You are a worldly traveller. You have been to cities and towns that your friends back home have never heard of. You might be learning a foreign language. You have forgotten about saving/budgeting for mortgage and car loan repayments. You have finally learnt how to fit 3 weeks’ worth of clothing and essentials into a carry-on. Your passport is looking worn and you have slept in more beds than you can count.
You plucked up the courage to leave your old life behind and you feel so much better for it. Without sounding too corny, you have probably been on a journey that enabled you to escape or discover the real you.
So why, in your new life, do you still have so many friends from “back home”?
You wanted to see the world, try new things, learn about other cultures, party in faraway places and meet new people. It is likely, though, that many of the people you have met along your travels and have kept an ongoing friendship with, are in fact your fellow expats.
They probably have similar ideas and ideals as you. They too have packed up their lives and become nomads, running away from it all on a journey of discovery. They might even come from your same home town. Sometimes you can’t help but think: “How did I travel to the other side of the world to become mates with someone who lived only a few streets away from me in high school?”
Expat communities all over the world form over the bond of having come from the same place. They hold the same values and they like the same things. It is only normal to want to be friends with others who are in your boat; it makes sense.
Those that you have left behind will never fully understand you again. They ask about your work, your love life, your intended return date and what you plan on doing when you finally come home to grow up. They may ask why you left home in the first place. They are just not as prone to the travel bug as you – they may never catch it or ever truly understand the affliction.
But the friends that you are making on your travels will understand completely. And because of the special bond you share, these are people who you will be friends with for life. You feel that you don’t have to explain to them why you are travelling. They understand that this is you growing up and discovering yourself. You don’t have to make excuses or reason with them about why. For you, travel is a better choice than buying a house. They just get it.
They say that the hardest part about travel is not the crappy beds, stomach-upsetting food, or budgeting, but the returning home to find nothing has changed and realising that family and old friends can’t see how much you have changed.
But the truth is that everything did change. They have moved on, bought houses, renovated kitchens, had babies, adopted fur babies, been promoted, started their own company, invested in shares, upgraded their cars. You might not see it, but they too have changed.
You’ve accepted that everyone has their own path in life and the friends you left behind are living life differently to you. But you have come to the realisation that you need others who will recognise that your dreams have changed and how you see the world differently.
Befriending expats who are in a similar situation to you means that you can share and discuss your experiences with someone who understands them. As your family away from home, they speak your language and they accept you for who you are. And they are there for you on the occasion that you are feeling a little homesick. What more could you ask for?
Read Jacqui’s blog about her overseas working holiday adventures with her husband: NeverEndingHoneymoon.net
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