the expat diaries | where do i belong?

The Expat Diaries is back and hey, we have a shiny new button! If you’d like to replace the old one on your blog, feel free to grab it from my sidebar. Now add your travel/expat stories and meet new bloggers! The next link-up will take place on November 7th.

Some of you may have wondered why I started an expat link-up after moving back to the States. And maybe why I continue to host it every month even though I’ve been back for an entire year (man, has time flown by). Well, for one, moving abroad again in the near future is always a possibility that my husband and I have discussed many times. But honestly, I host the link-up for other reasons. For support. Maybe this makes me selfish but regardless, the expat community has helped me a lot.

Isle of Skye sheep Just trying to pet a sheep. Don’t mind me.

Yesterday as I was reading Belinda’s post about an upcoming trip back to the States, I could relate to her words all too well. The excitement… the anxiety… the worry about not feeling quite at home. It made me happy to read all of the encouraging comments from other women because isn’t that what blogging is all about?

After we had been living in Scotland for six months, we traveled to Florida for a few of B’s meetings. We were both looking forward getting some sun and familiar food (Chipotle!), but after deplaning in Orlando and being greeted by screaming children going to Disney World, we felt completely overwhelmed. Where the hell were we? The money was smaller, the roads were wider, and a single CVS store was bigger than over half of the main street in Aberdeen. The trip was relaxing enough, but throughout the week, we kept mentioning going back home. Wait – Scotland was home? We both thought that was weird.

This feeling was intensified when we moved for good. In Arizona, we couldn’t walk everywhere. Our favorite coffee shop was no longer across the street, and we were no longer greeted by funny, Scottish accents. We missed home. But after a while we got used to our surroundings and started to enjoy the beauty of the desert. We went hiking on the weekends and visited the Grand Canyon. We had favorite restaurants, I started fostering dogs through local shelters, and Malcolm had a park he adored. Then six months passed and it was time to move to Florida. Again, we missed home. See a pattern?

Then to make matters worse, I also felt homesick for my parents’ house in the Midwest. For my mom, dad, sister, brother and family dog, Mya. Basically, my heart was in a constant state of confusion — being tugged in multiple directions. Where do I belong?

We’ve now been in Boston for almost a month and I know that when we have to pick up and move again, I’ll miss our little apartment on the 17th floor, our local coffee shop across the street, and the Vietnamese restaurant we frequent in Harvard Square. Because that’s what happens when you move so often — you fall in love with pieces from each location.

And that’s my long explanation for this link-up. Moving is fun but it’s also a bitch. It’s difficult when people can’t relate to your lifestyle, but you guys can. In some ways we’re all in the same boat, so let’s support each other. I don’t think we ever stop being expats.

What does home mean to you? I’ve decided it’s wherever my family is.

Other bloggers’ posts about “home”:
Living in Another Language
Sincerely Shannon


Filed Under: Expat26 Comments
  • Laura

    Home is tricky thing isn’t it! I’ve moved once a year for the last 3 years and it’s about to happen again! I totally agree, I always fall in love with different parts of each place. When I leave somewhere I feel like I’ll never love the new place as much as I loved the previous one, but I always do! I hope you’re next “home” has some lovely local spots for you to enjoy!

  • Allison Clementine

    I was just talking to someone today about how it hasn’t been to hard for me or my husband to move a lot because in the past 7 years the longest we’ve stayed in one apartment was just under 2 years. We don’t own much so moving is pretty easy. It will be incredibly strange to return to the States in June 2015 though!

  • Mel @ The Nectar Collective

    I LOVE this post! It speaks so much truth and makes sense why you’d continue to honor the expat life even when you’re technically living in your native country. I loved this part, too: “Because that’s what happens when you move so often — you fall in love with pieces from each location.” It’s so true and a reality that expats have to face forever — you never really stop being an expat. Thanks for this, Rachel! I enjoyed it. :)

  • Dee

    Oh gosh I know this feeling! Whenever I go “home” to the Philippines I always can’t wait to leave and go back “home” to Singapore. It’s a confusing feeling indeed.

    Thanks for continuing to host this link up! I love having this to link to.

  • From Casinos To Castles

    I loved this post as well and the part about falling in love with pieces from each location. My husband and I keep dreaming about owning a home here in Germany and one in Las Vegas where I’m from so we can spend time in both places. I also think living in another country changes you and even if you weren’t moving all the time you’d still be a part of this expat community. :-) We understand each other.

  • Jes

    Stopping over from Expat Diaries. I love this post! I recently moved back to America (San Diego) from Japan and our family is all still stuck in Ohio and I’m having a hard time feeling like I have a place in the world when my heart is spread our all over!

  • Amanda

    Lovely post Rachel! You know I feel your heart in all of this! I know it’s bad but with moving and traveling so much I have started referring to hotel rooms as ‘home.’ My husband makes fun of me for it. :) There are so many places in the world to see and live, it’s hard to get settled in ONE place! I think as an expat or former expat you’ll always have a heart to move and explore…settling down is hard and foreign! Thanks for sharing my link!

  • Sarah @ The Wanderblogger

    I understand this feeling completely! Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve become attached to it {except for Florida, for some reason}. I think it’s just natural, but that doesn’t make it any easier!! I don’t think it’s the places themselves, necessarily, that I miss so much. It’s more how I felt when I was there. That’s kind of a confusing thing to explain…ha!

  • Megan

    My husband and I both went through that, I first visited him in France for 3 months and then he moved to the US with me, got married there and lived for a year. But we both missed the only home we’d known together, France. Now that we’re back in France, we miss our home in the States….I guess we just have to realize no matter where we are, we will always be missing something, one of our homes. Its an incredibly frustrating feeling.

  • Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife

    This summer when I was visiting my hometown (a great word to convey one home!) we were out to dinner with my mom and ran into an acquaintance of hers who was asking us all the normal polite questions about moving and when I said “we have had fun but I am ready to get back home” she raised her eyebrows and said in a very snooty voice “o so Sweden is home now”. For a moment I just stood there stunned at how rude she was but then I was like yeah it is my home, it is where I live, where my things are and where my husband comes home to me every night and that could be anywhere but at the moment it just happens to be in Sundsvall, Sweden.
    So like you I have many homes but I always figure when I am old it will be so fun to say “o remember when we lived in _______” that was wonderful!

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  • Irene @ Away from Tenerife

    I can totally relate to these feelings! I had a hard time when I moved outside the Netherlands this summer. After two years there, the small town of Maastricht really felt like home and I even shed a few tears the day I drove to Switzerland with my boyfriend, even though I already knew that I would like my new ‘home’.
    And everytime I go back to Tenerife to visit my parents I feel almost heartbroken when it’s time to leave. But just like you say, I’ve also decided that home is where my heart is.

  • Liza Pagano

    On the surface it sounds so fun to get to move to a new city or even country every few months, but I can’t imagine how stressful that would be. You and your husband must have a strong marriage to get through all that over and over!

    • Rachel

      Well, we fought a lot at first… then we figured things out. :)

  • Stephanie

    I’m just curious…did you ever get to pet that sheep? Lol

    • Rachel

      I wish. ;) The sheep was probably like, why is this crazy lady chasing me?!

  • SincerelyShannon

    Great post Rachel- I can relate to so much of it. Especially feeling overwhelmed upon returning to the states with all the excess (the cereal aisle of the grocery store springs to mind). People don’t quite get why you’re not just like you were before you left, why you don’t quite feel at home. Thanks for sharing my post!

    • Rachel

      Exactly! We changed a lot due to our time abroad and friends don’t understand that.

  • Jenna

    Ah, I was just typing this on Casey’s blog, but I have to say it again here! I can SO relate to this. I think as expats we’re always torn between at least two places. When in the US I’ll always long for SA, when in SA I’ll always long for the US. It’s both a blessing and a curse… although I wouldn’t give it up for anything :) Landing at the airport on visits back to the States always results in feeling overwhelmed for me too… there’s just so many long lines, strong accents, and crazy children. xxx

  • Britta

    I totally understand how you feel! Whenever you move somewhere new you get so accustomed to all of its little nuances that when you go somewhere else, you miss them! But I agree, that home is where your loved ones are :)

  • Kayli Schattner

    Wow, Rachel. I’m not an expat, but this post really hit a nerve with me that I can’t quite place. I’m the type of person that always wants to be on the move and would love to move abroad for a while in a few years once G and I finish up school. It’s hard when I don’t have people here that have tips or understand my want for this. Even though my family is amazingly supportive, there’s nothing quite like somebody who just gets it. I’m so glad I have blogland with so many amazing people that do!

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  • Sara Louise

    You said it best when you said the bit about your heart being tug in all sorts of different directions, that’s exactly how I feel! A little bit of me lives in loads of different places. I’m thankful that Facebook and Skype help to make the world seem a little bit smaller :)
    P.S. The look that sheep is giving you is priceless!

  • Jelli

    Rachel, I feel so out of place every time I go back to the states too. Even though we only go back for visits, calling Costa Rica home (which it truly is for my husband), the super sized everything, loud personalities, and the quiet small town where I grew up just come as a shock sometimes. I do miss it from time to time, especially summertime baseball games, big green parks, and walking down the street for ice cream and library visits, but all together, I’m so glad I’m an ex-pat right now.

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  • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

    aaamen. we visited ‘home’ in the states last summer and before we went, i was so desperate to get there, to the ‘familiar’. but when we were there i remember have a nervous breakdown because i was so overwhelmed and crying to my husband to take me back ‘home’ to korea. it’s not so much learning to be happy away from where our family is and what we are used to, but a constant goal to be content where we are and to make the most of every moment there. that’s why i love this expat community. everyone just ‘gets’ how it feels without it having to be explained.