Changing Skin

It’s been 10 years now. It doesn’t actually feel like 10 years. 10 years since I changed skin. Not in the real sense. But it kind of feels a bit like changing skin.

It’s been actually over 10 years. 10 years and 2 months to be precise, since we’ve arrived in Australia, with us our son, 3 suitcases and some carry-on. Our belongings somewhere in a container on the way to Down Under. It’s been an interesting ride.

A fellow blogger of ours once said to me that he pictures us stuffing our belongings, our son and our dog into a large suitcase, hop on a plane on one side of the planet to disembark on the other. That pretty much sums it up.

I remember the day we made the decision. Not an easy decision to make, nevertheless it felt easy for us. I remember us looking at each other and realize the importance of that decision. We kind of knew what was ahead of us and yet we had no clue how it all would turn out. The days and weeks after the decision was made were filled with organizing everything, from our visa, movers, plane tickets to a new place to live in.

It meant explaining to a just about 3 year old that we will hop on a plane to travel all the way to the other side of the world to make new friends and live close to the ocean, trying to keep him as excited about the move as possible. It meant trips to the vet that wouldn’t have been necessary normally and realizing that we missed out on having that one blood test done in time for our dog to travel at the same time with us. It meant leaving him behind with Grandma to be sent after us four weeks later, knowing that he would have to spend 30 days in quarantine once in the country and this meant separating our son with his best buddy.

On Wikipedia an expat is defined as a person who temporarily or permanently lives in another country. Short and sweet and easily done. This definition pretty much nails it. But being an expat is not just short and sweet and easily done. It’s so much more.

You have to be ready to be an expat. I truly believe it’s not for everyone. Not everyone wants to leave what they have known for all their life behind. Not everyone feels like wanting to settle down somewhere else. Both, my husband and I always felt like we belong somewhere else. Always. I guess that’s why the decision was made so easily. We finally had the chance to check living somewhere else out.

It means sorting your things out. Making decisions about what you want to take along and what you want to pass on, sell or throw away. It means making the decision about leaving some things behind in storage in case you actually do move back or just get rid of whatever you don’t take with you because you really don’t plan on coming back.

Image result for gif packing boxes

Becoming an expat means packing the belongings you feel you need to take along in boxes after boxes after boxes, labeling said boxes in order to make sure you know where what is when it arrives in 2 to 3 months time. Only to realize that you have packed way too much stuff from your old life… you will get rid of a lot of it over time. Some things just don’t fit into the new life any longer.

Becoming an expat also means telling your family and friends about your decision, probably facing many “whys” that can only be answered to a certain point. Some people simply don’t understand the urge to do something like this. They don’t understand the longing that triggered the easy decision to do it. Becoming an expat means saying goodbye to family and friends hoping that you will remain close even over the distance and realizing that some of them will simply disappear from your life, making room for new found friends.

Doctor Who bye goodbye the master bye bye

Being an expat means arriving in a country you might have visited before but just for leisure, realizing that this will now be your new home. It means being jetlaged and excited, slightly intimidated but happy. It means arriving in your temporary accommodation, knowing that there is actually no time to recover from the trip as the following days will be about organizing bank accounts, phones, driver licenses, furniture for the place you will move in soon, electricity, gas, anything you need to live a normal life but without any history that can prove your credibility in this country. It means facing many first obstacles and overcoming them. It means moving into a new home being totally exhausted from all the running around and trying to keep your little 3 year old son happy. And then finally you sit down in your new place, on the new sofa taking a deep breath. And you can tick the first thing off. You have arrived.

But of course your belongings haven’t. They are still weeks away and every time your son spots one of the big container ship and asks you if our things are on it you secretly hope they are but know they aren’t. In your mind you already go through the boxes, wondering how you will be able to fit everything into the new home, realizing that it’s time to find a storage unit somewhere… and you realize that you basically will go through another move yet again just sorting through everything once more when it arrives. You know though, that someone’s eyes will light up when he sees his toys again and that it will feel like Christmas when you unpack them with him. It will feel like Christmas to you too when you finally get your cloths and no longer depend on the couple of things you had in your suitcase…

In a way this first couple of days and weeks in the new place, getting used to everything are exhausting. But they also feel like your on a honeymoon. A honeymoon with the new place you call home now. Everything is fresh, everything is exciting, everything is new. It’s some sort of butterfly-in-your-belly feeling you get when you wake up and see the ocean. When you hear the lorikeets and watch them fly by. When you hear the Aussie slang. When you look at your Aussie driver’s license. You’ve actually done it… You actually live here now.

You will realize that at this point there is nobody to share the excitement with. The ones at home wouldn’t understand it and here you have not met anyone just yet. You will realize that you will have to start at zero. That you will have to build up that social circle you had at home from scratch. Being an expat means making new friends. Meeting a lot of new people. People who, just like your friends back where you came from, might never actually understand how someone would be happy to take such a leap. People who have their routine and their family and friends unchanged in their lives for a long time. But you will also meet people who went through the same you have. People who have moved to Australia or people who have lived abroad. And you will realize how much this experience will connect you.

Just like a newly planted seed you will start growing in the spot you are. You will get stronger and more grounded day by day, spreading your branches until you stand strong and in all your glory.

One day you will realize how much you have settled in. They honeymoon phase has gone but you will still feel in love with the place you moved to. That’s when you realize that home is no longer what you’ve left behind but what you’ve found by taking the leap. That’s when you realize that you never want to leave again and you’re happy you never have to anymore. It’s when you realizing that in a way you have changed your skin…

 

#everydayinspiration

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21 thoughts on “Changing Skin

  1. I don’t know if it is changing skin or…shedding skin. Such profound experiences will also cause a deeper evolution – slowly you start unraveling layers and bring on new ones.

    P.S. Happy ten years 🙂

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    • Shedding skin is probably what it is. I had the image of a reptile in my head, getting rid of the old skin and being there in fresh skin… and thanks 🙂

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  2. Strange timing as the topic of moving has been circulating in our home the past few days. We’re anxious just considering moving across state lines, not out of the country, so I can only imagine how you must have felt. When home has been home for long, it’s hard to imagine home being anywhere else. But after reading this, maybe moving would end up being a great change for us. We shall see, but in the meantime I’m sure happy that you’re happy with where you are. That is what is most important.

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    • For us it was the best thing ever. I think it comes down to your attitude. If you are open for the adventure and ready to embrace the changes it will bring along (which won’t be that big for you as you stay in your country), you will be able to actually experience it as a great adventure and build on it. Don’t be scared. xoxo

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  3. This reminded me so much of our move to the States 16 years ago. My daughter turned 3 10 days after we arrived. It was not easy to explain to her what was about to happen but it seemed that she understood. She helped packing and was involved in decisions. We tried to make her see the distance on the map and many other things. She was excited and she had no problems to find friends quickly even without speaking the language in the beginning. At that time we did not know if we’d ever get back… we did…. but with one family member more!

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  4. Not to mention learning to drive from the passenger’s side of the car! I’ve a great blogger friend down under “The One Thing I Know for Sure” her name is Diane Reed. You would like her writing, odds are you are just as far apart as we are …

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  5. How wonderful. This really resonates with me having been in Australia for just over 11 years now. Our only regret was not doing it sooner! I don’t consider myself and expat though. I just wanted to immerse myself in the culture and the everyday life. We became Australian citizens back in 2008 – it’s a very exciting feeling 🙂 I don’t know if I have shed a skin or even feel like I’m living in a new one – more that I was born in the wrong country and belong here more. A great post – thanks for sharing.

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    • I think we share the same sentiments! I don’t see us as expats really anymore. And I definitely feel I belong here. That feeling of being born in the wrong country is what I shared with my husband. It was so nice to see that there was someone else out there who felt the same and then he was also my partner 🙂 We only got our citizenship “recently” but it makes it real 🙂

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  6. You might be surprised at how “foreign” even just another state in one’s home country can feel, at least in a large and diverse one like the US. Check out this link for my first experience of this type:
    https://hbsuefred.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/brentwood-tennessee-not-california/
    That story does not in and of itself have a very happy ending, like yours, possibly because, as you can tell by the post, we felt like we really didn’t have a choice. Our children were older and more firmly rooted in their home place by then, but I think they would both agree that, in the long run, what they learned in the process was a benefit they would not have experienced if we had chosen to stay put with them. And, over time, I too have realized some benefit from the move since I now have finally built up that social circle I had at home from scratch. Though many of these new friends and I are not expats, a lot of us are what I would call transplants from other states. Indeed, my best new friends are relatively recently resettled here like I am, so we have all made new friends of each other. Happily, and surprisingly to me, they, like you, moved here (or moved back here) by choice, which certainly speaks well of this place. And, as you say, this commonly shared transplantation experience has connected me with a great group of people that I would never have encountered otherwise.

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  7. Pingback: A Transplant | A Momma's View

  8. Happy 10th and 2 months anniversary, Sandra! Expat life is always exciting and making friends is the hardest.That said, I don’t think I;ll ever go back to my own country and we’ll probably not live here in the Netherlands forever too.

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