Tips For Repatriating – What You Need To Know

For most ex-pats, there eventually comes a time when the call of home gets too loud to ignore.  It might be family and friends that are pulling you back, or a job, or just a sense that it’s time to leave.  Whatever the reason, moving home can be as challenging as moving abroad.
365::136 - homeYou can’t simply slip back into the familiar embrace of home, anymore than you can instantly adjust to living in a foreign country.  But, if you have the right mindset, coming home can be filled with the same joy and adventure that you found living abroad.  Here are a few things that I’ve learned in the year and a half since I realized it was time to come home.

Keep traveling

Just because you’re “home” doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring.  It can be as simple as a night out camping, driving to the next town over, or trying a new restaurant.  There is so much to discover just around the corner; you don’t have to go all the way around the world.  Keep your traveler’s mindset, keep your thirst for adventure, and it will keep you sane through some trying times.

Find your tribe

Your tribe is the people who truly understand where you’re coming from.  They’re the ones who inspire you, the ones who understand instantly what challenges you’re going through because they’ve been there themselves.

When you’re living in a foreign country, it often feels like you have an instant community of like-minded friends.  They were drawn to adventure, they seek something—probably something indefinable.  Same as you.  They understand how fleeting a traveler’s existence can feel, and that you have to grab onto life as tightly as you can.  They know the urgent need for strong, meaningful connections. We all need each other, to weather the storms of culture shock and to bear the heartbreak of being thousands of miles from home.

It can be frustrating to come back home and find that sense of community gone.  It can feel like you’re in a slightly different world from most of the people you meet, even the people who were your closest friends before you left.  Those friendships are so meaningful, and so important to maintain, but you also need a community of people who share your sense of adventure and who get what it feels like to travel half way around the world looking for something more.

Get out often and do the things that you are passionate about. Travel, camp, hike, learn, explore, seek adventure, seek growth–and you’ll start to build up that community—that tribe—that will be your family through the hard times.

Be patient with yourself

You’ve gained a lot of strength and insight from traveling abroad.  You are stronger than you know.  Your worldview has changed more than you realize.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing once you get home.  You’ll get frustrated.  You’ll fall back into old habits.  Your family and friends will treat you as the same person who left, and you’ll find yourself acting the same way.  Those old patterns will take a while to change once you’re back home, and sometimes it may feel like nothing has really changed at all.

But it has.  Be patient—with life, and with yourself, most of all.  As long as you keep pushing yourself to grow and get out of your comfort zone, you’ll find that those indefinable things that you’ve gained while abroad start to show up more and more.  They will have a profound impact on your life, your relationships, and your career.  You just need time for it to come into focus.

Be prepared for sacrifices

While abroad, you get used to a certain standard of living.  You get used to being able to eat out every day, travel every weekend, and rent a nice apartment, without a major dent to your finances.

When you get home, the bills add up mind-bogglingly fast.  Car payments, auto insurance, gas, health insurance, rent, utilities, food…

Be prepared for some big changes to the way that you live and the lifestyle that you can afford.  Look at it as an opportunity to discover what you value most.  You might find that your life is actually better for it.

Refuse to be “normal”

Your time abroad was more than just a gap year.  It was the start of a journey, one that you will be on for the rest of your life.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that being home means the end of the adventure, or that it means you have to compress yourself into the box of “normal.”

You’ve probably gotten used to being thought of as a little strange, quirky, and a bit of a curiosity by the people in your surrogate country.  So, let people back home think you’re a little quirky, too, if it means living your life the way you want to.   Your life is bigger than “normal.”  Live it your way.

Learn to let go

Your time living abroad has probably been some of the most formative, meaningful, and profound years of your adult life.  And it can seem like nothing back home compares.  Everything abroad feels like an adventure, and it’s hard to go back to the “ordinary” world of home.  It’s tempting—so tempting—to cling to your memories.

But you have to let them go.  Cherish those memories and experiences, but don’t judge the present against them.  There are so many more adventures to find, so many more journeys to take—but you will never see them if you’re always turning your face toward the past.

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