The Conflicted Heart of an Expat

As my family and I count down to the day of departure for Taiwan, and our time here slowly dwindles, my mind and head swirl with mixed and confusing emotions and all kinds of thoughts, just like when we were preparing for our move to Thailand four years ago. On the one hand, I am filled with excitement and anticipation for our new life and new adventures. On the other hand, waves of anxiety, nostalgia, and sadness wash over me as I think about leaving all that’s familiar and comfortable and what lies ahead.

On the one hand, I want time to speed up so I can fast-forward to the near future, when all this packing, sorting, and moving will already be completed, and we can begin to settle in and enjoy our new home. On the other hand, I can feel time rushing by and I am filled with panic at the thought of all that’s left to do and the little amount of time we have left to spend with family and friends in the United States.

On the one hand, since repatriating two years ago, I am finally feeling more settled and getting back into the groove of life here. We now have our routine, life is comfortable, and we were looking forward to exploring the various regions of this big, beautiful country. Life is easy, convenient, and familiar, and we go about our days without having to think about it very much. On the other hand, we miss the interesting and unpredictable, yet charming, way of daily life overseas. Never in our American suburban community would we see street dogs and cats sauntering down the street wearing a t-shirt or diaper, or vendors on scooters calling out their wares. I am ready to get out of my comfort zone, challenge myself, and shake things up a little again.

On the one hand, I am eager for new adventures, new places, new people, and new cultural experiences. On the other hand, we are finally getting into the habit of seeing more regularly some like-minded friends, kindred spirits who understand our need to wander, who are global-minded like we are. I will dearly miss them, our talks, our easy interactions.

On the one hand, I want to show my son the world, literally; watch him learn from and explore the world, feel at home anywhere, and become globally and culturally aware. On the other hand, I want to give him roots, a place that he can always call home, a school he attends until graduation, friends who grow up with him, surrounded by family.

On the one hand, my heart is always wandering, looking elsewhere, longing to fly and see. On the other hand, I want to stay in one place long enough to have history, to know the places only locals know, to learn the names of shop owners.

Thus is the nature of an expat’s heart, simultaneously feeling the desire to stay put and to take flight. Thus is the nature of the expat life, at home everywhere and nowhere. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic life, always full of adventure and new experiences and never dull.



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