The Re-Pat: What happens when a serial expat returns home

Jun 22, 2021

Returning home after living abroad as an expat can sometimes be a confusing experience. But for some “re-pats” it is the right decision.

What happens when a serial expat returns home? The shift from living overseas to going back to a former home can certainly be intimidating. While that old home is familiar—and perhaps even beloved — it is changed, and an expat is forever changed, too, after living in foreign places. Trust me, I know, because I am that serial expat who returned home!

I have lived in several countries over the past few years. From Honduras to Scotland, from Ireland to Malta, it’s been a wild ride. But last fall, my husband and I found ourselves heading to the USA, to Boston, Massachusetts… the place I used to call home. It’s the city where I grew up, where my family and childhood friends still live.

Going home again Amanda Walkins

Going home again By Amanda Walkins

Back to Boston

Boston has been my home base for the years that I’ve lived overseas. But the prospect of returning for a longer period of time felt a bit daunting. I am not who I was when I lived here last; my life has transformed me since then.

The trepidation an expat can feel when returning home is not to be diminished. This is a huge change that impacts every aspect of daily life.

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Moving country once can be a big deal.. .moving country frequently can become a superpower… but returning home can be a challenge greater than any other.

The Re-Pat Transition

A re-pat is an expat who returns home. Becoming a re-pat may seem simple enough: Just go back home and settle back into your life there. But things are not as they used to be, and you are not the person you once were.

Moving back home can feel like a step backward sometimes, as if you failed somehow and need to start over again. What I found when returning home was the need for perspective. It became so important to hold on to all the changes my expat life offered me after I returned home.

The road once traveled Biel Morro

The road once traveled By Biel Morro

It became vital to keep those lessons learned and the experiences gained as a shining beacon in my re-pat life. I learned to recognize that I was not moving backward, but rather moving forward on a more familiar path. It was a path I’d walked before, but in a different mindset at a different time.

Moving Forward

For re-pats, here is my advice: Just because you’ve moved back home doesn’t mean you’re moving backward. This is merely another step in your journey that should be celebrated!

Remember that you might have been in this physical place before, but you have never been who you are now in this place. You are a changed person, this home is a changed place, and time never stands still.

Embrace this new challenge the same way you embraced your expat life. Consider your old home to be a foreign place worthy of new discoveries and adventures.

Nothing Is Permanent

While this serial expat only returned home last fall, I am already on the move again. This was a temporary stop for us, based on timing and family events. Because of the temporary nature of this re-pat journey, perhaps I was better able to enjoy it all to the fullest—even the terrible winter!

Knowing that something is temporary means you can focus on the here and now and bask in it all more fully. Many of us expats experience this with temporary assignments overseas.

Knowing that we would eventually move on again to another destination enabled us to make the most of this long-term visit, without putting so much pressure on ourselves to embrace fully every single aspect of life here.

Re-Pat Lessons Learned

I loved this re-pat adventure. As a serial expat who spends most of her time away from family and friends, it felt wonderful to plan multiple get-togethers over the months we spent at home.

A typical expat visit home is a whirlwind of trying to see everyone and to get everything done. This re-pat journey granted us so much time to spend with some of the most important people in our lives.

Time is not to be undervalued.

Expats understand this better than most, but a re-pat should be cautious in remembering it, too. Heading back home is a new adventure with so much potential. Try your best to be the new person you are in the old place you once knew so well. When a serial expat returns home, a new door opens. But, this time, it’s a door you can walk right through instead of needing to knock.

Are you a re-pat or thinking of becoming one? How has this move affected you?

by: Amanda Watkins

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…

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