Thoughts I shared in an expatriate group: About a decade ago I lived in South East Asia for five years. I know some of you are longtime, veteran expats and hope you'll indulge me when I share my developing philosophy about being an expatriate.
My two life-abroad experiences have been like night and day, and I'd like to think the main reason is that in Malaysia I identified my boundaries after the fact (by having them badly over-run by circumstance and culture, among other things) and that in Turkey, I have protected them much more from the outset....my sense of self being my most valuable expatriate possession.
I have found the more that I honor what is meaningful to me, the more my expatriate life takes care of itself.
For instance, when I moved to Istanbul from New York City, I was committed to writing a memoir. Soon it was supplanted by another literary project which helped me not only create a solid foundation for my life here, but incidentally, for the travel memoir I have now returned to.
Along with a fellow American expat, I edited a collection of true tales of cultural conflict and discovery written by foreign women from seven nations about their lives in modern Turkey.
Compiling the anthology has helped me as an expatriate in many ways.
It's put my Turkish experience into perspective, brought me quickly up to speed on the region's culture, connected me with my foreign and local peers and other personal and professional communities of interest, and has fueled my writing career.
This is a result miles away from the disenfranchisement I felt in Malaysia, languishing in the jungle, attending social events with people marginally related to me and my interests, never quite being myself, never sure how I was going to fit in or if I even wanted to.