Saying Goodbye and Hello
For me, the real mixture of emotions came with the goodbyes and the hellos. I had given work (and myself) almost two months’ notice that I would be leaving. Preparations began early and slowly, the apartment seemed to empty until it was just me and the dog pottering around in the shell of the home we had created. I had quite a ruthless approach to moving: aside from books, some decorations, and sentimental items, I adopted an if-it-wasn't-used-within-the-last-3-months approach to packing. With the ease at which I dismantled our home and distributed our possessions, anyone would think that I was taking this whole repatriation thing in stride.
But inside I was an emotional, stressed out wreck, because every day that passed was a day closer to having to say goodbye and, in turn, hello. You would have thought that after leaving behind all my closest friends and family in London, this phase would be easy. I went to Cyprus with two suitcases and my partner, knowing only his family and with no friends to call my own. But that is why I found this phase so hard. Saying goodbye to the life we had created for ourselves there and the amazing friends I had made was almost like turning my back on a lot of hard work. Leaving people who have had such a profound impact on you and who have become part of your everyday life is never going to be easy.
This is particularly true when it is coupled with the excitement and nervous tension of saying hello to your old home, family and friends that you have neglected somewhat for the past three years. In some ways, I think the hello phase is more of an issue for many people. It is easy to get caught up in your life abroad, and although there are many communication channels to keep you connected, you can quickly become disjointed from the life of your friends and family. People move, both physically and emotionally, change jobs, change partners, grow as people, age and mature. This means stepping back into friendship circles can feel a little strange at first, almost like going on a first date with someone you already feel like you know and love.
The Confusion about Where Is “Home”
Many people will find it weird when I say I was nervous about coming back to London. How can you be nervous about going back to a city you lived in for years and that you called home? But I think a sticking point for many expats is where we should call “home”. I certainly called Cyprus home because it is where we lived for three years, and whenever I came to London on holiday, always referred to Cyprus as “home”. But London still occupies a huge place in my heart, less for the physical environment but more for the personal connection. That being said, can I call it my home when I am returning for a temporary amount of time?
Even if I was staying indefinitely, I think it would take a while to get back into the swing of life in London and adjust to a drastically different pace of life. Cyprus is sunny and slow and allows you to have a very outdoorsy type of lifestyle. London is fast paced, chaotic, and allows an outdoorsy lifestyle, weather permitting.
In many ways I feel like home is where you make it. We made Cyprus home, and with the help of some photographs, Ikea, and the dog, anywhere will feel like home.