Thursday, May 11, 2017

Swapping Countries with Erin; Going Home

For anyone new around these parts, Erin is an American who lives in Australia, and Kristen is an Australian who lives in America.  The two of us regularly talk about our experiences and lives swapping countries. 

Well, not sure if "regularly" is the correct word because we both admit to being pretty inconsistent, but we have the best intentions to keep this series going.  (Is it a series if we've only had one post and one guest post?)

Both of us are traveling to our original homes in the next couple of months, so we thought we'd share our thoughts, feelings, and anticipations about that visit.

Erin's story:  It's been exactly two years since I've last been to Texas.  I am suffering from some serious homesickness, I ain't gonna lie about that.  Two years is a long time to go without a hug from my daddy, a laugh with my mama (in person), and the taste of chile con queso in my belly. 

Two years ago, my trip was planned around niece #1's high school graduation and a cousin's college graduation.  This year, my trip is planned around niece #2's high school graduation.  I will also get to spend Memorial Day in the good ol' U.S. of A.  As a bonus, my mom, my niece, my sister-in-law and I are having a quick San Francisco getaway together.  And, as a further bonus, three of my bestest girlfriends are meeting me in Northern Cali after the relatives go back to Texas, and I'll complete my trip with a couple of days in the Sonoma Valley with my girls. 

When I go home, there is no time for rest and relaxation.  I am constantly on the go, doing all the things and seeing all the people and eating all the food.  I love Texas food.  I may have an unhealthy relationship with it, but seriously, when I'm home, I gorge on alllll those things that I miss when I'm in Australia.

Neither of my parents live in Houston anymore.  I split my time between Huntsville (with my dad and stepmom) and Tyler (with my mom and her guy), and I squeeze in a little College Station time where my brother and his family lives.

Often, I get overwhelmed because I never get to see all the people I want to see or do all the things I want to do.  I have to prioritize, and in this situation, as cliché as it sounds, it's family first for me.

So, this might sound bad, but I also see the folks who are willing to be flexible and put effort in our relationship.  There are folks that I was really close to when I lived in Texas, yet I never hear from them anymore.  That's fine.  Our lives have gone in different directions.  So, I see the folks that are currently a part of my life, and not the ones that were once upon a time.

There is always some feelings of guilt.  I feel guilty by the pain in my father's voice, and the tears in my mother's eyes.  They support my happiness here, but we miss seeing once another more frequently, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I feel guilty about it.

And, when I visit Texas without my guy, I miss him.  Three weeks without your partner in life is a significant amount of time to be apart.  But, it's something we knew would be a part of our relationship with the reality of me living on the other side of the planet of so many of my loved ones.

The most difficult part of the trip?  Saying goodbye.  Especially when I don't have an exact plan of when I'll be there next.  So, so tough.  I get on that plane.  I sigh.  I reflect.  I may cry.  But, I head back to my second home where my husband and stepkids and life awaits. 

I feel fortunate to call two places home.  To have people that love and value me.  To love and value others.  Through the hardships, the feeling of gratitude for that love and appreciation outweighs all.

Kristen's story:  It has been almost 3 years since I last went home, and almost 5 and a half years since I left for good (though, I didn't know that at the time).

Like Erin, I am suffering from some pretty awful homesickness as well. I am very excited that I will be back in my home country, eating all the food I miss, hearing people talk like me, seeing words I recognise, driving on the side of the road I learned to drive on... all those things. But I am obviously most excited about seeing my family, especially my mum.

My mum and I have always been extremely close and living on the other side of the world has been so hard. Sometimes I wish it were different, but you can't help who you love. Mum loves America and has visited a few times since I moved here (only once to Louisville though) and her last trip was September 2016. I met up with her and a friend in LA & Vegas and we had a ball (and of course, fought a ton). The next plans were for KC and I to come home in June 2017, and then mum wanted to go to Graceland sometime in 2018.

my mum loves Toby Keith
We booked our flights for this June back in December. December 30th to be exact. As most of you know, my mum had a stroke early January. If we hadn't just booked our flights, this trip may not be happening. I probably would have hopped on a flight home immediately. I almost did, several times, but she was surrounded by family and I was able to talk to her immediately after the stroke and she told me not to come. Things got a bit worse before they got better, but she is doing really well. She is not home yet, and she is not back at work.

Before my mum's stroke, we had lots of plans - I wanted to take KC to see the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley. I wanted to do more touristy stuff because I didn't know when I would be back. I thought about doing another mini trip, like to Uluru or something. Busy busy busy, doing all the things and seeing all the people. Like Erin, I had friends that I was 'so close' with before I left, but they don't put any time and effort into the friendship when I am gone, so unfortunately when I am home, I don't make an effort to see them - time is far too precious for that. Moving across the world sure shows you who your people are.

Now, after my mum's stroke, we probably aren't going to go to the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley. We won't go to Uluru. We will probably spend most of our time at home. We had already booked New Zealand before my mum's stroke, and I don't want to waste any of the time I have with her. We will be in Australia for 2 weeks, and we are spending a few days in Melbourne like last time.

I am excited. I can't wait to see my mum, my nana, my cousins, uncles and aunties. I can't wait to see Pacey, my beautiful golden retriever. My cat Agatha couldn't give two shits about me and wouldn't come near me last time, which is definitely more than a little heartbreaking. My little brother is somewhere I'm not going to be able to visit him more than once and that also breaks my heart.

Saying goodbye is stupid hard. Flying home is crazy expensive, KC and I want to start a family soon and won't be able to travel as often. The thought of more long flights makes the butterflies in my stomach go crazy. My mum probably won't be able to travel for quite some time. The unknown, the I don't know when I will be back, when I will see my mum again, it's so freaking hard. I feel so guilty that I am not there. That my dog, Pacey, gets SO excited when she sees me (will she remember me this time?), but my cat Agatha could not care less. They are both getting older, and I am not there for them. Yes, I realise they are animals, but I'm not there for my mum, little brother or nana either.

Like Erin, I do feel fortunate that I can call two places home and that I have people who love me enough to miss me, and I them. Sometimes I have to work a little harder at my appreciation and not turn into a sulky child, but at the end of it all, there's no real solution. I am who I am because of where I've come from and where I am today. My heart - as corny as it sounds - is forever split between the two places. Instead of sulking about it, I will appreciate the visits home more than I ever appreciated actually living there.

As I'm sure you can tell, being an expat going home is all sorts of emotional. But I'm sure I speak for both of us when I say excitement about going home and doing all the things definitely outweighs all the not so great feelings. And of course, I am making Erin see me when I am in Sydney, and who wouldn't be excited about that?


  1. I love these posts you do with Erin. I hate the feeling of being constantly homesick. It's been many years for me, but I don't think it'll ever go away, especially since the country I live in now is in conflict with the one I'm from! Though I know I'm blessed because my parents also live here, so it's just my entire extended family. I love how you opened up about your mum in this post. I hope you get to spend a lot of time with her, and that she gets out of the hospital soon. I'm excited you get to see Erin! How fun.

  2. I totally understand the emotional confusion going home brings because even though Jesse doesn't have it, I do. His home is Australia but with me being such a big family girl, I hate that we have to leave his Mom and siblings and our nieces and his elderly pawpaw because I wish we could spend time with them! Like your trip home, ours is usually spent just hanging around at Jesse's Mom's house soaking up time with everyone.

  3. This made me cry! I didn't move nearly as far away from home as either one of you, I'm only 1000 miles away, but I still get those same feelings. I'm so excited for both of you to go back home for a visit!

  4. I love this series and it always chokes me up a bit reading these posts. Furthermore, it makes me wish that us Muggles could all apparate and see our loved ones instantly whenever we want (I seriously think about it all the time lol). I'm so glad you get to go home soon and experience everything and everyone who is special to you there. I hope you're able to enjoy your time with your mom even though it'll be a but different. It's nice that you guys still have the NZ portion for touristy /vacation stuff so you can focus on your family in Australia. The unknown part is definitely the hardest but I hope it's sooner rather than later! Also so great that KC will be with you because I'm sure parts of your trip will be emotional and like Erin said it can be hard to be away from your life partner for that long. I hope you have an amazing trip! How awesome is it that you and Erin get to meet up? I am excited to see some pics of that!

  5. This gave me all the feels since my sister lives in Oz i know how deeply hard it is to have your loved one far away. Love Erin's story and Kris I really was touched about you opening up about your mama. Prayers for her. PS - my uncle lives in Hunter Valley and I visited in 2014. Lovely place.

  6. aw girly! this is going to be a really good trip for you and your mom. good for the soul. i cant imagine how difficult things have been not being able to be nearby. and i think not a lot of people realize just how difficult being an expat can be! you and erin are strong cookies and i cant wait to hear about your trips!

    xoxo cheshire kat

  7. Kristen I'm so incredibly sorry about your mom, and I can't even imagine how hard it's been for you being so far away and not feeling like you can do anything to help out. I know that for me having family so far away would be the hardest thing about being an expat. I know that you're so excited to go home and finally see your mom and I know that you're going to love your time with her so much! Plus it's awesome that you'll get to meet up with Erin while you're there too!

  8. I can't even imagine how hard it is to go years without seeing family, and feeling homesick. You girls rock, and love that you'll both be able to head back home in the coming months. So exciting! Sending all the hugs for you and your mom sweet friend <3
    Green Fashionista

  9. I love this series!

    I'm so sorry about your mum and I'm so glad you're going to get to see her soon. Being so far away when you get bad news is the absolute WORST part of living abroad. When my grandpa was in hospital I was lucky that I did get to fly out immediately to see him (understanding boss let me spontaneously have a week off!) then managed to get two days off to fly back for his funeral. I obviously live a lot closer to "home" than you though.

    I actually think I am a horrible person because I go home maybe once a year, sometimes not even that, and while I obviously miss my family I feel like I get on better with certain people (*ahem* my sister) when we're NOT living in the same country, and I'm almost glad I can leave again after a few days or a week before they start getting on my nerves. If I had animals I would definitely feel much sadder about leaving them than saying goodbye to my family. Horrible, horrible person!

  10. I love this series that you and Erin put on but it makes me so sad for you girls that your hearts are split between such distant homes :( And I'm so sorry about your mom, Kristen. Anything medical is so, so scary, but I'm very glad that things are getting better for her and soon you'll be able to spend a few weeks with her in a familiar place. (And I'm sure Pacey will 100% remember you!) I feel like you and Erin have experiences and emotions that most people will never know- it makes you guys such well-rounded, strong women!

  11. I'm glad your Mom is doing better and seeing you will surely speed her recovery! I can't imagine how awesome and difficult it is to be an expat, being tugged in two different directions. I have no doubt Pacey will be thrilled to see and give you plenty of kisses to prove it. I had to admit that I laughed about Agatha, because cats. So very cat-like to be pissed and stay pissed. Of course, it would have drove me nuts too and I'd have been equally as dramatic and pissed at Agatha. :D

  12. and kristen, i am sorry to hear that your mother's not well enough to return home but am happy to hear she's doing better. i will pray that progress continues and that she will be home shortly. i know she's probably eager to be there. i know she's more eager to see you. and all the sights and the sounds in the world can't compare to quality time with your mama when you've been so apart for so long.

    anyway, i hope you enjoy the time traveling. :]

  13. I'm so very glad your mum is doing better -- and I can't imagine what you were going through. While I would love to be an expat just for the sake of experiencing a new culture, I don't think I would be able to handle an illness of a loved one while so far away. And refocusing your 2-week trip on spending as much time as possible with who you love and miss the most will be better for your soul. :)

  14. Oh my, how tough for both of you. I'm ONE state away from one part of my family and just a three hour flight to the other and that is to far for me. I don't say this rudely, but I don't know how you manage it so gracefully. I understand it is just a part of life, however reading these posts makes my heart hurt for both of you. I am sending you all the healing vibes for your mum, and hope you both have wonderful trips back home.

  15. Oh man I do not envy you! How emotional! I would be a wreck! I hope you have the best trip and spend as much time as you can with those you love!! Both of you!!

  16. Aw I love posts like this! I'm sorry about your mom, I'm glad that she's doing better! I didn't have to move too far away, since Canada is pretty close, but I can definitely relate to not keeping up with a bunch of friendships because of distance. I hope you guys have a blast on your trips back home :)

  17. I am SOOOOO excited that I get to see you when you're here. I can't wait!

  18. Aw, gosh I feel for you two. I think I live "far" from my mom living 1,000 miles away but it's really nothing compared to you. I hope you have an amazing time and return with a full heart!

  19. I know I have told you this a million times, but I seriously don't know how you do it. Living 3 hours from home feels too far to me. I know it's just something you have to accept, and you have so many good things and people in both places that I'm sure it's bittersweet, but I really do admire your strength to be so far away. So happy for both of you ladies to get to go home!

  20. I'm planning a move that is only 10 hours from home by car or train so I can't even imagine! I've already told Michael that I plan on making a quick weekend trip hope once a month so now I feel like a brat knowing that it's been three years since you were last home!

    I'm so sorry to hear about your Mom. I knew something had happened back home but didn't know the circumstances. I'm glad to hear she's doing better and that you'll get to see her soon!

  21. I'm so very sorry to hear about your Mom. I'm happy to hear that she is getting better. Being so far away must be so difficult. Thank God for modern technology, it makes being far away a little easier. Sending good vibes to you and your mom and your family. Big hugs.

  22. Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom! I know we were both going through different awful things at the beginning of the year, but I must have missed your post about it, I'll look around after this. I am glad that your mom is now improving, but those situations can be so hard. Some of our close friends were affected by a similar situation in the last few years. They live in Boston and their parents live in Kansas. Not as far obviously, but it's been hard for them too. I'm glad that she is getting better. I'm sure she will be so glad to see you both for such an extended amount of time! I can't imagine living so far from everyone we know, but I'm glad that you have two homes and so many great experiences! :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  23. So many feelings! I can only imagine how hard it must be on both of you having your "homes" be in two different places. I experienced that as a teenager, but I've been living in the States so long now that it definitely feels like my one home now. I hope both of you have awesome visits back home with family and that the goodbyes are as gentle as they can be.

  24. Loved reading this on both of your blogs. <3
    How is your mom doing, hun? I'm so sorry she had a stroke and you're so far, unable to reach out and be there physically for her. I can't imagine being away from my mom but like you say, you can't help who you fall in love with. I'm exciting for you to go back and see her. That'll be fantastic no matter what you get up to or don't get up to with her. Just being there is enough.
    Sending lots of love. xox

  25. I'm so sorry to hear about your Mum. Glad to hear she's doing better and that you'll be with her soon!

  26. I think you are both lucky to have two very different places to call home, but being away from family has got to be so hard, especially when there are health concerns. I've only ever moved three hours away from my family so I can't imagine what you go through. And while I dream about picking up and moving away, now that we have kids I don't think it's something I'd ever be able to do. Thank you for sharing!!

  27. You're coming here so soon! You're right, everything stops for family. Uluru isn't going anywhere! It must have been incredibly hard not to be able to jump on a plane but I'm so glad you and your mum get to see each other soon. And the rest of your family. It's so hard when they can't travel, isn't it? I'm so new to this that I don't even really feel I can comment but I'm already sad about not being able to see my grandparents for at least 2 years, and the others who can't/won't travel. Then I feel guilty because it was my choice to come here, I don't even have a good excuse like an Australian husband, I just wanted to. Then I feel bad. Ugh!

    Looking on the bright side before I depress myself, I'm glad Erin and I get to see you soon! Hope the travel preparations go well. Pack jumpers, it's coooold here.

  28. I'm so excited for you both to be able to go home soon, and sad that it has to be so emotionally difficult to get there and back. I'm glad to hear your mom is on the mend and hope that your trip to see her makes you feel more comfortable with the situation. Something SO hard about not being able to see/touch/hug a sick loved one, even if you can't do anything to make them actually better. I hope this trip is fun for you and KC and fills some of the space in your heart for a while.

    As for friends, the sad but true thing is that some relationships are just born and grown out of convenience. I moved *across a river,* not half a planet, and I found that some people can't be bothered to make an effort. You'd think I moved to China, not a major city that people from my home state commute to for work and pleasure by the millions on a daily basis. Sigh. Better to know than not know which relationships are worth nurturing, if nothing else.

  29. Oh girlie, I am so so sorry about your Mom's stroke. I cannot imagine how sad and scared you must have been. I'm so glad you're gonna get to spend some quality time with her even if that means having to cut the other parts of your trip short. Y'all are still going to have a great time! And I'm totally with you on the friendships front. I've lost touch with a ton of "friends" because I moved to Florida after college and no effort was put into the relationships. But "ce le vie"! I'd rather have a small group of great friends than a lots of meaningless friends.

    I hope y'all have the best time EVER when you're home! :)


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