Sitting on the train from London Heathrow airport, I watch the houses zoom past. Then I have the most bizarre thoughts starting to flood into my brain. Thoughts that have the hashtag #English attached to them. I start a running commentary on the houses, the state of repair, how much they are worth, the housing market (real estate) and how it is performing in London and the associated politics. A moment before they were simple bricks and mortar, houses dampened by the London rain…yet now they were infused with so much meaning and had triggered so much thinking that the noise in my head was deafening. Where was the child-free, rather pleasant train ride? It had disappeared into memories of property TV shows, house ownership and weekends filled with DIY.
There is no going back home for a holiday. We are not just revisiting our previous physical location, we are revisiting all our old thinking about living there or being a citizen of that land. Our eyes register the scenery we are in, and delve into the filing cabinet of information. They find the record of our old patterns of thinking, blow the layers of dust off the scratched vinyl, and pop it onto the record player.
If you want a regression experience – without the strange dude with a pocket watch – just spend a little time with your parents and siblings. Before long you will have regressed to a teenager and everyone can push your buttons. It is an amazing and quite frustrating experience! “I am a grown adult who is an awesome parent!” you may be screaming, as all your fun insecurities come out to play.
Being an expat is amazing! It gives us a chance to start to observe these processes as they happen. We have a break from the immersive experience of living in our homeland. We have an experience of space, both physical and mental. We can hear when those dusty old records are put back onto the turntable and can choose not to listen anymore.
You can go home: leave here and go back to the mothership. You can return with clear thoughts and the freedom to think and feel in the moment, rather than carrying a backpack of old thinking. You have the freedom to not turn into a robot version of yourself and automatically respond to external stimulus. Then, heavens above, you can really enjoy your experiences! See the crazy things that your country and your family do! Isn’t it funny? The difference is that you will not get caught up in the chaos.
Rinse and repeat when you return to Switzerland at the end of the holidays. You can see how you have started to make whole new records of thoughts that judge your life here and comment upon all you see.
Do you want to live like that? Stuck in the groove of a record? Or wouldn’t you rather see each day fresh in all its craziness, comedy and beauty? Then you can be at home wherever you are in the world.
“No matter where you go – there you are” – Confucius
By Tammy Furey
Tammy is a coach, writer and blogger who lives in St. Gallen with her husband and daughter whilst attempting (badly) to speak German and fold her paper recycling in the correct manner. Visit her at www.fureycoaching.com. She also runs a free expat Facebook support group for mums: www.facebook.com/groups/whiteknuckleparenting/ (if link doesn’t work, type the address into your browser).
Illustration by Bvisual.
Beth (“BVisual”) graduated from university after studying visual communication, specialising in illustration. She’s has been working as a freelance creative and undertaken projects such as the V&A Illustration Awards in London. Beth has projects involving portraits and editorial illustrations under her artist’s name BVisual. See http://www.bvisual.eu/.