Let me ask you this: Have you had a special encounter with yourself as a result of the encounters with the foreign country and culture around you?
Craig Storti, in his book “The Art of Crossing Cultures,” describes living abroad as being an opportunity to grow and change and says it can be exhilarating. We all know that for most, when we return to our homeland, we find that we miss the exhilaration. For example, have you found yourself, maybe after you returned to your homeland, clinging to certain features of your overseas life in an attempt to prolong the intensity of the experience? Here are a few examples of what I mean.
One American expat friend shared with me how she continues to use lemon cologne back home and regularly makes Turkish tea for herself.
Another expat friend, who is British, told me how she forsakes certain conveniences since she had to learn to live without them while she was in Turkey two decades ago.
I wonder if you have ever come across the foreign expat who refuses to fit back into his own culture.
Perhaps you are one of those sojourners who, when you do go back home to visit, you tire of everyone you see urging you to come back and “settle down.” Probably one of the hardest things for those of us who have traveled and lived abroad is when you go home for a visit just to find that nobody is really interested in hearing about your personal overseas experiences or what is even happening in another part of the world. Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “When a traveller returneth home … let him be rather advised in his answers than forward to tell stories.”
Have you ever really considered just what we mean when we say “home”?
When you hear the word, it suggests a place and a life set up and waiting for us and all we have to do is move in. But is it really like this? Is home a place we inhabit? For those of us on-the-go, maybe it is more a lifestyle we construct wherever we go. I have lived overseas for more than three decades and have come to believe that home is more a pattern of routines, habits and behaviors associated with certain people, places and objects -- it is not necessarily a particular place. I am pretty sure any expat kid whose parents are diplomats, CEOs for a major firm or military personnel would agree. They know what it means to be on-the-move.
Having seen a lot of people come and go, a number of people have told me later, after returning home (to their native country), that when they got there it was not how they thought it would be.
I remember one American family who had lived in Turkey for a number of years telling me that after they moved back to the US the kids had trouble adjusting to life back home. To them, home was Turkey and they loved getting so much attention from Turks of all ages. When back in their own country, they found they were not the center of attention. Many expats who return home miss being the objects of curiosity or the center of attention.
Storti shares this quote from V.S. Naipaul, which was taken from Naipaul's book “An Area of Darkness.” Of his first visit to India, his ancestral home, Naipaul wrote: “In Trinidad to be an Indian was to be distinctive; in Egypt it was more so. Now in Bombay I entered a shop or a restaurant and awaited a special quality of response. And there was nothing. It was like being denied part of my reality. I was faceless. I might sink without a trace into the Indian crowd. … Recognition of my difference was necessary to me. I felt the need to impose myself and didn't know how.”
In case you are unaware, re-entry is not always easy. Don't expect too much upon your arrival back home.
“Travel spoils you for the regular life.” -- Bill Barich, author of “Traveling Light”