OK, so I’m not really officially an Expat mum … at the moment … but I have been and well, with the way my feet are itching at the moment, I’m pretty sure I will be again. So, on the invite of the lovely Emily at Brits in Bosnia, here I am!
I first entered the world of being an expat age 23 when I spent six wonderful months living in Japan – minus a baby. I remember stepping off the plane and navigating myself in a daze around the busy airport swarming with people. I had a broad smile on my face and burning flames of excitement deep in my stomach. It took all I had to stop them from leaping right out of my mouth. I remember thinking “this is the life for me.”
That was 10 years ago and since then I’ve travelled a fair bit and in the last couple of years have spent extended time in Spain, France and Greece. But now we’re back in the UK searching for a bit of stability and wondering if we can scratch the itch with short trips each year. At the moment we’re not sure – I mean, short travels are wonderful, but there is something special about staying somewhere a little longer. Nothing can compete with the sights and smells of a new country, but even more so, nothing can compete with seeing that new country from an insider’s perspective.
I will never forget how on one of the first mornings in my apartment in Japan I was hanging out my washing and noticed my neighbour spying me nervously. With my handful of Japanese lessons and a couple of dictionaries we struck up a conversation and over time, we formed a friendship, which eventually led to my being accepted into her world. Her world of restaurants hidden behind wooden doors and curtains, restaurants I might never have stepped into had it not been for this friendship. A world of steaming bowls of home-cooked food brought downstairs for me; a world where I got to enjoy a real insight to this fascinating culture.
In Spain I might never have experienced my neighbour’s fresh eggs or felt warmed by how she carried them in the fold of her apron. Or maybe I would not have found the time to notice the old boy who scythed crops each morning to feed his horses, nor walked back up the track with him mumbling in broken Spanish as my daughter kicked dust up ahead. My daughter might not have sat at the bar of a small dark pub in a tiny village in the mountains eating tapas and laughing at the cheery smile and voice of the darkly-tanned proprietor or woken in her buggy to the sounds of the village fiesta.
The changing faces, the mesmerising skylines, the sounds of unknown languages dancing past my ears – I can’t help but feel that I am addicted to being a short-term expat and I can’t help but want to share this world with my daughter. But time is now telling me that we need to try and root our feet firmly to the ground while she grows up. Trouble is, I just can’t work out where.
Alice Griffin is a writer with perpetually itchy feet. Her first book ~ Tales from a Travelling Mum: Navigating Europe with a Babe-in-Arms ~ has recently been published and tells the story of how she embarked on a travel adventure with her young family during the first two years of her daughter's life. Taking in Norway, Greece, France and Spain by plane, boat and road, Alice weaves an inspiring travelogue with practical advice to help other mums and dads who enjoy interesting and authentic travel to continue with their baby or toddler on board. The book is available from Amazon.com (complete with reader reviews) or Amazon.co.uk.