Moving to another country can be a daunting experience. It throws all of the ordinary ways of doing even the simplest things out the window and can leave you floundering for something as easy as choosing which bread to buy, or how to pay for the local parking meters. Talk to most any expat though and they will tell you the learning curves are steep but the rewards are plentiful. One of the unexpected pleasures for many expats is that they realize this is truly an opportunity to re-define who they are and make small tweaks or gigantic leaps with this new life they have pursued.
The chance to re-create yourself is really available at any time you choose but somehow picking up and moving to another country gives permission to shed the old and try on the new. Previous stereotypes and generalizations that people held about you can be brushed aside as you begin to write this new chapter in your life. You now have a blank slate to script your story upon. It can be both exhilarating and scary to have such an option before yourself.
The process of re-creation
Jennifer Kaiser an American living in Spain believes that her re-creation was a process. “I wanted to work in Europe since I wasn´t clear on where I wanted to be in the US after finishing massage school and then a degree in Modern Languages. So perhaps I did move to re-create myself. Neither of my parents were from the US so I didn´t feel attached to establishing roots in the States. Exploration and travel were already in my blood. The process of re-creation, now that I think about it, was really allowing myself to have space and time to unfold and develop.”
Through pursuing what she felt most compelled to do, Jennifer soon discovered that she could truly enjoy making a living and is now working as a Movement educator/Massage therapist.
Through this calling she has the opportunity to teach yoga to the blind for a Spanish national organization, and travels all over to teach other bodyworkers how to care for themselves.
According to Jennifer, the benefits have been truly fulfilling. “The greatest part about finding this unfolding was that I stopped feeling like I had to constantly strive, achieve, and have a million certifications and degrees in order to get somewhere. Mind you, I feel this unfurl whenever I go back to the US, so it´s not totally resolved, but at least it´s modulated in a healthier way. The big surprise along the way has been seeing how hard it is to relax ambition/ego and just enjoy life.”
Seek your passion
Deborah Chalk now living in Germany but originally from Scotland also found that the aspects of opening up to a new definition of who she is, was completely freeing. “I decided that I needed to find a role that would fit around having a daughter while also taking into consideration the fact that we move every year and a half with my husband’s job. Previously, I had worked in finance and been a teacher but when we moved to Germany I sensed it was time to do what I felt called to. I had always loved coaching books and the work of Dr Martha Beck so I decided to begin life coach training with her organization soon after moving to Hamburg. I was ready to be more than ‘wife of’ and wanted to claim my own identity and passions in life.”
According to Deborah, re-creating yourself has been a pleasant side effect to expat life. “I feel free to enjoy what I like doing and explore my new town (Hamburg) in my own way. I feel less observed by others and there is a freedom in that. In England people talk about curtains twitching to see what the neighbors are doing. Here I don’t compare myself to others with similar backgrounds, so many people have such varied backgrounds that it helps you just own who you are as an individual.”
Perhaps the greatest discovery for Deborah was realizing that moving to a new country does not have to be scary or hard, and it can even be a lot of fun. “I now coach women to help them move from seeing relocation as a compromise to instead helping them come aglow with life. I’ve learnt that wherever you move, there is always a new friend to be made, you just need to reach out.”
The new you
Perhaps it comes down to the idea that when you allow yourself to drop or at least question certain beliefs about who you are, you permit other versions to appear. It is not so much that you are leaving the old completely behind but that you are evolving into something even better. Whether you are a brand new expat or one who has been outside your home country for over a decade, you can choose to evolve and transform at any time. Here are a few questions to ponder if you would like to use your expat experience as an opportunity to think about what else is possible.
1. What things do you most value?
2. How many of these things are in your life currently and with what frequency?
3. Is there something that you have always wanted to do but have never allowed yourself to do? Why? Could you try it now, in this new setting?
4. Do you have barriers holding you back from what you want to do, be or have? Do they still truly exist here or are you bringing old baggage with you?
5. Write your dream elevator pitch for you 3 years from now. What step can you take today (baby step or giant leap) that would put you on the path to that “you, three years from now”?
Expat life definitely has its benefits. Should it appeal, let personal reinvention be one of yours!
Dawn Z Bournand is a Business and Life Coach. She is founder of Fabulously Successful and The Paris Women of Success. To learn more about creating your personal transformation, contact: email@example.com