Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Will a Serial Expat Ever Beat the Expat Itch?

I have always wanted to see the world. As a little girl I would make lists of the places I would one day travel to. When I was 17, I begged my parents to let me spend the summer in Paris with my grandmother. I spent three weeks in Europe and was addicted. Travel was my drug of choice.

Throwback Thursday, y'all

After that trip, I returned for the summer two more times, then went off to college, where I was more interested in studying abroad than, y'know actual studying. My university didn't usually allow sophomores to study abroad, but I was so insistent they made an exception.

At 20 years old I packed a suitcase and moved to France to study at a university in a sleepy city near Strasbourg. It was one of the most perfect times in my life-one of those unique experiences that captures what it feels like to be young and adventurous and free and full of life. When the semester ended, I was frantic. I wasn't ready to give up my life abroad.

I started applying for German immersion programs and was accepted. After being stateside for just 7 months, I was back on a plane bound for Hessen. I threw myself into learning German in Marburg and was encouraged by my progress. As I walked to my classes each morning, I'd look around and think to myself, "You did it, Shannon. You made your dream come true."

The problem with study abroads is that you can't be a student forever. So before my stint in Marburg even ended, I was googling internships and jobs for after graduation. I was offered a job in Berlin (complete with monthly stipend and airfare) and 8 months after returning home from Marburg, I headed to Berlin.

Before Fionn entered the scene and shook things up, I had a plan. I'd work my job in Berlin, network, and once I graduated in a few short months, I'd return to Germany either with a job or for a Master's degree. I knew where I wanted to be, and it was on that side of the Atlantic.

Well you all know what happened instead...I fell in love, got married and ended up in Bavaria! Even though my two years in Bavaria weren't all rainbows and unicorns, I still enjoyed it and appreciated that I was doing what I loved-traveling and living life abroad. It was hard to say goodbye.

Fionn got word recently that he had to make a list of his top picks for a new destination. Even though we just got back to the States, a big part of me hoped that somehow, someway we might be able to go abroad again. However, my hopes were crushed when Fionn came home and confirmed-there would be no back to back overseas moves. Our options were confined to the lower 48 states only.

I don't know why the thought of staying stateside bugged me so much. I mean, I lived it up in Europe for years! When is it long enough? And what about all the homesickness I have when I'm over there? It's like no matter where I am, I'm always missing somewhere else.

Maybe this is just a stage in my expat to repat journey. I've gone through the honeymoon phase, navigated the Negative Nancy "why-does-everything-suck-here" phase, then the "maybe it's not so bad phase" and now I'm entering into the second guessing stage. Is this just the FOMO thing my generation has become so famous for?

I'm not sure. Maybe this is part of my quarter life crisis-standing at the crossroad of lots of big decisions and unknown outcomes. What should I do with the rest of my twenties? Will living abroad any longer than I already have bring me something I'll miss out on otherwise? What will I miss out on in America if I DO leave again?

Despite all my fretting, I think this boils down to my chronic problem of not living in the moment. I'm always thinking about the future-where will I be tomorrow, next month, next year? I have a hard time just thinking about the here and now. I just need to trust that whatever happens next, whether it's staying right here, moving across the US or moving across oceans, will all work out the way it's supposed to.

A wise lady once told me, "Don't bother trying to plan your life, darlin', because it's all in the stars." She's probably right. What do you all think? Anyone else ever grapple with these feelings?


  1. It might all be in the stars, but it's a notion that's quite hard to deal with isn't it? Good luck with a new state though, that could be great! I always think that America is just patchwork quilt of different "countries" stitched together anyway! :)

    1. That's so true. I guess you always want to write off what's right under your nose, but maybe a cross country move will be just as much of an adventure!

  2. AH those army boys. Alwasy ruining everything ;) You've done quite a bit of stuff overseas. I have some time here left but don't even want to think about where we will end up next.

    1. Haha especially when you see the CONUS list!! I was seriously depressed when he was reading off some of the options. Bliss?? Irwin?? Polk?? Send me back to Germany any day! ;)

  3. So cool to see a picture of you in Marburg!!! Whenever I hear American accents in town, I can picture you being there.
    Living in the moment is so hard... I guess what helps me is that God has a plan and it's good - it might not seem great right now, but there's nobody better to trust with my future than Him. He holds your and Fionn's destinies and has work prepared for you to do, wherever you land up.

    1. There's a lot of my heart left in Marburg for sure! I still have some good friends there from the IUSP program. Thank you so much for your comment, I really needed that today. We got news yesterday that our top choice (which is also my hometown) is very competitive and we had to be ok with any other in our top 6 (none of which are close to home or I am happy about). I just felt so discouraged and upset with our options and the future...but I have been reminded more than once today that whatever happens, God has our best interest in mind. Even if it's not what I want, wherever I end up will be part of His plan!