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?).
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!
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.
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.
Soon, I will be bidding farewell to my home of Exeter, England. I read once that we can never return “home” because places will never be the same as when we left them. We change, they change, the people in them change.
I haven’t lived in Exeter for a while, but I still consider it a home. It’s a bit ironic, really. When I studied abroad at Exeter, I did a poetry dissertation which focused on the complexities of defining “home” – it was my first time living in the same country that my maternal grandmother came from, my first time living abroad, and I spent a lot of time pondering what home means. It was one point in my seemingly lifelong mission to understand what home is. Four years later, Exeter is a place I consider home.
I’ve been reflecting on expat life quite a bit lately. Fellow blogger Rachel from A Nesting Nomad is about to start her expat journey (from the UK to Australia!) and I recently answered some questions for her about expat life that got me into this little reflective mode. So when I stumbled across a list of Expat questions from Sandra, a Swiss expat in Boston, I thought I would give it a go! I realized that I don’t actually write about “expat life” in particular very much on here, even though it’s really underlying every experience I have in this country. So… maybe you will learn something new about me, and what it’s like to be an expat!
Last week, like seemingly everyone else in the world, I saw La La Land. I did the rainy, cobblestone walk downtown with two of my best friends in this city. I snuggled down into the old, springy seats of our city’s old fashioned cinema, my orange soda and popcorn in hand. (The popcorn in this country isn’t quite the same – it’s rounder and harder and sweet and all-around healthier tasting, which is bizarre). For me, going to the movies is a tradition – the smell, the darkening lights, the velvet seats, and crunching popcorn, the rolling credits (I always, always wait ’til the end…hence a few awkward first dates).
Yesterday on the commute back from class, I found myself sitting on a double-decker bus, watching a Royal Navy bomb squad disassemble eight grenades 300 meters from the roundabout we were stuck in.
Eight unexploded bombs were found during road works on Plymouth’s most central road.