There comes a time in every expat life, where the novelties have worn off and it just becomes life. Routines are forged, every day flows into the next, without major discoveries or incident, and before you know it year 1, 2 and 3 are behind you. As Hubby and I approach the same time period in the desert, as we did in Prague we can’t phathom where that time as gone and how our desert life will have more longevity than our European adventure. I for one never envisaged that would happen, but love that it has. Like many expats, we entered the new year contemplating the last and having that annual discussion of whether we are happy, bored or indifferent to our current location and what plans should be made. As we are eager to continue on our sandpit journey, our travels will be for pleasure and Kuwait remains home.
Now some people in Jersey literally recoil when I refer to Kuwait as home, but what else is it? I often catch myself when desert side planning trips home which in that case I am of course referring to Jersey, my home country ( a little term us nomadic expats like to coin) and when I’m in Jersey I say things like “ I’m going home in 2 weeks ” so, in that breath Kuwait is home.
Now the definition of Home itself doesn’t quite fill my expat criteria, being that it states that
the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
I won’t be in Kuwait permanently, I don’t live in Jersey permanently and I didn’t live in Prague permanently, but each of those places I considered home. I certainly know there are a couple of my desert girls that still feel like they couldn’t bring themselves to reference the land of sand as their home, it’s a temporary juncture to returning home. Hubby has been a nomadic expat for the last 18 years and feels that home is definitely where he currently resides and nothing else.
What has to happen to make somewhere home?
I wondered whether it is purely a state of mind. Some people will arrive in a new location and they know it’s for a fixed amount of time, therefore consciously make the decision to be detached and quite literally on countdown from day one. I have had personal experience of meeting a lovely women in my early desert days, who point blank told me she would not be building “deep” friendships as she was only there for 2 years. In not so many words, she claimed it wasn’t worth the effort, she instead would prefer to have casual acquaintances, enough to fill her days but nothing to commit her. I get that this nonchalant approach may work for many, but that certainly isn’t mine, as how can you fully experience life, even if it is for a limited time?
The other extreme I have witnessed is the using the temporary in your living arrangements. I have entered people’s homes, where they literally have the bare minimum to live with. They haven’t even attempted to make the space homely but instead opted for a few Ikea items which have no sentimental significance, which can be tossed or sold on during their final moments. I do understand that many expats, have beautiful houses, filled with years of memories and furnishings which tell their story of cohabitation, so the hassle and expense of moving these across the world can be impractical, especially when a 4 bedroom house is being replaced with a 2 bedroom apartment, but does it stop you from truly embracing your new surroundings?
Both of these techniques work for so many and I am by no means saying there is a right or wrong way to do this life, I just question what I need, what has made my experience a successful one for me. Hubby and I have no physical home to return to, we don’t have bricks and mortar that bonds us to one place, when all this is over, so I know that has made me view our adventure differently to many of my friends.
Where most people try to keep their expat belongings to a minimum, when moving every few years, we seem to accumulate!
When we were where first married we lived in a tiny furnished flat, provided through the company we worked for, so when we left for Prague, we literally had to buy a bed and a sofa to take with us, just so Hubby had something to sleep and sit upon his arrival. I will never forget the image of arriving in Prague 5 weeks later, to find the sofa in the middle of this expansive loft apartment, TV on top of a box and our tiny fold away table and 2 chairs down the other end of the room! So the adventure began, we not only got into the daily routines of navigating trams and supermarkets, we slowly filled our apartment with belongings. Now I know it’s just stuff, but when you open the door every night you want to come into a place that looks like a home, somewhere that makes you forget you’re in a random country.
So when we left Prague we had more belongings, then when we arrived, but they had helped us belong and that long 3 month wait for them to arrive in Kuwait was so hard. I wanted my photographs, my bed, my clothes (other than those in the suitcase allowance I left with) having our books on the shelf, paintings by my dad, they all create our home, no matter where we are. This matters to me, this helps me. This makes all the other randomness fade away because once indoors, it’s us and has been for the last 3 and half years. Then last week I said to Hubby I wanted to get a couple of things for the apartment, nothing major just a little lift and change around. I questioned whether it was necessary, but then I thought, if I was back in Jersey with our own place, we would make changes after nearly 4 years. You would naturally want to update or redecorate as you grow into the house. So whats different? Ok, we don’t own the place, we aren’t going to be here forever, but we are here, this is part of our life, so why not?
I know that material things don’t make a home, don’t create your happiness or sense of belonging, but they are the familiar and sometimes you need the familiar to ground you, when so many major changes are occurring. Home doesn’t have to be defined by permanency, it’s defined by emotions and connections. They will come from friends you meet, the family waiting for you at the door, embracing all the nuances of your surroundings and knowing that at the end of the day, location is nothing. Home is where you’re happy and loved, so for me that’s both Jersey and Kuwait and that’s totally fine.