Repatriating: An Honest Confession of How I Feel About My Impending Move Back Home

I have lived abroad for a little over 5 years now and I have finally made the decision to move back home – permanently. I made this same decision a year and a half ago, however, I never actually pulled the trigger and committed to it. I made the announcement I was coming home, tested the waters, but then got cold feet and bailed on the idea. Of course my family and friends back home were disappointed, but I also knew that I had to do what was right for me and at that moment in my life, I just wasn’t ready to go back.

I made the decision again to move back home in April of this year, however, I didn’t actually announce it and resign until July. I wanted to be sure that I was confident in my decision and avoid being “the boy who cried wolf” but once I gave my notice at work, everything set in – I AM officially moving back home.

Why I am Moving

I am often asked why I decided to move home. Well, I will be completely honest and there are several reasons. First, I want to start saving money and life in Dubai sure ain’t cheap (Shocker? Probably not.). Sure I could cut back on my spending, social habits, and travel lifestyle but life here is just too tempting to go big, or go home. So yup, it’s time to go home. Another reason is that I basically haven’t existed in the U.S. for the last 5 years. When I want to apply for a credit card and they want to verify my employment history or previous addresses, well, I don’t really have any of that. I moved abroad still pursuing higher education and therefore I have never had a “big-girl” job that would be of historical relevance while residing in the U.S. The final reason I am moving home carries the most weight of all… I want a family.

I always dreamed of falling in love and having a family at a young age, and although this did not happen as I originally planned, I am thankful that this is how it happened since I have had other major life-changing moments: obtaining two master’s degrees, living in Monaco, living in Dubai, globetrotting to over 44 stunning countries, the blessing of making friends from all walks of life, and grasping spontaneity when it arose. My life over the last decade did not go as I whatsoever imagined (I mean, I never thought I would be in THIS place of my life right now!), but at the same time, I am utterly grateful that my plan failed. My life has been so blessed, unique, and fulfilling – I feel incredibly full thinking of all that I have accomplished and experienced. I grin knowing that some of my life’s greatest moments have yet to come.

Dating in Dubai is a whole other topic (it’s a total disaster) – and ironically enough I’ve been planning weddings here – but after 3 years, I have yet to find anyone of emotional significance who I could seriously date. At 29 years old, I am ready to start prioritizing my future family. Obviously I cannot force this to happen, or really even search for it since that lessens the odds of allowing things to naturally happen, however, I look at my move home as aligning my chances to meet someone who wants the same things as I do. I’m ready.

My Fears

Living an expatriate life is something that cannot be understood by many. Unless you’ve backpacked aimlessly for a decent period of time or actually lived abroad, you may not understand what I am about to say…

I am American. I will ALWAYS be American, however, I also consider myself a bit of a mutt. Life outside of the U.S. has obviously changed me, shaped me, and influenced me. People say my accent has changed. My taste for foods has acquired to new things and delicacies. My perspective is no longer domestic; I look at things with a global viewpoint, taking into consideration all of the stories of the beautiful people that I have met along my journey. The things I have experienced through the last five years of my amazing voyage make me wonder if my life back home will be stimulating enough for me. Of course I hope so, which is why I have committed to make this big move, but only time will tell.

As I have lived the expatriate life, I now have to repatriate and adjust to life back home. Obviously when I was gone, the world didn’t stop. My family and friends carried on with their lives, getting married, buying homes, having babies, and making memories together that I missed out on. Naturally, being absent from all of these moments in their lives is a sacrifice that I had to make. For my friends who have had to repatriate and moved back home, they have told me not to expect people to go out of their way and accommodate my new, permanent presence. People will obviously be happy that I am home, welcome me back, but that excitement will quickly wear off and I will have to adjust to my “new-normal” without all of the hype.

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When I first moved abroad, I obviously experienced culture-shock; both when I moved to Monaco and again when I moved to Dubai. Anytime when you’re in a new environment for a long period of time you eventually adjust and that’s exactly what I did. After three years in Dubai, in the Middle East, this has become my normal. Shawarma has naturally become a favorite meal of mine, I often am telling people “yalla” and “inshallah”, and strangers and friends alike are now referred to as “habibti” and “habibi.” Now I will need to process myself through “reverse-culture shock” (yes, this is a real, legit thing) and adjust back to being a full-time American. It’s the adjustment period where you’re not sure where exactly feels like home and you just don’t fit in. I am definitely not an alien, but after moving home, I assume I will temporarily feel like one since I’ve basically missed out on five years of being immersed in American Culture. I mean, I have not kept up with the Kardashians, have zero idea as to who’s been on Dancing with the Stars, missed all major sporting events, and have not watched American news or TV… and arriving home a few days after they announce who will be our next President will probably be a chaotic time, no matter who wins. Perfect timing, ha!

My Excitement

Aside from my fears, there is obviously a huge amount of excitement building up within me as the day nears when I will get on my one-way flight home. That day will be tough; absolutely bittersweet to say the least as I say goodbye to my closest friends but look forward to reuniting with my family and friends back home. I have so many mixed emotions going on inside of my head and heart.

I am excited to finally be present for family events that I have missed out on (this will be my first Thanksgiving home in 6 years!). I am excited to finally be present for big moments in my friends’ lives like engagement parties, bachelorette parties, baby showers, and so on. I am excited to be the “fun aunt” and run around playing with the little ones. I am excited to be present in the daily lives of my elderly family members as age is slowly creeping up on them. I definitely don’t want to miss the last moments in their lives, whenever they may be.

I am excited to finally explore my own country. I am tired of meeting people abroad from other countries who tell me how much they “love Boston” or how “beautiful San Francisco is”, yet I can’t relate because I have never been there. So perhaps I won’t be geographically close to other countries that I have yet to roam through, but there will be other beautiful places that I will soon discover within my own borders.

I am excited to finally establish myself. Yes, I have somewhat lived a gypsy-inspired life but at the same time, I am reaching thirty and have almost zero assets to my name. I don’t own a car; I don’t own any furniture or anything of substantial value besides a computer – heck, in a few weeks I probably won’t even own a hair dryer if my luggage is too heavy to move! I am ready to start making a real life and creating a home for myself. I dream of where I will live, what type of home I will have, how I will decorate it, and what I will name my dog that will be running around it.

My life thus far has been so amazing and blessed, but life’s greatest blessings are yet to come.

What’s Next

Ah, the million dollar question that everyone is asking me! Well, for once in my life – I don’t have a plan. Yup, you read that right. No plan. All I know is I have a one-way ticket booked home on November 17th and I will live with my dad in Orlando until who knows what my next move is. I am not sure what I will do for work but I do know that I want to enjoy being home, take my time adjusting, and relish in the upcoming festive season and holidays. Plus, not many companies will be hiring until after the New Year and thankfully I won’t be pressed to find a job ASAP since I will be living at home. I do have a project that I plan to pursue once I am back, which if all goes well, I won’t need to look for a job and can hopefully work fulltime with that but there is always a risk (details will come later but I believe in jinxing good things and I don’t want that to happen).

What I do hope is that my family and friends back home who think this move isn’t that big of a deal besides packing up a few bags and getting on a plane, will realize that this will be a hard time for me. I am saying goodbye to my life abroad, to some of the most amazing friends, and something that’s been my “normal” for a good bit of time. I need support, I need encouragement, and I need to be checked on. Please don’t forget that I moved home. Please invite me out and try to incorporate me into your normal so that it can soon, hopefully, become mine again too.

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48 Hours in Jordan: Petra & the Dead Sea

One thing that I love about Jordan aside from all of the impressive history immersed between their borders is that when I am there, I actually feel like I am IN the Middle East (compared to the U.A.E. and other Gulf countries where it’s very westernized). I have been to Jordan two times before since the company I work for is based out of Amman, but sadly, it was always work and no play during my visits. Luckily, the third time was the charm to finally experience what I have been waiting so long for…

Nadia and I bolted to Amman for a quick 48 hour-weekend trip which I highly recommend to those who can get there easily. Since time was of the essence and we needed to cover around 550 miles of driving to see all of the hotspots, I arranged a private tour for us with Jordan Private Tours & Travel and Mustafa, the owner, was our driver, tour guide, professional photographer, and everything else you can imagine – he was the full package and made our trip absolutely perfect!

We started out bright and early on Friday morning with a 3-hour road trip south to Petra. The walk into the “Lost City of Petra” is very underwhelming until you get in between the huge rock formations and are surrounded by natural rock walls hundreds of feet high. Along the shaded path are various carvings of inscriptions, camels, water paths, etc. As we entered into the area where the Treasury was (the most iconic photo spot in all of Petra), the feeling of being in front of something so grand and detailed that was hand carved over 2,000 years ago was just awe-inspiring. It’s quite shocking to take it all in and comprehend what went on here centuries ago – I tried to imagine hundreds of men in an assembly line picking and chiseling away at the rocks to create this stunning masterpiece. The creativity in design and innovativeness that they used to carve this was just wow, wow, wow. Words can definitely not describe it enough, this is simply something you have to experience first-hand and see to believe.

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Image: Just taking it all in.

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Image: Wedged in the walkways 

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Image: In front of the iconic Treasury

We kept walking past the Treasury and there are many other areas to see along the way but the second best was the Monastery. Apparently only 10% of visitors in Petra make it up to see this beauty either because they didn’t know about it or they simply cannot complete the hike up 900+ steps in the heat and the sun. Thankfully Mustafa advised us that the hike is worth it and he was absolutely right. All of the breathless moments on the way up justified the glory moment of reaching the top and standing in front of this massive, larger-than-life artwork. Again, just a lot of take in. A few plus sides to reaching the Monastery were that the higher we climbed, the more amazing the views were. Another was that because only minimal people make it up here, you can have an unobstructed photo opportunity in front, plus there is a lovely café situated perfectly in front with optimal seating facing the mountain side so you can just relax with a refreshing drink and soak in the moment (and recover from the hike!).

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Image: Hiking up to the Monestary

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Image: Nadia and I in front of the Monestary

After walking all through Petra, hiking up and back down, we decided that it would be fun to ride camels back towards the front of the city. We negotiated a low price (over 60% less than the asking price) and hopped on our humpback beauties. I have had the pleasure of riding camels numerous times before but never have I ridden one that wasn’t being guided (my camel was the lead and I was driving him) and never have I ridden on one that was RUNNING (camels can race up to 25 mph but usually you wouldn’t see this with tourists – I guess since we paid so little they wanted to make the ride quick)! The locals and other tourists moseying around were quite entertained from seeing me and Nadia busting through crowds of people on runaway camels just hysterically laughing along the way. That was easily the most exciting camel ride I’ve ever had in my life (camels -> running-> excitement. I never thought those words would ever have such a strong correlation haha)!
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Image: Riding our camels through Petra.

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Image: Us in front of the Treasury

We left Petra mid-afternoon and drove another hour south to Wadi Rum, a massive desert area surrounded with enormous sandstone mountains that have existed since prehistoric time – being here makes you realize that photos just don’t do it any justice. We rode about 15 minutes into the Wadi out to our camp and set up before climbing to the top of a nearby rock to enjoy the piercing sunset falling behind the mountains. Nothing was in sight and no sounds could be heard aside from the sheep wandering in the valley which made the experience so surreal. Following sunset, we used Mustafa’s telescope to stargaze under the open skies. I have used a telescope before but NEVER in my life have I seen what I witnessed this night: we saw Saturn WITH the ring distinctly around it and the deep craters on the moon. They even took our PHONES and took pictures of the moon through the telescope. It was absolutely incredible to be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains that are millions of years old, and just enjoy God’s beautiful creation in absolute still silence.

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Image: Me enjoying the sunset. 

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Image: A panoramic view of our camp (bottom left) in Wadi Rum

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Image: The moon taken from my phone, through Mustafa’s telescope. You can see the craters!

While waiting for our dinner (which we could not figure out why it was taking a considerable amount of time), Mustafa made us a homemade fire outside of the camp so we could just lay and enjoy the stars and silence even more. I could not imagine a more serene moment than what I just experienced. Stillness. Nature. Open Skies. Silence. Shooting Stars. Moonlight. Blazing Fire. Life is so good and I am so blessed.

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Image: Us in front of our fire under the moon and stars. 

We were finally called for dinner and let me tell you – we were in for a HUGE surprise and the wait was totally worth it! I’ve been told many times before that the Bedouin’s used to cook their food underground and use the earth as an oven but I have never seen it actually done before. The reason why our dinner took so long was because it was cooking 1.5-2 hours under the ground with a fire built directly on top. We were brought over for the presentation and watched as our dinner was dug up from the ground. When it was opened we were greeted with an amazing view of delicious food. Little did we know that they would then pull a 3-tiered contraption from the ground that was FULL of vegetables, rice, and chicken. I have no doubt that Bedouin children had any issues eating their veggies because I could certainly be a vegetarian if they always tasted this appetizing! I literally ate until my stomach could no longer take the pain and I had to stretch out and lay down right there at the table (LOL, sorry mom).  Obviously after that meal and our exhausting day of walking, all I wanted to do was hit the hay and pass out.

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Images: Our dinner being dug out of the ground and what was served. Yumm!

We started our next morning with a 2-hour tour through Wadi Rum and Mustafa took us to every perfect photo spot that they had. A lot of them took exercise and effort to reach (hiking up the highest dune I’ve seen or climbing rocks) but each spot was more stunning than the previous one. Some of the views we had seemed endless and a few of our photos seem fake because it was just that beautiful!

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Images: We had way too much fun exploring and hiking through Wadi Rum!

We left Wadi Rum mid-morning and drove 3 hours to the Mujib Water Trail (Wadi Mujib) which is a natural flowing river that is squished between two large mountains and flows into the Dead Sea. The drive there was stunning as we winded through the mountains and stopped to enjoy the gaping valleys below us. When we arrived at the Water Trail, I questioned if we needed to wear life jackets as it seemed to only be a river, however, I am very thankful to have had one on even though I would consider myself a fish when it comes to my swimming strength. When we started, we were walking through ankle-to-knee deep high water and as we neared deeper into the river, we were battling small rapids and climbing up waterfalls. It was so beautiful to experience, a fun challenge, however, we only made it 75% down the trail because my stress level was too high (and you know me, I am a dare-devil so this is rare). We came upon a particular waterfall that was very narrow and high and all I imagined was me slipping on my way up and breaking my leg and the only way down was to slide down and we didn’t have helmets on. As I waited in line for my turn to attempt this, I imagined how on earth I would finish my last 2 weeks of work, enjoy all of my upcoming trips, and move my life half way around the world with a broken leg. Yup, it ain’t happening! I told Mustafa to take Nadia up and I would wait but I have too much on the line to risk any injuries (you would be proud of my smart decision, mom!). Oddly enough, Nadia agreed that she didn’t want to participate in that either because she had a pedicure in 2 days hehe. I LOVE fun and wild adventures but when they become stressful, the fun is taken out of it and I no longer enjoy myself so I am glad that I drew my boundary line so I could just relish in the beauty of the Water Trail.

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Images: The trail seemed simple until we realized it would take teamwork!

We drove about fifteen minutes from the Water Trail and the moment I have been waiting for so long had arrived… I was finally at THE Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth at 1,407 feet below sea level! We raced down to the water’s edge and I was so shocked to see how crystalized the beach was from all of the salt build-up – even the furniture was covered, similar to how rust takes over, but crystalized salt. I didn’t waste a moment to go in the water and when I walked in, it initially didn’t seem like anything different to me than any other sea water, however, when I tried to float, I couldn’t stop bobbing up and down. Floating has never been so effortless! I actually had to work to stay upright because if you turn one way or the other a little too much, the density of salt will flip you over without notice and trust me, you do NOT want even the smallest splash of this water to reach your eyes! Of course while there we had to cover ourselves in the mud but… SPOILER ALERT: it’s very hard to get the actual mud from the sea so you have to buy it and put it on. For the rest of the afternoon, we floated around, relaxed, and enjoyed the pink and orange creamsicle sunset that was bowing before us glistening on the water. What a fabulous way to end our 48-hour adventure before we sadly headed back to the airport.

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Image: The crystalized beachfront of the Dead Sea.

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Images: Enjoy the Dead Sea and beautiful sunset!

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine a more ideal tour or trip – it was exhausting because of all of the physical activity it included but I wouldn’t change a thing as all of it was totally worth it. Having a wonderful tour guide, driver, and photographer like Mustafa made the trip unforgettable because we could accomplish so much and leave with stunning photos documenting our every move. I’ve been to 44 countries thus far and hands down, this is easily one of my top trips. If you are ever in Amman and want to experience this, PLEASE contact Mustafa so he can help you experience the beauty and history of his amazing country, the Kingdom of Jordan (jordanprivatetours@gmail.com).