Tag Archives: Remembering

Home is not forever

It used to be easier.  The moving crew would come, box up everything we owned, and a few days later we would be gone.  Gone on our way to a new adventure, a new place to explore, a new home to build.  Sure we’d be sad but the excitement of things to come would overshadow the sadness in the same way a new infatuation makes people forget their past heartaches.

This time, however, I am finding it very difficult to let go.  Second day of the pack out and I am still fighting the urge to cry.  This isn’t like me especially considering that our next destination is on my top-ten-places-to-live-in list.

After careful examination of all the reasons that can be making me sad, I finally figure it out. I realize that I am in love.  In complete, total, and, alas, unrequited love with … my view.

And my apartment.

And my building.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve lived in some amazing places over the years.  I’ve lived in historical downtowns of some great cities, I’ve lived among fascinating civilizations, I’ve lived in centers of great culture, and I even once lived across from the zoo where we would wake up to the sound of monkeys playing catch. Yet this was the first time I can say that I lived in a dream.

  • I woke up every day to the sight and sound of the ocean from every window of my apartment.
  •  I never had to wear anything more than a light cotton sweater.
  • My skin, which isn’t prone to tan, became and remained the color of golden bronze.
  • My office faced the water.
  • My terrace was perfect for coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening – not to mention reading and writing during any time of day.
  • Looking out through our windows always made me feel complete, no matter the weather.

And so as I leave our now empty apartment and as I say good-bye to every room and every angle of my view, I feel extremely grateful and inexplicably sad at the same time.  Grateful because I was fortunate to live with this beauty and sad because this dream home wasn’t forever.

But I also know dreams are never forever. Dreams come, go, and evolve. They grow and change – and we grow and change with them. My years in this dream home were not only full of breathtaking views but they were also filled with an intention to see, smell, feel, and taste the life around me every waking moment of my day. This intention was only a shadow when we moved in and, thanks to my home, it became the way of life.

So I guess in some ways a home can be forever.

Change – what’s it good for?

As expatriates when we move from country to country we experience a lot of change.  At first it’s quite natural to reject most of it because homeostasis (the tendency to maintain the system the way it has been) is a very strong universal force, especially for humans.  Yet one of the gifts of that imposed change is that we can now give consideration to things that lay outside of everything we are used to – and try them on just the same way we’d try on a new piece of clothing we’d never thought we’d wear.

As with that new piece of clothing, sometimes there are surprises.  That thing we’ve never done in our lives may become our next favorite experience, business idea, hobby, habit, a memory to look back to, etc.  Imagine for a moment what you would have missed if you never moved.  What things would you have never seen and what things would you have never experienced?  And now imagine what you have seen and experienced as a result of every move.  How many more new things are out there for you?

Someone once said that “life is always offering us new beginnings, it’s up to us whether to take them or not.”  I don’t remember who said it, but it’s an empowering way to look at what’s available to us at every moment of every day.  And especially to those of us who get this incredible opportunity of imposed change.

So here is a short exercise that will help take advantage of change:

Step 1. List everything that’s new to you.  Take a few days to compile the list.  Note that you may be adding to that list as you go through the weeks and months of your expatriation.

Step 2.  From the above list, choose a few things you’d like to try.

Step 3.  List ways, in which the things from Step 2 can help you grow and evolve. 

How did it go?  What part of this experience can you share with others?

This process of taking advantage of change is an excerpt from the Global Coach Center Adjustment Guide E-course available at the Global Coach Center Academy.

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: V is for VISITORS

Most of us can agree that getting people to visit us is a great experience … in healthy doses of course.  Visitors give us an opportunity to share our lives with them (remember sharing is one of the 7 Habits of a Happy Expat).  Visitors give us a chance to take time out of our busy schedule and visit a landmark or two with them – the landmark we’ve been postponing to visit.  Visitors give us a new perspective on the country we are living in and open our eyes to things we may have not seen.  And, finally, having visitors means that someone actually cares about our experiences and wants to learn more about them!

So what are some strategies to have the best time with visitors in your home and your country?  I have a few of my own but since each country is different I’d love it if you add yours.

Here are mine:

(1) I make a list of all museums that are worth a visit and include the opening times, the days when the museums are closed, the entrance fee (if any) and the quick tips about each one if I have them.

(2) I look up schedules for performances for the time my visitors are going to be in town and send it to them ahead of time.  If they are interested, I offer my services of purchasing them tickets.

(3) I always keep a few spare maps of the city in the visitors’ room along with a map of public transport, if that exists.

(4) If I am in a country where renting a car is not ideal, I try to reserve at least one weekend to take our visitors to places that are not accessible by public transport.

(5) I try to show and recommend at least a couple of places off the beaten tourist track – and a few of very local restaurants.

What about you?  What are your strategies?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Remember to check out our Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom Program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, inspired Register for it here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: T is for TRAVEL

One of the things I usually remember about our various posts is the travel in the region.  There was the time when we drove with several friends into a part of Russia where we only ate blini — Russian version of French crepes — for three straight days (vegetarian choices were limited off the beaten track).  There was the time when we took a smelly, overnight train to Bukhara and a scary plane ride to Khiva (in Uzbekistan).  There was the time when we had breakfast in France, lunch in Monaco and dinner in Italy.  And there was the time when we saw Iguazu falls from both the Brazilian and the Argentine side.

These experiences were all very different but there is one thing that unites them — the opportunity to see things we may have not been able to see had we not been posted in the region.  Every time we find ourselves expatriated to a country, we always look around.  What can we see in this country and in the countries that surround it?  What experiences are available to us?

To the dismay of our family and friends back home we almost never go home while living elsewhere.  Instead we prefer to explore our surroundings.  When, if not then, will we have this opportunity?  And that’s why taking this chance to explore and Travel within the region of your post is the T for the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™.

Where have you traveled lately?

Any other T’s out there?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Check out our Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom Program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired. If you ever thought of getting an expat coach and didn’t get the chance/finances/courage to do it, this Club is your opportunity to try a virtual coaching environment.  Register for it here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: M is for MEMORIES

Expatriates can consider themselves among the luckiest people on Earth because they get to generate the most exciting memories during their international assignments.  Memories of new places, new people, stimulating challenges, exploration of the unknown, etc, etc, etc.  And, if we are like the majority humans, for the most part we will remember the good parts and forget the not-so-good-ones.

Memories are important not only because they remind us of the fun we had, but also because they help us remember the journey we undertook to learn about the new place — and in the process, we remember what we learned about ourselves.  The journey is just as important as the destination (if not more sometimes), and so by collecting and preserving the memories of places and people, we also collect and preserve the memories of our learning and discoveries about ourselves.

So here is short exercise.  Answer these two questions (and, please, share your answers in the commentaries!):

(1) What do I most remember about my past assignments?

(2) What did I learn about those places and about myself in the process?

How did you do?  What was it like to look at your experience through the lens of your own journey?

Any other M’s out there?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: H is for HUMOR

When I think of the importance of humor while an expat, one story always pops up in my memory.  When we were living in one country, we once went out to a restaurant with a group of friends.  There were about six of us and, when a waiter brought only one menu to the table, we politely inquired after a few more copies.  He looked at us as if we were crazy and said: “Why?  They are all the same.”

We still laugh today when we remember this story.   Since then there have been many more stories and times when looking at things through the lens of humor was essential to staying sane.  And that’s why I chose humor for an H in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation Series.

Humor makes frustrating and stressful situations a lot easier to handle.  It almost creates an instant vacuum effect where all your anger and stress get sucked out of you and replaced with a feeling of lightness and a belief that it’ll all work out somehow.  Since exasperating situations tend to happen a lot more often when we live in a foreign-to-us culture, humor can become a tool to use on a regular basis.

So next time you find yourself in a frustrating place, think of your favorite comedian/comedienne.   What would he/she laugh about here?

I conclude with another story told by a close friend – a story that still leaves tears in my eyes because I laugh so hard every time I hear it:

“I was living in another country and at one time desperately needed to buy a pair of sandals.  I spent days, if not weeks, looking around for a pair I would like and finally came across something that looked promising.  As customary, the store only had one sandal on display, the one for the left foot.  I tried it on, liked the way it looked on me, and asked the sales girl for the second one.

“We don’t have the second one.  We only have this one,” the sales girl said.

I just stared at her. “Come again?  You don’t have the one for the right foot?”

The sales girl shook her head.

Exhausted after several days of search and annoyed that this time it didn’t result in a purchase either, I said “Why would you display it if it’s not a pair?!”  I didn’t really expect an answer.

The sales girl stood there quietly for a moment and then said: “So, are you going to take it?”

What have been your stories when you were able to treat frustrating situations with humor?  Share them please!

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: F is for FUN and FRIENDSHIPS

If I have to think back to all my expatriate assignments, a couple of things in particular always come up.  FUN and FRIENDSHIPS were really the two cornerstones that made each assignment worth it.  Most of my good memories revolve either around having fun or making new, amazing friends and having fun with them.

Let’s start with fun.  I know that the word fun has a different meaning to all of us, but without having fun (whatever it means to you), our lives would be dull, uninteresting and boring.  What’s your definition of fun?  What do you like to do for fun?  What opportunities do you have for fun in a country where you live now?

And now the friendships.  The friends we make in distant lands support us, encourage us, laugh with us and cry with us (well, when we really need them to).  Thanks to the internet and Facebook in particular we can now keep in touch and continue to follow the lives of those friends who we leave behind as we move on to another destination.  I don’t want to speak for everyone, but some of the friendships I’ve developed during my overseas assignments have been among the most special in my life.

It’s not an easy task to always have to make friends and then leave them when you leave the country (a helpful article on “How to make friends again… and again … and again” here).  But it can be done and the effort is totally worth it.  What are your thoughts on this?  And what friendship moments will you always remember?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Dedicated to all my expat friends who made a difference in my life (you know who you are!).

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!