It occurs to me that some people may think my life a bit strange, odd and the last thing on earth they would ever want to experience. Expat life isn’t for everyone granted and whilst I never imagined this life for myself, I love it. The younger me would have been scared stiff of venturing anywhere past St Ouens and didn’t have a spontaneous, adventurous bone in her body. So I asked myself what happened to that shy, reserved little island girl? Well, she fell in love with a nomad and an adventure didn’t seem so scary, when there is someone to quite literally hold your hand. So when people ask me why I choose to live abroad, I simply answer why not!?
When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it
Ok, so I’m not attempting to fly solo across the Atlantic, but Ms Earhart was onto something. Life is too short and if when you get an opportunity to see places in the world I wanted to be sure we grabbed it with both hands. There is an element of luck of course, we may have turned up in Prague or Kuwait and hated it. Luckily, this has not been the case, but there is always that possibility with any move in the future. Instead both countries have given us vast experiences that will be with me for life. Yes there have been more than one frustration along the way, however living abroad brings a magnitude of positives which far outweigh the crappy stuff. So what is it about this life I love so much?
Of course there are times when this life is lonely and you certainly have to put the effort into making friends, however it brings such a varied group of people together. I think people have a preconceived idea that British expats keep within the realms of their fellow tea drinkers, but that is something we have tried very hard not to do. Yes I have some wonderful Brits as friends, but I also have a vast array from all over the world. They are people I would not have met, unless we were all thrown into this random situation of living outside of our homelands. The fact that I can sit there and hear about the beauty of Italian life, the wintry wonders of Poland, Aussies Far East adventures and Spanish summers, gives me insights into each and every one of their backgrounds and we revel in the life we are now experiencing together. Far from the everyone knows everyone of island life.
This is a no brainer. Jersey is a beautiful little island and I will always love it, but even us most loyal of Beans will agree that whilst it’s special, it is a limited window into what “real” life is over the ocean. When I first moved away, to live in London, it was a huge culture shock and I hadn’t even left the British Isles! I had little or no life experience and had no idea how to navigate my way round a city, use public transport or how to discover new places. So whilst this was still the UK it was a voyage of discovery and educational to say the least, but in time I grew to love it, finding my place in the busy city, exploring and establishing my new local hang outs and learning you must NEVER stand on the left hand side of an escalator down to the tube.
All those years later when Prague was the new destination, nothing had changed, the same insecurities flooded back. This time I was faced with a language barrier which would inhibit me somewhat as a newbie city dweller. It’s these early weeks and months that I love and loath the most. The fear kicks in and you question everything as you are unsettled and unsure of what this new destination will bring, but slowly you venture out and start to uncover the delights of local cafes and work out to avoid the grumpy cashier at the supermarket, whose life mission seems to not even try to understand your efforts at Czech! Eventually you are in the swing of it, you start to understand the customs of the land and when your beer is slammed in front of you, it’s not the barman being rude but in fact a very good sign.
Then came the desert. A massive cultural change, not only was this the first time where a different religion was practiced but with that comes a wealth of customs and rules that as an expat you need to get a grip of as quickly as possible. I was so interested to see what life in the Middle East would really be like, this was an opportunity to learn and fully understand the Arabic culture and the banish the misconceptions of Muslim countries. Rather ironically I think this has been the easiest transition out of all our travels so far. You get exactly what it says on the tin. There are no hidden meanings, no ambiguity on what’s allowed or disliked and the people are the friendliest I’ve come across.
Exactly what I love about this life, every destination is filled with surprises and is never what you expect. Open-mindedness is everything in this game.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a conventional life. Boy even 15 years ago I still wanted the typical life of marriage, kids, house and Saturday mornings down St Ouens. Did I ever imagine at the age of 35 (I’m still 35 for 4 more days so I’m plugging it while I can!) I would be sat in Kuwait blogging away to you lovely people? No I certainly did not. But you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way. No day is the truly the same, yes I have my routine but we are constantly discovering new things. Each week I may meet someone I’ve not met before, get recommended a new restaurant to eat in or book a trip to experience a country we’ve never visited. If we didn’t have this life, we wouldn’t have the memories we have or seen some of the beautiful places the world has to offer. We’ve done the 9-5 life in Jersey and for a couple of years we were happy but then we were bored, stagnant and couldn’t move forward. I can honesty say I have been at my happiest outside of convention, and no one is more surprised at that than me. Yes I’m sure there will come a time when we may crave a bit of “normal” but who wants normal when you can extraordinary.
Once you are on this expat road it’s very hard to get off it. When in Prague, we met a lovely British couple who had been traveling the world, doing their expat thing, for over 25 years. They had no bolt hole in the UK, they had no so-called “home” but they loved every second of it. They had no intention of every returning to England and would simply pick their favourite place to finally retire to. I remember sitting (OK drinking) with them till the early hours listening to their travels and insights into every continent, and I said to Hubby at the end of the night
that will be us one day if we’re not careful.
Ha, little did I know that 5 years down the line I wasn’t far off but actually whilst I saw it as a negative back then, I know see it as a massive positive. They lived their lives to the full. They worked hard and played hard, enjoying every perk that the life abroad gave them. That has certainly rubbed off on us, you only live once and there are downsides to be away from home, so you have to exploit the good things. We travel around as often as we can afford, seeing places that we wouldn’t normally have the pleasure of seeing. You get used to this way of living, and certainly in the Middle East we have got used to the luxury, and that it’s hard to give up.
Itchy feet certainly kick in and you start thinking about where in the world you fancy living, laughing over the fact you don’t really know where you’ll be two years from now. We could very well still be loving Kuwait or I maybe writing from Timbuktu. All I know is that we will be having fun and making new discoveries, and if you ever get the opportunity to live abroad do it! Embrace it for all that it is; the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, but what an adventure it will be.