Physically “moving” our bodies and our belongings to a new place, into new living quarters is logistically complex. But the success and happiness of “our personal internal shift and adjustment” – although not visible to the “naked eye” – is the key to making that location work for you – seeing and feeling the possibilities (and hope) for yourself and those who accompany you (yes – including your pets).
Maslow’s pyramid (citation) identifies our basic needs at the bottom and those that are “higher order” at the top. Social needs (tier 3): love and belonging), Esteem ( Tier 4) self respect, self-value, personal growth, confidence, accomplishing), and Self-actualization (education, refinement, caring for others, learning new language, travel, awards) The idea is that a person can only move on to the next level after they’ve addressed the basic needs. In my experience ex-pat and re-pat adjustments seem to be all over the pyramid and mutate and transform in each country, So what happens when we physically move from place to place, country to country, culture to culture?
Each time we move, our basic needs must be satisfied, not only to a new country with a different culture and ways, but within an entirely new existence. Imagine….. first day and you don’t speak the language and don’t know how to get to the store. Or – the clothing you are accustomed to is not culturally sensitive. What about living quarters where the water isn’t safe to even brush your teeth? And that armed guard outside your locked iron gates. These are all needs at the bottom of the pyramid, but you may very well be functioning at the very top and the needs are all over the place. And each time you move, the needs shift and so must your adjustments!
The great new is – that in all of this – you are still you. probably have been a part of your life as you evolved into the different moves. And – that coaching can provide a safe space for you to navigate that HERE TO and THERE and work things out with someone who “gets” it.
In the The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is living in Kansas when a cyclone strikes. She and her dog Toto fall asleep, the wind carries them swirling into the sky, their house lands with a thud in the magical land of Oz and she ends up with a pair of ruby red slippers that are supposed to have the magic she needs. Starting at the “here” (the yellow brick road) Dorothy’s only desire and intention is to “return home to Kansas”. In about 147 pages (or 2 hours of film), Dorothy embarks on a journey to see the “wizard of Oz” who it is said can get her home. Through her journey, she learns that she had the power within herself all along to make her dream (to go home to Kansas) come true. Easy expat “here to there”: Kansas (here)– House ride through cyclone – Oz (to) , Kansas (there). Dorothy the Kansas “ex-pat” in Oz.
Thinking about moving to a foreign country can be exciting and interesting with prospects of adventures ahead. Mingled in there may be some worry and apprehension of the “not knowing”, thinking about loved ones and the familiarity you may be leaving behind. And then after the “honeymoon” of the new place, adapting and “holes”. How you show up for yourself , and who you will be personally and professionally will certainly impact your level of growth, happiness and ability to thrive and glow in your new situation.
So you’ve done the ex-pat thing – MANY times – adjusted well and thrived. Now – circumstances, decisions and you’re back in your passport country!
In 2016 after living more than three decades as an ex-pat in eight different ones, traveling and/or working in 45 others (my many “heres”), my husband and I returned to the USA. Outside passport country, a few flights, landed in Kentucky. As my daughters in kindergarten used to say, “counting to a million is easy. One , skip a few, a million!” In so many ways, it was just like that. I needed more than a couple of flights and airports for the adjustment ahead.
The “here” was now the USA. I felt disoriented, disconnected, reverse culture-shock, homesick, lonely. I missed my times overseas – the noise, the colors, the foods, the smells. I was grieving for the life I had and couldn’t figure a way to be my best in my passport country. I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. My business translated well and I had a great supportive family. And I still traveled, but though I DID, it could never be the same – I was starting from a different “here.”
The shifting of mindset was ultimately a personal journey of searching, reaching out, building community, holding hands, talking, grieving, connecting, smiling and laughing. My wearable art continued focusing more intensely on social and transitional themes. I tried to reach out to that which I thought would connect me to my international life. And I did a lot of personal and professional work. But mostly – I felt like a row boat in the middle of a lake with no land in sight.
The evolution was slow. I stayed “present” with myself. And gradually, I adapted and found joy in my “repat” place. It was an internal journey. I had built a small community, reconnected with my art and design in a new way. And I allowed new ideas, things and people to be a part of my life, reframing the life that I thought needed. The shift I had made allowed me to celebrate the “here” (in the USA) and to look at my ex-pat “here” from a different perspective. This “shift” wasn’t superficial and it didn’t belong to anyone else. It was mine, and with it came joy because it aligned beautifully with my values and needs.
Each time we move to different countries and cultures (including our own passport country, we may have to re-frame, re-discover or re-create our lives. Satisfying basic physiological needs may range from polluted air/water to differences in new country’s typical dinner “time.” And it gets complicated. And there is really no “one size fits all.” The only constant is you as that very special human doing it.
I discovered a lot about myself during my personal journeys, and I really wanted to help others in similar situations. With my hands-on experiences as an ex-pat and repat, and as an independent business owner, designer and artist, I was skilled in ways. But to be my best to help others, I needed the framework, tools and organization to skillfully help others. I enrolled in training with an international coaching school, accredited by the international body ICF and will receive completion and certification this summer.