Home at last

My friend Maria over at iwasanexpatwife.com has inspired me to write my own retrospective of 2011.  It may have been a train wreck for her, but for me the train finally arrived in the station in terms of my repatriation.  What made it happen?

Finding a purpose.  For me that meant finding a job I truly enjoy, but it could easily have been a hobby, a sport or a volunteer activity.  Having a reason to get up in the morning, doing something that’s fun and being valued for it are things we all need and yet they often get blown out of the water when we relocate.  This is my third job in 2 years, so it has been a bumpy road.

Making friends.  This past year I’ve acquired a few more new friends and acquaintances.  I don’t think it’s coincidence that they too had (or still have) international lives.  I’ve also reconnected more deeply with old friends and I suspect that’s partly due to the fact that I, and they, no longer feel I’m about to pack my bags and head out again any time soon.

My family’s settled.  I guess this is very much an expat wife thing, because we’re notorious for getting our families settled before looking after ourselves.  Although we all repatriated at different times, I now feel both my husband and son are happy and settled, or at least as much as TKCs are likely to be.

This is the same list you’d make for adjusting to any new location, but there’s no doubt that repatriation adds a huge extra layer of complexity.  For us, a period of unemployment during a particularly difficult economic period created additional stress, but the emotional baggage of who we are now vs who we were before expatriation was the killer and affected every aspect of our lives.  Having said that, like many of life’s major challenges, it has been a time of learning and growth.  Perhaps every dark cloud does have a silver lining.

Many expatriates don’t have a home to come back to, either because they’ve been global nomads all their lives or have permanently cut the ties to what was home.  But for us knowing we had not only a country, but a house to call home, was an important touchstone during those inevitable down days of life overseas, so I don’t regret it.  However, during the early days of culture shock when you repatriate and find home doesn’t feel comfortable, safe or even pleasant anymore, it’s like having the rug pulled completely out from under you.  No wonder it takes so long to re-establish a sense of security and comfort.

So what now, going forward?  I’m really not sure and, given past experience, I’m not sure I want to know, LOL!  But one thing I do know is that I am a forever-expat.  I continue to rejoice in my expat friendships, my volunteer work with Families in Global Transition and the Toronto Newcomers Club, so please continue to watch this space.


7 thoughts on “Home at last

  1. I think you’ve handled your transition with remarkable grace and determination. You’ve had setbacks, but you’ve never let them set you back for long. I’m glad you’re finally at the stage of feeling at home — it’s a good place to be.

  2. I find your transition an inspiration. Don’t know if I will ever be going through it myself, but always pay close attention to blogs such as yours describing your experiences with this.

  3. Pingback: From homecoming to homefeeling: 5 things I did right as a repatriate | I was an expat wife

  4. I agree that those three things are very important when relocating anywhere, whether it be back to the homeland, or new country. Finding a purpose within the new community as always helped me step out of my “Oh, why did we have to leave?” mentality stage.

  5. I enjoyed reading your blog today. I happened on it quite my mistake and I’m glad I did. I would like to add a twist to this, in hopes that some of your readers are experiencing, or have experienced something similar, and can offer some advice on certain matters.
    Nearly 10 years ago I married an Italian and ended up with two homes. One in Italy, and one in America. I travel to each place every 6 to 8 weeks, until summer at which time I spend the summer months in America.
    I find it impossible to become involved in anything as I’m never in one place long enough to commit. This, after having worked most of my life, has left me with a lack of purpose. I spend way too much time on the computer and find it difficult to motivate myself in any direction. Hobbies? Yes, but that’s just more “home alone” time. When I’m “home”, I find my friends all have to be penciled into my calendar in much the same way a dental appointment would be, as they all work. I guess what I’m asking is….. Has anyone out there been through this? Any ideas on what someone like me could DO, that would actually make a difference? Even as a volunteer, a commitment must be made.
    Okay. That’s enough feeling sorry for myself for one day. If anyone out there has read this… Thank you. xo

  6. Leslie, I understand your problem, as I’ve come across many expat partners in this situation for one reason or another. One of the strangest was the Australian woman who commuted between Dubai and Oz because she had to look after a herd of cattle back on the family farm. You don’t mention where in Italy or the US you spend your time, but if they are larger centres, joining a local expat or newcomers club would at least put you in touch with those who understand your lifestyle and they would probably have activities that you could pursue without a long term commitment. Check out Internations and Meetup groups in both places. Newcomers clubs seem to be more of a North American thing.

    I would also recommend the latest edition of the book “A Career in Your Suitcase” by Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith. The term “career” is used very loosely as they examine both paid and unpaid work as options for those with a mobile lifestyle.

    And I can’t end without making a plug for the Families in Global Transition Conference which will be held in Amsterdam next March. You would definitely find your “tribe” there and both useful connections and inspiration.

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