The first night I arrived. I got to my hotel room, put my bags down and stood looking around, holding down anxious thoughts of ‘I’m so far away…What am I doing here?!’ I took each day as it came till homesickness hit badly in the third month. My expat life unlocked memories I thought I never kept. However when you don’t have proper pavements to walk on, you would miss them and I remembered all the places I walked including ones I’d forgotten. I missed so much and yet I managed to keep going because school was the only normal thing that I could relate to as a Teacher, and I was told to write the first year off.
Homesickness hit again by the sixth month, by then I was run down and unwell. I sat in front of a doctor and burst into tears. She told me it will get easier. I knew I needed the tonic of home but I managed to hold on. It would be 10 months before I boarded a flight back. The longest time I’d been away from home.
The experience of being an expat has been, and still is, hard work, especially on my own, despite the three-four friends doing their best to be there for me. Its still a lonely experience, because there is only so much I can ask of them without testing the relationship, naturally. However, out here there is no avoiding it, relationships will be tested when you have no-one else to turn to and all parties involved are as helpless as you. The relationships back home will also be tested, because you’re out of sight and out of mind.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, back at home, after having spent 10 months out the country, only seeing it from a far through the media. When I met up with a dear friend, walking the streets of Manchester, a city we both left, established that the place was the same, it was us that had changed. I didn’t feel the placed fit me anymore, like a big fish in a small pond.
Travel will change you, no matter how far you go. How much one changes depends on the individual. Change is an ongoing process and it is uncomfortable at times.
Relationships will change, for better or for worse. You have to learn some great communication skills fast to maintain them as well as self love to maintain yourself when no one else is there.
I was greeted by the colour grey when my flight landed home, but the journey home was beautiful, after the sun burst through the clouds illuminating the luscious greenery of the land. Oh how I missed those colours. As the clouds moved on, I saw a beautiful blue, the blue that I associate with home. It was uplifting.
I had learnt about gratitude before I left, but this was another layer of gratitude that I had climbed. From that height I gained a different perspective on life and its aspects. From this angle I felt great respect for my parents, who moved to the other side of the world as economic migrants, with no language or money to their name, in order to add value to their lives and others. My heart explodes thinking about their struggles before I came into being. Its sad that I had to go back in the direction they left all those years ago, to properly acknowledge their truth and value. I am grateful.
Expat life can make or break you. The challenges have made me angry, frustrated and upset at times. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the opportunity. I’ve just had to struggle and hold to the goals that I came with to keep going…it starts by just hanging on in there.