Expatriate Living: The Total Life Transplant

ExpatriateThe ultimate voluntary destruction of my comfort zone would be for me to move permanently to another country. Not knowing the language or the local customs and not having any friends or family to rely on, I’d be a stranger in a strange land.

Today I’m the same old me drifting around my neighborhood, knowing where everything is, where I need to be, and who I need to see. My mental map is familiar in every aspect, anchored in routine and decorated with familiar faces and recollections. Wherever I go, I communicate my thoughts, needs, and desires effortlessly.

Tomorrow I arrive on foreign ground. I have only the sketchiest mental map. I understand almost nothing I hear, and I’m not sure who speaks my language. The money is different. The traffic seems chaotic. I don’t know how to find anything. Nothing is familiar.

Yesterday I was known. I had a circle of acquaintances and a history. Today I’m “the foreigner.” Nobody knows my name.

This is what you call a fresh start.

Of course, I exaggerate. I doubt many expatriates relocate without significant preparation. Most are not total strangers on the day they arrive for good. Still, leaving your home country to live in a foreign land has to be a major transformation and a journey of self-discovery.

Every day becomes an adventure of newness – new words, new places, new people. Almost everything is new in some aspect, at least for a while. Unlike a vacation visit, you’re here to stay. Your mission is to make this new place YOUR place. You need to fit in and become part of things.

You couldn’t ask for a better reinvention opportunity. So, who would you be when you finally fit in? Which parts of your private story would we choose to emphasize as you defined and revealed the identity of “the foreigner?” Would you consciously create someone new or just see who emerged as you adjusted to the rhythms of your new existence?

The expatriate experience has to be a vivid and exciting way to reinvent yourself. Of course, it’s not for everyone. A total “life transplant” is pretty daring. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d do it. But I’m thinking about it. How about you?


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6 Responses to “Expatriate Living: The Total Life Transplant”

  1. Sylvia May 23, 2013 at 9:03 PM #

    I’ve been an expat for almost 15 years now and lived in Italy, England, South Africa, China, Japan, Australia and now Singapore. It’s challenging for sure, but keeps life interesting also. It really forces you to think about what you want to do with your life!

    • admin May 24, 2013 at 9:12 AM #

      I’ll bet it does. I’d love to know more about your story.

  2. Abby April 1, 2015 at 11:49 AM #

    Hi Rick,
    It’s the “Nut” here:) As you will see from my blog, I did precisely that. Not once, not twice, but 4 times. It’s certainly very challenging, yet worth every second. Plus, the positive side is that you can reinvent yourself every time. Having said that, I think we’re fine now, in the French “God forgotten hole”. Love your site, so different from mine, so smart, and so much less “nuts”:)

    • Rick Barlow April 1, 2015 at 1:38 PM #

      Sounds exciting, all that reinventing. Glad you like my place. Visit often. I like yours, too. Very energetic! Thanks.

  3. Leliu January 26, 2016 at 4:38 PM #

    Hi Rick,
    I like the information here. I am an adventurer and explorer. I am a military brat, then joined the Air Force and served my self. I am retired and a military widow. I am in Hawaii now been here 7 years, but the town is small and so is the island so I am ready to move again ( I am a gypsy at heart). I have chosen Costa Rica. I lived in Panama and graduated from Balboa HS. I have my planning in order to maintain a retiree visa to live there. I am saving my money to ship my vehicle and have rental money saved up also. Planning and research are very important so I have a list of things to do before I actually fly over. I am familiar with the language and slow pace of life, plus I have no problems making friends or fitting in. I think FEAR stops people from doing anything because they don’t want to leave that comfort zone. That comfort zone will suffocate your thoughts and anxieties and control you forever, people do not know or understand how to free themselves from the slavery of fear, so they sit an stagnate not knowing what to do. First I tell people if they are serious about making life change then they need to plan and research. But most of all don’t tell anyone, JUST DO NOT. This leads to problems and the opinions of others weighing you down. Just plan it and keep it a secret and when the time comes JUST DO IT, don’t look back. I have done it many times and I am now 53 and loving life. I am not telling anyone what my plan is until it is done. I will see if anyone even knows I am missing…

    • Rick Barlow January 30, 2016 at 2:24 PM #

      Hi Leliu,

      You sound like you’ve figured out how to handle this whole expatriate thing. I think you’re absolutely right about comfort zones and fear as the primary obstacle to personal reinvention. The caution against letting others know your plans, however, is a fresh take. I can see how others’ opinions, probably reflecting their own hesitations, could be a real threat to your confidence and enthusiasm. Thanks for that tip. Keep me posted on your move. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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