Thursday, August 1, 2013

Expat Diaries: Home Away from Home

All expats feel torn between the homes they left in their native land and the homes they've created in their chosen countries.  It's the blessing and the curse of living in different places, especially in different cultures; you always leave part of yourself behind and take along a piece of where you've been to your next destination.  Eventually, expats create their own definitions of "home," definitions that are fluid and flexible - Amanda wrote a beautiful post about this on Belinda's blog recently.

For me, home is three places: Washington, New York, and London.  (I lived in Paris for eight months, when I was in college, but I've visited about half a dozen times since I left and never once felt like I was returning home, so I'm not counting it.)  I always feel a pull towards the other two whenever I'm in one of the three places, and it's sad and confusing and frustrating.  That's one of the reasons I love visiting Suffolk, where Jon grew up.  Regardless of where home is, the part of England that my future in-laws live in feels like my home away from home.

Jon and I have been together for nearly five years and my first visit to meet the parents happened after we'd only been dating for three weeks.  Since then, they've opened their home to me unequivocally and have wholeheartedly brought me into their family.  We did see them occasionally in London, but my favorite memories are of taking the train from Liverpool Street Station eastwards, passing the Olympic Village in its various states of preparation or dismantlement, crossing over the M25, and chugging into the countryside, enveloped on either side of the track by fields and, as we got closer to the coast, marshlands.

I'd still get hopelessly lost in the small and winding country lanes if you asked me for directions somewhere, but I know Jon's village and the neighboring towns well, and I could absolutely help you get from the pub to the chip shop to the yacht club in Aldeburgh.  Suffolk doesn't compete with Washington, New York, or London for "home" status, but I love it.  It's where Jon and I have made so many memories together, where I felt like I became part of his family, and where we can always go if we need a comfortable escape.








all photos from July 4, 2013 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England

30 comments:

  1. This is so wonderfully tricky as an expat. Regardless of where you are your heart longs for the other. But, at the same time how many people can say that they have more than one place to call home? :) It's both a blessing and a curse.


    xxx
    Jenna

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  2. As soon as people hear my American accent, they ask me how long I'm here for and when I'll be heading "home." I always resort to the semi-confusing separation of "home" and "home-home." Home is where I live, but home-home is where my parents live, in the neighborhood where I grew up. I learned during my semester in Paris that calling my current location home actually made a difference to how I felt about living there. Everyone needs a solid base on which to build their new life, and for me that's always been home.

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  3. I would imagine if you guys are like us you will spend even more time there than ever once Jon moves over, because when you go to visit you will stay there. That is what Whitley Bay has become for us, we love to go down to London and see our friends but when we visit we spend our time there, with my in-laws, where Lee grew up. It does become home away from home. (And like you two of my 'homes' are DC and London, with Atlanta being the third :) )

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  4. so true! and, even when it feels like a curse, it's important to remember the blessing side of things :)

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  5. oh God I HATED THAT - whenever people asked where I lived and I said London, they'd be like, "no, really." YES REALLY.

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  6. well you know we do plan on getting a lovely little pied-a-terre in London, somewhere central, you know, just to use as a base. I'm thinking maybe this? http://www.sothebysrealty.com/eng/sales/detail/180-l-691-4000041055/cadogan-square-london-en-sw1x-0dy we can share it :)

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  7. That first picture honestly reminds me of South Carolina! Even though I've been in Texas coming up on two years now, it still doesn't feel like home. Even back in South Carolina, I lived 18 years of my life in the same town, but my "home town" feels like my college town. It's where I spent the best four (and a half) years of my life and made the most friends and memories. Isn't that strange?

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  8. I love these pictures. I've never been an expat, but I have moved around so I know the feeling of multiple homes.


    I have the home I live now which still isn't totally "home" yet. I have the town in Indiana where my parents still live which is where I was born and went to high school. It's probably the most real home for me. It's what I mean when I say I'm going home. I have the town I went to college which even though I was only there 4 years, still feels exactly like home when I drive into town. I'm flooded with so many happy memories. There's the home town where I lived the 1st 14 years of my life. I don't go back there much, but it still feels like home. There's my home in South Carolina where I lived the past 5 years. So many places can be in your heart as "home".

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  9. and now, let's add suffolk to the places i'd like to visit one day. you've sold me.

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  10. This post was so beautiful, Betsy and I completely agree. We've moved a lot in the past couple of years and I always miss certain parts of each city. It's confusing when I feel homesick because I don't really understand what I want... I've just decided that home is wherever my family is. :)

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  11. This post is so lovely! It's nice to see how you can feel at home in all these different places--it just means being with whoever you love, and adapting to new circumstances along the way. It feels particularly timely too, as I had been planning to email you about a blog series I want to create called Home in Motion! Perhaps I can convince you to share more about this soon? :-)

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  12. This was a really beautifully written post, Betsy. Although I've never lived abroad, I can definitely see your point of view. I loved hearing about your in-laws and where they reside though. :) The photographs make the town look so quaint and charming.

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  13. I feel the same way about Sam's home in Scarborough (Northern Yorkshire)! xx

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  14. Georgia ChristakisAugust 1, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    I love the English countryside! I don't think I'd call Putney (where Peter's family lives) or Crete (where I lived for a year) home, necessarily. But Crete is definitely my happy place, and I ADORE London. I'd love to live there for a few years if I was able to work.

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  15. I don't think time has anything to do with home - it's all about heart :) and you'll find it in Texas... or you won't and that's okay because it's a big world and as long as you and Nick explore it together you will be home!

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  16. that's the worst part - missing something but not being quite sure what!

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  17. SO many places can be home! and it's not like OOPS you have your five that's it. it's infinite because our hearts are infinite :)


    (whoa nelly that was cheesy. sorry.)

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  18. so true - I think there's an element of timing to it, you know? but YES please do email me, I'd love to hear more!

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  19. oh thank you! you can have lots of homes even in one country... goodness knows the US is a totally different from one end to the other :P

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  20. Putney is lovely! maybe you'll live there one day on a spousal visa....?

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  21. Georgia ChristakisAugust 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    It's certainly a possibility! I know Peter would love it, and I would too as long as there's a cap on it where we can say, 'ok, it's time to go home now.' How about you? Do you think that a sweet little country house in Suffolk in your future?

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  22. What a gorgeous little village - it's exactly as I imagine the English countryside to be!! I love your first paragraph too, about being torn between different cultures. I'm pretty new to my new county so far, but am looking forward to it becoming one of my "homes"!

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  23. That's the downside to being an expat, no matter how happy we are in our new home, we will always miss being in the other place. I myself am anxiously awaiting the invention of that 'Beam me Up' thing from Star Trek. x.

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  24. Those photos are beautiful! :) What a lovely place to call home-away-from-home! :D

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  25. Just catching up on your lovely blog Betsy. Your husband grew up in Woodbridge? What a coincidence! My husband, Toby, is from there and we've been together a few times. I wonder if they were in high school at the same time? Toby graduated in '99 I think.

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  26. He actually grew up in a little village right near Woodbridge - the station we get off at is Wickham Market, do you know it? I'm afraid I rocked the cradle with Jon and he's a bit younger :P What a small world!

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  27. Oh haven't heard of it but we'll have to check it out next time we're in the area! Definitely small world!! :)

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