Expats: Home sweet home or adventure?

When you’re an expat you sometimes find yourself limited with the amount of traveling you can really do in a year for various reasons. If you’re working then you’re even more limited by how much holiday or vacation time you get annually. Sometimes it’s hard to decide between going back home to see family and old friends, to indulge in those certain foods you’ve been missing, and jetting off to that new, exotic country you’ve been dying to see. You just feel torn between the two at times. I wanted to share my experience with this as an expat and would love to hear from other expats about yours as well.

When I moved to Sydney in late August 2006 I decided I wanted to spend 1 or 1.5 years straight in Australia before my first visit home to California. My rationale for this was two-fold:

1) I was afraid if I went back any earlier the homesickness would be overwhelming and I’d find myself wanting to move back or at the very least I’d be having that internal debate.

2) I wanted to really adjust to my new life in a new place. I wanted to have plenty of time to create my life in Sydney, develop friendships, dive into my new job and do some traveling in that part of the world.

That was the personal choice I made for myself at the time. It definitely was the better choice for me. My first visit home was February 2008, which was just shy of 1.5 years of being away. When I did go home for that first trip it was so wonderful to see my family and friends. I enjoyed every minute I spent with them. I ate yummy, authentic Mexican food I’d been craving, had a burger (or two) from In’n’Out and was spoiled with my Mom’s incredibly delicious homemade meals. Even with all of that though I found myself looking forward to getting back to my life in Sydney when the time came to say good-bye. I knew at that moment Sydney was becoming my second home.


Feb 2008 visit home

During that first year and a half living in AU I took a solo trip to Phuket, Thailand for 9 days late 2007. I needed a relaxing break from work, from everything really, so I decided to do it. I easily could have decided to go home for a visit but I didn’t make that choice. Instead I ventured off to a country I hadn’t been for an adventure and some R&R. I didn’t regret it. I had a great time and was so glad I went.


Phuket, Thailand 2007


Phuket 2007

After that initial visit home my plan was to go home once a year. That seemed feasible at the time. I guess you could say I got lucky because I ended up being able to combine a work-related trip with a personal visit in California later in 2008. So I was able to see family twice in one year! After that second visit in 2008 though I remember thinking about the fact I had 4 weeks annual leave per year so if I go to the US for 2 weeks that leaves me with really only 2 weeks to travel, see Australia and/or Asia. All of a sudden I felt panicked with how I would decide what to do. I remember talking to other expats about it and some felt similar to me and others didn’t really feel torn. It was an easy decision for some to travel and see the world and maybe go home every couple of years or on the flip side others would choose to go home and put some of the world travel on the backburner. This really is a case of “to each their own.”

In April 2009 I took another solo trip to the South Island of New Zealand for about 10 days. More to come on that in another post. It was amazing. Because of that trip I was a bit more limited to the time I’d have for my annual visit to California that July but I was fine with that. The NZ trip was something I really wanted to do. Well, I got lucky again! Fortunately another work trip came about in July, which I was able to combine with some time at home that extended my time there. Even if that work trip hadn’t come up though I wouldn’t have regretted taking the trip to NZ earlier in the year, not one bit. That was something I wanted to do for myself.


Milford Sound, New Zealand


Beautiful Queenstown, New Zealand


Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Today with Ozdane and I living in Singapore we are now trying to balance visiting both our families and friends on two different continents with us living here. Fortunately the work factor has helped with Ozdane needing to go to both AU and the US for business from time to time. However I still find myself thinking about how to continually balance seeing our family and friends in AU, in the US and making travel time purely for us over the upcoming years.

If you’re anything like me and love traveling, but also are very close to family and friends at “home,” I don’t know this ever gets easier. I think it’s a case of just getting better and maybe smarter at working it all out. Neither option is too shabby really…going back to your home or jetting off for a new travel adventure.

I’d love to hear from other expats how they approach the “home sweet home” versus travel the world dilemma.


4 Comments on “Expats: Home sweet home or adventure?

  1. I went back about 3-4 times a year for weddings and holidays. And then I “had to” after my daughter was born since she’s the only grandchild and we had major guilt about that. I think it’s a $ and time issue really. I wasn’t working and we had a huge travel allowance so it was easier. Most expats I know go home 2x a year at the most.

    Right, that wasn’t helpful. Ultimately, we came home because my dad became ill. But I MISS the travel like you would not believe. So do it while you can!

  2. Hi there, great topic to bring up. This is the first year we are finally getting to pull off going traveling over Christmas rather than going home. It turns out no one was mad at all. We felt so obligated when in reality they expect us to take advantage of being abroad and to not worry so much about them.

  3. Great topic to write about! I think most travel bloggers have focused on just the travel, what about the life we’ve left behind?
    I’ve been traveling around the world for 14 years, and am now settled in Sardinia, Italy. I haven’t been back to my home country of Canada in 2 years. This is the longest in the 14 years I’ve been traveling that I haven’t seen my mother. I hope to be heading back there in the next six months.
    I’ve always said that it’s not easy being an expat, there is emotional toil on every corner.
    I found your blog through Twitter. Thank you for RT my tweet today on World AIDS Day.
    All the best from the Med.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment on this post, Jennifer. It is something always at the top of mind for me so it was one I really wanted and probably needed to write. I agree with you most travel bloggers focus on just that – travel. Like you said though, what about the life we left behind and where we came from? It will always be a bit of a mental struggle I think.

      It’s very impressive you’ve been traveling around the world for 14 years! Sardinia Italy must be an amazing place to have be settled. Great you will be going back to see your Mother in the upcoming months. Enjoy that time!

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