Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's not all beaches and laptops

Five Expat Misconceptions

1: We are all sitting on a beach drinking margaritas and working on our website.  

Sure, that's the article that makes the front page of the Travel and Leisure section, but that's not all of us.  Some of us don't want to spend our lives living out of a backpack, chasing wifi signals.  We want a home, benefits, bread makers, and health club memberships.  We have real jobs that go on real resumes and require advanced degrees.  It's not the stable life that we are running away from, but that we are running towards.  We have discovered that jobs outside our home countries provide better stability than we found back home so we embrace international careers.

2. We are 25 years old without a care in the world.

Many of us are adults and we have responsibilities.  We have retirement plans to build, mortgages to pay, health issues to balance, student loans to complain about, spouses to consider, and children to raise.  We didn't choose this lifestyle because we have no worries, we chose this lifestyle so we could meet our obligations while also living our dreams.  Through research and determination, we found a way to have our cake and eat it too.  

3. We want to travel every second of every day.

It's not always about the next place.  Some of us land in a country and love it.  We spend our vacations having stay-cations and/or returning to our home countries to visit family. Just because we are expats, it doesn't mean we are headed to a new country every weekend to drink cocktails and practice the limbo.  Instead we are cleaning our homes, running errands, and meeting friends for lunch - just like we did back home but with the added challenge of trying to read the fine print in another language.

4. We are running away from relationships and community.

Yes, certainly.  Some people became expats to change their situation in life, however, expats are some of the most relationship/ community focused people in the world.  We value every friend we make and we go to great lengths to maintain them across time and space.  We have only each other and we value that.  Many of us stay expats to remain a part of this community because we have finally found the place that we belong and the people that support us.

5. We aren't living in the real world.

If you think that expats aren't living in the "real world" you are sorely mistaken.  We are dealing with the direct effects of the government policies of multiple nations on a daily basis. We face wars, coups, financial crashes, and religious craziness constantly.  Each time our visas come up for renewal we have to fight to keep our lives and our dreams afloat while pushing against the tide of changing policies in languages we don't understand. Just because our lives aren't built on a traditional blueprint doesn't make them any less real, it's just makes them really fun for us.

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