I was born in Sandwich Illinois at the far, far outskirts of the Windy City, but I have lived by the White House in D.C., the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a 15th century German castle, and Lake Geneva surrounded by the Alps. I moved 12 times in 17 years between four different countries. Even spectacular views cannot erase the bouts of loneliness inherent in expatriate life.
In 1979, as a globe trotting pro basketball player, when I landed in France and saw little women with baseball bats (baguettes) slung lover their shoulders, scurrying down cobblestone streets blowing air kisses, I thought, “OMG, I’ve landed on another planet.”
Back then, in a flat sans telephone, TV, microwave or electronic anything, domestic chores took on new meaning. I washed clothes in the bathtub, shopped daily and my only connection to home was thin, blue, airmail envelops that took ten days to arrive. Whether living in Germany amongst college co-eds, in Paris as a young mother, or Switzerland as a teacher, friendships with women kept me sane. Throughout my transitions from athlete to coach to teacher to writer, from wife to mom to empty nester, I have depended on a sisterhood of females – teammates, colleagues, friends, neighbors – to help me cope with hard times while living 4,000 miles away from extended family.
My journey would’ve been far less turbulent if ExpatWomen.com
, the largest global website helping women living abroad existed when I first moved overseas. Reading the down to earth information on a site displaying over a 1000 content pages, 1600 expat women blogs, 300 readers’ stories, country resources pages, interviews, motivational articles, a blog and newsletter is like sitting down for a cup of coffee with your BFF.
As ExpatWomen.com celebrates its 4th anniversary, I embark on my 32nd year abroad. Happy Birthday to us – women overseas who are raising families, learning other languages, adopting new lifestyles, negotiating internationally and living cross culturally. And a special shout out also to the women back in our homelands who keep us grounded by sharing our past and reminding us where we came from and who we are.
Santé, prost, salud, hälsa, cheers. Here’s to expats worldwide! Bring on the next adventure!
Thanks for your sharing. I left the different world of Utah at age 21 for the Far East … not just another culture but one not based on a European heritage. It was indeed as different a world as Utah is from the rest of the world, so I had a head start. However, I had that magic parachute … as a Red Cross employee, I had the rank and privileges of an officer in the armed forces, as well as assigned housing (a BOQ room with a shared kitchen and bath). My assigned roommate was in charge of Girls Scouts in the whole Far East and a gem! AND, it was temporary. I only lived in Okinawa for 2 years and I consider my life enriched for having taken that “road less traveled” if only temporarily. Love you, T O P
Your blog reminds me of another great forum for past, present and future expats and those who send them and support them on these adventures abroad – Families in Global Transition (FIGT). Annually representatives from all sectors (corporate, diplomatic, education, and military, missionary and non-government organizations) come together to share knowledge, research and skills that address critical relocation issues. At the FIGT conference, we offer leading edge workshops, educational tools and research on current relocation issues and trends for expatriate families and those who assist them – human resource professionals, relocation experts, educators, coaches, and counselors.
Honestly, each year when I go to the conference I feel like I’ve come home. I am surrounded by others who understand me! That’s where I first met Andrea Martins who started Expat Women!
The FIGT conference this year is in Washington DC from March 17-19 and they have just extended their Early Bird registration – get $100 off the regular price. Check it out!
Wow, Pat, I can only live vicariously through you.r travels as I’ve never ventured out of the country, hardly the state. Anyhoo, keep writing about your interesting adventures and please consider a book about your transitions/journey.
I will look into the Expat Women.com website to read other brave women like yourself!
Ahhhh…..I, too, remember those very thin blue airmail pages. We wrote on the paper that was also folded into the envelope. This summer it is girls, good food, and great conversation. 🙂
Good Post. I have read a lot of posts on this subject and you done the best job. Keep it up!