‘Repat’: Keeping the expat experience alive

Jun 15, 2021

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By Eileen Brill Wagner

Once we’ve experienced life as an expat, something in us changes irrevocably. Keeping those experiences alive as a repat is a whole new challenge.

I’ve told our story so many times over the past few years that it started to sound like an over-rehearsed line:: “My husband and I really wanted to see the world, so we quit our jobs, sold our cars, rented our house, and set out for parts unknown.” Then—simultaneously in a blink of an eye and in slow motion—five years had passed. We had traveled to 28 countries, spending at least a month in a few of them and as long as nine months at a time in Colombia. We volunteered as farmworkers in Ecuador, imparted leadership skills to university students in China, and taught English in countries ranging from Peru to Cambodia. But for now, I am no longer an expat – I am a repat.

The coffee connection Photo by Eileen Brill Wagner

The coffee connection By Eileen Brill Wagner

Wonders of the World – Repat Memories
Our throats were parched as we climbed the Great Wall of China. We stood in awe as we caught sight of the Incan citadel, Machu Picchu; and strolled the grounds of the glorious Taj Mahal, surrounded by chattering monkeys.

And now here I am, in a post-COVID world, back in our own house in our hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. The U.S.A. I am officially a “repat.” Of course, I miss our “nomadic expat” life but I never expected it to last forever.

I do, however, choose to honor that time in the following ways:

  • Continuing to improve my language skills. It’s not the same as trying to eavesdrop on conversations on a street in Mexico City, yet as a repat, I am determined to keep up with my Spanish. No, I will probably never be fluent, but I have already invested so much time and energy to get to this point… and I WILL go back.

  • Staying in touch with new found friends. With social media and endless other communication venues, there is no excuse for letting the amazing friendships I’ve made lapse. I hear their voices, see the sights I love in the background, and the memories of time spent there start rushing back. Repat treasures.

  • There is no longer an “us” and a “them.” The news from any country we visited or whose citizens we met affects me daily. Whether it is the pandemic that has swept across the globe, or more localized civil unrest; I offer support when I can from my fully globalized heart.
  • Volunteering remotely. Through my volunteer work, including teaching English and consulting with the Latin American Leadership Academy, I’ve met so many special young people. If they want to practice their English or receive a virtual pat on the back, I am only a Zoom call away.

  • Being immersed in world news.
Staying in touch- photo by Eileen Brill Wagner

Staying in touch By Eileen Brill Wagner

The TCI Connection
Finally, and most importantly, I was lucky enough to find an organization (thank you, Darrell!), Transition Concierge International, that speaks to the core of what I love. Encouraging others to become an expat and open an extraordinary new chapter in their lives keeps the spirit alive in me.  Repatriation is part of what TCI calls “This Expat Life…”  the lifecycle of an expat.  That doesn’t mean that I’m done yet!

Are you a repat? An expat thinking of returning to your home country becoming a repat? Let us know how you have integrated your experience as an expat into your life these days.

Editor’s Note:  TCI is a full-service provider of expat education and transition services. Our private platform allows our global expat community and our Expat Alliance of in-country expats and experts to interact so that all can successfully embrace the expat experience. Learn More…