In July, we told our families and those closest to us about our plan. We're definitely not ready to tell the whole world just yet, but felt it was important to give those we love the most some time to absorb the change. Not everyone deals well with change. A mixed reaction was expected and that's what we got. And the reaction is on-going. We are excited about our approaching move, but that excitement is not always reflected by others. Coping with this can be challenging.
We repeatedly hear the phrase "leaving home". Yes, this is where I grew up. Yes, this is where majority of my family is. But does that make this home? Not necessarily. Home is where you make it, not a static place. There will always be a part of me here. Over thirty years of life memories live here. My family lives here. But home exists wherever Husband and I exist. Home is the safe haven that houses the patter of our pups' feet. Home is where we chose to experience the world. Home will exist both where we land and when we return for a visit surrounded by family and friends. I don't see this as leaving home. I see this as expanding the boundaries of where home exists. It's hard for some to understand this - and that's okay.
Reaching out to current and former expats who have been through this has been very helpful in reducing our anxiety and, at times, frustration with the varying degrees of understanding. As a result, we're honing our skills in a variety of areas - and it's not a bad thing. Here, I humbly offer some advice for those considering a similar decision.
Being patient with those you love as they absorb your decision is crucial. Many will make your decision about them. Of course, they were considered in the decision, but not at the center of it. It's hard for them to wrap their mind around the distance and how the relationship may change. Some will see the decision as a personal affront - an abandonment of sorts. Some will treat any conversation related to the move as fantasy, a pipe dream that will ultimately not be realized. Others may take every opportunity to point out, and reinforce, every item in the con column about the move. Don't take these reactions to heart. In most cases, this is just a reflection of how important you are to them and their fear about losing you. Be patient and gentle. Don't let their lack of enthusiasm about your decision manifest in anger or frustration. They love you and are most likely having a hard time thinking about letting you go. It's not entirely unlike the grieving process. Allow them time to digest the information. Your patience, kindness, and understanding will pay off in the end.
Eye on the Prize
Don't get wrapped up in negative reactions to your decision. These reactions combined with the inevitable roadblocks you will face can stall progress. Keep your eye on the prize. Remind yourself of the reasons you made the decision and take a moment to reignite your excitement if you find yourself in doubt. Being anxious and scared is natural. The process is rarely, if ever, easy. But not much worth having in life is easy, is it? It's okay to feel discouraged, but rise above. You are not the first to walk this path and you won't be the last. Feed your fire that ignited this decision in the first place and don't give in to the ice of doubt.
Don't Be Afraid of Mistakes
They are going to happen. Could this move be a mistake? Sure. If you choose to see it that way. Even if making the jump proves not to be the right decision it doesn't mean it is the wrong decision. It's a choice. All choices come with good and bad outcomes. There is no perfect, there is only perfect for you. Hopefully, the good outweighs the bad on this one. If it doesn't, learn from the mistakes and adjust your long-term plan. It took a lot of bravery to even make the decision - use the same bravery to overcome. At the end of it all, whatever this life may be, chances are you will not regret trying and failing. It's more likely you will regret not trying at all.
Ask For Help
This one was the toughest for me. I'm a blaze-your-own-path kind of person. I don't like to feel I'm imposing on anyone. But you can't do this alone. Nor should you. There are a ton of people living the life you're dreaming about who are interested in sharing their experiences. You'll never hear them if you don't ask. Reach out to those who have the knowledge you need and listen. Take it all in. Even if their experiences don't directly apply to your situation - heck, they may be completely on the other side of the spectrum - there is something you can glean from the information. We're doing this while feeling half-blind, but we're not alone. In fact, we could probably do a better job in this aspect. I tell you this, dear reader, in the hopes that you will struggle less in this area. Those who have already accomplished what you are wishing for will better understand your struggles than even the closest among your friends and family. This support is invaluable.
This is just what we've learned so far and we haven't even moved yet. Notice, all of this can apply to many areas of life - not just wanting to live the life of an expat. We're already better for our decision and the goal isn't even realized. Regardless of the outcome, we will be better people in the end. More willing to take risks to achieve our goals. More understanding of other perspectives. Fewer regrets at the end of the day, end of the year, end of life. And the lessons aren't over. There is an enormous amount we still have to learn. Grow your self and your knowledge base with each step of the process, those are things reading a book or blog can't teach you.