It is so common for expat partners to experience exhaustion, loss of identity or even depression if they keep starting their lives over again and again with every move.
We need to change the way we think about planning for these moves.
So many expats and organizations spend more energy on planning the logistical aspects of the relocation, instead of figuring out how the move fits into the bigger picture.
I have talked to so many expat partners and organizations who are just thinking about the short-term. They are focused on the specifics of the next country and ignoring the longer-term implications of the move. Thinking like this and just planning for the short-term of course leads to loss of identity and purpose.
This is what we need to change. You need to start focusing on your big goal and your big picture as an individual and as a family.
This blog article is a summary of the related podcast episode.
Here is the crucial thing you should be focusing on – what do you want from this expat experience?
Whether you are doing this alone or with your family, you need to ask yourself why you are on this journey. It can seem exciting at first and in many ways, this life is a true blessing but if you don’t know the answer to this big question.
If you have a clear big picture of how you want to lead your expat life experience, the logistical aspects of each relocation will be so much easier.
I am not saying that finding a home, schools, network, unpacking and settling down will be easier. But the first decision of saying yes or no to a potential move will be easier, because you will know what you need and want from your expat experience.
Also, having your big picture will make you feel that the short term challenges that come with moving are worth it because you know where you are heading longer-term.
And while lots of organizations invest heavily in incredibly valuable support services to help you with languages, schools and dealing with a new culture, this longer-term focus is being overlooked.
This is where I see so many expat partners struggling. We all know that no-one can know exactly what the future holds but you really do need to reflect on what you really want for yourself and your family.
You need to sit down and work out what your values and aspirations are – these can change over time but you need to work these out so you can make the right decisions in the short-term.
Why are you doing this? And what do you aspire for in the long term for yourself, and for your family?
You need to find your big ‘why’. You need to figure out what you want to do and what you really want for your life, career, family and business. These are such important questions but it is not always easy to find the answers.
But don’t let the fact that these questions are hard to answer make you stop trying. It’s really OK to not know but don’t give up trying to work it out. And if you are really struggling to find these answers, it is so important to invest in getting some help.
It is so important that we prepare for each move in a way that fits with the answers to these questions. And this is an area where organizations are not yet offering enough support. It may be an expense now but in the long term, it will lead to a cheaper and faster adaptation to a new location because you know why you’re on this path and what you want from it.
It would be difficult to share with you how to find all these answers in just one blog but I can highly recommend some excellent resources to enable you to explore these questions further.
- Resources for you as an individual
Sundae Bean is my go-to resource for help with defining your big ‘why’, knowing your purpose and knowing where you want your life to lead. Check out my conversation with her about the three steps to take to figure out what you want from your life and career.
Learn from this former banker, now coach about how you need to express your own needs, even while putting your family first, and from Evelyn’s experience of finding her expat purpose.
- Resources for you and your family
Another great resource from Sundae Bean’s, her own great podcast show – Expat Happy Hour
Jerry Jones is an amazing interculturalist and writer. He has some great tools to help parents ask the right questions and to talk as a family about these big questions and to figure out their expat journey together.
Mariam Ottimofiore is a great resource for families who are multicultural which adds another dimension to the expat experience. Check out her blog and also her book, ‘This Messy Mobile Life’.
This book is one of the most famous books on this subject and an essential read for any expat family.
Why knowing your big why is crucial to your portable business
I want to share some insights from my own experience and from working with my clients. So often I hear expat partners thinking about the next country and what they can do there. When I hear things like, ‘I’ll be in a different place in six months time so I’ll start something that works there’, I start to worry.
The problem with this is that you will end up in the same situation when you leave that next country and move to the next, constantly starting something that works there, and only there. You will end up exhausted and maybe even losing your confidence and self-belief. I don’t want you to start something that you have to leave because its time to go. This short-term focus is setting you up for more challenges and perhaps even feeling like a failure.
Focus on your bigger picture and your purpose and build a business that is portable. I know I talk about this in every single blog and podcast because that’s my big ‘why’ and the whole purpose of Tandem Nomads.
On this occasion, I really want to focus on mindset. Don’t look for an easy idea that you can implement now, just to give you something to do. I worry when I hear expat partners say they are keeping busy. You need to be more strategic with your time and how you fill it.
Whatever you are doing, whether it is volunteering or a business, it has to support and serve your bigger picture.
Another thing that I often see is spending so long reflecting on these issues so they end up just thinking and never doing. As I always say, start now and perfect later, or instead of thinking, do because in doing you will have your answers. When you do take action, just make sure that it is on the way to where you want to go and not just something you are doing to be busy.
I hope you see the difference between keeping yourself busy and taking action, even if it is a small action to start getting the answer you need on your journey. Be honest with yourself and question whether what you’re doing is in line with your purpose or just something to fill your time.
Finally, please make sure that your business is truly, truly portable. If your business is truly portable, then you won’t have to keep starting from scratch in each new location. And unlike a job where you will have your salary, so often with a new business, you can’t afford to pay yourself so all your and energy will leave you with nothing if you can’t take that business with you.
You need to build the foundations now for the long term. Please don’t build a business that won’t survive your next move, or one that depends on you moving to another location completely. Basing your business on your short term circumstances will not lead to success for you as an entrepreneur. Make sure your business is truly location independent.
I have some great resources to help you figure out exactly how to do this, including a dedicated workbook.
You might also find these resources useful too.
- What is a portable business and how to make it scalable
- 3 risky mistakes expat partners make with their portable business
- How to know if your business is truly portable
- 6 rules to grow your portable business
- 15 portable business ideas that are not coaching businesses
My biggest message for you is to think about the long-term, not just the next move or the logistics of relocating. Challenge yourself, your family and organizations and employers to think about your big vision for your expat life and then ensure that every step takes you closer to where you want to be.