100 Days Back Home. | My Meena Life

100 Days Back Home.

I never thought I’d be so deeply dissatisfied after returning home.  I thought that transitioning from expat to repat would be difficult but overwhelmingly positive.  I was wrong.

Mr. Meena and I were gone from the United States for 13 continuous months.  As we neared the end of our time in Germany I was rather desperate to be reacquainted with my family, certain luxuries from home, and my native language (not that I was ever successful at learning German beyond ordering coffee).

Yet, just 100 days after eagerly stepping onto US terra firma, I’m starting to wonder why I was so ready to leave Germany after all.

 

Enjoying the town of Rothenberg ob der Tauber. | 100 Days Back Home.

 

The first month back home was a whirlwind of change.  We made rapid fire decisions and tried to keep up as life accelerated and outpaced us.  We missed the quiet Sundays in Germany when the city slept and families focused on spending time together.

After staying in temporary housing provided by Mr. Meena’s company, we upgraded to a two bedroom apartment just minutes from his job.  We happily signed a 15 month lease – an exciting landmark for us as we’d never actually signed a lease together despite being married for almost three years.  We purchased our first piece of real furniture – a bed – and looked forward to settling into a home that we got to choose for ourselves.  I hardly knew what to do with all the space after living in a hotel for the past year.

 

The view from our apartment. | 100 Days Back Home.

 

For a time I got lost in the process of unpacking boxes.  I alternated between exclaiming my love for various possessions that I had dearly missed and questioning why we even owned others.  One evening, as I was engrossed in a decision about which bar stools would match the floor, I suddenly felt intense frustration that I wasn’t instead planning another trip in Europe.

The novelty of having a place to call our own had worn off unnervingly fast.  I suddenly felt suffocated by the way we had planted ourselves in one spot.  The thought of staying in one place for several years, as we’d been planning to do, was distressing in a way it never was before.

We wanted our life of travel back.   We missed our easy weekend trips into other countries and having so much cultural history at our doorstep.  But without our travel allowance and those 30 wonderful German vacation days, traveling didn’t come easy.  Nonetheless, we tried our best to fill the past 100 days with as much travel as we could, thinking surely that would alleviate our endless desire for traveling to new places (fellow travelers already know that was a foolish thought).

We took weekend hiking trips, a coaster trip, an anniversary trip, and even a glamping trip.  We went with family to see the iconic Christmas Town USA and spent an entire week visiting Mr. Meena’s grandparents in Florida.

 

Our US travels since returning home. | 100 Days Back Home.

 

Of course, our travels haven’t satisfied our desire to keep traveling; if anything, they’ve only increased our Fernweh.  We continue to dream of exploring the Rocky Mountains, relaxing on the beaches of Mexico, and riding new coasters out west.   I’ve consistently bombarded Mr. Meena with my interminable desire to move to Sweden someday, hoping the chatter would serve as a release valve for all the pressure that was building up in my system.  I waited for the intense desire to just go somewhere to fade.

It hasn’t.

Over the past 100 days I’ve been inundated by strongly conflicting emotions, which has been an exhausting and confusing experience.  When we first came home I was eager to build a home and start a family.  In fact, I could hardly think of anything else.  Perhaps I was convinced, after feeling so constricted by living in a hotel, that owning a house was the freedom I needed to be happier.  As we drove around looking for plots of land I realized I felt differently.  The more we looked and planned for a house the less we both wanted one.  The idea that seemed freeing at first was looking more like a way to be tied down.  It would put locks on our money and time, making it increasingly difficult to travel.

 

Mr. Meena at Indian Creek Falls in the GSMNP. | 100 Days Back Home.

 

Of course, there are many wonderful things about finally being back home.  I’m happy to have air conditioning, a dishwasher, and copious amounts of peanut butter.  Most of the time I’m happy to drive again.  I finally get to make my own choices about my internet provider and prevent people from barging in while I’m showering.

In some ways it feels like we have been home for a year, as our routines and habits slip back on like well-worn clothing.  Other times it feels like we’ve only been here a week or two.  Loose items, without a designated spot to call home, still litter our floor space.  We talk about how much we miss Bratwurst and Brötchen and driving fast on the Autobahn.  Our time in Germany shows up in little ways too, like how Mr. Meena says “sure” and sometimes tries to cut in line at the grocery store.

 

Drei im Weckla (Nürnberger Bratwurst). | 100 Days Back Home.

Church in Nürnberg, Germany. | 100 Days Back Home.

 

Three big holidays have already passed since we’ve moved back.  They showed up quickly and flew past with record speed as we struggled to keep up.  We purchased the last turkey available on the day before Thanksgiving, ran out of gift ideas as Christmas approached, and failed to stay awake to kiss at midnight on New Year’s.  There have been weekends where it felt like we barely had time to come up for air between making the rounds to see our family and running too many errands.  We have at times felt completely spoiled and completely exasperated to have so much of our family nearby after living so far from them.  While we’re glad to have our family, we also miss the free time we had in the absence of family obligations.

We have had some leisure time, however, and have spent a few afternoons relaxing from the weight of our world.

 

Enjoying the hot tub. | 100 Days Back Home.

Palm tree pool view. | 100 Days Back Home.

 

The chance to live in Germany was the gift of our lifetime.  It changed our lives profoundly and I’m sure every expat faces similar difficulties upon returning home.  But the difficultly of leaving certainly took me by surprise.  All the conveniences of America can’t replace the quality of life we enjoyed in Germany.  Our lives now seem too expedient, too rushed, too full of work and not enough rest.

As much as we desperately want to continue to travel, we really need to stay put for a while.  It’s not easy to slow down and stay home, but we need to focus on clarifying our hopes and aspirations – as Germany has undoubtedly changed them.  Being expats was a bewildering stage of life because living abroad changed nearly all our preferences and changed a huge part of who we are.  So we need to refine what exactly we want from this stage of our lives.

One of the best ways for us to do that is to get rid of our excess stuff.  Not only will this give us more room and space to think, but after moving across the ocean and back with just a small portion of our belongings we’re convinced that we never really needed the rest of it in the first place.  It’s also the best way for us to prepare for a life of travel without actually traveling (or making rash decisions).

Embracing minimalism is also important because my chronic illnesses have taken over even more of our lives since returning home.  My health issues make it difficult to us to get everything done and we certainly aren’t prepared for a life that’s filled with too much stuff.

So this is our year to discard.

 

Crafting your life. | becoming minimalist

source: becoming minimalist

 

We’ve done it all in the past 100 days – successfully becoming repats, finding a place to live (for now), and continuing to travel more than we probably should.  Coming home was an exhausting journey, but the opportunity to be expats provided greater clarity for us than any other singular event or experience.  I hope that it’s something we get to do again.


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100 Days Back Home. | My Meena Life

 

Thanks to Meghan from Submerged Oaks for the 100 days back home post inspiration (see her post here).

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12 thoughts on “100 Days Back Home.

  1. Although I've never been an expat (or repat), much of what you said resonates with me as I have always felt the pull to travel and be abroad. It really is a strong conflict of emotion to want the conveniences of your home culture while longing for all the best things about a culture you enjoyed, like Germany's. I certainly wish the maternity leave situations in the U.S. were more favorable as compared to the rest of the world, and yet the independent American in me resists the idea of a government imposing more laws and regulations on employers. I wish more incentives were given to employers that our culture could them become more efficient. I would be much more efficient during my 8 working hours at the office if I knew that I would not be bothered on nights or weekends with emails or that I would get more than a certain number of days off per year for vacation or sick leave.

    Anyway, I don't want to start ranting (ha!), but even with the limited experience of just traveling frequently to German to live with family and friends while vacationing, I can imagine the frustration and conflicting emotions is compounded by actually living there fully.

    At this point, I'd settle for transatlantic flights becoming more affordable! 😉

    1. I’m happy – and sad – to hear that my post resonates with you. To be completely fair, I found tons of things in Germany to be unhappy about… so it’s not like I’m missing something that might be a better situation for me, overall (although I am still convinced we’ll move back to Europe someday – just not Germany). And I’m sure that having family in Germany would make the situation even more complicated, in your case.

      But anyway, we’ll just have to weather our hopes for more travel and cheaper flights together!

  2. What a poignant and well-written post, Ava! I feel like the longer I live in Germany, the harder it will ever be to return to the US. In fact, each time I go back for a visit, the reserve culture shock gets more and more intense. Plus, the quality of life here is something I just can't see myself trading for anything back in the States at the moment. I understand how you feel.

    1. Thanks so much, Danny. I certainly feel like we are having to fight a battle here to get any improved quality of life – particularly with the vacation day situation at the moment (I can't even talk about it at home these days because it makes me so mad).

      In our situation, we didn't really have a choice about the time frame of leaving Germany, but I think in a more independent situation like yours then you'd have to be absolutely sure you were ready to come back. And I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't return – you typically seem very happy to be where you are!

    2. I feel the same way, Danny. There are factors of quality of life in Germany that I'm becoming less willing to give up by the day. Each time I've gone back to the US to visit family it's felt more and more strange to be there and I find fewer things that I feel a connection to (other than people). It's time for me to start thinking about booking my next trip back and I just viscerally don't want to. I would much rather my family came to visit me, which is partially fueled by a complete lack of desire to be in the US and partially by the stubborn part of me that thinks it's everyone else's turn to make an effort to see me. I know I'm the one who left, but always being the one to make the long and expensive trip is starting to wear me down.

  3. I'm sorry to hear that you have struggled with the transition back to "normal" life. I can only imagine what that would be like, especially since if I left Germany at this point it would be kicking and screaming. I don't have any good advice since I haven't been in your situation, but all I can say is I hope you find your feet again soon and are able to make a life you are happy with.

    Danielle / solongusa.blogspot.com

    1. Thank you, Danielle. I think that I could be happier in another region of the US (and certainly if my husband had more vacation time). Living abroad has dramatically increased my desire to live in new places. I'll probably always miss Germany, but I wasn't nearly as attached as you are. I hope you don't have to leave – especially as long as you're so happy there! 🙂

  4. Going home is tough, something I have not contemplated in 28 years , I would rather be anywhere else but my home country

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