4 Ways COVID-19 Has Given Me a Deeper Appreciation for My Expat Journeys

Expat journey gratitude

When I first embarked upon my expat adventures, I had no plans of returning to the U.S. My goal was to perpetually live abroad though I wasn’t married to any particular country during that time. I simply loved the thrill that I got from exploring different parts of the world and I knew that international travel would forever be part of my life at the onset of my first expat adventure.

However, I was forced to move back to the U.S. in July 2018 due to some major health complications that my husband was experiencing at the time. So I reluctantly packed my bags and headed back home so that my husband could get the help that he needed. Fortunately, my husband has recovered and is doing much better now.

While I still miss being an expat, I realize that we came back home just in time. We had no idea that a global pandemic would hit less than two years after our return. Though, I am greatly empathetic toward expats who are experiencing precarious situations. My heart goes out to anyone who is suffering in any way due to COVID.

Being in our home country has many advantages in situations like this. One of the most important benefits of being home is that we are closer to our extended family and friends during this time of uncertainty. This gives us easier access to a support system that we would not have readily had access to if we were still abroad.

Additionally, we don’t have to worry about other nuisances involved in expat life right now. Since we are home, we qualify for and have access to job, business, and other forms of governmental assistance, if we need it. We don’t have to be concerned about passport, visa, contract, or other document renewals and/or fees during this time. We don’t have to worry about the possibility of being stranded outside of our home country for extended periods of time. And, we have access to a strong, viable healthcare system and healthcare insurance scheme among other things.

Don’t misunderstand me – I still wholeheartedly support expat life. Yet, as amazing as being an expat can be it also has its disadvantages during both good and bad times. This shutdown has just made me truly appreciate being home for these and many other reasons.

Being from a Developed Country

Until now nothing has made me more appreciative of the comforts, amenities, and luxuries that are available in the U.S. As my son and I were taking a stroll through the almost deserted walkway in the back of our house a few weeks ago, I began to marvel at just how clean and inviting the space was. This is by no means nothing new as our neighborhood is always immaculately clean and beautifully landscaped. Even more, our community is normally filled with the laughter of young children, the barking of dogs, the thunder of little bodies moving around the playground, or the peaceful quiet of daybreak.

But what dawned on me this day was not the absence of these sounds or activities, but instead the absence of such scenery in other parts of the world. I have lived in and traveled to some of the most destitute parts of the world where living in a clean, safe community is considered a luxury. The majority of the population in these countries lived in extreme poverty and in very depressing environments.

I am definitely not saying that the U.S. is always clean and safe because we likewise have poverty, homelessness, and crime. However, there is a stark difference in the everyday environment in developed versus developing parts of the world. And, it is heartbreaking. So in that moment I started to give thanks and praise for the many comforts that I have enjoyed throughout my life as a U.S. citizen living in America and abroad.

Being Able to Travel

As the saying goes, “you don’t miss your well until the water runs dry”. And indeed the travel waters have ran dry over the past few months. My family had a few trips planned for this summer that are now forgone wishes. Fortunately, we were planning to purchase our plane tickets the week after COVID was declared a pandemic but we weren’t able to because of the virus. So we didn’t have to deal with complicated cancellation or exchange policies. However, we are dealing with an impending thrills-free summer and possibly winter and spring too.

Though this is not the ideal situation, I can easily cope with it because of the many adventures I have had through my expat journeys. I have amazing memories and beautiful pictures of some of the most exotic places that I have visited around the world. These thoughts and images are enough to pass the time during the next few months or so.

Undoubtedly these cherished memories have given me plenty of reasons to be grateful for my past travel experiences on every level. Not only I am appreciative of the tangible benefits I have experienced by being able to live in and travel to different parts of the world, I am also thankful for the myriad of mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that I have reaped from my expat journeys.

Mentally, my expat travels have changed the way I view the world and how I think holistically. I am no longer an American citizen (except according to my passport) – instead I am a global citizen. I am concerned about how everything impacts the world at large because I know that the world is united by one common thread.

Emotionally, I am better able to cope with difficult situations because of my travel experiences. If you travel abroad enough, you will inevitably experience hardships and difficulties that you have very little to no control over. So you learn to cope – the sooner you learn to do so the better. At this stage in my life I can adjust to almost any situation. I didn’t even flinch when COVID was declared a pandemic. I simply started making plans to adjust and deal with our new reality.

Spiritually, I have grown and shifted in so many ways because of the things that I saw and experienced while I was living abroad. I learned so many things about religion and spirituality that changed my entire belief system. To dig into it now would be a disservice to my experiences so suffice it to say that I am immensely grateful for the spiritual lessons that I learned during my expat experiences.

Being with My Family

I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband and two amazing children whom I was able to share all of my expat experiences with. I always had someone by my side during my expat journeys so loneliness was never a major issue for me during that period of my life. However, as awesome as my family is I tend to take their compassion and love for granted at times.

COVID-19 has made me realize the value of having constant companions by my side through thick and thin. Unfortunately, there are many single people who have been shut in by themselves throughout this lockdown. While they may have family and friends, they live by themselves which can make being inside for weeks or months at a time very lonely and depressing.

So I am most appreciative of having my family with whom I can laugh, cry, giggle, scream, and simply just be with.