Ugh. Yet another emotive guest post about expat life on The American Resident to get you thinking. This post is from the brilliant writer, Emma Raphael. With my sister and her family visiting me right now, and with these expat guest posts I am having an emotional roller coaster! What about you?
Our expat life often starts full of exciting adventure. Our focus is all on where where going and what we’re going to do when we’re there, how we’re going to make the most of our expat life. But then, a few years in, we make a discovery: while we may love our expat life, there is indeed, no place like home.
What a classic line, we all know this Wizard of Oz moment when Dorothy speaks the magic words that will help take her home as she clicks her ruby slippers.
But where is home for an expat? Is it where you grew up, or where you lived the longest or where your bed is at the moment? For me home is where my bed is, where my kitties live, where I feel relaxed and at ease, where I have all the comforts of home. So that’s Essex. But it’s also where I grew up, where memories from many years ago help me to feel immediately relaxed and at home. So that’s Minnesota. And Oklahoma to a certain extent. Home is also where many of my relatives live in Texas, even though I have never lived there, but because I visit there a lot and because my family are there it is kind of home, and home is where he heart is. My home is many places for many reasons.
Emma Raphael, who writes at A Bavarian Sojourn, knows that for her home is where she lived in South West London for 15 years and recently discovered just how emotional it can be to visit home after a time away. Read how Emma’s experience went in her recent visit!
Being an Expat you go through the usual phases of missing things, people, foods, your comfort zones for example, none of it unexpected. And however long you are away for, those feelings don’t usually change, neither does missing the familiarity of your home country, and the ease of everything that comes with that.
But just recently, for the very first time, I found visiting our old town (that we said goodbye to 3 years ago this September) especially hard.
I spent a day revisiting old haunts, and walking past old necessities such as Nursery schools, the Doctor’s surgery, pubs and restaurants we used to frequent. Drinking in all the sights we once took for granted – “memory food” for a later date. All of it familiar territory for the 15 years up until our “Big Move” abroad.
And I found as I walked through the streets (that I still knew like the back of my hand), that if I tried just a little, it was easy to pretend that we still lived there (as if a time warp had taken me back Dr Who style, and none of our current life had actually happened yet!).
A child with a scooter jolts me out of my day-dream, and the realisation hits that, even though I can occasionally visit when I am back (some of my family live nearby), I no longer belong here. Do we actually belong anywhere? This town we loved so much is no longer “mine”, it’s no longer the “core” to our lives, and it hurts. I walk on, blinking back surprise tears as I approach the road we once called home.
I pass the trees that used to act as buffers for my toddlers learning to scoot. Imposing Victorian houses I once hankered after, and the “new” flats on the corner – built after the bomb damage in the war. And then I reach the house we loved, stuffed with memories. Our first real home as a family.
From a safe distance (in the hope that no-one spots me!!) I take it all in. The days we spent there come flooding back – bringing my son home from hospital that very first time, the seemingly never-ending early years of motherhood, street parties, dinner parties, Springs, Summers, Autumns and Winters. From the special to the more mundane – struggling through the park with a screaming baby, a wayward toddler, and a buggy laden down with shopping bags. Looking forward to a cuppa when I got in!
I look back on it all with fondness. And a little bit of me wishes that just for one second, I had that key in my bag, the house was still home, the town was still ours and we could be back there again, for our old life to be ours once more.
But we chose this path for a few reasons, not least to broaden our horizons. I don’t regret either of the countries we have temporarily called home since, not in the slightest. And although in this particular post it might sound otherwise, I am still thoroughly enjoying our life abroad. It’s just that sometimes, and I can’t help it, I completely miss my old life. Perhaps if Dorothy could lend me a pair of Ruby Slippers, I might just give those heels a click together from time to time, I’ve got these, I might give them a try…