The past week has been a roller-coaster of emotions and it’s taken me a while to write this blog as the topic so close to my heart, however I realised I am not the first person to be in this position and I definitely won’t be the last. For this reason I share this and hope it helps other expats who face the same dilemma.
There are so many things expats go through when living away from home – especially in regards to leaving their loved ones behind. The only thing that generally keeps us going is the fact that we get to plan our annual trips back to see everyone and spend that much needed quality time with them.
What about when something happens? What about those unexpected situations that you never imagine happening? This is possibly the worst thing I think any expat can experience…. Welcome the my world for the past week.
Unfortunately last Sunday I received that dreaded call every expat hates to think about – my dad had suffered a mild heart attack. To say this was a shock to my system is an understatement. I wasn’t quite sure how to process it – I didn’t know what I should do.
Just as luck would have it the unit where my dad was admitted, had NO mobile network whatsoever – I felt so uneasy not knowing what’s going on or what’s happening. I had all these questions in my head and as the sick feeling in my stomach grew, I did what any sane human does – I began rationalising it – ‘No I’m sure he’s fine I bet he was just anxious and it got out of hand.. Yeah that’s it it was just a panic attack. He’s fine I’m sure!’
The longer we didn’t hear anything, the more I started questioning why we moved to Dubai. I started thinking whether living so far away was worth it – I mean I couldn’t jump on a plane and go to London with no information, but at the same time sitting at home not understanding what was happening or not knowing how my dad is was driving me crazy! It’s different when you live in the same country – you’re more likely to be able to drop what you’re doing and travel to the hospital, rather than having to book a plane and fly 7 hours on a plane where you have absolutely no contact with family.
The next few days were filled with anxiety, and it was so difficult being in Dubai trying to cope – our friends and family were trying their best to console us through whatsapp and video calls, but in situations like this no amount of words really make you feel better – you need to be around loved ones. Even if you sit together in silence it is better than making small talk on the phone, when in reality our minds are focused on dad. But living 7 hours away from home means, as much as these phone-calls and messages can be an annoyance, you hold on to them because that’s all you have. You grab any opportunity to connect with people back home in the hope they can tell you what’s happening.
Thankfully dad is now home recovering from his Angioplasty (surgical repair of coronary artery) but I am still left with this uneasy feeling of whether life away from loved ones is actually worth it. The other part of me thinks life is so short to stay in one place – even if I lived in London, there’s no guarantee that I will be there to help them at all times – it’s just life!
Having spoken to other expats, especially Expat Panda (thanks hun!), I’ve realised there are so many things that can come up in life and would I really be living life if I left our travel dreams and went back to life in London? My parents have given us so much and they’ve helped us get to where we are now so wouldn’t I be putting their efforts to waste by going back home? Ultimately I’m working towards building a better life for them so that when they retire they have a holiday home to live!
So my advice to other expats out there who struggle with having loved ones back home – remember life is so unpredictable, which means even if you were in the same city or country, there is no guarantee that you will be there for them every time they need you. Also our loved ones would never want to be the reason we didn’t live our life and continue our travel dreams – it probably gives them a lot of happiness to see us happy! They definitely do not begrudge us living the expat life, so we shouldn’t either!
Make the most of those annual visits back home – I know I will!