Creating a life as an expat can sometimes feel like you’re trying to build a house in the middle of an earthquake. Just as you feel you have things figured out and you’re ready to take on your next significant task, you can find yourself laid flat by unexpected emotions, thoughts or circumstances. It’s common among expats to feel that there are the things we never get to (from the scrapbooks left unfinished to the educational degrees never quite completed). This happens, of course, for everyone at some point or another – the difference with us though is that we sometimes don’t even have a sense of what we need as a baseline, a place of normal, from where to begin those tasks we’ve been putting off.
At its heart, this comes down to not always knowing where and when we feel most calm, stabile and at ease. It’s as though we’re hammering away on the roof of a building without even checking in on those tectonic plates shifting below us.
But what if we could get a better sense of that baseline? Is there hope in looking deeper into what we need to feel most like ourselves, most at peace and most happy so that we have a solid place from which we can begin to tackle that ever-growing to-do list? If we take some time to sort out our own personal normal, would we stabilize our foundation and make the work that we’re doing up on the surface that much more manageable and in turn more successful?
I think so.
I’m a huge fan of journaling and I love lists that ask tough questions that help me get to the heart of what I’m feeling and thinking. Lately, I’ve been thinking about some questions that can help expats home in on a baseline for feeling ready, at ease or even just plain “normal.”
This isn’t a long list of questions, but it’s designed to help you uncover what helps you feel like you’re on more solid ground. I invite you to take the questions thoughtfully. Sit down with them and take some time to think about what they tell you about yourself. Above all else, be honest with yourself. And remember – this is not someone else’s list. This is about you and what you most need. Give it a go and remember to revisit it from time to time…because as we all know in this lifestyle – more change is likely just around the bend.
1. What are my top 3 needs for physical comfort? This can be anything – special coffee mug, a particular bed or set of sheets, a nice stack of books, nice laptop computer…
2. What 2 things would I have in my life if I weren’t living or traveling around the world? Is it possible to have these things as an expat? If yes – how do I get them in my life? If not – what is the closest alternative I can find and how do I get that in my life?
3. The expat life gives me a few special privileges/luxuries. What are they? Which 2 do I most love? How will I improve on my ability to embrace those luxuries?
4. What 2 spiritual needs are the most important to me? How do I make those needs happen even when I’m moving a lot?
5. What are my 3 strongest emotional needs? How do I make sure I keep these a part of my mobile lifestyle? What daily practices can I add to my life to make sure these emotional needs are being met?
6. What 2 habits have I picked up from my mobile lifestyle that have made me a better person? What plan can I make to keep those habits in my life and how do I remind myself to do them?
7. What 3 family traditions are important to me? How do I make those a part of my expat life?
8. What hobby, exercise or pastime do I most love to do? What minimum criteria do I need to make this activity possible even when I’m moving around a lot?
9. Who are the 5 most important people in my life? How do I honor their needs, hopes and dreams to the best of my ability? What reminders can I put in place that will help me demonstrate the special place I reserve for them in my life?
10. When times get tough, who or what most reminds me that I can get through and come out the other side? What can I put in place now to know that this support system will be there when I need it most?
If you like this list or found it helpful, I have similar exercises in The Expat Activity Book.
If you’d like to enlist some support in the process of gaining more solid ground before making a fresh start towards a dream, a goal or simply a deeper sense of happiness, check out my signature package: Foundation Focus. It’s a great way to get support in becoming your best expat self.
This post is linked at Small Planet Studio’s #MyGlobalLife Link-Up 2015. Click here to check out other great blog posts from expats around the world!