Did you hear the one about the two women in my life? One is the girlfriend and the other is the mother.
Bear with me a moment while I explain.
Living abroad is like having two lives. You slip into your international life, which is exciting and energising. And it’s not unlike having a new girlfriend, where every moment together is original, each experience to be savoured.
But fragments of your former home remain.
Its comforting presence lingers, trying to lure you back to a place of familiarity and favourite things, to the safety and security of the family home. It’s not unlike a mother, nurturing and ever-present, a cherished part of your life.
I’ll shortly be returning to the comfort of Mother England, grabbing my plane tickets, passports, travel insurance, warm pants, brolly, and Pounds and Pence to make the long journey home.
So what will I be leaving behind and who am I going to?
Sassy, confident and intriguing, Australia is fun, fun, fun. She’s relaxed, carefree and, of course, divine to look at. But she’s not just a pretty picture.
She’s interesting to hang out with and bursting with positivity. She’s dangerous, dramatic and often unpredictable. She’s a charm and a keeper, and I know I’m lucky to have her in my life.
With Australia, I’m a different person.
I adopt an adventurous spirit and embark on thrilling things. I feed off the environment and embrace opportunities that may have been avoided in the past. She’s not always easy to be with and I watch what I do in her company, always careful with what I say and how I act.
With Australia, I’m still me but I’m not quite the same.
Am I a better “me”? A more content “me”? Whatever it is, it works. We work. And I know she makes me the envy of some.
Yet still my thoughts return to Mother England and the life I had with her.
I can’t forget her because she’s important to me, a part of who I am.
It’s as if a piece of me still belongs with England and, when I visit, that piece surfaces with a vengeance, resurrecting the person I was before I left long ago.
England is steadfast and homely, recognisable and reassuring.
It’s easy to slip back into my life with her – simple, straightforward, uncomplicated, without effort. Familiarity quickly takes hold. She is the calm, unchanging presence in my life, as reliable and consistent as the setting of the sun.
Around her, I eat my favourite foods. Rekindle friendships. Visit old haunts. I think that I’m more sensible around Mother England. I challenge less and I’m content to accept the status quo.
I am the person of old when I return to England. I find the earlier me. But I’m not sure if it’s the person I want to find and, after a while, I realise much has changed.
Something inside me has shifted and things no longer seem as they were.
Living with both
I am split, divided, assuming two identities instead of one.
Half of me belongs with my sweetheart but a part of me remains in my old home, only to be revived whenever I return.
I lead a double life. I have two places to call home, two locations, two families, two groups of friends. I am incomplete.
Because you can love both people in your life – each offers you different things. Living with both is difficult, each one fighting for your attention, each laying on their own form of guilt.
But we expats and travellers are blessed, not cursed.
We get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
We love where we live, with passion and zeal. We wander along beaches, hike through forests, sail across harbours. We sit under stars in the four corners of the planet and we soak it all up, inhaling each personal adventure.
Still, we’re taunted by thoughts of returning to where it began, comforting and familiar memories persisting. A deep down yearning for a former life. A natural instinct to go back. An inner voice telling us to go home.
We will always have two lives, two identities, two homes, two conflicting personalities occupying our journey.
It comes down to whether you choose to embrace these many lives or struggle until one lone person remains.
Oh, the double life of an expat for me.
Humour me. How many lives do you have? Who is the girlfriend/boyfriend and who is the mother or father in your life?