“The harsh reality is that you are forever going to feel like you don’t belong,” says Robin Pascoe in her book Homeward Bound, speaking about the tradeoffs we make for the many benefits of expatriate life. That blunt statement hit me right between the eyes with the certainty of an undisputed truth.
In the Afterword of the same book, Dr Kirsten Thogersen, a clinical psychologist, agrees, “There is no way you will every again be assimilated with a group of people who have not been travelling like yourself.”
For the past 14 years I’ve lived as an outsider and been very happy, so why should I expect it be any different now that I’m home? I believe it’s an acceptable price to pay for all the amazing experiences I’ve had as an expat. Although it’s tempting to think those who haven’t travelled must be boring, many of the people I met in other countries hadn’t travelled either and I found them fascinating. I may never fully assimilate, but people at home lead interesting lives just as the locals I met overseas did.
And yes, I guess I am still trying to convince myself, but reading Robin’s book has certainly helped me a great deal and I strongly recommend it to any expatriate, even those who don’t go home, as eventually everyone settles somewhere and will go through the whole expatriate-withdrawal process.
Since returning to Canada 6 months ago I have started this blog, connected with many involved in the expat world through social media and starting volunteering with Families in Global Transition. I had thought these were a temporary means to “hang on” to the expat life I’d left behind and perhaps I was being a bit desperate and sad. But reading Robin’s book has made me realize that’s not the case. Even though a chapter of my life may have ended, expatriate life will always be a part of me. I am a forever expat.