I was all prepped today to open up my laptop and write a blog post on the top 3 essential items every expat should purchase before leaving home and, although I’m definitely going to post this (I promise it will be a good one), my gut was telling me to go in a different direction. And sometimes you’ve just got to listen to your gut. So here we go! Maybe it’s because I’ve passed my two year mark ( actually this was back in late April, but really who was thinking about semi-important milestones during a global pandemic? ), or maybe it’s because I recently moved to a new flat which feels like the beginning of a new life chapter. Whatever the trigger, it feels like it’s a good time for a quick emotional check-in. This doesn’t mean I’m going to have an emotional breakdown where I check-in with myself btw (although given the state of the current world, I think that’s completely understandable). This just means it’s a good time for me to stop for a second and reflect on the past couple of years.
Reflection is something I love to do, I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer and I feel that reflecting on where you are and where you’ve been can provide some real therapeutic value – especially as an expat. One thought that came to my mind during this reflection period, was around what happens when you move on to the next stage of your expat journey. Just to give you some context on my own journey, I originally came to the UK on a two-year visa and before my visa started I was thinking about everything through the lense of two-year increments. Asking myself questions such as: what were the next two years going to look like? What people would I meet? What life lessons would I gain and what struggles would I have to endure? I framed every thought with with the two year running time in mind. Now, I’ve made it to the other side. Those two years have come to an end. I’m at the point where I’ve made the decision to stay in London and I’m rebuilding my life here forreal. I say this because I think it’s important to nuture and be honest about all the different stages of the expat experience you will go through.
We talk alot about the beginning stages of moving to a new country: building a social circle, finding a job, a flat, a partner, but today I really recognised a new stage in the moving abroad journey. The stage after your Visa has come to an end and you need to make a decision to either stay, go home or begin a new journey elsewhere. And if you decide to stay, it’s then the process of building your life, your future and your everyday routine in a place that is still somewhat foreign; familiar, yet unfamilair at the same time. That’s what came to my mind today when I was at home by myself washing some dishes. I thought, although I’m in my own space where I can, to some degree, replicate the life I had back home. At the same time, it’s such a new and different feeling and on top of that I’ve grown so much in the past two years, so even if everything felt the same, it wouldn’t be the same. There is an element where you need to reconnect with your old ‘self’, while also making space to understand your ‘new’ self. So, to anyone else who is going through this phase of their expat journey, I think the answer is to embrace and acknowledge the full breadth of your feelings. Take the time to get to know the person you are today while still acknowledging the past person who brought you to this place.
Take comfort in this: Everything you feel makes sense (well I’ll say atleast the majority, we all have our crazy days) and although it may take time, you will build a sense of home again.