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Expat Survival Guide – Part 7 – A Bit About Traveling Home

posted by saltybug.com 02/08/2016 0 comments
Expat Survival Guide

Our first trip home was last Christmas. We had ten days to fit in travelling between three locations to see family and friends, oh and celebrate Christmas. We did have a great time; don’t get me wrong however I also felt incredibly challenged at times. It is important that you give thought to your goals for your trip, and plan around meeting those. I wrote a top ten list of things to think about, but I have updated it a bit since then so here it is all fresh and new:

  1. Wait until you feel okay to plan it. If you are really homesick it may unhinge you more. I really believe you need to stay focused on your present, especially when you are going through hard times. Keep moving forwards. Thinking about all you have left behind can be unsettling.
  2. Think through your key goals for the trip and build a plan around it. Do not make plans that mean you spend most of your time in a car getting from place to place. You lose precious time with people you love, when doing that. Find other options. It is okay to be a bit selfish, it is your time.
  3. Give people enough notice to be able to make arrangements to see you. Tell them the day you are available, with plans yet to come. That way there will be less disappointment closer to the time, and less guilt felt from people who are just too over-committed to get to you. Be mindful that it isn’t about that moment in time that really matters in your relationships. It is how you and your friends and family stay in touch throughout the year. That is more significant. So if people cannot get to you, don’t feel too disappointed. Make the effort for special contact while you are away.
  4. Packing to go. When you pack your clothes, and the clothes of your children, take out about half of it. You really will not need it. Unless you are in a remote desert or jungle with no water or electricity you will have access to a washing machine, and even then would it really matter? The more space you leave, the more room to pack goodies from home to bring back with you. I used to over do things, and the first time on a plane my kids had enough activities to keep them going for a week. They don’t need it. Now I keep things really simple with just a colouring in book, crayons, a small toy each and a mini tub of playdoh. Then I include a change of clothes for all of us, wet-wipes and a bag with headphones and the iPod in it. 
  5. The Open House Concept. This is what we did to see as many people as possible and it was brilliant. We had the best day. Think through how it can work for you. Having it in our apartment meant the children were contained, we were comfortable, we could have it go as long as we wanted and people could still meet other commitments and come and spend quality time with us. We provided refreshments throughout the day, activities for the children, and it was just wonderful. Be mindful that meeting outside means less relaxing and catching up and more chasing around after small children. 
  6. Find space for just yourselves. It is a hard one I know. We had a morning when we first arrived to find our feet. It wasn’t long but it was really nice to just be relaxed. Then we took the children to a favourite beach down south one afternoon while staying at SB’s mother’s place. That seemed to rejig us a little. It was a very special few hours for us.
  7. I was surprised at how emotional I became. Despite being settled in our new home in Manila, the longer our stay, the more emotional I became. Visiting special places became more difficult. I found I needed some space to process my emotions. 
  8. You may get overzealous and want to squish as much sightseeing into your trip home as possible. Especially if you have children. You want to relive memories. I get that. You want to show small children who are that bit older now, the wonders of their home space. Yes, we did that. For the most part it worked well but everyone has their limits and when you are short on time, you need to be realistic. It is also fair to say that small children are not the same as you, an adult. Time moves differently, expectations are different. Hopes and desires are different. So try to avoid unnecessary conflicts and tantrums from both children and adults. Select a couple of really great places to go and create new memories. The rest can wait until next time.
  9. Be sensitive to your children and their emotions. At such a young age they don’t quite understand how to process their feelings. Try to keep their night time routines as much as you can. Sleep deprivation builds up and children become less resilient. They also need to retain some certainty in the excitement and be given time and space to process everything that is going on. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of seeing grandparents, aunties and uncles, but too many late nights and too much excitement can lead to challenges. You probably won’t win awards for it, but be your child’s advocate and expert.
  10. Try to do things outside your new normal. Go back to old ways, it will refresh you.


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