Home is Where the Heart is…So Where did I Leave my Heart? Life after Ex-patting

What happens when Home isn’t “home” any more?  That’s the question I’ve been mulling around a lot these past few months since returning to the US from our 2+ years in Sydney on an ex-pat assignment.  Do you power through and hope that with time it gets better?  Do you realize that perhaps home isn’t home for good reason? Does that mean moving cities, states, or countries to find that sense of belonging again? What’s the magic number of time to say it’s ok to still be sad?  2 months, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years?  What’s the cut off?  What happens when you realize you just don’t quite fit here as well as you did there?
As an American I know I’m surrounded by a country many would quite literally kill to live in.  I am fortunate,  I am not poor, I am not hungry, I am not unloved.  I live in a place full of amazing sights to be seen.  And yet…and yet… I’m not satisfied.  I realize I come from a culture that does NOT embrace world travel.  Where less than 20% of my countrymen had passports prior to our changes requiring them for travel to Canada or Mexico and even with those changes only just over 35% of my countrymen have a passport, let alone one they will actually use to go overseas.   By most math less than 3-5% of Americans will travel overseas each year.  So relating is hard.  How do you explain how much you cherished finding a place where people value travel, where the whole concept of a “gap year” is so normal they created a term for it?  If you said to most Americans you took a year off between high school and college or even more crazy between college and work to backpack or travel they would odds are look at you like you are crazy, or at least a spoiled rich kid.  Because really that’s the only people doing that here.  Otherwise the American dream is a very linear thing..born, school, graduate, more school/college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have babies, retire, THEN travel.  You want to do that in a different order?  Who are you and where did you come from?  Yet you ask the average Australian in Sydney and that’s far from the answer.   So as someone who enjoys travel it’s hard to relate.
Sydney’s not perfect, it’s nice to at least come back and know we COULD buy a house here, vs. there where it’s so laughably distant a pipe dream that let’s just not talk about it.  But it’s also stressful to feel that push that you MUST buy a house, you MUST set down roots, especially if you aren’t sure if you WANT to root here yet.  When you don’t have the excuse to not buy something because it’s simply too unrealistic to think you could suddenly you are confronted with the question, “Do I really want to be here?”  And further adding to that pressure is the fact that our daughter starts 1st grade next year and we want to let her start to settle into some place after a year of upheavel that is hard to describe unless you’ve been through it.
Again and again I ask myself, was moving the right move in the first place?  And ultimately every time I still say yes.  Because I got to experience a place few in my country will even visit let alone live.  I got to meet some amazing people and see amazing things.  But I’m also not gonna lie reverse culture shock is a far bigger B than I ever planned for.  Time will tell for us, if this is home or if we need to find a better fit but it’s an interesting transition.  For anyone else who’s an ex-pat or considering it please know you aren’t alone in feeling like home isn’t quite home anymore.  And that’s ok.  It’s ok…or it will be one of these days.
More articles from Amber:
Mummy Dating – Making Friends and Why it’s so Hard as a Grown up.
Rear Facing to 4? Are You Joking?
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Having Babies on Two Continents
Living Life Abroad – Peter Panning Life
101 Things to do in Sydney – Parks & Playgrounds edition
The Great Ocean Road and Kids…Why I Hate Car Trips…
Taking Candy from Strangers – Why Buying a Used Car Seat is a Bad Idea
Moving – The Other 4 Letter Word, and Tips for Surviving it
We Were in a Car Accident. What Now?? (Car Seat Safety/Tips Post)

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