the uncertain future

August 10, 2012 · 4 comments

in ramblings

People always ask me when I’ll leave Kyrgyzstan. It’s inevitable, I won’t argue that. Nobody assumes that expats will stick around here forever. But it’s a tough question to answer. I’m coming up on two years since I moved to Bishkek and there’s still no clear plan for how long we’ll stay, what we’ll do next, or where we’ll go next.

For a while, the vague plan has been to stay for another year or two. We decided recently that the business’s future will not be in Kyrgyzstan, so we thought we would put a few months of careful effort into figuring out where we could expand to. Kazakhstan? Afghanistan? Brazil? Argentina? Burma? Ideas to split our time between two continents were mentioned, spreadsheets were made and contacts were reached out to. We’ll give this whole thing a solid few more years, we told ourselves.

And then Farrell got an idea.

Aquaponics. A closed-circuit system designed to grow organic produce (without soil) and raise fish at the same time. He’s currently on Day 5 of spending the majority of his day researching organic food markets, property prices, transportation, freshwater fish breeds, etc. He asks me if I’d like to move to: China, Brazil, France (the Burgundy region), Spain (outside of Madrid or Barcelona), Colorado (Denver), or Texas (Austin). Or if I happen to have any other locations in mind.

I’m pretty sure those are the choices so far, but they change so quickly from day to day. (Bangladesh? That’s a no. But maybe Japan. How about Thailand?)

I can’t determine if this is real yet. I’ve written previously about his entrepreneurial whims, how he spent several weeks during our stints in Baghdad calling around to companies that manufactured tomato paste-processing equipment, with the idea of opening a factory in Iraq. There was also the real estate company he started just before we moved to Bishkek (he and his partner recently closed it). Then there were the ideas that never quite got past an intense week of discussion and some light market research, like the idea to make and export beeswax candles from Kyrgyzstan, or the hamburger restaurant in the Baghdad International Airport. Just a few weeks ago there was even talk of opening a Cinnabon franchise in China.

None of those have panned out. So for now I can’t tell if I should be excited, if I should plan, if I should buy a Spanish phrasebook, if I should buy an airline-approved cat carrier, if I should research new visa regimes and new small-business regulations, if I should inventory my current possessions, decide what can be donated, trashed, packed for shipping or swapped out with what’s in storage in the states…

Or if I should sit back and wait for this idea to fizzle out, if I should count on the plan to stay here, the one that isn’t actually much more thought out than the idea to move to {insert country here} and start a farm.

I guess that’s the toughest part about knowing we have the freedom and the opportunity to pretty much go anywhere and do anything we want. We get these crazy ideas and there’s not much to actually stop us from pursuing them when we know that we can become relatively successful at ventures like moving site-unseen to Kyrgyzstan to start a social research company (for example). But how do you choose your future when you have such seemingly endless opportunities? The uncertainty can be frightening and overwhelming, and sometimes I find myself longing to just have a solid direction for my life and some semblance of stability.

So who knows. Maybe I’ll still be in Bishkek two years from now, maybe I’ll be living on a farm outside of Madrid, maybe I’ll be somewhere completely different chasing a new wild idea.

What about you? Fellow expats (or anybody, really), how do you decide what “the next step” should be, when to take a big leap, or where to go next?

(Photos are from the most insanely gorgeous backyard garden at the house we rented last weekend in Issyk Kul. Maybe we should just do the aquaponics thing here?)

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