The opportunity to travel abroad to expand professionally and personally is becoming increasingly common and often results in women becoming expats, leaving their family, friends and social networks to support their husband/partner. And let’s face facts, very few individuals would pass up an opportunity to live and work abroad if it were presented to them.
The challenges for the travelling spouse are often not considered in the excitement of moving and travelling. The hard truth is that 90% of you won’t able to find a job in your professional field. This pill is a hard one to swallow especially when you are an independent woman who has always been financially independent. Quickly the fear of the gap on your resume is felt, and without knowing anyone who has been through this same experience it can be hard to talk about it with your family and friends. Coupled with this, labels are often given to expat women which can be pretty harsh. Between the “desperate housewives”, “the following spouse”, “the wife of …”, the loss of self-confidence and social recognition is very quickly felt.
What if you thought about expatriation as an opportunity to rediscover yourself and to experience things you may never have done in your life before. Expatriation should be for many women considered a nice parenthesis to do anything you would like to do in your life. Life is often chaotic and unfortunately, do not allow ourselves much time to think about what we really want.
During high school, we experience the pressure of being asked to choose a course in which we would like to study at University. Following University, we are expected to find a job quickly, meet a partner, and settle down. Quite often, this is followed by buying a house and having a baby. Thus when do we actually have time to stop, think and take time to discover who we really are and especially what we really want in our life? Unless you are fortunate enough to have a friend, family member or colleague who has been on this journey to give you tips on how to cope often the moment for reflection does not exist!
I am a huge believer in the positive impact of expatriation on different levels such as individual, collective, and couple having experienced some of the challenges associated with expatriation myself.
Expatriation is like having a blank sheet of paper in front of you on which you can write a whole new chapter of your life. Expatriation is not a burden. It is, in my opinion, an opportunity to discover yourself on the deepest level.
Keep in mind that even if you like your job, you are not your job, it is not the only trait of your personality. If I am completely honest with you, I love my job, I love passionately what I do for living but I do not define myself as “Ana = Psychologist and Life Coach”, obviously it’s part of my identity and who I am, but first I am a woman who likes to travel, read, play, who is and will remain a great child, going out with her friends, having a drink (or several on the weekend), who likes good food, who hates routine, who eats vegetables just because I know it’s good for me otherwise I would eat pasta every day, who love animals (especially dogs), who does things because she likes to not because she has to, who likes to dance all night in nightclubs, but who also likes to share soul connection and have deep conversations about the Universe, the energies and the moon’s cycle for hours with her girlfriends around a coffee… These are just small examples, but that’s what defines me as a person. That’s what I call the real Ana.
When we are at work with our colleagues, we are rarely ourselves. We all have masks on, and I sincerely think that many of us do not know how to remove these masks even in our personal life. Our job becomes or has become the centre of our life and therefore of who we are.
Expatriation is a wonderful opportunity to love yourself and the person you really are. It’s time to think about your strengths: What are your qualities? What did you want to do but did not take the time to do? You can volunteer, give your time for a cause that is important to you. If you want to see them, there are many opportunities in expatriation.
I hear a lot of expat women saying that they will put themselves in brackets during their expatriation, and they will get their life back once they will go back to their home country. If you want my opinion it is a waste of time, and if you choose this path you will miss a huge opportunity to take time and discover who you really are in this world.
I am aware that in our modern society it is difficult for women to put themselves before their children and husband/partner. Let me tell you something, you are the central pillar of your family, you are the one who brings the general energy, the one on whom everyone counts. How do you hope to be available for your family if you do not take care of yourself first? It’s a bit like in the plane, safety instructions always say put your mask first before helping others.
Tell yourself that this example also applies to your family. Expatriation is an amazing adventure that deserves to be lived once in a lifetime. Although it challenges all areas of our lives it can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
For me, it has been a phenomenal opportunity for personal and professional growth that I would encourage anyone to do. Has it been easy? It hasn’t always been easy, hence I am passionate about supporting other expatriates in transitioning into life abroad and developing social connections with them and others within the community. What has been the biggest achievement? Taking the time out to put me first, consider what really made me tick as an individual, seek out relationships with like-minded people and continue to say yes to new experiences. What is the one piece of advice I would give to individuals considering this journey?
DO IT! Be brave, take time out for you, reflect and consider this as a great opportunity to discover the amazing inspirational woman you are and connect with me and other like-minded women.