“One of the hardest things for me to get used to in my current expat life is unpredictability.”
One of the hardest things for me to get used to in my current expat life is unpredictability. These days, Andrew and I plan ahead in terms of hours, or possibly days, but weeks, months, years — these timeframes remain as foggy as a Belgian morning.
I have always been the kind of person who likes to know what is going to happen. I’m a worrier by nature (from a long line of female worriers on my mother’s side). Having a tight schedule or an organized plan of events helped to lessen the worry, or so I thought.
Planning your life as an expat
From the time I was in high school, I had a plan of what my life would be like when I reached adulthood. We all know what they say about the best laid plans…
Even from the start, our expat life was a last minute decision. After our first three-month taste of expat life in Amsterdam, Andrew and I knew we wanted to eventually return and live in Europe. However, we had no idea we would be returning exactly a year from the day we last left.
It was less than three months from the time Andrew’s work proposed the Belgian move to the time we landed in Europe.
All of the big questions were down to the wire — Would we sell our house in time? (The sale closed literally as we were flying over the Atlantic). Would our car sell? (Yes, but only several months after we left and with the help of Andrew’s parents.) Would we find a suitable house in Belgium? (It was the fifth house of only five that we had time to look at). And so it went.
After a year in Belgium, our life finally seems to be settled, but only on the surface.
Andrew’s industry is constantly changing and evolving. His company has changed management and focus several times. His Belgian contract is technically for two years but what will happen then is anyone’s guess.
Dealing with questions from home
Family and friends back home are starting to ask seemingly reasonable questions — When will you come home? Are you coming home? Where will you live? What will you do? Late at night these questions play like a skipping record in my brain.
The truth is, so far, we’ve had no indication from Andrew’s work whether they will want us to stay or not. We don’t know if we’re ready to leave now that we’ve finally gotten settled. We have no idea where we would live or what we would do if we went back to Canada.
Sometimes this instability overshadows our decisions — Should we really spend the money to buy a new wardrobe if we’re just going to move again? Maybe we should travel more in case we don’t have the chance to later…
In many ways, I envy the expats who have a concrete plan — those who land in Brussels already with a return date marked on their calendars and keys to a house that is back home waiting for them in their pockets.
On the other hand, if I insisted on planning a year in advance, for starters, I wouldn’t be here at all. I wouldn’t drop what I’m doing on a Thursday afternoon, to book a hotel in Amsterdam for Friday night. I wouldn’t accept an invitation to meet a friend in Ireland without first checking to see if I could get a flight. I wouldn’t tag along with Andrew on last minuet business trips to Barcelona or Helsinki.
Maybe I would still be in Halifax sitting at my desk in my stable job wondering what life would be like in Brussels; wondering what could have happened if I had embraced a little instability.