Are You Excited?

Posted by on Jan 23, 2015 in Life in Laos | 7 comments

It used to be that the question that stumped me was, “where’s home for you?” It took three years and a memoir, but I finally made my peace with that word home after we moved to Laos. Now the question that’s leaving me tongue-tied and bewildered is different. It’s, “Are you excited?”

I’ve been asked this question at least half a dozen times this week. We’re moving, you see—to Vanuatu, in the South Pacific. We’re going to live on an island, in a town where cruise ships dock. We’re essentially going to live in a postcard.

So people naturally want to know if I’m excited.

And I don’t know how to answer them, because the truth is I’m not sure I do excited.

When I hear the word excited I think of longing, of feverish anticipation, of impatience. I think of a “can’t wait” feeling, and a “must be there now” eagerness.

I haven’t felt any of these things in relation to our move, really.

When Mike rang me to tell me he’d gotten the job, I mostly felt relieved. All the agitation and impatience I associate with excitement was present in spades during those long weeks of uncertainty. The whole process from application to in-country interview only took three weeks, but by the time the offer came I felt as if I’d been holding my breath forever. It wasn’t until I heard those words, “we’re going to Vanuatu,” that I finally exhaled.

Weeks of tension ebbed away, and what flowed into the vacuum wasn’t excitement as much as a general sort of happy.  

It was wonderful to go into Christmas (a season that included visits by both sets of parents) knowing that we were headed towards good things in early 2015. It’s been fun to see Mike excited about the new role he’s stepping into. And it’s been bizarre—in a good way—to try to wrap my mind around the fact that for the first time in 20 years I’ll be able to travel from my door to my parent’s door in about 8 hours.

But I haven’t felt impatient to get to Port Vila.

I’ve been enjoying our last weeks here and (I’ll be honest) particularly our last weeks surrounded by a team of wonderful care-givers who spend so much time looking after our two kids. Right now, Dominic’s at school, happily engaged in making volcanoes out of sand and baking soda. Alex is at home roaming around with our driver and housekeeper (who I’m pretty sure he loves just as much as he loves Mike and me). The packers come in five days, and instead of running around or wrangling our offspring I’m sitting here in a café downtown. With coffee. And my laptop. Writing about how I feel.

If that’s not luxury when you’re the mother of two kids under four, I don’t know what is.

It’s a luxury I have greatly appreciated during these last eight months, and that is part of the reason I stumble when people ask me whether I’m excited about moving to Port Vila. This is pretty much the definition of what Elizabeth Gilbert would call a “champagne problem,” but it’s hard to get too excited about the next good thing while you’re still enjoying the good thing you’ve got. 

Mike and I talked about this yesterday afternoon, wine in hand, while we waited for the kids to come back from an afternoon playgroup. (Again with the luxury).

“Maybe I’m defining excitement too narrowly,” I said. “Maybe it’s not just about needing the future here now. Maybe it’s more about feeling enthusiastic and happy, awake and alive. So maybe I do feel excited.”

“Maybe,” Mike said after he listened to me talk in circles for a while. Then he said, “I have two other theories. First, you’ve never been to Vanuatu. You’re taking my word for it that it’ll be a good place for us, but it’s hard for you to get too excited about something that’s still so intangible.”

“OK,” I said. “What’s your second theory?”

He grinned.

“Well, let’s face it. You’re not great at goodbye’s. So my second theory is that you’re dreading leaving so much you’ve mostly checked out of this whole process. It’d be hard to feel excited about what’s next if you’re mostly ignoring the fact that we’re leaving.”

“I am so not ignoring the fact that we’re leaving,” I argued. “I’ve been stocking up on essentials like silk scarves and cheap DVDs for weeks!!”

It was right about then that the kids came home and we jumped on the dinner, bath, teeth and bed treadmill, and were spared any further discussion of my excitement or lack thereof. But now I’ve had a surprising (and very welcome) decent night of sleep and some coffee, here’s what I think.

I think that on days when my energy reserves are low the thought of more change—even good change—can be exhausting instead of energizing. I think my energy reserves are low about 80% of the time at the moment (thanks Dominic and Alex). I think that I’ve coped with that reality by mostly staying focused on the present and enjoying the little things during our last days here in Laos. I think that has largely helped keep dread at bay, but has probably also stifled some excitement. And I think that what I have been feeling in the midst of all my focusing on the now is still complicated, and I have always struggled to let one word stand where a thousand are needed.

So here’s my new strategy.

Given we now have one week remaining I think perhaps I can acknowledge that we are actually leaving.

I will honor the contradictory mixture of dread, anticipation, gratitude and sadness this ushers in by leaving this café now, going to the shop across the street, and buying a purple silk scarf that I in no way need, but definitely want. Then I will go home and start packing.

And from now on, when people ask me whether I’m excited, I’m going to keep it simple. I’m just going to say yes and declare it to be so. And in saying it, I’m going to take one step closer to meaning it.

What about you?
What makes you feel “excited”?

P.S. And while we’re speaking of things that make people excited, we haven’t broken it to Dominic and Alex yet that there’s no Dairy Queen in Vanuatu.

Related posts:

Surprised by beauty
Best of Year One in Laos
House hunting and the powers that be


  1. My friend Angie is working with the peace corps in Vanuatu. She used to work with me in Thailand. Maybe you’ll run into each other, small worlds and all.

    • May well do. Vanuatu isn’t that big!

  2. Another moving question: “are you so sad to leave? Will you miss it?” I combine them. Yes—I will miss it soooo much and I am soooo sad….until we get to the airport. Then I’m excited about the next place! Good luck in your move. I’m excited for you!!

    • Thanks, Mari!! Funnily enough, no one here has asked me the “sad” question. Guess a bunch of expats around here are pretty eager to leave 🙂

  3. Having left a number of lovely venues for unknown others over 4 decades of adventure with my big guy and four younger ones, I truly get what you describe so well, Lisa. May the ice cream keep coming and those lovely chubby boy legs in denim lengthen as your family makes its way to Vanuatu, resettling yet again. Thanks for writing and posting your thoughts, Lisa. Your boys will thank you for the life you’re giving them…eventually.

    • 🙂 I’ll take more sleep in lieu of thanks. I was up with Dominic again last night between 1 and 3!!

  4. Devils advocate here: maybe you ARE goodiesh-er at saying goodbye than you think. Maybe being mindful of all your Lao moments, savoring and noticing the good you have and now must leave, stocking up on scarves and silk IS YOUR way of saying a good goodbye. I have done all those things when leaving a country that has become a place where home happens for me. I’ve saved “being excited” or “saying hello” for when I actually arrive at the new place. There is a grieving in moving, and maybe this is just how you do this kind of grieving. There’s a sweetness in the pressure of intensely cementing the unique beauty and blessing of a well loved corner of God’s earth that comes with knowing you won’t be there for much longer. Enjoying this kind of appreciation is, in my opinion, one of the good things about the expat life style. Just a thought.