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A Temporary Expat Life

InterNations member Claire knew that her assignment in the USA was just temporary, so she decided to make the best of it. In this article, she shares her experience and how she turned a three-year stay abroad into one big expat adventure.

"Can I come and live with you please as you always seem to have so much more fun over in the beautiful USA?!"

My British friend wrote this sentence to me the other day after seeing me post some fun pictures of an event I was at in Columbia, Maryland, USA. She’s right — we do have fun here, because we choose to.

On the same day an American friend told me she was talking to a mutual friend (our hairdresser, naturally) and they had been discussing how I "put them to shame" with all the stuff I do, get involved in, and all the travels I undertake. I replied what I always reply when people comment on how busy I am as an expat. "I’m not here forever. I just want to make the most of it."

I’m not a forever expat. I’m a three-year expat, and that time will be up next year. There is still so much to do and to see, and to strike off the bucket list.

Unpacking vs. Exploring

In my basement, I discovered the other day, there are still boxes which are not unpacked from when we arrived in Maryland just over two years ago. I just haven’t had time to unpack them, and I obviously don’t need these things, so I doubt very much that they’ll be returning with us to the UK. My life is a busy one out of choice, and I often chide myself for not having the cleanest kitchen, a closet that needs re-organizing, and a larder that stuff falls out of when I open it, but I feel my time here is too precious to waste it doing those things. Right now, they’re not important and they won’t enhance my experience out here in any way. Fact!

I spend my expat life exploring. I explore the people, the places, and the psyche. I love finding new things, having experiences that are exceptional to the place I am in, and meeting the community in which I live. Life as an expat can be hard, don’t get me wrong, and I wonder about many things about my UK life, but often folks ask me "Do you miss home?" and I reply, "No, because I’m too busy having fun."

The Opportunity to Enjoy the Little Things

So, what have I done that has made my expat experience so thrilling? We decided that this experience was not just about the "big things", so not just about the travel and the vacations, but also about what happens today, this very moment. I live in a carpe diem mindset. Someone invites me to a political event? I go and experience American politics! There’s a "pot luck lunch"? Never experienced that before, I’m in! A state fair with all the trimmings? Sure, why not!?

The great thing about living as an expat is that everything has an appeal, and nothing should be swept under the carpet, ignored, or judged. It should all be experienced, because that is the foundation of a rich expat life. Of course, it’s easy for me to encounter and be part of such things, living where I live — I’m a British expat in the USA and we speak the same language, and we have an "understanding". But we are so different in so many ways, and that is what intrigues me.

These differences can only truly be found in the fabric of everyday life in the USA, so that’s what I immersed myself in and that is what makes up my whole experience. Oh, the road trip in California was amazing; the adults-only weekend in New Orleans was fascinating; the week in Texas was mesmerizing; the trip to Florida was exciting; and the weekends in New York have been thrilling. But, working in the American workplace, attending American events, having American friends, integrating into the American community, and being genuinely exposed to the USA and its people, its culture and its sensibilities has been the richest, most rewarding experience of my expat life.

So, if you ask me what I love most about my expat life, it’s the opportunity. That’s what I love most.

Make Every Moment Count

Recently I saw a note directed towards us expats who aren’t in our current place forever, and it read thus: "You get a strange feeling when you are about to leave a place; likely you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place because you will never be this way again."

And that is why every moment counts in my once-in-a-lifetime expat life, and why those boxes can remain unpacked, and why that larder can remain higgledy-piggledy, and why we just have to keep on having fun while we can, because soon it will all be over and I will miss it all. I just hope that I can take elements of the person I am now, at this time and place, and transfer them and my positive outlook back to the UK, because I’ve learned that what I do now is a wonderfully enriching way to live life, wherever you are.

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