Why Leaving an Expat Life Behind Is Ten Times Harder Than Starting Onel
As surprising as it may sound, finally deciding to head ‘home’ from wherever you set up an expat life can be the hardest decision both to make and actually carry out. Whilst starting an expat journey can be difficult, here’s how the reverse process can be even more challenging.
Friends Left Behind
One thing that is, in my experience, a given for an expat is that you should, and undoubtedly will, make some of the greatest friends ever. Whilst waving some tearful goodbyes to the friends I have, I realized these emotions were not born out of knowing them for a long time.
Some I had known for less than a year. It stens rather from the sheer dependency that expat friends have on each other. Indeed, living in an area with little-to-no English speakers meant that, further to my Chinese improvement, I also remained wholly dependent on foreign friends for company, laughs, and adventures. Without the joy of spending time with friends on weekends, my weeks in boring Yuanlin City would have felt especially isolated. Even in more expat-heavy areas such as Taipei City, you’d be hard-pushed to find a foreigner who would deny the importance of friends in establishing, and enjoying, a life abroad.
The sadness of the goodbyes also comes from the long-distance nature of them. Indeed, making close friends with so many nationals inevitably means that we may not see some for months, years, or even for the rest of our life. Even though social media makes it far easier to stay in touch, the awareness that you may not see these close friends for years is undoubtedly a tough one to handle.
From the Unknown to the Known
The appeal of starting an expat life is the plunge into the unknown. Tackling the challenge of living in unknown cultures, dealing with unknown people, eating unknown cuisine and hearing an unknown language are all part of the charm of moving abroad.
Negotiating public transport, reading a Chinese menu, and figuring out your hiking permits are all things that, despite overwhelming at times, make life abroad stimulating. Dealing with these challenges and overcoming them on a day-to-day basis can become frustrating and addictive in equal measure. Having faced these tests, returning home can seem like a mundane and barren return to a life and a country which you are boringly familiar with.
Whether it’s a peak unclimbed, an island unvisited or a local delicacy uneaten; there are always going to be some experiences that you miss out on.
Whether it’s for financial or logistical reasons, it’s usually impossible to tick the entire to-do list you had, and you’ll likely return to your home country with some unfinished business.
Indeed, even having lived in Taiwan and traveled it extensively for one year, there were many waterfalls, mountains, and islands that I missed out on visiting for several reasons. As an outdoor enthusiast, it pained me to not to have been to some of these spots.
Back Home – Now What?
Unless you’ve lined up something before heading home, it’s inevitable that some anxiousness about ‘the next step’ will creep in. Whereas your path will be relatively clear once you decide what kind of expat life you want to start, coming home can open up so many new paths that it almost feels overwhelming.
You could face questions such as whether to stay home, how long to stay home for, and where to head if you plan to move abroad again. It can indeed be immensely difficult to decide between stability and adventure, family and fun, home friends and new friends, and past stomping grounds and pastures new.
When I moved to Taiwan, I found the simplicity of plunging wholeheartedly into a new, post-graduation adventure comparatively straightforward.
Although opening up a new chapter in my life with a move abroad seemed intimidating, I will always embrace the adventure of the unknown. But it is retreating from this season in my life, which represents the biggest challenge. In my next blog, I’ll spell out how I am overcoming these difficulties.
Ever faced any anxiousness regarding a decision to return home? Let us know! TCI is here to help with any concerns you have about starting or ending an expat journey. Leave me a comment, if you will. Just sign up quickly for free.
by: Oliver Sanders