From Expat To Tourist To Expat Again


Panorama 4

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get on an airplane as When we boarded our flight to Chicago this past Saturday. Thanks to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name, our two-week trip to Ireland had become three weeks and we were all more than ready to go home. We had a great time and I’ve got a mountain of photos and plenty of stories to tell about our trip, but first I need to set the stage.

Two days ago I was in a store in my home town, Navan, when the friendly manager asked me where I was from. “Here”, I answered wryly knowing full well that he was only asking because I didn’t sound like a local. I can’t hide that I’m an expat any more. I’ll always be Irish, but what that really means has become less clear to me the longer I’ve lived out of the country. When we first moved to the U.S. it made sense to refer to Ireland as home but lately this didn’t seem to be appropriate any more particularly since we hadn’t spent any appreciable amount of time in the country with our kids since 2002. Before our trip, I promised myself that I would take time during this visit to re-aquaint myself and my children with Ireland.

The reason for our trip was to attend two family weddings so we interleaved being tourists around those to the bemusement of many family members and the consternation of others. Catching the Easter 1916 celebrations in Dublin on Easter Sunday, the first day of our trip, was a great start even if we were all horribly jet-lagged as we stood in the bright April sunshine. I fell in love with the wilds of Connemara and was sad to leave after a short three day stay. We spent the next day in Galway before heading east to scenic Wicklow for the first wedding, and then did a mad loop of the country stopping in Dublin, Antrim, Sligo and finishing with two beautiful days in West Clare before heading south to Cork for the second wedding. We even managed to squeeze in three whiskey distillery tours and my children got plenty of time to practice both their Irish (Gaelic) and their irish accents along the way.

By the day after the second wedding we couldn’t ignore the impact of Eyjafjallajokull, most of European airspace was closed so we weren’t going to be going anywhere. It would have been lovely to continue being tourists but our budget dictated this as impractical especially since there was a more economical option available to us. We reverted to being expats and were able to take advantage of the generousity of family members offering places to sleep. But traveling with two boisterous boys, including a teenager with ADHD, while living out of an overnight bag and sleeping in spare rooms is decidedly not fun no matter how generous the welcome.

This is the challenge with being a visiting expat: it’s great to go home but time is always too short, there’s always way too many people to see and, with children of all ages, space is an issue. We’ve avoided these problems over the past few years by meeting family in other countries where everyone was on vacation. During this trip I realized that I really like Ireland and that we should go there more often. (The unseasonably warm and sunny weather was obviously at play here, but I happen to know that Ireland is fun in the rain too.) The problems of people, space and time while being there – or, put another way, the colliding responsibilities of concurrently being daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend – are things I’ll be pondering between now and our next visit in August 2011. If you have any suggestions on how you manage this, particularly with teenagers, while visiting your family wherever they are, do leave a comment below.

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This entry was posted in International Escapades, Ireland and tagged , , on by .

About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

5 thoughts on “From Expat To Tourist To Expat Again

  1. Duncan Leung

    I guess though I’m not exactly in the same boat since I don’t have kids- but one thing that I always remind myself when I’m visiting ‘home’ (home being Singapore, even though technically I’m a hong-kong citizen), is that family comes first (though perhaps this also may have deeper roots due to my asian heritage, heh).

    And with meeting friends- sometimes the only time that I can fit in is just one or two appointments, so I’ll usually plan it in such a way that a big group of us will meet together so that I’ll be able to see a good handful of friends with my limited amount of time back home.

  2. Calif Lorna

    Going home is tough. What should be a relaxing holiday turns into a tight schedule fitting in everyone, friends and family. We came home exhausted after our Easter trip with a vow to extend the trip next time and allow us some free time when we’re not tied to deadlines to see people.

    Meeting friends and family abroad on a holiday is a great idea, we’ll have to try that.

  3. Lisa @ The World is Calling

    When we’re visiting family, we adhere to a strict Plan/Entertaining/Excursion Day, alternating with a No Plan/Entertaining/Excursion Day. The swing, back and forth, helps us keep it in balance and be more relaxed, fun guests!

  4. jessiev

    i have found out the hard way that overbooking leads to tired family. and we don’t do well with staying with people (family or otherwise) for more than 4-5 days -everyone gets cooped up. i don’t have any suggestions, but will be listening for the answers!

  5. Pitusa

    I have also being an expat for the last 10+ years and my husband is from another country, we are raising a third culture kid and I can say that going “home”, meaning visiting my mother in one country or my in-laws in another one is not always that rosy. We love it at the beginning, everyone having fun, talking forever, enjoying meals together but we end up missing our new home, wherever it is at the time. Once we are back we start missing the family and little things from our respective countries of origins. I guess we will never feel truly at home anywhere, it is not a place. I guess it is simply where the three of us are.

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