The Addiction of Expat Life

So while I’m ready to get home for the summer, it doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily ready to give up expat life.  Two years. We were only supposed to be gone for 2 years. A quick adventure while the kids were still young. But two years has quickly turned into 6 1/2 with no end in sight. How in the world did we get here?  

Who intentionally tortures themselves over and over again?  Are we unknowingly sadistic? The constant unknowns. The revolving door of friends. Living life constantly in a language that is not your own. The simple parts of your old daily life become anything but simple, taking on complexities you never imagined when buying something as simple as a muffin pan would ever bring to your life.

And yet, we persevere. We continue our forward march. Because we can’t go back. And we don’t know what (or where) lies ahead. For all of the unknowns and challenges, there is something about this life less ordinary that is addicting.

It’s certainly easy to become addicted to the travel. Seizing every spare long weekend and vacation week to explore somewhere new. Never repeating because there is too much left out there to see and we don’t know when this precious opportunity could go away.

On the flip side, while life is more complicated as an expat and there are many days when you want to throw up the white flag in defeat, eventually it also takes on a sense of normalcy… Just on a different playing field of what you used to call normal. You still have doctors appointments, sports and schedules to adhere to, just like everyone else. You just do them in a foreign language, in a new culture (that doesn’t do things the way you used to do them) and continue on like this is any other life.  Only it’s not.

When do you stop?  At what point is it time to go back “home” to your normal life?  And is part of the addiction also a fear of going back to your normal life and no longer feeling satisfied by it?  Our lives before becoming expats were great – I have no complaints.  We were happy.  We weren’t itching to get away, we just seized an opportunity.  But that choice to become expats changed the course of our lives forever.

And so you continue.  You don’t make long term plans, just taking things year by year.  “We’ll see how this year goes and then we’ll make a decision”.  You live in a constant state of limbo.  There is no 5 year plan.  There is only right now.  In a way, it’s nice to live for the moment and in a way, it’s frustrating to not have a “game plan” of when will be the right time to make the next move.  And not only when, but where.  Once you’ve moved abroad once, you realize that the world is your oyster and it becomes a smaller, much less intimidating place.  You did this once, you can do it again.  That time was hard, so this time will be easier.  I’ve done this before and so how hard can it be?  (Very hard!).  You realize that there are so many opportunities out there and the only restriction is your imagination (and perhaps your budget!).

As we prepare to come home for our 7th summer, I can’t help but wonder where we will be this time next year.  What will the next year bring for us?  I guess only time will tell. Until then, we’ll take it a day at a time and savor our time at home this summer and prepare for another (school) year abroad and the exciting adventures that lie ahead.

Knuffels en kussen,

Julie

 

3 thoughts on “The Addiction of Expat Life

  1. It is addicting! We’ve signed on for our third year and originally we said we’d never stay longer than two. Now we’re talking about what to do if they offer us a fourth… Have a great trip home!

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    • I remember we were 6 weeks into our first year and on our first date night. I had been crying all the time – it was just soooo hard being away from home, in a new culture, etc. And my husband says – “they’d like me to extend already”… It wasn’t a pretty sight 😉 And yet, here we are – 6 1/2 years later!

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