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I belong in this tribe of expat women


Jo Castro currently lives in Western Australia and has come to accept being a global nomad.
Not long ago I realized that being an expatriate would never stop. I’d always assumed it was like a disease which one day would disappear, when I returned home or established permanent roots somewhere. More than that, I believed giving up the vagaries of a life of change would be like arriving in Utopia. But now I’ve realised that a sense of being “at home” in one place may never happen – and I don’t want it to.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m loving the clean fresh air of Australia’s west coast, the freedom we enjoy and the beautiful scenery. I adore living in relative safety without political instability. It’s great to speak the same language as everyone else and enjoy the conveniences of a modern industrialised society, and my children are unlikely to get rabies from patting stray dogs.
But there is another side to it all – the part of me that loves being an international nomad. This “itchy feet” feeling is a bit like a virus, which lives on in the blood regardless of place or circumstance.
Leaving South Africa (the last country in a long list that has included the Philippines, Namibia, Lesotho, Hong Kong and Nepal) and bound for expat retirement, I thought would be a doddle. We were going to settle down – though long past the normal age for doing so! And my sense of belonging should be rooted and complete. But it’s not, and it’s clear something big is missing.
I found out what it was while visiting my significant other, who was finishing an engineering project in Taiwan. After only a day, and an International Women’s fundraising lunch in Taichung, I felt “at home” again. Why?
It has all to do with connectivity.
I’ve discovered over the new years, that being a new face in an established neighborhood, arriving with a diverse history and different experiences, isn’t really a benefit. I’ve become an enigma. To be embraced I need common values, shared beliefs and memories.
Usually you find this in somewhere you’ve lived for a long time, but in Taichung that day I met women who didn’t gasp when I told them our children had been to six schools on three different continents before the age of 12, who didn’t think it was strange to live in a different country every few years, and who had common stories of trials, tribulations and joys of bringing up children in remote, out-of-the-way places.
I spoke to people about Third Culture Kids and instead of asking if it was a new pop group, they nodded in agreement and discussed the merits and problems of children without roots. I listened to other people’s achievements and rabbited on to women of various cultures who made me feel as if I’d known them all my life.
There is a common throng of women who travel the world, many trailing behind their working spouses, offering support and encouragement, bringing up children, finding their own way through the newness of each location and coming out of the melting pot with values in common and stories about the places they’ve been.
It’s a tribe of women I once thought I could leave behind. But now I know it’s the tribe of women to which I belong.
Do you have an expat tale to share? Email submissions of no more than 1,000 words to weeklyt@telegraph.co.uk
Jo Castro writes a travel blog at www.zigazag.com or you can follow her on Twitter: @johannaAcastro
 

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