I felt a click the moment the wheels lifted off the tarmac. As in: it’s too late, there’s no turning back now. The frost on the airplane window is telling me this is no longer your home. I watch London’s close packed grey roofs fade into squares of white, cordoned by dark green hedges. All of England seemingly covered in crisp snowflakes, never more beautiful than in this exact moment, gazing down from my window seat. Beautiful because it’s no longer mine. It is like the country I love so dearly is sending me a white flag of surrender, offering up a final goodbye. Or maybe the snow is a celebration (of me leaving? or of my years here?).
November was one of those months for me that, looking back, seems like it could have been four months. How was I working in France at the refugee camps at the beginning of the month and now I’m here, sitting at my friend’s kitchen table in northern Germany typing this out? I love doing these recap posts because it makes me remember how much actually happens in life.
This Thanksgiving was the fourth Thanksgiving I’ve spent living abroad, far away from my family and the traditions I grew up with. Far away from Turkey trots, canned cranberry sauce and anything resembling a pumpkin pie. Every year abroad I’ve made some kind of lackluster attempt at replicating Thanksgiving – a turkey burger one year, a cranberry cocktail at a conference last year, a sad attempt at a pumpkin pie in which I forgot the sugar (mmm let’s not talk about that one). It’s not that I’m not grateful to live abroad (because I am so so grateful), but it can be difficult to spend most major holidays feeling like you are missing out. However, this year was different. This year I celebrated American Thanksgiving in Germany, with my childhood best friend who flew all the way from Michigan! It was one I will never forget.
Autumn has well and truly rolled around, and I’ve found myself in Dorset, recuperating from three straight months of travel, volunteering, and a rather nasty cold. I’ve been spending my days catching up on work on my computer and planning upcoming travels (!), sitting at the wooden kitchen table by the tall glass French doors. Outside, cooking apples and a rather large zucchini (or, “courgette,” I remind myself as English-English and American-English mix together in my brain) lie on the porch. The leaves are yellowed and drift off with each gust of wind. Autumn (or… “fall”… this is another funny word that my English brain and American brain argue over) always reminds me of change. It also reminds me of new beginnings, and, of course, my two year expat anniversary. What a journey it has been!
At the start of September, I had a slight shock to the system. I returned to the UK after a month galavanting through the European heatwave and, in my absence, Autumn had arrived. An even greater shock came when I boarded a train to France, where I worked in a refugee camp for most of the month. My summer of short shorts, beating sun and lazy hikes started to seem ridiculously luxurious as I spent each day covered in mud and rain, sleeping in a broken campervan with no hot water, helping homeless refugees in the forests of France. In all honesty, I’m still having a hard time reconciling that experience with my general daily life. Returning to the UK for my graduation and a family reunion, I felt overwhelmed by the superficiality, excess, and associated guilt of my blessed life…. this contrast is quite evident in my blog posts from this month, alternating throwback posts on my Eurotrip with in-the-moment diary posts of working in the refugee camp.
AUGUST. What a month. I think my lack of travel over the past few months of 2017 (#libraryslave) has been made up for by August. I’ve managed to see so many places that I’ve been wanderlusting over for years, as well as places that weren’t even on my radar. It’s been the big Eurotrip that I have longed for but been unable to find time/money for since I have been living in the U.K.
Life update: I am planning on being homeless for the next three months so I can travel. When my year-long lease runs out this month, I will not be renewing it. I will not be looking for a new lease, either. Instead, I will travel.
Big thanks to y’all for sticking around and reading this month, as I haven’t been the most regular of posters. I’ve been powering through the final month of my Masters degree and decided to give the blog (and attached instagram) a bit of breathing room. However, it wasn’t all for naught with the blog this month as I was actually named one of Blogosphere Magazine’s Top 10 In the Spotlight blogs – still in a bit of shock about that but very, very happy! Here’s a bit more of what I’ve been up to this month…
They say the one constant in life is change, and if that’s true then the one constant in expat life is goodbyes. I had a different post planned for this week but I wanted to write about this instead: the universal truth of expat life. I’m not the first person to write about it and I won’t be the last, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to put my words out into the ether of the Internet.