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Sam Cook column: The world is waiting for someone like you

Sam Cook

Some friends of mine have come home — this time for good. For most of the past 20 years, this couple has worked abroad from Bangladesh to Belgium to Budapest. Longtime Duluth residents, they uprooted themselves — and their young kids — to answer a call they could no longer resist.

They worked mainly in American International Schools, serving students from around the world. Freshly retired, they have come home to the house they rented out during their absence. Yes, the refrigerator door fell off when they opened it. And, yeah, the car's power steering had somehow gone out during the past year's absence. Re-entry is never easy.

But the rewards of their life and careers abroad far outweighed the hassles of transition.

Here is how a journey of this kind begins: You read something or hear about someone who has done something similar. Then you begin snooping around for more information. Maybe you talk to someone who has been there.

When you've got some kind of a plan, you just go. You store furniture, sell a car, say goodbye to tearful family members. And go.

I'll tell you a secret: It never works out exactly as you envision it. My friends, for instance, worked abroad for a year, then returned home, back to their old jobs. But they couldn't stay. The spell of international living had seized them, and they knew they couldn't resist its allure. The following year, they left again, and that time, they were committed. They would come home at Christmas and for a few weeks each summer, but they worked and raised their kids in Europe, flitting from country to country to hike or ski or run.

Of course, they missed those of us they left behind. But the rewards of their international life far outweighed the pain of separation from loved ones in America.

You could do this, too — or something like it. You could teach in Bolivia, take your nursing skills to Guatemala, become a nanny in France or a commercial fisherman in Alaska. Or almost anything you imagine.

Sometimes, as my late friend Art Aufderheide said, you just have to go there. You can do a lot of research on the internet. You can talk to people who have done something similar to what you want to do. But at some point, there is no substitute for just putting yourself there.

Will you have a solid plan? Maybe not. Will you have enough money? Unlikely. Will you feel scared and sometimes lonely and lost? Probably.

Just go. To Ely or Ecuador or Ethiopia.

"The moment you definitely commit yourself, then providence moves, too," wrote the German author and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

It's true. I know it. My friends who have come home know it.

When you put yourself in this new place, people will take you in, help you out, give you shelter. They will help you make connections. One thing will lead to another. Someone will take a chance on you. The rest is up to you.

Oh, you'll need one other thing.


In yourself.

Sam Cook is a freelance columnist for the Duluth News Tribune. Reach him at or find his Facebook page at