[color-box color=”gray”][dropcap]Becoming[/dropcap] an expat isnt for everybody. Being a “successful and happy expat,” in fact, can be even harder than the move itself if your not willing to look “under the hood”. Often we glaze over our internal selves, which will have a larger effect on our happiness, choosing, instead, to focus on the new location we now call “home”. Join Stacy as she delves into one of the critical issues for having a truly rewarding expat experience.[/color-box]
Owning our own story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.
There I Am
Who will I be in this new land? When does the do-over begin? What happens now? I have gotten exactly what I wished for—a new life in a new land with new people. I did the hard work of closing my life out in my home country, said my goodbyes, waded through the plethora of paperwork there so I could be here, and set out on an expat adventure in Cuenca, Ecuador. And yet, what if I brought myself with me? What if… wherever I go, there I am?
What if all the planning, dreaming, hoping, and scheming for a better version of myself didn’t magically appear when I went through Customs in Guayaquil or sat at Immigration waiting for my residency visa here in Cuenca?
Did I regularly over-commit in my old life? I may find it just as hard to say no in my new one. If I had difficulty making and maintaining friendships in the past, I could also feel lonely in my new life as an expat. If health and wellness choices were difficult for me to commit to in one country, they probably will be in a different one. If I blame and shame, gossip, or am aggressive, passively or otherwise, chances are those parts of me will show themselves here.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. Under the strain of living abroad, it seems a good number of expats either exit their long-term relationships or decide to move back to their country of origin within a year or so of moving abroad. I am not alone in seeing and hearing stories of nightmare neighbours, of ugly gringos telling off shop clerks, and of hysterical theatrics at government offices. We have all been privy to the dramas, regrets, and heartaches of expats around us. [pullquote]We, at one time or another, are those expats.[/pullquote]
No doubt it is true that some of us may not have thoroughly researched travelling abroad; some might not have learned Spanish as well as our partners; and yes, some may have planned this huge move without having begun the hard work of personal introspection. We might not be aware of the violence we do to ourselves and its impact on others. We could point out and name all kinds of reasons that our move abroad wasn’t quite what we had hoped for or envisioned. Anger, fear, and sadness go where we go. Mindfulness and compassion are not habitual, but being on autopilot is.
What Follow Us?
It is also true that whatever each of us turns our backs on will one day stare us down. Whatever we refuse to see and accept as our own will continue to present itself and re-invent itself until we pause and deal wholeheartedly with it. Becoming aware of the motivations behind our emotions and behaviors will allow us to begin an authentic adventure. Leaving a world we knew and coming to a new one, one we idealized as the Promised Land (Ecuador, in my case) is destabilizing enough to cause a lot of repressed junk to come up. At times we may not even recognize ourselves. Many wise expats say the first year is spent adjusting and finding a new normal. Facing ourselves and our own internal parts, biases, and triggers is where healing begins… and where relationships are transformed—with ourselves and with the universe.
We want to believe in the redemption and transformation that can come from moving around the world and starting anew and yet change doesn’t begin without awareness and acceptance of who we think we are—acknowledging that which is residing in the shadows to be truly a part of us. Our authentic Selves—compassionate, courageous, curious, calm, creative, connected, clear, and confident—can have the space to thrive if we remember to locate ourselves in our bodies, grounded, open-hearted, and receptive.
The long story short: Since we bring ourselves wherever we go, perhaps becoming aware of our own story, becoming responsible for our own triggers, and being willing to both fall down and get back up loving and forgiving ourselves and others, are the real journeys, no matter what country we reside in—starting again with each new breath practicing the practice of this practice called being human.
[color-box color=”gray”]How have you managed both the excitement and anxiety of moving abroad? What strategies helped you to ease into this new land with more grace and compassion for yourself and those around you?[/color-box]
Very insightful article. Perhaps, and hopefully, we can become a new and better version of ourselves in this new environment. But before we can improve on who we are, we must realistically and honestly know recognize our existing characteristics, both good and bad. Keep an open heart as well as an open mind and strive to be receptive to the new experiences you are going to encounter.
Thank you, Stacey, for your insightful glimpse involved in transitioning from one place to another. I’ve relocated several times for my career, but admittedly, those moves were all within North America.
I start my first Spanish lessons tonight. And I hope to visit Cuenca (or someplace in Ecuador) in the next year. Your words of wisdom will go far to help my journey.