By definition, an expat (or expatriate) is different than a traveler. An expat is someone who actually lives in a foreign country while the traveler is just traveling; “continuously moving”, or even just visiting.
But this is just the dictionary definition of the word. Trying to live both lives is a totally different thing. I often thought they are quite similar, if I am traveling then I am exploring new places, new cultures, meeting new people whether the locals or other travelers or expats living in that place, trying a new cuisine and so on; and if I was an expat somewhere I thought I would be doing the same, except that my base will be a different country, other than home. What I missed here is that I mixed up the two definitions. An expat is someone who is NOT traveling, he is LIVING in another country.
And due to this mix up, I was excited to come to England for a one year postgraduate program. I thought it will be a good chance to live in England, see a new place, and definitely travel around England and slowly explore the whole country. I thought this is a better idea than just traveling through the UK, even for a whole month I won’t see as much as I will if I lived here for a whole year.
I was wrong!
I’ve been here for almost 6 months, and even though in the beginning I was trying my best to live up to my plans, every now and then taking a day trip somewhere, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow; and even for New Year taking a 5 day trip in Scotland. But as time passes, money decreases, and work load increases, and now I can’t do this anymore. Since that New Year vacation I haven’t left Sunderland at all. Being an expat is hard work!
Besides, living and traveling are two totally different things. The excitement dies if you know you are living here for an extended period of time, even if you are in the most exciting city of all. Basically because you will have to go to work, or to school, or to both as it is the case with me. The other day I couldn’t believe I have never been to the beach in Sunderland!! 6 months without seeing most of the “things to see” in Sunderland! Why? Because I know I am “living” here…I always have the “I’ll do it next week” or “I’ll do it on a sunnier day” excuse.
What misled me was my time in Indonesia. By definition, I was an expat in Indonesia, I was an intern there who had a full time job 5 days a week. Yet I was having a blast! Every weekend I was somewhere new, or the least was going to Malang where I’d meet up with other interns and hang out or go to one of the beaches near Malang! I thought this is how expats live! If I went anywhere I’d do the same! But apparently, in Indonesia because I knew I was here for just a short period of time, and because I was surrounded by other interns (expats) who had the same feeling, we encouraged each other on going to new places. Also don’t forget the money factor, Indonesia is much much cheaper than the UK
What I did not notice back then was the actual expats whom we knew in Indonesia, like our internship coordinators who lived in Indonesia. They rarely came with us on these weekend trips. They’ve either already been there, or were not interested or feeling lazy or making up any other excuse. I thought it’s just them, but now I understand its what being an expat is. You keep promising yourself you’ll do it later.
Of course, there are expats who are living their dream of exploring all the time, like Tim from Marginal Boundaries, but I guess not all people are as lucky, especially if they expatriated for a certain job or for school. (notice how I used the word expatriated? I am so proud! Live and learn new vocabulary :P)
To end this, I am not regretting being here in England, in fact I am sort of enjoying it. But at the same time I know I would have been having a lot more fun if I was being a traveler not an expat! I need to move!
What about you? Are you an expat? How do you enjoy this life style? Or if you’re not, would you rather be an expat or a traveler?