It is often the case when you emigrate from your country, you imagine yourself back within a three to four year period, money made, laughing all the way to the bank, buying up houses for cash left right and centre. It was certainly what I imagined. I imagined coming back rejuvenated, preaching to the unemployed about re-inventing themselves and finding positives rather than negatives. Our kids would get a snapshot of the world and all that foreign lark would be well and truly behind us, we would be back on terra firma, ready to proceed with ‘normal’ life.
However the intention of turning a four year term abroad into a lucrative one-off trick and then declare myself out of the game isn’t working, instead, I’m close to be becoming deeper and deeper into expatriation and while it seemed like a quick fix solution back in 2010, it has drawn me in to the point that I now feel forced to stay.
I look back now on rather ambitious ‘YEAR 1’ spreadsheet and its idyllic net bottom line, three countries and four years later the projected bottom line of Year 1 still hasn’t materialised. It is evident now that the reality is quite different. Set-up costs, education, housing, medical, transport i.e. automobile and aeroplane, all add up making the projected spreadsheets for Years 2, 3 & 4 bordering on the ridiculous.
What I hadn’t included in the debit column was that life still happens despite emigration. Somehow I thought it would hold but there was still medical and dental costs, education, accommodation, flights home, flights back, therapeutic retail outlays to alleviate homesickness etc. etc. Another thing I hadn’t factored were two additional moves. I assumed back in 2010 that Doha was going to be a single stop and that there’d be no more thereafter, however, Abu Dhabi, 2011 and Jakarta, 2013 followed and so did the associated relocation costs.
It used to be the case that when someone asked, ‘where are you going to next?’ I would reply, ‘we’re going home, as soon as possible, we’re going home?’ but not anymore, instead the reply is, ‘we don’t know’. Now don’t get me wrong from a logistics point of view I would like to be a little nearer to the Lee than Indonesia, but am I really ready to home yet? Or could I go home even if I wanted to, having invested so much by way of time and emotion out of Ireland, it seems necessary to stay until the journey comes to natural end rather than a planned conclusion.
Unawares, you become immersed in your new life, your children are going to British Schools, choosing subjects for their iGSCE’s, you’re happy with the constant merry-go-round of surface friendships that expat life provides and the thought of settling down to just one country for ever and ever amen seems daunting.
This month, as the fourth anniversary of ‘The Great Depart’ passes by without acknowledgement, let alone a discussion about a possible move home, it seems that expatriation has whipped my ass and I have succumbed. I thought I would enter this institution and walk away unscathed, but the ties are beginning to dig a little deeper and there is a hunger to stay for just a little more, just another two years, three at most.
Unlike my sisters before me I, naively perhaps, think that all I need is one more year in the game, one, maybe two more contracts and it will all come together, I’ll be done with neapolitan and I’ll be happy to revert to vanilla. I choose to ignore the countless leathered faces of the eternal expat wives, (eternally expat, not necessarily wives) that have spent twenty years boxing in the global expat arena, each year waiting for a break, waiting for the finale to their adventure but year on year staying put on the merry-go-round becoming too institutionalised to jump at a vanilla life back home. Sure you can be black and white about going or staying but there are fifty shades of grey in between.
So beware and be warned before you offer up your virginal passport to delve into the global world of expatriation, there may be no going back.