expat woman in coffee shop looking stressed about chaos

I’m convinced the rate of injury and loss increase exponentially in the early phases of an expat move. It’s a particular type of expat chaos. It’s the sense that no matter what you do something will be left out, forgotten, or broken. There’s just so much going on in our brains both logistically and emotionally we’re stretched in a million ways.

We stumbled through these moments with a mixture of humor and frustration. The other day I burned the toast so badly it turned purple. When I left it to cool on a tray in the backyard, even the pigeons wouldn’t touch it. That was kinda’ funny. We all keep stubbing our toes on the same corner of our staircase. Not funny. Painful. My husband is developing a very close relationship with the GPS. Perhaps both.

We can only shake our heads and keep going. It’s literally like you’re planted on the ground and someone picked up your home, your neighborhood and the culture around you, dropped it somewhere else and plopped another one in it’s place. It’s all rather Wizard of Oz like and we stumble along on our self-made, expat-typical yellow brick road.

Despite the chaos of it all, it’s at this place where I often realize how much of a choice we have in our expat experience. There are hard days for sure, but I’m not sure they all have to feel like madness. It’s a choice to see humor in the upheaval. It’s a choice to shake our heads at the weird stuff and keep on going.

Words to Live By

In my own expat life, I’ve found that choosing the words I want to guide me for the day – especially on the hard days – is a wonderful way to regain my footing during times of chaos and discomfort. In fact, I use daily mantras so often they’ve become a sort of background music to my life.

A daily mantra can guide you in making the choices that most lead you where you want to go – whether it’s in cultivating deeper relationships or knocking a few things off of that ridiculous to-do list. Of course, depending on your personal situation and where you are in your expat life, the mantras you choose will be unique to you.

Today, I’d love to share with you the 5 mantra phrases I’m using right now to ease my own (toast-burning, toe-stubbing) expat chaos. I hope it inspires you to come up with a few of your own. I’d LOVE for you to share yours in the comments!

Slow down.

I’m naturally a person who is in a rush. I like to be places and make things happen. However, I’ve come to really see in myself that there is a limit to this way of being – especially in our expat life. There is really just so much to do, so many places to go, so many people to meet that, if I’m not careful, I will burn out quickly.

So, when I notice the inner feeling of rushing (I know it well now and can also see what appeals to me about it), the frantic juggling and spinning, I pause. I tell myself to slow down. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I feel the tingling of my energy settling back into a calmer, more centered place in my body.

This is normal.

As expats, we live a life where the abnormal is our normal. I remind myself of this often. I feel distracted or undecided. I’m tired sometimes and occasionally unmotivated. Then, I feel energized and excited by the change of environment. The rollercoaster is, for most of us, quite normal. Simply saying these words to myself is an act of self-compassion. I’m telling myself it’s all okay and that the dust will eventually settle, our routines will return to normal…a new, different kind of normal…and we’ll find our footing in our new home.


Those first few days in your new home can feel so isolating. Staying inside the four walls of your home can either feel like a safe haven or a prison. Moving into the outdoors, stretching your body, clearing your mind and breathing fresh air can do wonders for an expat funk. Plus anything that can take you outside your house each day – whether it’s simply going to the market or walking around the block – reminds you that you can become one with this new world around you.

Be here.

This one is about being open and curious to our new home. It reminds me that I can turn expat chaos into expat “I know this place!” It reminds me to try new restaurants, pop in last minute to unfamiliar stores, throw out words in a new language and see if they’re understood. This one serves as a gentle push to dive right in and do things even when they feel a bit difficult. It is a powerful message to just do the thing without overcomplicating the story.


Connect, connect, connect. I can’t say this one enough. This daily mantra is about connecting with my kids and my partner. It’s about making new friends and building community. It’s even about learning to smile through my mediocre French so that I can connect with shop owners and waiters. And it’s about connecting with myself – mindfully listening to what my mind, my heart and my body are telling me.

What about you? What daily mantras could guide you in your expat life? What words will help ease you out of expat chaos into a sense of order and balance?

Try It Out

Here are a few places you might get some inspiration if you’re feeling stuck.

  • How about trying some of these fun ones!
  • I’m a big fan of the Japanese concept of ikigai, this article could give you some insights in how to think about your motivations and vision.
  • Check out this blog post from the World Tree Coaching archives about using mantra words to cultivate and deepen your expat friendships.
  • If you’d like to dive deep into creating your personal mantra – join my Mantra Builder online course. It’s a client favorite!

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