I walked with a friend today.
Now before you give a little sigh and think, wow, Laurie, good for you, this event was not as small as it sounds. Read more
I walked with a friend today.
Now before you give a little sigh and think, wow, Laurie, good for you, this event was not as small as it sounds. Read more
The first time Brett asked my thoughts about a possible move to Bangkok, I quickly responded (and when I say quickly responded, I mean I didn’t even have to think about my answer, and may have actually laughed out loud), “no, the boys are too settled here in Shanghai”. The second time he asked I responded the same way. By the fifth time, I began to really ponder the possibility. Perhaps because I realized he was never going to give up asking. 😉 But really, the more I thought about it, the less crazy sounding it became.
Sure, the boys were settled. We all were. Shanghai was where we had been living for two and a half years. In ex-pat time, that’s forever. But really, Shanghai was home. Things were comfortable. The boys were involved, and life was pretty good. So I thought and thought about why in the world we would uproot them again if we didn’t have to. But believe it or not, the more I thought about it my hesitation began to fade away.
I realized that although they were involved, their actives were not anything they couldn’t continue in Bangkok. They did have one or two good friends, but the reality is, Bangkok isn’t really that far from Shanghai so it would be easy for friends to come to visit if the boys needed a little pick-me-up. Also, our new assignment would only be for another 2 or 3 years which would be a great opportunity for them to once again experience a new part of the world. By this time, I was convinced that a move would be good for them and lo and behold, everything came together and it happened! Needless to say, that’s making a VERY long story short.
Thankfully, adjusting to life in Bangkok has gone relatively smoothly for the boys. I’m incredibly thankful they are willing to bloom where they are planted. As we’ve been settling into our new lives, I’ve proudly observed their adjustment, and am now convinced there are many benefits to kids who live abroad not only once, but multiple times. Here are just a few:
I’ll admit, the older I get, the more set in my ways I become. For the most part, I know what I like and tend to stick to it. Give me a Grande Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks and I’m happy. Bring me a Green Tea Frappuccino and that thing’s going in the trash as quickly as possible. I’m sure many of you are the same way. However, living abroad removes you from your comfort zone and forces you to adapt to many new things. People who are exposed to more new situations when they’re young are likely to be more easygoing and adaptable when they are older. Who knows, they may even develop a love for two or three different kinds of Frappuccinos!
Do you remember your first day of high school? If you were like me, you planned out the outfit you would wear a week in advance, and when the day finally arrived you were terrified. What if you didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch? What if you went to the wrong class? What if you had a big booger hanging out of your nose all day? My boys have faced these kinds of scary situations time and time again while adjusting to their new country. I watch them resign themselves to the fact that they are going to go into a new situation, head held high looking confident, even though I know they are terrified inside. It makes me so proud. Situations like these aren’t easy and at home, they would be few and far between. But they learned from our time in Shanghai the braver they are and the quicker they get the first time of anything over, the faster they’ll adjust and become comfortable. Before we moved abroad the first time, Jack (who was 9 at the time) was afraid of everything. He wouldn’t even be in a room by himself. In Shanghai, he gained confidence by trying new things and meeting new friends. Now in Bangkok, he began riding his bike to school by himself the first chance he got, among many other things he is now willing to try and do. If we never broke out of our comfort zone at home, he wouldn’t have had to become more brave and would probably still be afraid of everything.
Vacationing to different countries around the world is amazing! It’s such a blessing to see different parts of this beautiful world and experience different ways of life. However, you are still on vacation and the visit is for a limited amount of time. You can only skim the surface of the place you are visiting. When you live in a new country, you immerse yourself in the culture, and truly learn how it’s people live. This provides an invaluable broader understanding of the world. I’ve watched our boys become more tolerant of people who live differently; not only locals but other ex-pats from around the world as well. Their world has become bigger, and their lives have become richer and more well-rounded as a result.
Now I’m not saying my kid’s needed to reinvent themselves, although I would like them to listen to me more (haha!), but moving abroad again gave them an opportunity to step back, take a look at things they had been involved in, the type of friends they had, and how they chose to spend their time. For example, in Shanghai, Elijah was very involved in choir and drama. When we moved to Bangkok, he decided he wanted to give volleyball a try. Now he is on his new school’s volleyball team and loves it. I doubt he would have switched gears so to speak if we stayed in Shanghai. Things were comfortable and he was on a certain path. Let’s be honest, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to reinvent yourself. Not many people will ever have the chance to do this.
When I say this, I’m referring mainly to our two boys that have moved overseas with us. For Autumn and Hunter, our older two still living in the States, Shanghai or Bangkok is not much different. Meaning, because both locations are on the other side of the world from them, we are very far away in either place. But for Elijah and Jack, we now know that for the first few weeks after a move, we really only have each other. We are strangers in a strange land, don’t know anyone, are clueless as to what we are doing, and lean heavily upon each other as we adjust. Even once we were settled in Shanghai, our reliance upon each other remained stronger. We were never as close when we lived back home. In a way, we didn’t need each other as much. We had a tendency to live separately under one roof if that makes sense. As a mom, I relish the comfort my boys take in our home life. Although we may not have any of our furniture or reminders of home in the beginning, we manage to find the comforts of home in each other. It’s even more meaningful for me as a mom of teenagers who usually stay as far away from us parents as humanly possible.
I know I’ve had a lot to say on this topic but it’s because I have become a firm believer in the value of children living abroad once, twice, or more. They grow so much braver, adapt to life better, become tougher, and learn that the world is so much bigger than their own backyard. It’s true that every day hasn’t been sunshine and lollipops. We’ve had some tears and tough days (mostly on my end ;)), but overall the boys have adjusted incredibly well…even easier than the first time.
If you’re like I was and your children are your first concern when considering a move abroad, take some time to really think it through before you laugh out loud at the idea. You will see the benefits will far outweigh the costs and giving them the opportunity to live abroad will be a benefit they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
We are now officially on our second overseas move. I’m still surprised we now call Bangkok home, especially because a mere three months ago we were unsure we would even be moving. And now here I sit in my new workspace. Same computer, different country. But that’s the life of an ex-pat, isn’t it? It seems to be more the norm that once someone accepts an overseas assignment, they often continue their journey abroad through more than one location. It’s as if living as an ex-pat gets in your blood and as time passes, it becomes harder and harder to picture living your life as you once did.
Although being on our second overseas assignment hardly qualifies me as an expert, I can say that I have learned a thing or two about how different the adjustment is between your first assignment and subsequent ones. I suppose it’s like having a baby. You are absolutely terrified with the first one. Everything you do is new and scary. As you have more and more babies, you begin to feel more comfortable with the process. You are never by any means an expert, but you don’t worry quite so much over every little detail like you did with the first one.
Here are some observations I have made with my second overseas “baby”.
Granted, things are different every place you live, but having been through it before I’ve learned that all IKEAs and Starbucks are pretty much the same no matter where you live. 😉 On our first overseas move, I always needed to do something the first few times with someone else in order to gain confidence. This time, I only need to do about half of my new tasks with someone else. Can you imagine if we have three or more international moves? I’ll be running those towns when our wheels hit the ground! I joke, but really, the more you make international moves, the more comfortable you become walking into an unknown situation with confidence. There have been a few times here already I have told myself to put on my big girl pants and just get out there. And hey, I survived! So can going to new places, whether they be a grocery store, mall, or market by yourself still be terrifying? You bet! But having lived in a foreign location previously, I gained confidence in myself enough to get out there quicker this time in order to navigate my way around.
Possibly the most important thing I learned from our first international assignment is that it takes time to adjust. Possibly a lot of time, and everyone adjusts differently. This time around, I remembered that in our early days after our move to Shanghai I was really only able to accomplish one task outside the house per day and still keep my sanity. In the beginning, if I tried to do more than that, I would inevitably end up in tears by the end of the day. So this time I have been more patient with my progress. I have allowed myself to have “off days” where I just don’t get anything done. If you know me at all, you know that I am always on the go, trying to accomplish more than 24 hours will allow. So, slowing down and living within my newbie abilities is tough but it has helped so much. I think I’ve only had one or two days when I’ve been in tears by the end of the day, and usually, they were a result of the power going out for the 10th time or finding a massive cockroach crawling across my kitchen counter so I would call that definite progress!
In all honesty, for me, this has been the most difficult thing to do. An introvert by nature, I find group situations extremely exhausting. I tend to fumble over my words and hover in the back, preferring to follow rather than lead. However, that being said, I also know after my first international move how fleeting time is. People and opportunities come and go practically overnight. I cannot believe almost three years flew by in Shanghai. So, the quicker you put yourself out there, making friends, and learning about opportunities in your new hometown, the more you can make of your brief time there. So in the three weeks we have been in Bangkok, I have been to almost a dozen meetings and met more people than I can count. This is absolutely draining for me, but you know what? I see people I know out and about now. We talk and have begun to form friendships. I know once all the initial meetings are done I will be fully informed and then can choose where I want to get involved. Then things will start to settle down and I can crawl back a bit (just a little bit) into my comfortable introverted state.
I’ve said this before, but prior to our Shanghai move three years ago, none of us owned passports. We had never left the good old USA! Now in the short span of fewer than 36 months, we have been to 10 countries and have been on more adventure trips than I can count. We have hiked The Great Wall of China, been white water rafting in Bali, snorkeled in the Gili Islands, and explored nearly all of Scotland, just to name a few. Not to mention that just living out daily life in a new country is an adventure. So, when we were back home living our peaceful lives, an adventurous day might include going to an amusement park. Now our definition of adventure is vastly different. Knowing time is limited in your assignment, and your new land has many unique opportunities makes you want to get out there, explore and do all the things the area has to offer.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many threads God had to weave together in order to bring our latest move together. But through the entire process, I could see His hand accomplishing the impossible. Throughout our overseas moves, leaving family and friends halfway around the world, God has been our only constant. Our rock. Through uncertain times, He has been there. Through difficult times, He has been there. Our circumstances have changed so much over the past three years, but He hasn’t. Each move brings me closer to God. I have to rely on Him more and more because I know I simply cannot do it on my own. Before we moved to Shanghai, I got my first tattoo. It’s a cross on my wrist to remind me that no matter where I am in the world, God is always with me. This is my comfort in our ever-changing world.
As you can see, I’ve learned a thing or two (or five) since our first international move. I hope my words will encourage you if you are considering taking on another overseas assignment. The opportunity far outweighs the struggle it takes to get there. You may surprise yourself with your new level of confidence and ability to settle into your new world. I say if you are given the opportunity to do it all again, go for it! You won’t regret it and will come away stronger, more adventurous, and perhaps more faith-filled than you ever thought possible.
The only thing certain in life is change.
When we first found out we were moving to Shanghai, I was terrified. When we arrived in Shanghai, I was terrified. Our first few months of living in Shanghai, I was terrified. But, as time went on and we settled into our new lives, I found myself getting used to our new lifestyle. Actually, I found that I really liked living abroad. Most of my fears went away and we all settled comfortably into life abroad.
That being said, living an expat life usually comes with an end date. You agree to a certain amount of time and understand that you need to make the most of it because before you know it, you will be packing your things to move back home. Our initial assignment in Shanghai was set to end, well…now. It was a three-year gig. However, we liked it so much that when we were given an opportunity to extend another two years, we jumped at the chance. Not only would it let us live our newly adapted expat lifestyle longer, but it would also allow our 16-year-old, Elijah to graduate from an international high school, which we agreed was a huge opportunity.
So, we all happily resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be in Shanghai until 2020. Silly us. We should have known not to get too comfortable. Along came a work opportunity for my husband Brett and, BAM, we were told to pack up our things and move to Bangkok.
Whoah, Nelly! Ok, that’s a curveball, but if living abroad has taught us anything, it’s that we are so blessed and always need to be adaptable. So, how long do we have to pack up, move to a new country, enroll the boys in a new international school, find a house, transport our dog, and say goodbye? Let’s say two months, but only one month of hands-on time to pull everything together. Because, why not? Might as well just rip off the Band-Aid, right?
As you can imagine, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Another international move makes a move across town look like a cake walk. But things are coming together. We are all wrapping our heads around what our “new normal” may look like, and although I am back to being a bit terrified about our new home base, I now know I can do it. Hey, if we picked up our lives and moved to China of all places, we can certainly make a move to Thailand (at least this has been my mantra lately). 🙂
So, stay tuned for our new chapter. We will have a lot of twists and turns over the next few months. I’m sure it will be entertaining and I hope you won’t mind what is normally a little bit of crazy turning into a whole lot of crazy!
So, here’s to another new adventure!
The Burin Bunch
(say that 5 times fast) 😉
My 11-year-old, Jack had quite a day last week. He decided he would go on an “adventure bike ride” around our neighborhood. When he returned, his eyes were alight with excitement and he had quite a tale to tell. You see, we live on a very large compound which includes villas, a hotel, conference buildings, a large lake, and walking trails. Jack’s adventure led him to the conference buildings where he found a conference was taking place. To summarize his epic journey, he basically walked into the conference, was given a backpack, a book, some mints, and a lanyard, then sat for a while enjoying a cup of tea before being chauffeured back home in a Rolls Royce golf cart. We have since discussed the need to be careful when out exploring and the fact that it is not really appropriate to crash conventions, but to be perfectly honest, I am pretty impressed by this kid’s sense of adventure and bravery.
Adventuring aside, this led me to think about how far my kids have come in the 2 1/2 years we have lived abroad. My mom always used to say that she believes everyone should live abroad for at least one year and you know, I now completely agree. I’m sure me agreeing with my mom is music to her ears. 😉 But really, I have seen so much growth in my children while living overseas that I can’t help but agree. Read more
It’s no secret, being a mom is tough. From late night feedings to late night curfews. From crying babies to mouthy teenagers. It’s no wonder we stress our way through this thing called motherhood. After all, God has given us these little balls of clay, and it’s our biggest responsibility to shape and mold them into spectacular adults. Now that’s a lot of pressure! Read more
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. Read more