What is it about the expat life and almost constant itchy feet? We crave stability and yet the second we get it we are off thinking about the next thing!
Its a funny time where we are at the moment, in the industry that Mr Wanderlust works in. There have been layoffs going on for over a year in various industries. We’ve seen friends leave as companies lose contracts. We’ve seen them leave as cutbacks are made and redundancies are announced. There’s a merger going on between 2 of the major oil and gas entities here and almost everyone we know in the industry could be impacted directly or indirectly. Some people just aren’t coming back from the summer break. Some moves are at such short notice that we don’t get to say goodbye.
Even though we know Mr Wanderlust won’t be directly affected, we’ve been here for 2 years so the potential for us to get moved in a year is there. Ask me (or him) how likely it is that we will stay and the answer will depend on the week or even the day!
It’s incredible how even the prospect of a new move can impact you. We know we shouldn’t make holiday plans beyond next April. Just in case. (Now I have said that we won’t get moved for 5 years, just watch). Any time a new location even gets mentioned (not even in relation to us), my mind races wondering if it would ever apply to us and if we would want to go.
You aren’t always asked in this industry if you want to go. The phrase “career suicide” has been mentioned more than a few times this summer in relation to families who ask to go home or say they are unwilling to go somewhere else. Sometimes I think you just can’t win.
I do wonder if my feet will ever stop itching. For a time I was happy enough, living in London, working in London, socialising in London. But then the call came about a job in Singapore. The job never materialised into something concrete… but the damage was done. We started looking for opportunities overseas.
Before we got our first expat posting we were planning, planning, planning our holidays. One big backpacking adventure a year plus a few mini adventures and, of course, the country escapes to my hometown… Our holiday entitlement was always fully accounted for.
As soon as we got to Houston, the destinations changed but the formula didn’t. Big trips, little trips, city trips, relaxing trips, skiing trips and home trips. Trips with family and friends. Trips as a couple and then as a three when Thing 1 came along. We learnt to be creative so as to maximise holiday time.
Then came the move home and the next plans were laid. A new house, a renovation, new jobs and a baby. The itchy feet stopped for a (short) while. We are always very conscious of making the most of where we are and despite our reluctance to move home so soon, we were delighted to be back. There’s something brilliant about being surrounded by your countrymen and a culture that you know. We were thrilled to see our family and friends for more than a few snatched days here and there or a rushed dinner the night before a flight.
The exotic trips took a back burner but the escapes to the country did not. And the plans never stopped. Coordinating work schedules and the renovation should have been enough but we stayed constantly busy with day trips to see friends and longer ones to see family. The money might have been tight but in the back or our minds was always the next holiday (whenever we would have some money) and the next expat assignment.
Of course it was a double edged sword when the call came to tell us we were moving again. We were just settled and really enjoying life at home but the lure of the next adventure and the good career prospects convinced us.
We knew that travel with abandon would again become part of our lives as would the logistical challenge of planning to get friends and families in the same place at the same time. We knew that we would have to go back to confining our best and longest friendships to dinner once or twice a year and that some friendships would be sacrificed as their families and priorities couldn’t fit in with our plans. We knew that as soon as we were gone we would start missing home again. But those itchy feet just won’t be ignored!
Its all a cycle
And so here we are again, in the limbo of wondering where we will be next even though we still have a good 12 months left here (commentators curse – next thing you know we will be packed up by Halloween). 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and Beagle (one of my fave bloggers in case you haven’t noticed) calls it geographical schizophrenia – where you live in one place and dream of another (or multiple others).
There’s another post somewhere that describes the different stages of being / types of expat. I can’t find it but I think there were 4 – newbie, established, old-timer and leaver. I’d probably add limbo into the mix but really whatever stage we are at we always try to exist as if we are where we are for good and to deal with whatever move comes as and when it comes. Its super hard but you have to try.
Now I’m just off to research schools in Sakhalin, political unrest in Papua New Guinea and malarial risks in Chad….
NOTE: Before any one freaks out (that means you, mum and Agnes!) no locations have even been mentioned to us!