tears streaming down my face trying to convince myself not to jump into the icy fjord. Although I can imagine how a situation like this can truly cripple someone to the point of doing something drastic. Human interaction is paramount, and for some goddamn reason I chose one of the few places in the world where human interaction is as difficult to come across as a new pair of pants.

Oh, my poor pants. We have a lot in common. It’s so hard for me to admit it because I know how many people are rooting for my success, but the honest truth is that my plan to move to Iceland has plenty of holes. My aspirations have split at the seams and a few segments of my sanity are only held together with some fraying thread. I know there’s a sewing kit out there somewhere that can stitch it all up.

I just need to figure out how long I need to drive to find it. PJH

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