Tag Archives: Life

Every one of us is made up of layers and layers of experience. Our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our success and failures and our dreams and nightmares are all part of who we are.

For those of us who live a globally mobile lifestyle, those layers are further complicated by the fact that we can be one person in one place and an entirely different person in another. Or, at least, it can often feel that way.

I hear this so often from my coaching clients. One of the most common expat feelings is the sense that some of our most cherished personal qualities get buried under the stress and anxiety of moving from place to place. Alternatively, some of the parts of ourselves that we most desire to change, end up sticking around because let’s face it – doing our personal work is hard even if we stay in one place.

But with practice and dedication, we can learn to reveal more of our layers. As we do this, we begin to live more as our complete selves which, in turn, can help us feel more secure, confident and fulfilled – even if we’re moving around a lot!

Here are just a few ways some of my most successful clients have learned to honor their multi-layered selves:

  • They take time to find out what those layers are. Make a list of the keys areas of your life. I like to include these 7 areas: emotional, spiritual, professional, social, intellectual, practical/physical environment and health. For each of these areas, write down some of your most important needs, priorities or values.
  • They practice saying, “I am…”. I am a writer, I am an artist, I am a poet, I am a runner, etc. Do you have a passion or skill that you feel shy about sharing? That’s normal, but with practice comes acceptance – from yourself and from those around you.
  • They tell people what they’re working on. Whether it’s something you’re proud of or something you’re hoping to change – don’t keep it a secret! Getting trusted companions involved in our growth helps us feel accountable to the changes we’re hoping to make and it reveals layers that may not always be evident to the outside world.
  • They share stories. Story telling is a great way to learn more about the complex layers of our lives and it also helps others (especially when we’re making new friends in a new place) see how dynamic we really are.
  • They commit to being a good friend. One of the best ways that we learn about ourselves is to invest in relationships. Taking time to honor the people around us enables us to bring forth our best selves. Read here for some of my favorite skills of socially adaptable expats.
  • They ask a lot of questions...and then they ask again. All the time - to themselves and to others. They get really, really curious.
  • They know that the things they love are not frivolous or silly. If you have a unique interest of hobby, recognize that this interest is a key part of making you feel like yourself and then find people with whom you can share this interest.
  • They stop shrugging. This is so common! I do it all the time! When we have something special to share, when we receive a compliment, when we have the opportunity to open up – we often do it with a shrug of the shoulders. In an effort not to standout, we hide behind the shrug. Instead – square your shoulders and go for it! Own up to all the layers of yourself!
  • They never stop growing! Give yourself space to revisit things that are working well for you and areas in which you feel stuck. Get help when you need it. Remember – you’re always a work in progress – layer after layer, year after year.

Living a globally mobile lifestyle doesn’t have to be an excuse for staying in one place on the inside. Your layers are amazing – let them show!

I’ve always loved to be in gardens, but I’ve never really been a fan of actual gardening. This is because my mom used to make us pull weeds in the Texas heat with all those sticker-burrs and fire ants.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate gardening a little bit more. It’s fun to plant seeds and see things grow. It’s nice to feel like you’re doing your part for the world of the globally mobile by putting down some roots, even if they become the victim of forgetful watering.

A few weeks ago, I found myself the reluctant recipient of a community garden plot. I say reluctant because, to be honest, I wanted the plot when I applied for it a year ago, but then realized it was a good thing I didn’t win that lottery because there’s no way I had time to tend a garden. As the year passed, so did my gardening ambitions.

But there it was in my inbox - Congratulations! Welcome to the Community Garden!

Great.

Surprisingly, my reluctance turned, quicker than I had expected, into enthusiasm. Maybe I could turn this little plot into something. Maybe. After a few days of indecision, I went and bought some dirt and some seeds. Then I dragged myself over to the weedy patch of neglected earth and started working….and learning.

And who would have guessed - when you dig in the dirt and think about, "How'd we get here?" you end up with an all new opportunity to reflect on life overseas. Here are few of the lessons that have come to me between rocks and ants and mystery sprouts.

Don’t overthink past decisions.

You’ll do all sorts of weird things in the midst of transition (like apply for a garden plot) that will later seem ill advised. That’s okay. Maybe they will indeed turn out to be questionable or maybe they’ll turn out just right. Either way – it’s how you choose to handle them in the moment and going forward that really matters.

Remember you have choices.

Nobody says you have to do anything forever. What freed me up to finally say yes to the garden plot was the realization that I could say yes now and if it didn’t suit me – turn it over to someone else later. This is a good reminder for this lifestyle. While it’s not always easy (or even possible) to bailout entirely, remembering that we have choices is a nice reminder that we keep moving because we choose to, not because someone’s making us.

Nobody knows what you like except you.

Plant whatever you want to. I knew we would be traveling a lot this summer and I dreaded the idea of a bunch of herbs and vegetables growing wild and crazy so I just bought some flower seeds. This is an important point to remember when we’re setting up home somewhere else. There’s value in listening to the advice of those who’ve gone before us, but ultimately our responsibility is to creating a home that feels right for us, not for the Jane-expat next door.

Mistakes are part of the process.

Accept a certain degree of “failure.” Something’s eating the leaves of my sunflowers. Part of being a gardening novice is not-knowing. I really have no idea what I’m going to end up with or, frankly, what I’m doing at all! As expats, we benefit from accepting that we’ll make mistakes along the way, learn from them and grow to do better next time.

Surprises can be the biggest delight!

Getting this garden plot was not on my list of things I wanted to do this year. Last year it sounded great, but now I am in a completely different frame of mind and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to care for it. But in saying yes, I found the little moments that make the garden worth it a million times over – watching over the growing flowers with my daughter, picking weeds and getting dirt under my nails, watering in the quiet space of the late afternoon as people wander home from work or school. The surprise is that it’s become my thing. Totally my thing that I care for and nurture – an unexpected gift hidden in plain sight.

And that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? We think we’ve got this thing all figured out, but then right in front of us are more lessons hiding in the weeds of the everyday experience of living around and around the world.

How are you weathering this latest transition or planning for the emotional ups and downs of the one just around the corner? Check out my coaching programs here and latest seasonal offers here.

Last night my husband and I drifted off to sleep talking about where we might live next. We have two more years here before we move and since our oldest will be in high school by then it feels like there's a lot more to figure out.

But, in all honesty, this has been pretty much how we fall asleep every night since we’ve known each other. Having lived overseas off and on for the past 20 years (has it been that long!?) hasn’t done anything to alleviate the slow list of countries, their advantages and disadvantages easing from my sleep-drunk mouth as I settle into my pillow.

I think the final words last night were something like, “Latin America…sure. Maybe. Or maybe somewhere in Europe.”

I thought we were done with the conversation, but clearly my brain wasn't.

The Dream

We were driving, driving, driving – all packed in the car. Me, my husband, our 3 kids and (interestingly) my mom. It was a beach town. Hilly and beautiful, but full of people and obstacles in the road.

I was trying to find a parking space. “Get that one!” my Mom says.

“No. It’s too small. It’s only for those small cars.”

“But it’s so close.”

“I know, but I tried it. It’s too small….I’ll try again…yep, too small.”

Then more driving. The roads are getting trickier and curvier. There are steeper cliffs and tighter turns. There are more impossible parking spots. The view is nice though.

Finally, we come to the perfect spot, but the entry into the spot is super steep and at a jack-knife turn. I look over to see a family (coincidentally the family of another expat friend I’d just been talking to last night) standing in the parking space.

“Oh, they’re in our way. I’ll just get out and ask them to move.”

I get out. We all get out.

Then I realize I haven’t put on the parking break. The car begins to roll. I’m too late to stop it! It goes sailing, down the hill and over the cliff crashing into an antique store at the bottom of the hill.

“Crap!” I think. I check to make sure we’re all okay.

And then we just stand there watching.

We weren’t even all that afraid. No one freaked out. One guy stopped and took a photo.

We were just there watching and thinking, “Hm."

Hm...indeed.

The other day my mom sent me a photo of a basket of peaches.

I want to be that basket of peaches.

I want to be the prickly, sweet way that they smell. I want to be the juice that seeps through the corners of the dry, crinkle sound of the paper bag that first housed them on the side of a two-lane road somewhere between Fredericksburg and Austin. Bluebonnets long since faded and replaced by green that won’t be brown until August...on a good year.

I want to climb inside the basket and feel how they’re both scratchy and soft at the same time. Like the little pig I once named Wilber…before I really understood what happens to Wilber.

I want to walk into HEB and pass right by the Georgia peaches that sit there in that big, wooden, less-expensive crate with the bright yellow sign that says, “Buy me because I’m cheaper!” and go straight for the smaller ones in the less visible display next to the limes and lemons.

Sure they’re smaller. Bring it on! Don’t Mess With Texas.

When you pick them up in your palm you already know they’re just right without even giving them a gentle squeeze. There’s always a stack of lunch sacks waiting just right on top or maybe sometimes in that little wooden holder.

Do they bring that holder out just for peach season?

Who would put peaches in a plastic bag?

Who would call tortillas, soft tacos?

Who drives by Dairy Queen without stopping for a Blizzard (small, extra Heath)?

But back to the peaches.

I want to hold the fruit in my hand and gently turn the knife around and around along the middle, making a meridian. Lots of meridians to cross between here and home. Lots of lines. This one in the peaches is perfect.

I want to be that moment, after the knife, when if it’s just the right peach, on just the right day (which is always June), at just the right time (which is always 3:00 in the afternoon) when you hold each side and twist. Snap. Not quite a snap though. More like a deep, just-waiting-to-give release.

And now it’s two sides. Eat one. Slice the other. Peel or no. That part's up to the consumer.

I want to be those peaches because in them there are so many memories. It’s like if I become them, crawl inside and live from them all the things that seemed so simple are still there.

Time stands still in those peaches.

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I cannot wait to tell you all about the training I went to in the US last week!

I’m a highly visual person. My brain works like those scenes in The Lego movie when the master builders start making new creations. Often it feels like things are just floating around and then the missing piece is discovered and then suddenly –click, click, click – it all comes together.

I’ve been feeling on the verge of that sort of all-clicking-together sensation for months. Last year I listened to this podcast on the Personal Leadership framework for working across cultures on the Tandem Nomads podcast. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of PL before – it combines all the different sectors of my professional experience and it also aligns brilliantly with my personal spiritual and world view. As I learned more about the PL method, I knew that I wanted to become trained as a facilitator and begin integrating the work into my personal and professional life.

Finally, last week I attended the Personal Leadership Training of Facilitators program on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

I'm so excited about this that I find it a little bit challenging to find the words!

Perhaps it’s best to simply sum up what PL is.

The Personal Leadership framework was originally created in the mid-90s by three intercultural trainers/educators who felt that the individuals with whom they worked needed a better way to handle the challenges of intercultural communication. They found that being kind and smart and interculturally competent wasn’t necessarily enough to give people the tools they needed to deal with complex problems in culturally complex settings. So they set about developing a set of guiding principles and practices to help people.

Perhaps the primary context for PL is not that it’s simply something we do at work or with a particular team or group of people in a designated setting. PL is a framework that you can use across your life. PL is supported by two foundational principles - mindfulness and creativity. It is based on the assumption that paying attention to the world around us and approaching challenges from a place of creativity can guide us to making better decisions. Establishing these principles as the way in which we engage with the world enables us to engage from our highest and best selves.

This is something that seems obvious, but one of the things I’ve often run into as a coach is that knowing this and actually doing it can be incredibly difficult for people. The creators of PL recognized this as well and so they established some practices that could help people get to this point. These practices are based on research in multiple fields including - leadership development, intercultural communication, positive psychology and whole-person self-development, among other areas.

Personal Leadership is put into action through the practice of 6 simple tools – Attending to Judgment, Attending to Emotion, Attending to Physical Sensation, Cultivating Stillness, Engaging Ambiguity and Aligning with Vision.

Our training was designed to help us learn how to integrate the PL practice into our own personal and professional experience and to give us tools, activities and a framework for bringing these practices to the people we serve.

As I mentioned before – it was awesome!

The highlights for me were:

  • The incredibly well done integration of the personal and professional aspects of PL. I’ll admit my one hesitation before registering for the training was that the spiritual nature of the practice (no doubt there is one) would detract from the training platform. In other words, despite being a very spiritual, somewhat dreamy person myself, I worried that there wouldn’t be enough science, research, fact or practical application to support the training. It’s not that I didn’t think PL was based on those things….I just wondered how you could successfully bring both. Our training team did an exceptional job with this. In the sense of content – this was classic training format. There was a lot of play, but we were there to work. We were held accountable and we had things we were required to do - most importantly, to show up fully.
  • The combination of multiple learning formats throughout each training day. This was key to supporting us in being fully present with tons of information. There was never a dull moment. In fact, I’d say it’s the first training I’ve ever been to where I don’t remember feeling bored at one point or another. I was never bored. Every moment was thought provoking and engaging.
  • The people. It’s probably not surprising that the Personal Leadership framework attracts people you’d like to be around. This training brought together incredibly thoughtful, insightful, smart and reflective people. There was so much humor and camaraderie combined with real reflection on everything from personal experience to social justice. The space felt really safe. I love my fellow participants. It’s one of those moments where you realize if you’d never had the experience you’d never know these people…admittedly I have those experience a lot in this lifestyle. This one was particularly special.
  • Also, the Whidbey Institute is incredible! Being close to nature, eating from the earth and having so much stillness enriched our learning and, for me, was very much needed after 18 months in the world's largest city.

Really I could say so much more...but I'll wrap up here...

Over the next several months I’ll be working to integrate the PL platform into some of my coaching programs and into my group work and workshops. If you’re part of the US Embassy community in Tokyo – I have an hour-long mindfulness program coming up in April. I’ll be integrating some PL components into that. I may also be doing a two-hour mindfulness program with FEW Japan sometime in late Spring or early Summer. We’re still working out the details, but I plan to include some PL perspective in that as well. I'll post more info on that here when I have it.

Mostly I’m hoping to simply be creative with this! To play and to see where all this leads. I’m looking forward to trying things out and working with some individual clients to support them in engaging a PL practice in their own lives. Stay tuned for specific opportunities, but feel free to email me if you’re interested in learning more. I'd be happy to offer individual coaching or to design something for your group. In other words – let me know if you’d like to be a guinea pig! This is amazing work and I'd be thrilled to have you along on the journey.

Last year, in the space of 9 months, we lost my step-dad and both of my maternal grandparents. They were all people who’s influence in my life cannot be overstated.

You know those people who say or do something and you go back to it forever? The people whose words you access when you’re struggling with a decision? The individuals whose embrace, quiet reflection or gentle laugh brings you home even when you don’t know where you are?

Even some of their tiny, little throw-away sentences, things they probably would not even remember having said, now have permanent real estate in my brain. “I can’t really get on board with hell because I know some really nice Hindus,” or “I wouldn’t worry about it. You were dating. That’s what dating’s for.” I’ve filed them all away for reference. Small things may even have become the guiding force of my views on big things like love and spirituality.

I hold on to the fact that if I close my eyes I can still hear their voices. In that sense, they’re not really lost. Of course this means no hugs. But they’re not gone. Mostly I just refuse to believe that they are. I can still know them. Because of the millions of words exchanged between us over most of four decades I can still hear their responses to specific situations. It’s like my own secret panel of advisors.

This is kind of true for all my friends in far off places too. No, it’s not the same, but it’s not completely different either. There are moments when I know a dear friend is sleeping in her corner of the globe. I won’t wake her, but I know what she’d say and what she’d do if she were here. She (the many, many she’s all over) has her own stock of advice that I need to take and embraces that I need to accept. She’s another member of this invisible panel of advisors collected in my deepest thoughts.

And come to think of it – this isn’t just about the people either. All the little rincones of the globe hold their reflections that guide me too. I bet it’s the same for you. When you walk outside in Japan, sometimes you think, “This day feels like Madagascar.” Each place we’ve been has a reflection, a memory, some words of wisdom locked away to guide us.

We move to all these places and we meet all these people, but they don’t leave us.

We close our eyes and we can tread the same path from the fruit stand back to the office without even thinking. We hear the same car sounds and smell the same mix of exhaust and sea and in those moments all the things we learned come rushing back. The one thing she said that day, in the car, in the summer of 1984 that changed your whole perspective of the world. A clink of a glass, the scent of a loved one’s perfume, the feel of someone’s hand in your own – each little memory deepens the map in your mind that leads you back to wisdom.

So it’s not all lost, just a little bit different.

Just because you go from place to place doesn’t make you lost either, maybe just a little bit different.

There’s a lot of wisdom stored in those mental maps you’ve collected. Go ahead. Close your eyes and find it.

christmas-gift

My husband and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts anymore. Actually, we haven’t for years. It was a gradual process that has turned out to be one of my favorite details of our holiday celebrations. The process was accidental at first, but the reasons for our decision are rooted in our desire to live more from our personal values and not from outside expectations.

Of course, like anyone, we have moments where we struggle to find the balance between our values and the demands of a hectic international lifestyle, but this no-gifts philosophy has been a real success story for us. Here’s why.

I come from a gift-giving family. My husband does not. I enjoyed the process of finding the perfect opportunity to share something special. My husband approached it with dread and shame. He never felt like he’d live up to what I’d chosen for him. It was stressful. Something about that seemed really wrong. A gift shouldn’t make you feel bad. So we started to make gifts more simple. Nothing fancy. Maybe a just a book. Socks are fine.

Then, when our children were born their excitement at opening a special gift seemed like a gift to us. Nothing either of us could receive would measure up to the delight of seeing what Santa had placed beneath the tree. We started to get forgetful about our own and we realized it didn’t necessarily matter.

And so the gifts started to fade. They seemed less like a priority. We moved to just filling our stockings. That’s funny too because we realized – we take good care of our needs. We don’t need each other to buy our socks, or underwear, or Chapstick or purse-sized packets of tissue. That’s a lot of effort to fill your sock with stuff you can throw in the Amazon cart when you have a few minutes at work. Why are we doing this again?

About six years ago we started hosting Christmas Eve for our friends and their children. That was always fun. It enhanced the feeling that the real party wasn’t in the presents, but in the company.

Then one Christmas season, 4 years ago, it all seemed to click – we decided to throw a huge Christmas Eve potluck for our friends and neighbors. There were around 80 people and we immersed ourselves joyfully in the planning. The love we felt in setting the stage for a memorable evening for a group of diverse people from all over the world spending Christmas at a remote corner of the globe superseded any gift we could have cobbled together.

That gift – the gift of sharing together in welcoming friends – is now the most special gift that we offer each other.

Habit and tradition are hard to overcome. This is where people often have their values challenged – at the intersection between doing what feels right for us and what we’re told we should do.

The holiday season – whether Thanksgiving, Christmas or the New Year – is a natural time for self-reflection. This year, how will you turn away from the shoulds and must-dos (even if they’re part of tradition) and live more from your values? What do you think you might be willing to give up, if it meant you’d find just a little more happiness or peace under the tree?

What Are Your Words to Live By-

For almost two years now I have been toying with the idea of taking my Mantra Builder groups virtual. I already see most of my clients virtually - either by Skype, FaceTime or through good old fashioned phone calls. However, trying to figure out the logistics for a virtual group seemed a bit more challenging.

Of course, it shouldn't because it's just a group conference call. Right?! My concerns have been the garden variety worries that the connection would be poor, the nuance and energy that exits in a face-to-face group would be missing...and really, just the ordinary long list of doubts that creep in when you're thinking of doing something new.

Well- enough of that! I'm gonna' do it! I LOVE the idea of doing this group with people who are in different countries. Actually, I always love doing this group, but I am even more excited about the possibility of bringing people together across the miles.

And that's where you come in. If you've landed on this blog post it's likely because you saw this announcement on social media. You're feeling curious and ready to learn more about yourself, improve decision making, answer the question "What am I doing?!" and (finally!) create a sense of home no matter where you are. You might also like that I said that you can get this for a super steep discount.

Here are the things you need to know:

  • The group meets for 3 sessions. You can learn more about my Mantra Builder Groups here and read reviews here.
  • There are 4 2 spots open.
  • Technically Speaking: The sessions will (likely) take place over Google Hangouts - I've found that connection works better than Skype most of the time. You'll need pretty good internet access. We will probably do a test login a week in advance. You'll need about 5 minutes for that.
  • Schedule: Tuesday, October 25; Wednesday, November 2; Wednesday, November 9. All meetings begin at 8:00PM Tokyo time on the days above. The sessions are 75 minutes.
  • The dates and times for the group are in Tokyo time. Please check your time zone to see if these will work for you.
  • The regular fee for my Mantra Builder Groups is $150 per person. Since I'm testing out the group in virtual format - this very first Mantra Builder Virtual is only $50 for the whole series!
  • REGISTER HERE.

Oh my! We are already five episodes in to our Life, Money and Globetrotting Series! It has been so fun to have these discussions with Hui-chin. One of the things I keep finding is that even though she and I come from different professional backgrounds, we have very similar views on how to address common expat challenges. In that sense, Episode 5 - Celebrating Failure, really embodied the interconnectedness of all aspects of the expat experience.

So...FAILURE! That's a big one, no? Who really wants to talk about failure? We do! We do! The truth is, both Hui-chin and I believe that failure is really just a stage in the learning process. The biggest challenge we face is not learning how to avoid failure, but rather learning how to grow from it and adjust our choices for the next time.

I think you're going to love this episode! Watch it here.

Our Life, Money and Globetrotting conversations are part of a monthly series. You can follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get updates about upcoming episodes. And be sure to check out Hui-chin's blog Moneymatters for Globetrotters or follow her on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Hui-chin's YouTube Channel to get regular updates about upcoming episodes.

Thanks for joining us! Our September episode will be live on September 20 at 10AM Tokyo time (GMT +9) and 9PM EST (Monday, Sept. 19). We're still deciding on our topic for Episode 6 so please stay-tuned (by connecting with us at one of the places above). We've also changed platforms (bye-bye Blab) and are now live streaming our episodes on YouTube through Google Hangouts. Subscribe to Hui-chin's YouTube Channel above for easy access to past episodes. Thanks for listening!

The Expat Essential

There’s this one wall in my house that is both a highlight and a challenge of our international life. It’s our family photo collage.

A display of dozens of people and places, it's the wall that people walk up to, stare at and ask about when they come over for playgroups or dinner. It’s the wall that reminds us, despite all of the moving, that we come from somewhere. It’s the wall that my children use to educate themselves about their cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents because, admittedly, they don’t see them in person all that often and it can be hard to keep all the names straight.

But, that giant wall of frames is also a challenge because we come and we go and lining up all those photos just right takes time. When we arrive somewhere I get out the hammer, the nails, the step stool, the level and get to work. It usually takes several hours to get everything looking just right. After it’s all said and done, I have my husband come and (hopefully) confirm that it’s all straight and balanced. All the while knowing that, it will all have to come down again sometime in the relatively near future.

When I think about it, the whole thing is so very much a metaphor for our lifestyle.

I look at all those photos and I see our story. We have a history. We go from place to place collecting major life events. Just like anyone (even people who never move) our stories are the layers of life that make up who we are and how we see the world. Even if we’re moving, we keep becoming. Sometimes that can be hard to see because each time we move our story seems to start over. The past can get lost when we say goodbye to somewhere. The future always has a level of uncertainty. And yet - we are still us. We have a history.

But because all of this moving makes our life more complicated, we also have to have a whole additional set of tools to put our story together, to ensure that it’s heard and to reassure ourselves that it will live on. When I begin the slog that is hanging up our family photo collage, I don’t just need a hammer. This is a complex and often overwhelming task that is definitely not for one tool alone.

As expats we need a whole tool box of tools to tell our stories and remember who we are.

We need a (gently wielded) hammer. We must find ways to give ourselves a little push here and there. We need something that makes a difference when things aren't moving the way we want them too. To create a sense of purpose and passion, we need to feel we have some power over our situation. We must develop the skills to stand up for ourselves and for our needs. We must create a medium for our stories and speak them in voices that can be heard.

We need nails. We need something to make our stories stick. We benefit from telling them over and over again. We need photo albums and journals and Facebook posts and blogs to remind us that the things that happened to us really did happen because without the constancy of place, there’s high potential the stories (and subsequently our selves) will be lost.

We need a step stool. We have to find ways to reach outside our comfort zone and get support in accessing the parts of ourselves that don’t come easily. If you’re introverted, meeting new people can feel like the most dreaded task. If you value your professional life, leaving your career behind to follow your spouse can cause you to feel a complete loss of identity. So you need support. We need something to boost us up to the places that are naturally hard for us to reach.

We need a level. The most successful expats find balance between the various parts of their lives. That balance is different for everyone, but the key element comes in taking time to reflect on what matters to you (and your family) most and arranging your life around those values.

Finally, we need a second set of eyes. There are many aspects of the expat life that feel solitary. Loneliness happens to all of us at one time or another. However, we must surround ourselves with people who can help us find our way, can call us on our bullshit from time to time and can remind us of all the strengths we bring to the table. All those photos on my wall get crooked from time to time. As expats we need that second set of eyes from a trusted person to remind us when we’re off kilter.

It seems like a lot, but it’s doable. In fact, we develop these tools every single day. We do it with patience and attention to the ever-changing circumstances in which we move. And sometimes we face (or make) a big mess.

But, in true expat style, we reach in our tool belt and find just the right thing to get the job done.