Just over 48 hours back in Tokyo after having attended in Families in Global Transition Conference in The Hague and I’m wearing jet lag like a heavy, rain-soaked coat that I can’t take off. Oddly, it feels like the best way to write this blog post of reflections on FIGT is to write it through the jet lag. I don’t know if that’s irony or simply the fact that the post is calling me and won’t let me rest until these things are said.
This was my second time to attend the Families in Global Transition Conference. When I went the first time in 2015 in Northern Virginia – I felt like I’d found family I never knew I had. It was such an emotional experience. It was one of the first places where I didn’t feel like I had to constantly be explaining, shrugging or simply giving up in trying to help people see what I saw. However, I didn’t really know anyone there and since I was living in Northern Virginia at the time, I went home each night to my normal life. As amazing as FIGT was, I knew I wanted to go back – that there would be more to learn from a more immersive experience.
This year I traveled almost 6,000 miles and went into the conference much more connected professionally and personally to the other attendees. My work through World Tree Coaching in the past four years has enabled me to meet and work with more expats, many of whom are also FIGT members. As a result, this year felt even more like coming home. It was an incredible gift to meet face-to-face for the first time with people I had come to call friends. I loved the deep conversations that resulted from time spent over a meal or coffee. This feels like the very, very best gift of FIGT.
As a participant I felt more engaged in the experience because I know personally, had heard about or had been following so many of the presenters and their work. This created a larger context for my experience – like having read the text before going to class. This wasn’t just true with presenters. On more than one occasion, I started talking to someone, only to realize that through something like Tandem Nomads or I Am a Triangle, I knew who they were already. Just writing that puts such a smile on my face. It’s one of the craziest, and happiest, things about this lifestyle
And as a presenter I loved the opportunity to share on a deeper level with a group of participants. So often our work is done in isolation – miles and time zones away from other colleagues. For coaches, even though we get to see our clients on the other side of a screen, it’s never quite the same as meeting someone in real life. Sitting down with a group of people in-person is always such a rewarding experience. It was an absolute honor to participate in this way.
I spent much of the conference scribbling notes, taking photos and hoping to catch entire quotes to share here. In the end, as I look back over my notes, what strikes me is less the specific statements, and more the themes that emerge over and over again. FIGT gives you some incredible take-aways. The conference gets you thinking about the deeper meaning of living a globally mobile life. It’s a place to ask questions, ask again and then turn towards whatever answers you find. Here are some of the themes that most stood out to me…
You may feel lonely sometimes in this life, but you’re never alone.
Again and again at every turn I found that people were saying – we’re here for each other. It can be so easy in this life to feel that you’re alone, that once again you’re having to start over, that no one can really feel what you’re experiencing. But, as many presenters reminded us, as a community, the globally-mobile counted all together would make up the 5th largest country in the world! The world is becoming more like us. We no longer float along on our individual islands…or at least we don’t have to.
Turn towards what you’re experiencing.
The presenters repeatedly focused on the importance of turning towards what we’re experiencing instead of running from it. This year seemed to have a deeper, more thoughtful and more engaging discussion of mental health (even in the presentations that weren’t specifically mental health focused). Several presenters talked about the importance of normalizing our experiences (even the stuff that hurts) and not over-pathologizing the ways in which we adapt, recover and move through. We were reminded repeatedly why we should engage with our emotions, name them, learn from them and grow into the next stages of our life between worlds by paying attention to what we find when we turn towards our experiences.
I’m a big proponent of helping people say “no” to the things that aren’t working well for them. I think this is an important part of creating boundaries. However, what sometimes gets lost in this way of thinking is recognizing all that we gain by tuning in to the places where we’re drawn to say yes. It stood out to me that FIGT is full of really brave people. There were so many valiant voices, that when faced with barriers, said “yes” to moving forward with what they knew to be right and true. There were so many presentations where, when faced with challenges, the artist, writer, business owner or leader said – “I’m gonna’ go ahead and give this a go.” It makes me realize how much this strange life, in the way in which it breaks down the barriers of nationality, language, religion, race, and other labels that divide us, makes us believe (rightly so) that we’re unstoppable.
Find the threads that tie your story together.
This was a beautiful reminder that was present throughout and especially strong in a few of the workshops and keynote presentations. It’s natural in this lifestyle to feel like we’re particles floating free, with little to tie us to one place or time. But, when we take time to truly see, we notice that the way we live and the choices we make are often tied to our deepest values. This is the thread that runs deep through our whole story. When we find that thread, we add a clearer meaning and understanding to how we got where we are…no matter where that is.
Do new things.
Okay, so we like to think we’re already pretty good at this, right? But – the truth is, even when we love change…even if we’re a bit addicted to it…it’s not always easy to branch out and do something new. All over FIGT I was meeting people who were showing up to the conference for the first time! And there were people who were writing for the first time, starting a globally mobile business for the first time, creating a Facebook live video for the first time, and so, so much more. See – this is what community does! It gives you the guts to try new things. I scribbled at one point in my notebook (and I didn’t write down who said it), “FIGT is full of people quietly doing their thing – people willing to be in the spaces.” I love that! Willing to be in the spaces – even when the spaces are new and unfamiliar - is the true heart of change.
It’s so hard to stop there. The experience is so wonderful I could go on and on. If you’ve never heard of Families in Global Transition please, please go to the website and learn more. I cannot recommend enough that you become a member and consider attending the yearly conference. It’s by far one of the best personal and professional decisions I’ve made since we began living around the world.
I look forward to seeing you there next year! In the meantime, please like my Facebook page, join my mailing list (by registering in the right hand tool bar) or follow me on Instagram to stay up-to-date on my programs for the globally mobile.