Many people picture spending their summer somewhere hot, foreign and exotic – but for lots of expatriates, that’s their day-to-day reality. It might be that you discovered the country, region or town you ended up moving to whilst on holiday in the first place.
You may be living the dream since moving abroad, but wanderlust isn’t something that is ever fully satiated. So what are international expatriates supposed to do when the summer holidays arrive, but they already live ‘on holiday’?
This is the key issue many expats will struggle with. You have limited holiday time; do you spend it travelling and enjoying yourself or going back home to see your family and friends (not that you wouldn’t enjoy that). Many people find they don’t have the time, money or energy to do both. Going home will certainly reduce, if not exhaust, the amount of holiday time you have left.
As Amy E. Robertson observes in the Wall Street Journal, living in an exotic location doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get to have more adventures with your holiday time;
‘There is that part of you that had hoped … you’d find some vacation time to explore the region: That while residing in Bolivia you would explore the ruins of Machu Picchu, watch tango in the cafés of Buenos Aires, meet giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, because you may never be this close to all those places again. You realize that between discovering the country you’re in and visiting home, you’ll be lucky to squeeze in just one of those adventures.’
Many expatriates would feel guilty going off on holiday and not seeing their families, however. This is especially true if you have children, as grandparents and other relatives will be desperate to see them. While you are free to make your own life choices, many expat bloggers note that as you made the decision to move abroad, it would be unfair to expect family and friends to go to the expense and effort of visiting you all the time.
There is no right answer and finding the right family/travel balance is something many expats find hard.
One way to strike a balance is to make going back home to visit family feel like a normal holiday. Rather than looking at it as a task or obligation that is detracting from your other plans, a little bit of planning can turn a trip home into a great break for the whole family. Expat Child has some great tips on avoiding spending the entire time travelling from the home of one set of relatives to another;
‘Arrange family get-togethers where everyone travels to meet up in one place at the same time. This saves hours travelling around visiting people one-by-one and you get to have a great party as well. Choose a location and tell everyone where and when you’ll be there and let them come to you. You can set aside additional time to see anyone special.’
If, as is the case for many expatriates, your partner’s family lives a long way away from your own, you might be able to find a neutral point in the middle that’s within easy travelling distance of both parties. Expat Child explains;
‘Another option commonly used is to rent a house or caravan somewhere. You stay there and have a bit of a holiday while inviting your friends and family to visit your temporary abode. This works even better if it’s based near to them as it will be easier for you to visit them and you won’t have to live out of your suitcases and sleep in spare rooms.’
The kids will be happy just to see their grandparents and old friends and enjoy a bit of nostalgia. If they have grown up significantly since you last took them home, you have a great chance to educate them about their home – or yours if they were born abroad. International expatriate Amanda van Mulligen suggests;
‘Take the opportunity to explore ‘home’ through the eyes of a tourist. Do some planning before you return and find places you either have not been to for a while, or have never visited. Challenge yourself to see ten new things in the area you once lived and explore the local area. This way you can alternate or combine sight-seeing with visiting loved ones – a win-win situation for the children especially.’
You might find that, since moving, going on holiday has become more accessible. Some of those faraway places could be much easier to reach now. It could simply be that your new home cuts out the need to change flights, or saves you hundreds on travel costs. Lots of expatriates moved where they did because the country was full of landscapes, cities and attractions that they wanted to explore. Being able to visit these places without once having to go through passport control is one of the joys of being an international expat.
Telegraph expat blogger Annabel Kantaria, living in Dubai at the time, recalled in an article just how accessible some of the world’s leading holiday destinations had become since she moved;
‘From Dubai, we’re well-placed to go to all those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ places that most people in the UK rarely manage to get to – Maldives is a quick trip for us, under four hours away. Also Sri Lanka’s great for a long weekend, India’s two and a half hours away, Mauritius, Thailand – all do-able. We also take lots of short breaks around the UAE and Oman because it’s a brilliant tourist destination; people pay good money to come here and it’s all on our doorstep, so why not take advantage?’
Kantaria had plenty of options, both in terms of staying relatively close to home and travelling long-distance. This is true regardless of where you are in the world; there’s always something, near or far, to be doing or places to be seeing.
Of course, you don’t have to use your holiday time to travel abroad. The appeal of having a staycation is the same no matter where you are. In fact, it could be more appealing for international expats, especially if you come from the UK. Spending every day on the beach and every evening reading on the balcony until late is unfeasible with the UK’s climate, for instance.
A staycation could be even more enjoyable for expatriates than those who have never moved. The expat dream is often to spend large chunks of time exploring the country or region they have fallen in love with, yet the reality is often that other commitments get the way. School, work, chores, administration and integrating all eat into your adventuring time. A staycation could give you a chance to finally explore and really get to know your new home. You might discover something just around the corner you never knew about – regardless of how long you have lived in the area.
The important thing is that you get a chance to enjoy yourself. If you know you won’t be able to ignore the chores and responsibilities that staying put brings with it during your time off, a staycation probably isn’t the best use of your break.
Everybody deserves to take some time out from the usual routine and just relax. Whether your idea of the perfect holiday is to reconnect with family and friends, throw yourself into your local community, or travel even further afield, holidays for international expats are just as exciting as they are for those who have lived in the same country for all of their lives. In fact in many ways, they are even more rewarding.
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