01 February 2012

Thoughts On Being An Ex-pat

Last week marked my fourth year in South Africa and since I was feeling a bit nostalgic I shared some of the reasons why I love living here and a few of my very favorite memories.  Looking back on my time here reminded me of how incredibly blessed I really am and gave me a renewed appreciation for all that life has brought me thus far.  When I said that I wouldn't have it any other way, I really and sincerely did mean it.

Still, even with all of the wonderful adventures and new experiences that being an ex-pat brings, it has by no means been a walk in the park.  There have been terribly difficult times scattered in between all of the fun and excitement that typically frequents this blog {keeping it real here} - like months of long distance between Jurgen and I, lots of difficult goodbyes to family and friends living in California, absurdly expensive phone bills and fuzzy skype connections, a full blown love-hate relationship with airports, the endless paperwork and administration that goes along with moving to a foreign country, and the list could go on...

But, what I will say is that the good times have far outweighed the bad, and that in the end Jurg and I have each other and it is each other that we have learned to lean on during times of struggle and uncertainty.  In the future, it's true that we will have some very difficult decisions to make in terms of where we will live, work, and maybe even raise a family one day.  But, for now we are just trying to enjoy where we are and take in all the greatness and potential that exists in the present moment.

And I think we should all strive to do this more often, regardless of where we are in the world, relationship or no relationship, young or old.  Because if we spent all of our time worrying about what was going to happen tomorrow, before we knew it we would be looking back on our life and wondering how we managed to let it slip away from us. 

And although I would be lying if I said I didn't have days when I just want to be back in the States {like the other day when Jurgen made burgers and I went on a 15 minute rant about how South African burgers have nothing on American burgers}, I would also be lying if I said I didn't feel a pang of anxiety when the notion of making a long-term move to the United States is brought up.  

Because my heart will forever be split between two countries, being in one means being far away from the other.  

I suppose it's both a blessing and a curse.

The other day I stumbled upon a guest post written by Sophie {an Australian ex-pat living in the UK} and she included a quote from the book "Almost French" which made my heart skip a beat.

The quote goes:

"His life is a constant dilemma: in Australia he feels Greek, in Greece he feels Australian.  It's a bittersweet thing knowing two cultures."

I think this is something that anyone who has spent a significant amount of time far away from home can relate to.

In the end I suppose it doesn't matter where we are in the world, but rather the people who we surround ourselves with.  And for me, right now here is where I belong.  As for the future, I don't know yet, it's still a blank canvas.  But wherever I end up I hope it's Jurgen who'll be by my side and that we'll continue to embrace the journey just as much as we do the destination :)


{Sorry I got a bit deep and mushy on you guys - normal, light-hearted posting will resume tomorrow!}

And p.s. How is it already February!?


  1. This is a truly beautiful post Jenna! I love it :) I think it's nice that you're enjoying where you are now instead of worrying about the future. When there's love things always have the way of working out just fine! :D

  2. I am glad to hear the good outweighed the bad! Great reflections. Sounds like you have got yourself quite a man!!

  3. love the post. Beautiful and insightful comments

  4. Awesome post, and of course close to my heart as well.
    I like that you are living in the moment because I know what a burden the thought of having to choose WHERE in the world you are eventually going to settle down in can be.

  5. Beautiful words Jenna! It's hard for people to relate to those feelings unless they've actually experience something similar themselves...and luckily you have your guy to help you thru! Happy 4 years in South Africa...its amazing :)!

  6. So sweet. I can only imagine all the emotions you feel when trying to figure out where to live permanently, etc. As long as you're near people who love you and you're happy and healthy, that's what should matter!

  7. Hi! Fellow sponsor of Across the Pond and new follower just stopping in to say hello - and am so glad I did!

    I absolutely LOOVE South Africa - I've been twice and am always itching to go back. I look forward to reading your posts and staying connected with one of my favorite countries :)

  8. Such a great relfection...and I agree..where did last month go?!!!

  9. Lovely post Jenna!
    I totally understand, being a Swede in London sometimes feels really hard, but most of the time it's wonderful! That quote made me smile because her in the uk I'm very patriotic and love all things Swedish, but when I'm back home I sometimes think Swedes are like soo lame! :D

  10. I totally agree...home is what and who you make it with! Loved reading this post! :)

  11. What a gorgeous post! I have to tell you I'm quite jealous you live in SA. I LOVE that country!!!

  12. Jenna,
    I am with you on not worrying about tomorrow or what's next. It's pointless for so many reasons, and you miss out on how you're being blessed right now. I loved this post! Thanks for sharing it!

  13. Wonderful! I wish you all the best in your future. I'm sure everything will work out perfectly in the end. I am still in awe of your ambition to do what you do. You are such an inspiration!

  14. i love your deep mushy posts and your appreciation for your life now. i always think it would be so cool to have the kind of life you have when i read your blog! :)

  15. ok funny story - i loved your blog so much that i went to 'follow' it and i am already a follower. duh! :) i am glad i rediscovered you. love your page and i definitely wont forget again!

    come and enter my free scrapbooking software giveaway!

  16. ahh, as i was reading this i was thinking about the quote from the book i read..and then you wrote it :) how true is it though. it definitely made my heart skip a beat when i read it too!

    i absolutely love following your adventures with jurg in south africa. i think you guys will be so happy wherever you are :) xx

  17. hey hun.
    so fun to catch up on your life. it's been way too long.
    totally get it with being split between two countries. i feel that way about china and the states. it's tough.
    but i would rather have it this way than trade all those adventures and memories and relationships i have with precious people around the world.

  18. Hi Jenna - Your post was sweet and beautiful...just like you. Loved your 4 years/10 Favorites post as well. Somehow I knew Jurgen would be #1.

    Hope every thing is going well and happy birthday in a few days!

    Take care,

    Kelly (AEM)

  19. Amen to that! You just made me cry.

  20. you have no idea how much this resonates with me...when i'm at home in america i feel too italian to deal with american culture and when i'm here i feel like i'm too american to every be really italian...it's a constant push and pull. but you're right, if you're surrounded by the people you love, it doesn't matter where you are in the world. xoxoxo, marissa

  21. well, as the saying goes you bloom where you're planted and i think you have come into that space rather organically. when you've got love in your heart and a stellar guy by your side then it feels as though nothing can take you down again.

    please don't leave these mush moments alone for too long, i really like reading about your highs and lows and feelings about shared spaces. the Joseph Campbell quote about says it all, so empowering and true. i moved (although not to a whole other country) away from "home" for over 6 years and there was a constant bittersweet taste about it. i didn't even source out a doctor or a dentist till the first year had gone by. to me that meant committing to somewhere as my home, it eventually happened and i'm blessed for the experience. i hear you are feeling so many blessings, keep going pretty girl. life is for living and you are darn well doing it!!! ♥

  22. I can't imagine living anywhere but here in the US, but I bet you really do get used to wherever you are and grow to love it!! It's such a blessing to have lived in two beautiful places!

  23. ahh i have just found your blog via Across the Pond and this post really resonates with me. i'm currently in a long distance relationship (with him being in california and me being in england) and, although he currently has plans to move to england, all your thoughts in this post constantly run through my mind! i really like your final paragraph and i must remember this more often :) xx

  24. that quote gave me chills.

    i can sympathize so much with this post. unfortunately i prefer other parts of europe to living in norway, but i do love norway for many reasons...the main one being my boyfriend. im not sure that if i moved back to the US at this point that i would love a piece of my heart in norway, however. i hope one day i get to that point though :) it is a special thing to fall in love with 2 cultures and places!!!

  25. I can completely relate to this post.

    I lived in South Africa for 22 years of my life, and have only been in the UK for about 3 and a half.

    When I'm in London I am South African, and I get mocked for my accent, and when I'm in South Africa I am English and get mocked for the British things I say ...

    It is tough and leaving SA after a visit is always bitter sweet. My family are all back in SA and I miss them every day. But, my life is now here - my work, my friends.

    It is strange, I will always be torn, a split personality of sorts but I think that is what makes us interesting human beings at the end of the day ...

    Thanks for the post!

  26. Found you through your guest post on Ashley's blog! This is amazing! I am a new follower! I have lots of friends in Seattle that are South African!

    i cannot wait to hear more!

  27. I love this post. You put into words what most everyone who lives abroad is thinking and feeling at least some of the time. My favorite line is, "it doesn't matter where we are in the world, but rather the people who we surround ourselves with."
    So very true. Can't wait to read about the rest of your adventures!

  28. Beautiful. One of the most difficult things to do is to "be where your feet are." It's so hard to live in the moment, where you are, right now. But we keep trying, we keep hoping, and we get a little bit better as time goes on.

    Best of luck in all your adventures!

  29. Hi, I stumbled upon your blog, and really enjoyed it!! I'm a constant expat too hahah, I ve just started blogging, but feel free to follow me, Im following you now :) xxx, Tati



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