packing for the Grand Tour

By ANASTASIA ASHMAN

There’s so much talk of movement these days, the advice on everyone’s lips. Personally I’m charmed by the elegant momentum of agile living.

A young woman posed a question at TravelBlogExchange this month, asking round-the-world travelers and serial expats how they face their homesickness. She wants to be an expat one day soon, she wrote, but how can she leave her family and everything she knows?

Being abroad for long stretches — some of us looking at forever — sure we get homesick, I told her.

But it’s actually deeper than that. With each passing day the things we miss change and we end up pining for something that no longer exists. The more we move around, the less home is one place. A bittersweet price of going out into the world. What you gain is a new way of seeing yourself, your family, your home, your nation, the planet.

It’s quite possible all of us — from the young woman whose family and current surroundings define her world to long-term travelers toughened by life on the road — are so enamored with our present reality (good, bad or indifferent) we’re reluctant to let go for something that will stretch us past our idea of ourselves.

That future-travel-blogger may yearn for a wider experience, but in a few words she expressed a poignant desire to stay right where she was. At least for now.

If each tiny, agile step is a shift away from something else — guaranteed not to be there forever, trustily waiting for our return– we need to consider with extra care where we are headed and when we choose to go.

How do you keep what you love in your life as you move forward?
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Anastasia Ashman is a California-born writer/producer of neoculture entertainment based in Istanbul. This series covers what’s crossing the mind and desk of expat+HAREM’s founder.
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  • Anastasia M. Ashman

    Thanks Catherine, Kari, Cath, Rose and Dom. As several of you noted, it seems to lessen the nostalgia-problem if we keep our options open. When I lived in Malaysia, I considered that I had moved there, full stop. The immigrant situation Dom mentions… that only loaded every experience with the weight of forever. Now that I’m in Turkey, I consider my time here temporary and on-going, and yes — negotiable. More agile form of nostalgia perhaps!

  • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

    Thanks Catherine, Kari, Cath, Rose and Dom. As several of you noted, it seems to lessen the nostalgia-problem if we keep our options open. When I lived in Malaysia, I considered that I had moved there, full stop. The immigrant situation Dom mentions… that only loaded every experience with the weight of forever. Now that I’m in Turkey, I consider my time here temporary and on-going, and yes — negotiable. More agile form of nostalgia perhaps!

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  • http://www.rosedeniz.blogspot.com Rose

    Before moving abroad myself, I had a pretty limited understanding of the complexities of leaving home. I mostly thought homesickness was related to the immigrant experience (M.D. Benoit’s comment resonates with me in that respect) while the expat, who had supposedly chosen to move abroad freely, would adapt more easily or have the benefit of moving between two or more cultures without the ‘baggage’. I didn’t even see myself as an expat until recently (and still with some hesitation). As a result, I was less prepared for the difficulties I faced my first two years abroad, and thought it was some sort of personal failure to adapt immediately. On the other hand, knowing intellectual what I was to face wouldn’t have softened the blow, either. The challenges all helped me, in some capacity, to gain more sure footing on the inside. As much as I miss people at home, I miss intangibles, and that definitely includes places that don’t exist anymore, and a lifestyle I used to lead. Like CathD says, it’s a constant negotiation.

  • Anonymous

    Before moving abroad myself, I had a pretty limited understanding of the complexities of leaving home. I mostly thought homesickness was related to the immigrant experience (M.D. Benoit’s comment resonates with me in that respect) while the expat, who had supposedly chosen to move abroad freely, would adapt more easily or have the benefit of moving between two or more cultures without the ‘baggage’. I didn’t even see myself as an expat until recently (and still with some hesitation). As a result, I was less prepared for the difficulties I faced my first two years abroad, and thought it was some sort of personal failure to adapt immediately. On the other hand, knowing intellectual what I was to face wouldn’t have softened the blow, either. The challenges all helped me, in some capacity, to gain more sure footing on the inside. As much as I miss people at home, I miss intangibles, and that definitely includes places that don’t exist anymore, and a lifestyle I used to lead. Like CathD says, it’s a constant negotiation.

  • http://mdbenoit.com M. D. Benoit

    It is interesting to think of the difference between expats and emigrants. Canada, and especially Ottawa, is a mosaic of cultures. I’ve spoken to many immigrants (I suppose they started as expats) and they do pine for their country of origin with melancholy… especially those who never returned whether by choice or because they couldn’t.

    Yet they do pine for something that doesn’t exist anymore, because every country changes, evolves with time; for them time was arrested when they left.

    But the second part is true also: even if they don’t have the ability or the inclination for introspection, their identity has been redefined to mix the old and the new, the known and the adopted.

  • http://mdbenoit.com M. D. Benoit

    It is interesting to think of the difference between expats and emigrants. Canada, and especially Ottawa, is a mosaic of cultures. I’ve spoken to many immigrants (I suppose they started as expats) and they do pine for their country of origin with melancholy… especially those who never returned whether by choice or because they couldn’t.

    Yet they do pine for something that doesn’t exist anymore, because every country changes, evolves with time; for them time was arrested when they left.

    But the second part is true also: even if they don’t have the ability or the inclination for introspection, their identity has been redefined to mix the old and the new, the known and the adopted.

  • http://www.mineyourresources.com CathD

    What a beautiful, elegant way you’ve described the values conflicts that travelers need to explore and live with. I’m not sure that there are any clear answers on “right” and “wrong” decisions about which values you should prioritize and I love that you suggest that it’s a continual negotiation and re-negotitaion of your values – so there’s permission to change your values.

    We often get asked, “But will you settle somewhere one day?” and my answer is, “We’ll travel and move around so long as we’re enjoying it and it’s working for us. If that changes, we’ll re-evaluate and consider settling down or any other alternatives available to us.”

    Great post, and thanks for the mention,

    Cath

  • http://www.mineyourresources.com CathD

    What a beautiful, elegant way you’ve described the values conflicts that travelers need to explore and live with. I’m not sure that there are any clear answers on “right” and “wrong” decisions about which values you should prioritize and I love that you suggest that it’s a continual negotiation and re-negotitaion of your values – so there’s permission to change your values.

    We often get asked, “But will you settle somewhere one day?” and my answer is, “We’ll travel and move around so long as we’re enjoying it and it’s working for us. If that changes, we’ll re-evaluate and consider settling down or any other alternatives available to us.”

    Great post, and thanks for the mention,

    Cath

  • kari m.

    Hello. Stimulating topic. Thank you. I believe moving forward, travelling, is on ongoing process in itself to anyone who chooses to do so, for whatever reason. Some of us might enjoy the luxury of travel for adventure, personal growth, exploration, some take on responsibilities of reporting through their work to the rest of the world what they observe in foreign often war-ridden places and yet others unwillingly, for the sake of mere survival have to relocate, find refuge in far off, hopefully welcoming places. What a complex diversity! However… I have come to find over and over again that it is hard to move in any new direction in life if I at the same time try to stay put in my present state of mind. Sorry, this sounds like a cliché, I know. :-) But, something has to give, as I feel you well define it here above. I think many of us repeatedly underestimate just how challenging and surprisingly hard it can be to return back to something once left behind. Yes, it will have changed as well, while we were gone… busy perceiving whatever we were, somewhere else. Perhaps the risks of changing something automatically brings up uncertainty for a while, while we redefine our worlds? We might need something in the past to occur to us as stable, unchangeable, as a contrast, just for a while at least? To keep what I love in life while I move forward is in the end an ongoing process too, those things change according to how I well I am able to see them for what they are, at any given time. Philosophical morning thoughts & regards, from me. :-)

  • kari m.

    Hello. Stimulating topic. Thank you. I believe moving forward, travelling, is on ongoing process in itself to anyone who chooses to do so, for whatever reason. Some of us might enjoy the luxury of travel for adventure, personal growth, exploration, some take on responsibilities of reporting through their work to the rest of the world what they observe in foreign often war-ridden places and yet others unwillingly, for the sake of mere survival have to relocate, find refuge in far off, hopefully welcoming places. What a complex diversity! However… I have come to find over and over again that it is hard to move in any new direction in life if I at the same time try to stay put in my present state of mind. Sorry, this sounds like a cliché, I know. :-) But, something has to give, as I feel you well define it here above. I think many of us repeatedly underestimate just how challenging and surprisingly hard it can be to return back to something once left behind. Yes, it will have changed as well, while we were gone… busy perceiving whatever we were, somewhere else. Perhaps the risks of changing something automatically brings up uncertainty for a while, while we redefine our worlds? We might need something in the past to occur to us as stable, unchangeable, as a contrast, just for a while at least? To keep what I love in life while I move forward is in the end an ongoing process too, those things change according to how I well I am able to see them for what they are, at any given time. Philosophical morning thoughts & regards, from me. :-)

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.etsy.com Catherine Bayar

    But each step is also a shift *toward* something else. And oh the future regrets of not leaving, not learning all those new things!

    I realize how lucky I am to split my time between the place of my birth, California, and my adopted home, Turkey. It’s more difficult to be homesick when you have two homes; though sometimes when I’m in one, I do long to be in the other.

    As a designer, I got used to living out of a suitcase – I was always leaving home. My job is to find the trends, develop the change and make it a reality. What an epiphany that I could do that with my life as well. I’m figuring out a way to take all the bests bits I love and make my own world.

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    But each step is also a shift *toward* something else. And oh the future regrets of not leaving, not learning all those new things!

    I realize how lucky I am to split my time between the place of my birth, California, and my adopted home, Turkey. It’s more difficult to be homesick when you have two homes; though sometimes when I’m in one, I do long to be in the other.

    As a designer, I got used to living out of a suitcase – I was always leaving home. My job is to find the trends, develop the change and make it a reality. What an epiphany that I could do that with my life as well. I’m figuring out a way to take all the bests bits I love and make my own world.

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