Erik and Mona visited Gran Canaria (Canary Islands) 70 times in the last 46 years and recently received an award from the island’s government. The draw of a welcoming, warm and healthy climate, as well as tennis and long, leisurely evenings spent with good friends has ensured the return of this 80-year-old Swedish couple to their favorite destination time and time again. The couple regards Gran Canaria as their second home.
This feeling is very familiar to me. My partner and I arrived for a one-week holiday on the island many years ago and immediately felt at home. I still remember the dread of returning to the UK and the deep longing of wanting to remain on the island forever, as I was forcibly propelled up the aircraft steps for the dreaded flight back home to the UK Weeks later we returned to the island again. Each year, wherever our holiday plans took us, we would always ensure that we returned to the island for as many visits as we could afford. Eventually of course, it was a deep longing to find work and to make our permanent home on the island, which seemed impossible at the time. However, hard work and good fortune eventually brought us to our favorite destination.
Many people have a deep sense of longing for a particular destination. It may be the South of France, Spain’s Costa Blanca, Portugal’s Algarve or maybe Thailand. It is almost as if we feel that we belong in a certain place rather than where we currently live through an accident of birth. The symptoms are easy to spot and we have many friends who seem to have caught this particular disease. It usually begins with a deep sense of longing to return to a particular destination, and the feeling, which is very hard to explain, that you are almost being drawn there. Regular holidays are just the start, and it may be that the ‘holiday romance’ repeated time and time again with a particular destination is all that is required. No commitment, no ties, just a sensuous flirtation and a brief affair.
If this ‘holiday affair’ evolves into several visits each year, staying at and visiting the same favorite places, eating in the same familiar restaurants, regularly collecting local magazines and newspapers “Just to see what the cost of housing is over here”, the unsuspecting expat should be extremely careful as these are just some of the early symptoms of the unsuspecting expat. The danger signs are very real when they begin regularly looking at the property advertisements in newspapers and magazines. This usually extends quickly into peering longingly into the windows of estate agents, or possibly going inside to ask a few questions. Once they find that perfect spot by the beach, in the mountains, by the lake or wherever they may seek their own personal paradise, they are hooked. The best thing to do is to finally admit that they have caught the disease and just do whatever it takes to make it happen and begin to live their dream. Recognize the symptoms?
Although our Swedish octogenarian couple maintains a home in Sweden and visit the island regularly for holidays each year, it is clear that they are islanders in all but name. Mind you, Erik also pointed out that they come from Scandinavia where they live about 24 degrees below zero … and it is very cold. “Believe me,” he went on to say, “here we have a wonderful climate with a very friendly and nice people.” I guess that with temperatures that cold there is a major incentive to escape to the sun.