Expat Transitions


Photo credit: Jonathan Kos-Read / Foter / CC BY-ND

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both”

Thus begins Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken.”

Back in June, Juli Townsend wrote a poignant entry at her blog, Transition to Home, about the loved ones that we leave behind and, eventually, aren’t there to return to. During the time she was away, she was heartbroken by the deaths of her dogs, her friends, and her sister. I encourage you to read her moving piece.

Since I’ve been in Australia, I’ve missed transitions – the events that all we expats miss, namely birthdays. I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t missed anyone’s wedding, death, or other major life event, but I am missing a major transition right now. I’m processing my feelings over it, thinking about how it effects my status in Australia, and what I think about when I think “home”.

When I was very young, so young I don’t even remember how young, my father bought a piece of property in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. It is two buildings with six apartments in total. In #1,Β I grew up with my parents, my sister, lots of birds, sometimes hamsters and turtles, occasionally a dog, and lots of cats. When my sister got married, she and her husband moved into #2 and, later as two became five, into #6.

Nothing lasts forever, as we all know. I grew up, went to college, came back, and then, years later, left for Australia. After 46 years of a bumpy marriage loaded with reunions and separations, my parents officially divorced last Friday, the 13th of September. My nieces and nephew didn’t stay little and my sister’s relationship with our father became strained. Today I learned, she and her husband have found a new place to live. My father talks of selling the property.

A common theme among expats is the concept of home. When does our adopted country become home? For a long time, I referred to Miami as home. I still do and, when I catch myself, I stop and refer to it simply as Miami. Although Melbourne doesn’t feel like home yet, Miami stopped feeling like home some time ago, but home still felt like home. That is, my parent’s property with the kitchen I’ve eaten thousands of meals at, the bedroom where my sister and I slept, where my cat now happily sleeps. Pretty soon, that will be gone. When there’s no home to return to, will that make Melbourne feel more like home? Or will that just leave me feeling rootless?

It’s normal, I know. People get divorced and they move and they sell homes and they die and all kinds of things happen. I guess it’s just the not being there part that makes it all so much harder. And there’s no telling when I’ll be able to travel to the USA again. Until my application for residency is lodged and I receive a decision, I’ve been advised by my migration agent to stay in the country. Β When, oh when, will some brilliant, science fiction and video game influenced scientist invent teleportation?




  1. Cosette, I feel like there are quite a few of us questioning the concept of home right now. I’m telling myself that there is purpose to this journey. Though we each have to go through our own individual challenges, please know that you are not alone.

    By the way, thank you so much for highlighting my recent post on beating homesickness. It’s such a buzz to be acknowledged in the blogging world- thank you!

  2. Kimberly LoSavio (@bloggingwgypsy)

    Sending lots and lots of hugs your way!! I’m so sorry to hear about your parents. But I admire your strength and understanding, being so far away. Lots and lots of hugs!!

    I moved from Minnesota (my home state) over 10 years ago and still call it “home” … I would never move back to MN but I still call it home. Spokane WA really isn’t home to me. Eastern WA just isn’t where my soul is. But the hubby and I have talked and it looks like we are looking into purchasing some land on the coast. We decided on northern Oregon. I can hop the train with William and spend the weekend or even the day in Seattle or we can drive to Portland for VooDoo Donuts πŸ˜€ We’d like to be close to Astoria — yes we are Goonie nerds LOLz but it will be HOME πŸ˜€

    And I share with you the desire for teleportation to be active! πŸ˜€

    • I don’t know what VooDoo Donuts are, but they sound awesome. Thanks for the support, Gypsy. I’m very glad that our wires crossed and I hope we can say hello in person one day πŸ™‚

  3. Teleportation would be a real boon. We all tend to travel the roads we need to travel in life and our lives usually benefit from the change but there is much pain sometimes during the travelling.Some years ago in England my grandfather died. I’d been looking after him and my grandmother with other family members. After the funeral I needed a break and travelled back to Wales with my parents. I was there just one night when a phone call told me my grandmother had died too. I was so close to her all my life and was away when I should have been there, it broke my heart. But, had I not made the journey to take care of them in the first place I’d have missed much joy.
    Wales is my home and I moved back there happily but I don’t regret my travels into ‘enemy territory’, we need to experience new things, new places or stagnate.I daresay Miami will feel like home for a while yet but you’ll understand why you chose ‘Oz’ when you realise you just called it home.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  4. I don’t have any regrets either. At the very least, it’s all a learning experience and next to my partner is where I want to be. I’m sorry about your grandparents. Thank you for your comments!

  5. Sorry to hear about your parents. It is hard being away during family crises and I remember well the period of “being advised to stay in the country” and feeling a bit in legal limbo. My beloved grandfather died a couple months ago and I was unable to go back for his funeral. I felt very guilty about it. I also feel guilty currently because my two best friends are divorcing each other and I’m not able to be there for either one of them. And you want to be there for the people you love during hard times! My therapist says feeling guilty about such things is a normal part of the migrant experience, which is probably true, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

    • Thank you. I try not to feel guilty because these things that happen aren’t our fault; they’re just life things than happen, but, as you said, that knowledge doesn’t always help us feel any better. I’m sorry about your grandfather and friends. I have to admit though that I take a certain comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, that so many of us expats share these experiences, sadly enough.

  6. Thank you, Cossette for mentioning my post. I am truly honoured.
    I feel for you not being in Miami while your family is troubled, and also that you can’t visit the home you grew up in. We sold our family home a few years ago and even though all my children were there at the time, they didn’t find it easy to let it go. But the reality is that they will always remember it, as you will always remember your home. I suspect you’ll still call Miami home for a few years, but you’ll also call your home in Australia, home. I found that the house I was living in always felt like home. The only difference is that in Australia, I go outside and it still feels like home, I hope you feel that way one day. xx

  7. I am so sorry to read about your parents, and I thank you for the link to Juli’s post.

    I can relate to your wondering about “home” when/if they sell the place where you grew up. For me, when I sold my Maryland USA home after I’d been in Norway for three years – the home my former husband and I had raised our children in for 15 years – I found myself with a big gaping “where do I belong” hole.

    Norway is where I live, and I love it, but my heart longs for my culture. So where do I belong?

    I’ve been back to Maryland to visit my adult daughters, and it no longer feels like home. But Norway isn’t my complete home either, especially as my husband and I have always intended to move back to the U.S. eventually.

    Just rambling thoughts – probably a blog post of my own eventually – but I wanted to share that you aren’t alone!

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