The hardships of relocation and adjustment to foreign cultures shape world travelers into empathetic human beings. Many expats might disagree with me, but I chose to be the one who is an empathetic expat.
The Untold Story During the Pumpkin Patch
The other day we went to the pumpkin patch to celebrate the harvest time. It’s a tradition in the USA during the fall for families to go to the farm to enjoy the time outside and appreciate the fruits of the fall season.
The day was nice and sunny, a little crisp. There were cheerful crowds of adults and children playing the farm games; picking pumpkins; roaming in the corn maze; taking pictures with the backdrop of carts loaded with hay and autumn flowers. There were stands selling the food and many enjoyed sugar-coated corn; warm apple cider and cinnamon doughnuts. A band played country music and we marveled at the patting zoo stall watching the calves, piglets, sheep, and chicks.
The family member joined us later. She had a brand-new baby in a harness wrap snuggly tied to her chest. Naturally, everyone surrounded the young woman to look and admire the new addition to the family. Women were oohing and ahhing touching the peacefully sleeping baby. The mother was happy and delighted to be in the center of attention showing her son to the family. I commented, “Oh, he is just one month old”. The woman next to me responded: “So what?! I went camping when my older daughter was just three months old”. I was speechless. There were no words for me to explain my feeling of being lost in doubts and resentment.
Relocation With a Baby
The vision of my relocation from Australia to Central Asia with our six-week-old son flashed back to my mind. It wasn’t our choice to make that decision. The circumstances required us to move so we had to. We relocated from the middle of summer in the Southern hemisphere to the middle of winter in the Northern hemisphere. From the developed country with modern conveniences to the country where the disposable diapers or nappies were still something out of the ordinary and considered as useless, too expensive, and frivolous commodity for rich and lazy wives. I moved to the place where baby clothes were not available and the food for a little child was to be made from scratch.
The Reality of a World Traveler
That was my reality of a world traveler with the baby in my arms years ago. I don’t regret any little bit of what I had to experience and live through then, but I feel like I cannot share this story with anybody in an informal social gathering.
During that pumpkin patch event, I couldn’t open my mouth and talk about what parents experience and endure traveling with the kids in foreign countries. I was afraid to hurt other women’s feelings by sharing the overwhelming complexity of my experiences as a world traveler.
Many people, who never traveled abroad, just can’t relate to anything expats often have to go through. Often times I choose not to talk about my life as a world traveler unless it’s an entertaining or funny story so people can enjoy lightly.
The world travelers learn the life in its much broader, in some cases, extreme proportions. We manage not just to survive, but adapt and thrive in the situations many people wouldn’t even imagine. We also learn to be kind, compassionate, understanding because we are humbled by what we’ve come to know as expats and world travelers.
Did you ever have to close up and subdue yourself only because you wanted to fit in and become part of the group?
Did you choose to be silent about your life experiences for the sake of keeping others comfortable and happy?
I’d love to hear you and listen to your story of a world traveler. Let’s talk.
Please, schedule a call with me.
And remember, life is a journey of joy! Embrace it.
Robert A South
The comments concerning the experience of returning home and having no one to talk to are true. I spent the majority of my working life overseas and when I tried to explain to others what it was like, you could actually see their eyes glaze over. The problem was, and still is, that they had no way to relate to the story. Some tried but without the first hand knowledge the individuals did not have a mental box that they could retrieve comparisons that fit with the information. We as expats need to understand this and be mentally prepared for it when returning home.
Hi, Bob, thanks for sharing your take to the expat’s experiences of coming home from overseas assignments. Stories heal and it’s always nice to have somebody who can at least listen. We need to be able to share our stories and be heard so we can move on and be successful. I see coaching as a solution.