Thoughts before my re-entry or repatriation – going back to my country of origin

Going back home can feel like a strange concept, especially if you’ve made a new home somewhere else. Here are my thoughts as I prepare for this. On the planning side, there is much to do – declutter, pack, sell furniture, give back keys of flat, close accounts. It’s also mentally that I’m preparing myself so I can be in a good, healthy state of mind as I begin my re-entry adventure.

My thoughts on re-entry or repatriation

My thoughts before my next destination

Am I ready for this big move? Yes, partly because for the past two years, I have done life in Mauritius in small doses. After spending fifteen or more years out of my home island, Mauritius, I am now relocating back. I have not been that regular in my visits back there as my family is scattered around the world. So there was never a major reason to return and establish my home and business there.

However, in the past few years, I’ve been hearing the whisper of the island calling me back. I had therefore planned some trips there to check out the scene over the past three years. Five months there as I slowly learned to integrate back and then I lived in South Africa again. Then another six months in Mauritius before taking off to live in Spain for a bit. I then went back to Mauritius for another two months (just to make sure I was doing the right thing!). And now that I am back in Cape Town soaking all the good dry spring air, it suddenly dawns on me that this is it. The big move is happening. Moving my businesses, my books, and even my cat! Closing my bank account here, closing landline, internet line, selling some furniture, donate my bonsai and my succulent, finishing off those ripe bananas…

walking in Sitges, Spain
walking in Sitges – Spain

 

travelling with my partner - Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
with my boyfriend at the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

Repatriation or re-entry to your country

I’ve just remembered this word “repatriation” or re-entry. And it dawns on me that it might be the hardest – and yet the least spoken about – part of doing Life Abroad. This article in The Telegraph UK mentions it can be a grieving process!

I mean think about it. You’ve spent some time out of your home country and made yourself at home somewhere else. You had to embrace another culture or different way to do things. You inevitably pick up some habits from the foreign country (which is now home) and let go of some old habits. And then when you have to go back to your country of origin (also referred to as “home”), you can’t simply unlearn what you’ve learned. In a way it makes you richer. But how do you combine these when you go back to your country of origin? Would people back there think you are being odd?

I’m no expat as such, and have freely chosen to move around and live the nomadic lifestyle. But one thing that prevails is that I do consult with God each time before my next move. And over the past few years, God has impressed on my heart to go back to Mauritius. So I am feeling confident in the decision of this relocation.

That said, there are a few things I will have to get used to again when moving back to my tropical island. If you are reading this in autumn or winter in the northern hemisphere, I know it sounds like a dream! But hear me out, living there is a different story. Dealing with things such as mosquitoes buzzing in your ear while you try to sleep, your hair in a sweaty puddle. And sticky humidity. I am already mourning the affordable groceries and food in my current home, Cape Town.

But at the same time, I am looking forward to free Vitamin D and vitamin sea. I am excited to be part of the new Mauritius, where the fashion industry is huge for such a small island, and many beautiful residences are being built, along with eco-tourism on the rise. I am curious to see what will happen. The new friendships I will make. The old bonds that can be re-kindled. The many adventures that await!

drinking Arabic tea in Dubai

Even as I get giddy with the adventures that await, it makes me reflect on the meaning of home. There are a lot of other factors that come in.

If home is a feeling, then home is where your heart is. And sometimes the heart is close to where your friends and cherished familiar places are. I have seen my friends (while living outside of Mauritius) through many stages of life – from the time they were single to now having kids! I have gone to their hen party, attended the wedding, enjoyed the baby shower games… and then babysat for them. These friends and familiar places, where you feel a sense of belonging, might be in that country which once felt so foreign and that you now call “home”. It’s confusing really. But think about it. And if you ever lived abroad, you’ll understand.

So leaving the familiar is never all that comfortable. And yet, isn’t outside of the comfort zone that the magic happens? I also believe there is a time and a season for everything. And my season of being abroad has come to an end. Well, at least for now, my nomadic heart hastens to add!

Having mixed feelings about going back “home”

Mauritius island, by the ocean
While I am happy about my decision to move back to my country of origin, I have mixed feelings about this.

Part of me is SO excited. I’ve missed the warm ocean and having a suntan without even trying. The smiling faces of locals, the tropical fruits, and delicious Mauritian cuisine.

And the other part of me is anxious. I don’t know how my life will be there. So much has changed! What if I feel completely lost? What if nobody wants to be my friend? With whom shall I have tea? What will happen to my work, will it still thrive?

Being a foreigner in my own country

Whenever I went back to visit in the past, I experienced reverse culture shock. I didn’t recognize the food brands, didn’t know many people, and felt alone. I felt foreign when people mentioned local famous people (I mean, who are these people?) or when I didn’t know the lyrics to a popular song. Popular because it’s been sung by all for the past three years! For me though, it was the first time I heard the song. There were new roads (literally), roads that I’ve never taken when I went to school. These roads didn’t make me feel at home, I had no idea where I am. What a strange feeling. And one that can make one feel isolated. I’m not supposed to be a foreigner in my  country of origin, and yet I somehow felt like one. So I will have to accept that the first few months settling back will be a bit confusing.

Once I’m there in Mauritius, I’ll be a local Mauritian woman, even if I will at first feel a bit foreign. I have an entire journal dedicated to the thoughts I’m going to be grappling with once I reach that stage. And I will also be checking in a lot with my tribe at I Am A Triangle. I’m so grateful I found this community. They get it and don’t think I’m crazy. (Even if I sometimes think I’m crazy!). Check this really detailed article about what being a triangle means written by Naomi Hathaway, the founder of this brilliant community. You can definitely join us here. (This is not sponsored – I feel like sharing).

life in Mauritius

How to feel like you belong again

What do you do then? How do you beat this loneliness and sense of not knowing where you belong? Or even how to belong?

You just breathe.

You breathe in slowly, and breathe out slowly.

And trust that you’ll be fine. You are after all, a sojourner on this planet. So it’s normal to not feel at home sometimes. It’s OK to re-learn how to be a local once again. I am grateful that I have this platform to express my thoughts.

So even though we might have different paths, I’m grateful that I get to share my nomadic adventures with you. Watch the space as I will share in my next blogposts how I deal with all this.

In the meantime, let me know if you’ve ever been through something similar. Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s get this conversation started!

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  • I remember after having lived in the US for 3 years, how it was such a scary decision to come home to South Africa. As you (and Candace) have said – Home had genuinely started to feel like my foreign country, and “home” felt scary and unfamiliar. My sister was getting married and I needed to come home, and my situation was such that I couldn’t return to the US.

    On returning to SA I had the weirdest sense of actually being home. The familiar sights and smells just felt right. I’ve had loads of times of truly feeling like a triangle, but it has ended up being completely the right decision!