Wednesday 8 August 2012

Somewhere near Jasper, Alberta - Summer 2007

As an expat, I carry a lot of guilt

We regularly miss weddings, birthdays, births, get togethers, family dinners & holidays and while it's a side effect of living so far away, I still feel guilty about it.

On top of that, I only travel back to Canada once or twice a year.  Of course, we want to make the most of our time when we're home and while we'd love to see everyone, it's just not possible.  The moment a trip home is announced, the invites and questions start coming...

Will you be in __________?

Can you make a trip to see us?

So & so is having a get together, do you think you could come?

Will we get to see you?

And the guilt continues.  

Coming home turns into a marathon.  Flying 16+ hours, jumping in a car and driving multiple hours, jet lag, visiting, stocking up on anything we might need in the next year, appointments and not to mention, this is supposed to be a holiday!  It all starts to get a little overwhelming.

Last summer I spent my entire trip making trips.  It was 2 months loading my suitcase from car to plane to car and while I was happy to see so many people, I was exhausted.  (And broke!)  This time I took a different stance.  Instead of me doing the traveling, I went directly to my parents house and stayed put.  Everyone was welcome to come and visit and if they didn't, no hard feelings.

While I still feel a bit guilty, at least I'm not exhausted too.

How do you manage your trips home?

(By the way, this post struck a cord with fellow expat blogger Travelling Tonito and he's made some big changes.  Read about them here!)


  1. Amen sister! My aunt and uncle just got married this past weekend but of course I wasn't there. You do feel guilty about missing big events like that but then I always tell people it means they get a personal tour guide and free accommodation in a faraway country!
    You did the right thing this time. I make the effort to see a couple of special people but mainly I say, you come to me. If they want to see you that much, they will.

  2. Ugh, I so no the feeling! And while I love my parents to death, they are the worst at guilt tripping me into going to see every relative on the planet earth during my short two week trips.

    This trip coming up for example: I land on a Friday - Saturday is my mom's 50th party, Sunday is my Dad's retirement party. That Monday there is a weeknight dinner with friends and then I may try and catch a train down to San Diego to meet up with my best friend whose studying there. That Friday we leave for northern california to visit my brother at his university then that Saturday I'm hopping over to San Jose to attend a friend's going away party. That Monday my mom and I hop on a plane to New York to continue her 50th celebration and that thursday I catch a plane back to SA.... it's seriously insane!

    I like your approach better, just make it clear that if anyone wants to see you they have to come to you!


  3. I struggle with this every time and always return to London in need of a holiday. My parents live about 120km from Melbourne which is where I grew up and all my friends are. I tend to split my time between staying with my younger brother's family in town and at the farm (farm is far more relaxing) but do as you do - invite everyone up to the farm.

  4. I totally feel ya!! Together with the 'will I see you this time?' and 'when are you coming out next' and babies and weddings and's definitely hard to juggle! I've basically started getting minimal amounts of sleep when I'm's the best way to pack it all in! Can always catch up on sleep later ;). Hang in there! And don't feel guilty! Your real friends and family will always understand...

  5. I totally understand this post! Initially when I moved to Abu Dhabi and went to London to visit it turned into a marathon session of visiting people in different places in London.

    Now I simply send out an email stating I'm in London and setting a date for a dinner for people to meet up! :)

    'Tis a tough life indeed! :)

    PS Thanks for the mention in the post! :)

  6. I also find it super-guilt inducing when people ask me when I'll be 'home' next and I don't have a definitive answer. Ugh.

  7. Sarah - I would love to catch up with people in our new home and hopefully now that we're somewhere much easier, we'll get some visitors!

    Tony - I've often thought of organizing one evening out in one city. Perhaps we'll try that next time!

  8. Thats why I am not going home anytime soon - I let the people come and visit me in Australia :)My parents are scheduled for 4 weeks, two other friends as well... But I know what you mean, in the end you are happy to get away from all the "stress" back home... enjoy your last hours and safe travels back to norway!!

  9. Kristina - Visitors would be fantastic! Enjoy the rest of your time in J'burg!

  10. i relate completely.

    I've tried booking things before I arrive home, like weekends away etc. As well as just staying at home (like this holiday) and low key-with an open invite to friends to come and visit.

    Either way there is guilt. Guilty when I love abroad, guilt when I am home on holiday

  11. Robyn - It does always seem like there's guilt no matter what one does... guilt if you take time for yourself, guilt for those you didn't see, guilt that you didn't spend enough time with certain people, etc. It is difficult!

  12. I'm not an expat but all my family is in Texas while I live in California. It's not quite as complicated as having a full ocean between us but I feel a lot of the same guilt - especially when it comes to major family events that I just can't make it to. Add to that the fact that I went to college in Chicago - and most of my college friends still live there - and I develop multi-state guilt. Sadly, I think it's just the world we live in these days. People are so much more mobile than they used to be and not making it to events/seeing everyone we want to see is one of the downsides to that mobility.

  13. Agreed! I've only been an expat for a year but I have already missed so many weddings and baby showers. What makes it worse is that all of these friends were at my wedding just last summer. :(


  14. Thanks for this Jay. As I am moving home after two years abroad in less than a week I am going to adopt this philosophy. I'll park myself in one spot an if people are keen to visit, come on over!

  15. You're very welcome, Jeanie. I pulled it off for 2 weeks but I'm not sure you'll be able to do it long term. (But you still have to come to me when I'm home!)

  16. In the beginning I went around and tried to see everyone, but when I go home with Andreas, we usually see my nearest and dearest and the rest need to come to us, or try and make plans for us to meet up with them. It does make me feel a little guilty, but our trips home are so much easier now.

  17. I just became an expat (roughly two weeks now!) and I can ALREADY see this being a big issue when we head home for the holidays this winter!


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