Hello! I’ve missed you.
I’m finally back from all the traveling and visitors of late. It is incredible how quickly a month has flown by.
Two trips to two different countries, not to mention all of Brett’s travels (I think he had 6 work trips in 4 weeks) and playing the tourist with my mom who was visiting for 3 1/2 weeks. Needless to say, things have been busy, and incredible memories have been made. While it has been quite a ride, I am ready to calm down and have some quiet time. But, that’s the way of ex-pat life. It is rarely calm. As soon as you ease into a routine, you break it by taking a trip or hosting a visitor. The normalcy of life gets put on hold while you go out and explore the world.
Please don’t take this as a complaint on my part. I know how blessed this life we have been given is. It is wonderful, and I have done so many things that I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams. It’s just, I am such a person of routine that when the busy times are over, I relish the quiet and enjoy easing back into a daily schedule. Sure, life back home was chaotic. Having 4 kids, how could it not be, right? But it was routined chaos if that makes sense. I could plan weeks or seasons out at a time and know what to expect. Drive the kids to this sport on these days, go to the grocery store on that day, clean the house on another day. Pretty much the same every week. Here, every week (or every day for that matter) may be different so you can plan what you think will happen, but always need to be up for an unexpected change in the schedule.
Pre ex-pat life, when we had crazy-chaotic but relatively routine lives.
There’s also a different mentality amongst many ex-pats in Shanghai. I can’t speak for other places overseas, but the idea of Vegas comes to mind. Basically, “what happens in Shanghai stays in Shanghai” is a common train of thought. I’ll admit I got sucked into this line of thinking for the first year we were here. I mean really, where else is it acceptable to go day drinking on a regular basis, and have a designated driver at your disposal? Plus, there are endless opportunities to see and do things in this great city. It becomes difficult to say no. Hence even more need for me to stay focused on things of importance, that are wholesome, and routine. One has to become rather strict here when it comes to priorities or before you know it, you begin to drink or sightsee your way through your entire overseas assignment. Some may like this idea. But for me, I know I need to continually step back and keep things in check. A little goes a long way. After all, I want to remember most of what we are doing here. 😉
The other funny thing about life as an ex-pat is the trip planning. I never had any clue how much time and effort went into arranging trips. If you aren’t on a trip, you are planning a trip. Many times, you are planning your next trip in the midst of a current trip. It is amazingly insane! But like I said, it takes a lot of work. Many times you are planning to go to a foreign country with which you are unfamiliar, so you have to research everything from the ground up. It’s not like living in Michigan and planning a trip up north. No, you have got to think through everything from visas to medical care to food safety. The list goes on and on. Plus, since each vacation we take ends up being incredibly amazing, we feel the need to try and top it on our next trip without breaking the bank. So, many times throughout the year I become a full-time travel agent. No joke. Just planning one trip takes weeks of nose to the grindstone work. Right now I am planning our summer schedule. It involves three countries, 13 different locations, and coordination of people arriving in places from different countries on different dates all in the course of 21 days. So yeah, it can be a full-time job.
But like I said, despite the constant upheaval, I am so grateful for this opportunity. Our family has grown in so many ways. We have become adventurers doing and seeing things we never could have imagined. Living abroad has made us more confident and has opened our eyes to so many different cultures. It has also forced us to relax and just let things go way more than we would have at home. And for someone like me who likes to hyper plan every aspect of my and my family’s life, this skill is perhaps one of the most valuable ones I could have acquired.
So, for now, I am ready to calm down. Settle in for a while and get back into a routine (if that is even possible). This summer is going to be epic but very busy so I will enjoy the quiet while it lasts…except for the trip we are taking this weekend to go hug pandas in Cheng Du, China. Woohoo!
I also look forward to sharing our latest adventures with you. Over the next few weeks, I hope to be updating you on all our fantastic trips. Koh Lanta, Thailand, Berlin, Germany, and even some adventures here in Shanghai. Stay tuned, and keep calm. I’ve got this (I think)!