All hail the king. [King Kamehameha united the Hawaiian islands and the people]
All hail the king. [King Kamehameha united the Hawaiian islands and the people]
Returning home to Hawaii after six years abroad felt as natural as diving into the Pacific Ocean. It was salty, sweet and refreshing. It was exhausting and revealing in ways that I had forgotten. And it confirmed my decision to stay outside the borders of the United States, coloring outside the lines, looking from the outside in.

It's an idyllic-looking life. [somehere on the North Shore, Oahu]
It’s an idyllic-looking life. [somehere on the North Shore, Oahu]
While I was there, I thought heavily about the choices I had made and the way HOME had continued to unfold while I was elsewhere. What if I had decided to stay and pursue a “good” job? I’d have a place to hang my invisible hat and in my imaginary dream I’d be stable and smart with lots of worldly goods from Costco and Target.

Instead, I was impulsive and left my passport country with a man who would ultimately leave me for another woman. I returned to teaching which is a laughable, pathetic profession that politicians and businessmen jockey around for financial reasons – and I have no stability, no car, no home, no stuff inside my rooms that showcase showdowns what a successful person I have become.

What have I done?

I don’t know.

When I was in Hawaii, I was chatting with a friend (from ages ago who I recently connected with on Fecesbook) and I was reflecting on here versus there. I confessed that I didn’t know where I belonged and he mistakenly thought I was lost, down in the dumpsters and wrestling with dark thoughts. But the thing about texting and time is that context doesn’t always come through.

I didn’t blame him for thinking how he did, but the conversation made me realize how incredibly transformed I feel from the time when we knew each other, archaeology (post-college) days. Living abroad can be a game changer if you willingly (or unwillingly) are confronted with what is different. It’s kind of like the US is its own enormous house and each State is a unique room. Oh, and how I moved from room to room! But each room lacked something for me.

Moving to Thailand (and Ecuador) was leaving the house, the nest, the net and with that came a rollercoaster adventure I could never had predicted.

Where do I belong? I don’t know. But I’m okay with that because when I try to imagine what could have been, I’m usually very wrong.

Was I better off here or there?

It doesn’t matter, the decision has been made.

I could go back and going back doesn’t mean defeat, actually, quite the contrary because I have the luxurious choice to go back.

Iconic Diamond Head and downtown Honolulu.
Iconic Diamond Head mountain and downtown Honolulu.

I’m rather envious of those with homes and stability, but I think that’s because I’ve never lived in the same house for more than a couple of years since I left Hawaii for college. Even when I lived in the same city for, say 3 years, I moved every year into a new place. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But my life just happens this way, not because I want to necessarily move.

This is ironic because the reason why I didn’t stick with archaeology was I didn’t want a nomadic lifestyle. I didn’t want to follow the jobs and go from site to site to keep money in the bank. I also didn’t pursue acting because I didn’t want to deal with constant rejection, but I ended up pursuing writing, which as you know, has zero rejection issues…

So, I don’t want to be a millionaire. I don’t want to be a famous writer. And I want lots of kids.

Where you heading? *shrugs shoulders* I don't know...[Chiang Rai, Thailand]
Where you heading? *shrugs shoulders* I don’t know…[Chiang Rai, Thailand]
What is it that they say? “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I’d say: Life is what happens when you think you are making other plans.

35 replies on “(An expat reflects) here versus there…

  1. Life is everchanging. The reason we ended up again in Germany is rather boring. I tried to get into university in Finland and then suddenly me and my wife realized that it won’t really work there so from one day to the other we decided it is time to move to Germany! Of course this is a small thing but I had planned to never ever go back to Germany and now here I am, stucked in my hometown again 🙂


      1. Finland is doing pretty poor for several years now with an incredible bad job market / very high unemployment rate for young people. Some companies search for new people and requirement “some master degree…”


  2. I’ve gone back to the US every summer since moving abroad [so far] but I still get all the same feelings and issues with people who haven’t experienced expat life having no concept of what I’m trying to say. I definitely get envious of those with stable lives and places to belong sometimes, but we are just trying to carve out our own spot. even though it looks completely unlike what we ever planned 😉 also a random thing: I used to want to be an archaeologist [specifically an Egyptologist] but went into engineering instead. and now I’m doing neither!


    1. An Egyptologist! 😀 An Engineer! Oh, my!

      So, do you think you both will stay abroad for awhile? Or is there not really a plan? You know, wait and see?


  3. Great post!
    I don’t think you need a house and car and whatnot to feel at home and in my experience nothing broadens the mind like leaving the security of the well known. Be it for a semester abroad or for good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well-said. I like that “leaving the security of the well known” for mind broading purposes 😛 I suppose you are right. Security blankets need to be tossed back every once in a while to keep the blood flowing! Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Life is certainly what we don’t think it is, or never thought it would be. I never would have imagined moving back to Australia when I was studying high school in Singapore…now here I am and making a living here. I do want to go back at some point, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon…or maybe it is. Who knows.

    On the subject of home, I don’t know where home is personally for me. Home, it means many different things, it lies in the relationships we have with the people we’re closest to…you should know this, Lani 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG. You are psychic! I was going to end the post with “it doesn’t matter where you are, but who you are with” kind of thing. But then I thought it might be misunderstood, especially since I came out to Thailand with the boyfriend, but then it didn’t work out. But, you are right, and I’m right, too! Haha! Relationships made a huge difference!


      1. Relationships change over time. And as we move and travel, it is always so hard to maintain good relationships where the other knows you in and out. So sorry it didn’t work out for you.

        I dream of the way where we catch up in person and finish each other’s sentences. Psychic indeed 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It will be a fun day, indeed! 😀 No need to be sorry, things work out in ways we could have never imagined!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, yes Lani, those plans we make, which never come to fruition. I recognise so much of my own life in your words. I’ve stopped planning my life long ago. The only thing I still spend time planning is the occasional trip. 😉 For the rest, I try to simply enjoy the ride. Not always easy, but mostly a lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re such a poet with words Jolandi. “I stopped planning my life long ago.” No, not easy, kind of scary actually and difficult to explain to my mother, but… here I am.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I always feel the same way about going back to the states, maybe we will go back, then I realize that it just doesn’t feel like home anymore. 🙂


    1. Hmmm. Interesting. Hawaii felt like home because it was home for so long, but I barely dipped my toes in the water. And I missed Thailand when I was there. I think I’m a bit of a wanderer and if things work out somewhere I’d give it a go.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Homelessness gives you the freedom to break many conceptual barriers, Lani. For the first few years it’s really hard, and then you open into the world, both micro and macro. Nowhere has taught me how to access this wisdom like Thailand. We can all be “home” where it lives.
    Love, simoon

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s only hard when I think about it too much or when I compare myself to my friends who live in the States. Seeing my mom this time made me think about being close to her again. But I hear what you are saying. Thanks Sybil.


  8. Back before I’d done any real traveling I worked in a company, and one day I found out that one of my coworkers had lived in Tanzania for a year. Suddenly I had a lot more respect and admiration for her. She’d gone off and lived somewhere outside of the U.S. that I couldn’t even imagine. Now I’ve lived overseas for nearly a decade, mostly in China, and sometimes – when things aren’t going so well – I wonder what my life would be like if I’d never left the States to live abroad. But living overseas is too much a part of who I am now. For instance, there was a point where I realized that one in ten days in my life I’d woken up in China. That kind of immersion in another country/culture really broadens your perspective. It’s a bit like having another life. And when you live in more countries you have move lives. If I’d stayed in America I’d just have the one life, and it might have become a bit of a blur or repetition. I’m short on Costco and Target acquisitions, but I have priceless, life-changing memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that was rather eloquent! I certainly see different places as different lives or chapters. It helps me to remember my life! And I like what you said, my perspective on the world and its inhabitants is forever changed by my experiences abroad.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Some very interesting thoughts you share Lani:
    What have I done? I don’t know.
    Where do I belong? I don’t know.
    Was I better off here or there? It doesn’t matter, the decision has been made.

    You have the luxury of choice and you’ve broadened your perspective by ‘spreading’ your wings. I hope you get to add ‘lots of kids’ to the mix.

    I’ve lived abroad for many years. I think home is where the heart is. My heart is where I am now, and where I was before; my heart is big enough! So big, that my heart is also in the place I want to be in the future! 🙂

    I enjoyed this chatty, light yet deep, reflective post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Life is what happens when you think you are making other plans.” I like this. I think you have the right attitude. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made was making a (subconscious) plan for my life, and then trying to make it happen when I should have been just going with the flow and better appreciating what life sent my way.

    An excellent post! Here’s wishing you happiness wherever you are, and, perhaps, many kids.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha, ha. I have an unfortunate habit of taking things too literally. I did wonder, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Kudos to you, Lani.

    I am bit different because I feel the need to at least have enough money to have a place to live, feed myself and look after my health needs. I’m 8 yrs. away from legal retirement.

    My partner is 16 yrs. older than I.

    That said, I have moved and lived in 3 distinctly different regions of Canada…away from old friends each time.

    At this time in my life, I don’t want to accumulate more physical assets/stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good for you. I think as we get older we reflect deeper about what’s important. When we’re younger, we think we have the added value of time on our side and getting older doesn’t feel real yet. But once you start seeing it in your face, body, those around you, it’s like “Yikes. This is really happening!”

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Lani, I don’t think it matters where either…keep on doing what you love. That’s the meaning of life!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This made me laugh out loud “in my imaginary dream I’d be stable and smart with lots of worldly goods from Costco and Target.”

    I never thought I’d still be in Pennsylvania at this point in my life, and here I am getting married and moving to a townhouse. It’s weird. Maybe I’ll go back to being more nomadic a few years down the line. I’ve learned to live with less stuff, and I prefer it, but here, stuff just accumulates. I swear, it reproduces at night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. It’s a constant fight to keep clutter and accumulation of STUFF down. “Heel, boy! Yeaw! Yeaw!” *cracks whip*

      But soon I will be changing countries *bites nails* and I will be faced with the choice of slashing and burning (not really) the clutter.


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