Romper

Why We're Moving Back To Europe, Despite The Terrorist Attacks

Courtesy of of Christine Suhan

When I share my desire to move my family abroad with friends, I’m often met with a look of confusion. My husband, although supportive, still doesn’t understand the depth of my desire to give my family a life he can’t imagine. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t lived abroad can understand the deep-rooted passion for enculturation the way someone who has experienced it first-hand can. But when I think about the kind of life I want to give my kids, I know I want it to take place abroad. Yes, even in the aftermath of the devastating Brussels attacks, and the attacks in Ankara and Istanbul, and the Paris attacks, I want to move my family to back to Europe.

I heard about the attacks in Brussels on March 22 and the emotions washed over me like tidal waves on a stormy day. Fear, anger, frustration, and confusion are but a few that swirled inside me, saturating my skin, threatening to swallow me whole. But the love I feel for that country, for the world as a whole, is the foundation that keeps my feet firmly planted. It’s a love that I believe came from living abroad. A love I want my children to know. I lived in Brussels for a short period of time, and now my heart breaks for its people. When I tell people that I want to move my family back to Europe, they don’t outwardly understand. All they see is images of destruction and despair. Black, dirty, desolate structures, and cryptic newspaper covers. But I see something more.

Brussels was big and loud, but I always felt snug and warm. It felt like home, largely because it was.
AURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images
People hold a banner reading in French and Flamish 'I AM BRUSSELS' as they gather around floral tributes, candles, belgian and peace flags and notes in front of the Bourse of Brussels on March 22, 2016 in tribute to the victims of Brussels following triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded. Belgium launched a huge manhunt on March 22 after a series of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train, killing around 35 people in the latest attack to bring carnage to the heart of Europe. / AFP / BELGA AND Belga / Aurore Belot / Belgium OUT (Photo credit should read AURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images)
We were a team; home base wasn’t a place or a town, it was wherever we gathered; wherever we were together. I’ve always imagined myself parenting the way my parents did; with adventure and spontaneity circling a core of love and stability.

I was six weeks old when I flew on an airplane for first time. Four years old when I first moved overseas. I was a bonafide world traveler before I even knew what that meant. It wasn't until my family and I moved back from São Paulo, Brazil, to the United States that I realized my life as a world traveler was not the norm. Most of my new, American friends had never been on an airplane, let alone visited a "foreign" country. To me, it was the only life I had ever known. A life I loved and a life I desperately want my children to have.

Courtesy of of Christine Suhan

When I think of my childhood, airplanes, suitcases, garage sales and long car rides come to mind. My family was always on the go. My dad traveled frequently for work and his company relocated him four different times before I’d reached third grade. I feel like traveling so much as a family and sharing each new experience together built a very close bond between us. We were a team; home base wasn’t a place or a town, it was wherever we gathered; wherever we were together. I’ve always imagined myself parenting the way my parents did; with adventure and spontaneity circling a core of love and stability.

I miss Europe, tremendously, and I’ve always dreamt of moving my husband and children back to one of my favorite places on Earth: Brussels.

All three of my boys were born in Charlotte, North Carolina. We have a great life here, but I never thought we’d stay put as long as we have. My husband is spontaneous and adventurous, like I am, and we’ve talked many times about moving abroad. I’d love to move back to Europe, or maybe Australia, and my husband would prefer Costa Rica or Belize. However, after what happened in Brussels, I want to take my family back to Europe now more than ever.

EVERT ELZINGA/AFP/Getty Images
A picture taken on March 22, 2016 shows the Royal Palace at Dam Square in Amsterdam displaying the colors of the Belgian flag in tribute to the victims of Brussels following triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded. Belgium launched a huge manhunt on March 22 after a series of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train, killing around 35 people in the latest attack to bring carnage to the heart of Europe. / AFP / ANP / Evert Elzinga / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read EVERT ELZINGA/AFP/Getty Images)

I was 18 years old when my family moved to Belgium. I wasn’t supposed to go with them; I was already registered for college classes at the University of Kentucky, but I didn’t want to miss out on living in Europe. I used to pray for another chance to move abroad. I missed the excitement that came with the move; the wonder and awe of acclimating to a new culture, and moving to Belgium was even more amazing than I’d hoped. The people were friendly, the food, outstanding, and I fit in with the fast-paced yet relaxed lifestyle right away. Being able to drink legally and stay out late at bars and clubs gave me the freedom my heart yearned for. I miss Europe, tremendously, and I’ve always dreamt of moving my husband and children back to one of my favorite places on Earth: Brussels.

I want my children to explore unfamiliar territory. I want them to get lost so they can find their way. I want them to ask questions and be curious about the culture, customs, and hearts of people who live differently than we do. I want them to find ways to fit in with people who are nothing like them; I want them to stick out like a sore thumb so they can learn to adapt.

I remember riding the train each weekday, to and from the city. Years ago I sat in the same seats that today, turned to ash. Sometimes I can still smell the Brussels air after a summer rainstorm, the bright green trees glistening as if freshly bathed. Today, that wind carried screams. Those brilliant trees shivered in fear. Brussels is a city built up in the middle of a forest, thick patches a trees surround each corner, and now it is in mourning.

I remember walking through La Grand-Place for the first time, astounded by the detail etched into the side of the buildings. Music was always playing and restaurants stayed open all night. I got my first tattoo there. It was the middle of a cool, cloudy day; my friends and I went between classes. It hurt like hell, but a couple of glasses of my favorite Belgian beer, Kreik, helped to lessen the pain. Brussels was big and loud, but I always felt snug and warm. It felt like home, largely because it was.

PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Belgian police officers patrol at Brussels Airport in Zaventem following twin blasts on March 22, 2016. Bomb attacks at Brussels airport killed 14 people and left more than 90 wounded on March 22, a spokesman for the fire services told AFP. A local Brussels mayor said a separate bombing in a metro station killed around 20 people and injured 106. / AFP / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

I’ve passed through Zaventem Airport more times that I can count; I still know the layout like the back of my hand. It held so many of my tightest hugs; its floor collected tears from my overjoyed faces each time I flew in and was reunited with my family. When I moved back to the United States for college, Zaventem was always waiting to welcome me home. And each time I flew in, I’d see my mom and hold her close, never wanting to let go. My dad flew through back into Zaventem Airport just last month, and we’d talked over the weekend about taking the whole family back to visit. Doing so meant that we would fly through that airport, the one that housed so many happy reunions; the same one that, today, held smoke and ash and tears.

My mom recently told me that she often wonders if she and my dad made the right choice; if packing us up and moving the family across the world multiple times caused us to miss out, or if it produced an unnecessary amount of anxiety and chaos that could have otherwise been avoided. I thought she was crazy for even asking. "I wouldn't have changed it for the world," I told her. And I meant it.

Courtesy of of Christine Suhan

I loved growing up as an expat; my childhood was rich and diverse. I had friends from all over the world by the time I was 8 and spoke two different languages rather fluently. The experiences I had living overseas shaped the person I am today, and for that I will always be grateful. I learned to love everybody the same, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, and to value traditions, especially ones that were different from my own. I was taught to respect other cultures and appreciate little things, like clean water and a roof over my head. Things we, as Americans, often take for granted.

There is so much that can only be learned from experience, things that stories and verbiage can't teach. Traveling the world opened my eyes to the beauty that exists outside of myself. It created a deep capacity for compassion and understanding that fuels every fiber of my being. I lived in Brazil and Belgium, along with several states in the U.S. I had the opportunity to travel to places like Australia, New Zealand, and Dubai. Stockholm, Prague, Barcelona, and Florence were some of my absolute favorite cities. I want my children to have the life I had. I want them to experience the world like I did.

Courtesy of of Christine Suhan

I want my children to explore unfamiliar territory. I want them to get lost so they can find their way. I want them to ask questions and be curious about the culture, customs, and hearts of people who live differently than we do. I want them to find ways to fit in with people who are nothing like them; I want them to stick out like a sore thumb so they can learn to adapt.

It will be scary to move my family overseas in light of what happened today in Brussels. And in light of what happened months ago in Paris. But I still plan to. I still have hopes of living abroad, of igniting the adventurous spark inside each of my three boys. I can't wait to watch their spirits soar, in a way, in a world, beyond anything they could ever comprehend.