Thursday, August 1, 2013

18 Month Well Expat Checkup

Selena Jones
I've been wanting to do one last Well-Expat Checkup now that we've reached the 18 month mark.  I'm no longer a baby expat and now I'm just an American living in the UK.  But it's a post I've struggled with.  I don't really know what to say about it.  Now it's just my life.  Sure there are still challenges and regular surprises, but it's no longer all consuming. 

I went back and read through my other expat musings and checkups.  It made me smile and even shed a tear or two. 


Getting Ready!  
Honeymoon Phase
Comfort Zone
1 Month Well Expat Check Up
Lose the Attitude
2 Month Well Expat Check up
3 Month Well Expat Check up
Get Out your Mini Violins
A Hug for You 
6 Month Well Expat Check Up 
One Year Well Expat Check Up

I was told over and over that it would take about 18 months to feel settled and they were right.  I feel settled. 

I'm still dealing with challenges, but they are just everyday challenges.  Living a healthy lifestyle.  Finding self love and fulfillment.  Maintaining a vibrant and loving marriage  Connecting with family members.   Nurturing friendships.  Personal growth.  Keeping a sense of humor and passion for  life.  Those are universal challenges that we face no matter where we live. 

As I look back over the transition, these four things stand out for me.


Biggest Challenge

I knew the weather would probably be a challenge.  Everyone has an idea about rainy, gloomy London (which is not the norm).  That wasn't really an issue for me until the really tough spring recently.  And the very short days and the darkness of the winter affected me much more than I ever expected.  But, I have to say the biggest challenge was the loss of my voice.  My self-confidence took a huge hit when I moved here.  I've talked to some other expats who experienced the same thing.  I was suddenly very self-conscious about what I had to say and how I communicated.  It's not just about the accents, but about the context and characteristics of another culture.  There are some really subtle differences that are sometimes hard to pick up on .  I always felt a few beats off the music.  But, this is definitely getting better.  Building friendships and a social life has helped immensely. 

Worst Thing

Every expat will tell you that the worst thing is living so far away from those that you love.  It's so difficult.  I miss my parents, I miss my brother and his family.  I miss my friends.  I miss my daughter Jessica.  It's just an ache that really never goes away.  It's always there.  Always a little piece of me missing.  There is an unseen thread that connects her to me, attached to our cores.  Sometimes it's floating softly and comfortably in the distance between us.  Things are okay and we are connected.  Sometimes the thread snaps tightly and wakes me from a sound sleep.  She isn't here.  Is she okay.  What is she doing, thinking, feeling right now?  Sometimes I desperately want to grab the cord that connects us and pull quickly hand over hand to bring her to me.  She will be here in my mother's embrace in 35 days and it can't come soon enough  I miss my girl child.  (There will be a scene in arrivals at Heathrow.)

Biggest Lesson

I think the biggest lesson is that you are never too old to embrace a new chapter in life.  If you'd have told me even three years ago that I would be married to a Brit,  living in London and publishing a travel blog.  I would have laughed and said, "Whatever."  And yet here I am living a completely new and wonderful chapter in my life.  I've found a passion for travel and I'm lucky enough to share it with a wonderful man.  I've discovered photography and blogging which gives me so much joy.  In spite of the struggles, I feel like I'm living the life that I was meant to live.   I'm still thrilled to discover what the future holds.  And it's so true.  Life happens outside of your comfort zone. 

Best Thing

The best thing has to be the discovery.  I'm growing and learning so much everyday.  I've always said that my favorite thing to do is anything for the first time.  And moving out of my comfort zone means that I'm regularly having those experiences.  I love every second of it.  I love England and London.  Just being here gives me a charge.  It's beautiful!  And the connection to stories and history is fantastic.  The fact that travel is such an integral part of life has completely changed me and  I love being an expat. 

So this will be my last well-expat checkup.   I'm sure I will continue to learn and grow as life moves forward.  And I'm sure I will continue to be challenged and live outside of my comfort zone.  At least I hope so.  But it's time to end the Well Expat Checkups.  


I was helped so much along the way by those who had gone through this before me. Thank you so much.  And now I love getting emails and comments from people that are just setting out on this journey.  Any help that I can give to others I'm happy to give.  Even if it's just a cyber hug and a knowing nod to what you are going through.  Feel free to reach out and send me a note.  I'd love to hear from you.  


What was your biggest challenge? 
What's the best thing about being an expat?





I'm linking up with The Expat Diaries with



29 comments:

  1. Cassandra Denise HughesAugust 1, 2013 at 7:52 AM

    You are missed more than you know by this Texas gal - But you seem so happy and dare I say more mature and settled than I ever saw when you were here. I'm so happy for you! Love you and miss you bunches!!!!

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  2. ann@travelturtle.netAugust 1, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Aww.. you made me cry! My hardest days (like today) are when I would just love family nearby to help with the kids. It hurts me that my parents aren't here to be there for their grandchildren. And today would've been a day that I would've packed them off and sent them to grandma's house. Then I read about missing your daughter and I miss my kids even when we're just away from each other for a little bit. I'm so glad you two will be back together soon, even if just temporarily.


    The benefits of being an expat, to me, are so much. I love the travel. I love that I'm not from here. I love that my children get to experience and see so much (and I know that this is probably going to be what causes us to be far apart when they're older...). I really feel like me. I don't have a lot of friends here, but I really feel like I'm living my life.

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  3. I really, really enjoy all of the expat checkups you document on your blog! It's a great way to see how much you've grown. I hope things continue to get easier for you!


    The hardest part for me was feeling out of place and the gloomy weather. We only had a week of sunshine and lived in the UK for a whole year! And the winter months sucked.

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  4. I really love how truthful you are when you write. I can't even imagine being separated from my daughter by so much space. Being apart from family is hard, but a daughter? That's a bond like none other. I know you're going to really savor the time you get to spend with her next month!


    When I get a chance, I'm going to run back through the posts you linked to in this one and see how similar/different our experiences have been so far. I have a post scheduled to run on Monday about my first impressions here/adjusting to a city. It will be so interesting to revisit it later and see how much has changed like you've been doing. I love that you called it a well-expat check up! You're too funny!

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  5. Such a fantastic post! I loved everything you said and how gracefully you've adapted to your new culture and home. That I think is the pinnacle of expat life, being able to fully embrace the lifestyle and your new home and it sounds like you've done that marvelously! :)

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  6. I had never been given any advice about how long it would take me to feel at home when we moved in the opposite direction and left England for the US. 14 months in an LA Suburb and it wasn't that I was unhappy with the US, more a case of still not really knowing anyone and hating the fact that my daughter was in the UK even though my sons were with me, (she's nearly 23, so too old to make move)..Then my hubby, and American. was head hunted by Walmart and we made the move to NW Arkansas and suddenly everything fell into place. I have lots of friends, we have a wonderful house overlooking Beaver Lake and I do feel totally at home - I wish I had known about the 18 month thing before today - but I think it was the wonderfulness that is NW Arkansas that truly settled me..

    Funny how different people adapt to different places. I love that you feel settled in London, but know that even as a native Englishwoman, London is a place I could never feel at home, and didn't even really want to visit unless I had too... But isn't that one of the most wonderful things about life - everyone is different, and wouldn't it just be so boring if we were all the same!

    All the very best
    Lou

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  7. I still believe the bigger challenge was learning my role as an expat wife to a working husband (and same goes for him). It was difficult for both us to switch gears and really understand give and take. I also had to learn to cook and put to do lists ahead of my sleeping in haha. I love that every day and every week is like going to school! Learning new things all the time, learning about other cultures, learning that although I love America, the country could use some tips from other parts of the world.

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  8. What a great expat check up. For me, I got to a comfort zone after we had been here a year. Going through things a second time (school year, routines, seasons) made everything seem easier. I love how you noticed that communication was a difficult part of adjusting. I never thought about it, but I agree with you completely. I feel so much more confident talking to other people here in the US.

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  9. I think it took me 1 year to feel settled in Gabon and this second expatriation in Norway was much, quicker. I felt settled and comfortable 6 months in.


    These days my biggest challenge is keeping myself occupied and motivated. The best thing right now - we're travelling like crazy both within Norway and in Europe. We're definitely making the most of our stay here and I love that we recognize how lucky we are and continue to seize the moment!

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  10. You have been an inspiration to me and your well-expat check ups have helped me so much when I was preparing to move here. I can't tell you what a comfort it was for me to read your posts when I was preparing to move here and see how you were doing and the wonderful places you were travelling to (fun!!). I feel so fortunate to now call you a dear friend and look forward to more wonderful adventures with you. I am now nearing my one year mark at the end of August since we moved and I am feeling pretty settled. This is in great part thanks to you and the wonderful people that you have introduced me to. So grateful!

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  11. Not being an expat, I am always delighted and fascinated by your posts. I love seeing a part of the world I have never visited through your eyes...perhaps it's from our friendship connection back here in the states. You have blossomed my friend! I think you need to get ready to move into a new phase...You have a book in you!!
    blessings,
    Gay

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  12. What an inspiration you are. Now, you owe me a box of tissues.... or at least one of your cyber hugs. xx

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  13. You're doing good! It takes awhile, but eventually in this crazy expat life, we get there.
    Here's a hug and a kiss --> O X

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  14. Mature & settled? Pfft :) Actually I'm very happy. I miss you tons, Cassandra! Hopefully, we will get back for a visit soon. Big hug!!! xoxoxo Love you & Miss you!!!

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  15. A book?!? Wow. That's a scarey thought!! But your sweet encouragement just means the world to me. Especially coming from someone with as much talent in writing and photography. I'm so fortunate to call you friend, Gay!! xoxo Selena

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  16. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Sara. Your blog is one that I've been reading since we first made the move. I can't tell you how much it has helped me. You've taught me to always keep your sense of humor. Thank you!!

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  17. Nothing better than a cyber hug!!! Thanks for the sweet encouragement!!
    xoxo
    Selena

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  18. Gina, I just love you to pieces! Your friendship is one of the very best things that has come out of this move!! Thank you so much!
    xoxo
    Selena

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  19. Travel is such a wonderful thing. It fills me up in a way that I never expected. Thanks so much for the encouragement!!!

    xoxo
    Selena

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  20. Tanya, I've loved watching you go through this all at the same time. It's so amazing how your children have adjusted! They seem so at home wherever they are. Was it wonderful to be back in Texas??
    xoxo
    Selena

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  21. Debbie, that's a great way to put it. It is just like going to school every day. Certainly keeps us on our toes, doesn't it?
    xoxo
    Selena

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  22. Lou! So good to hear from you! I've missed you in the blog world. I'm so happy to hear how happy and settled you are in Arkansas. It sounds lovely!! It is so hard to be away from Jessica. But, I guess it's the natural course of life. It just feels weird being the one moving away, when it's usually the kids that move. I'd love to hear more about your new life in the South!
    Best to you & yours,
    Selena

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  23. Thanks so much, Casey. I'm so glad I found your blog! You are such an encouragement.

    xoxo
    Selena

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  24. Sarah, I read your post on Monday and it was perfect. I can't believe you are only 10 weeks in! You all seem to be adjusting so well and really embracing your new life. I'm so glad that we are blog friends and hope we can meet up face to face sometime soon.

    xoxo
    Selena

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  25. Thanks so much, Rachel. Yea. I'm kind of dreading winter a bit. But we are planning a trip to the States for Christmas so I have that to really look forward to. Only one week of sunshine? I can't imagine. We've had some really great weather recently. Although today I'm under a blanket.

    xoxo
    Selena

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  26. You are so right. So many benefits, especially the travel. I think your kids will definitely benefit from all of these experiences. I love hearing that you feel like you are really living! That is so important!!
    xoxo
    Selena

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  27. Ahh :) Thanks so much!

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  28. It was great to be back in Texas...what's not to love about sun, swimming and Mexican food?! We stayed busy in our month at home with a trip to DC and Colorado too. Now we are on the countdown til school starts!

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  29. Ahh well, there are good days and bad days, as you know. Mostly good so far, though! :o) I hope we can meet up soon, too! I've pretty much got the tube down now, so unless meeting you involves tubes, buses, and walking, I'd probably be able to get there without getting too terribly turned around! :o)

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Thanks for commenting. I love to hear from you!