Why We Moved to Prague: We are Existential Migrants

People often ask us, “What brought you to Prague?” or “Why did you move to Prague?” or something like that and I usually struggle with the answer. I laugh and say, “Honestly, I don’t know.” Or I shrug my shoulders and say, “I guess we just liked Prague.” Or sometimes if I want to get into it more I might say, “We could work from anywhere at the time and decided we wanted a bit of adventure and to experience something new, so we decided to move to Europe.” But, really all of these answers fall short. They may be true, but at best they only touch briefly on our reasons for moving here. I’ve really never known how to define all of the subtle motivations that led us to pick up and move our entire lives overseas.

Recently I read Andrew Jones’ beautiful thoughts on global nomads. Andrew and his family have chosen a much more radical life then just moving overseas like Bryan and I did, they are, as he put it “serial travelers.” But, there was a lot in his poem that I could relate to or that at least stirred longing within me.  As I read through his post I came across a new term, a term that intrigued me and then shook me. A term that really helped me to shed light on our own decision to move. The term is existential migrants.

Here’s how this article defined existential migration:

existential migration is “conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner.” It is different from “economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration” in that it is a chosen move, not driven by economic or political needs.

This is definitely our story. We did not need to move to Prague, or anywhere else, for external reasons (such as economic or political reasons), but very early in our marriage we realized that we did need to leave. We needed to leave for internal reasons… existential reasons. We needed to leave so that we could grow and reach our potential. We needed to leave so that we could really start our own life together instead of living under the shadows of the previous lives we had experienced as single individuals. We needed to leave in order to become the creative, experienced, interesting, cultured, open-minded people that we wanted to become.

This article discussing existential migration really resonated with me. It says this about the existential migrant (emphasis mine):

These individuals move cross-culturally, sometimes repeatedly, in search of self- understanding and adventure. Such people are actually seeking to resolve deeper ‘existential’ questions such as ‘who am I’, ‘how can I fulfill my potential?’, ‘where do I belong?’, ‘how can I feel at home?’… The study generated impressively consistent themes including the importance of independence, the need to live fully, the need for freedom within belonging, the value of experiences of difference and foreignness as a stimulus to personal awareness. Among these migrants there is a marked preference for the strange and foreign and a consistent contempt for the conventional and easy life of the settled community.

This is why Bryan and I moved to Prague. We are existential migrants. And in some ways, no matter where we end up, perhaps always will be.

More on these thoughts later…

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman