My Expat Philosophy: Why Two Life-Abroad Experiences Are Night & Day

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.

I am grateful for the hard lessons I learned in the tropics, they 
have proven that devoting oneself to being personally fulfilled –
rather than aiming to somehow contort to fit in-- in foreign 
surroundings can lead to feeling comfortable where we are and being
accepted by those around us.