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Expat Vs Traveler

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 :D

Expat in Indonesia on the beach of Gili Air, Lombok
That is what being an “expat in Indonesia” looked like. Relaxing on the beach in Gili Air

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? :D 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?

6 thoughts on “Expat Vs Traveler”

  1. That’s where the online income really helps out, but even then, I hear you about the whole “I live here, I’ll get to it tomorrow or next Sunday” aspect of being somewhere long-term.

    When we moved down here last month to Playa del Carmen, for example, it was an entire month before we even made it to the first beach, despite this being a beach town. We were just too busy doing “life”; work, getting settled in, etc.

    Then in Cancun, after three years on the ground, there were absolutely things we just kind of felt “meh” about in terms of seeing more than once because, well, we lived there. There’s only so many times you can go to X beach or Y restaurant or Z ruins before you’ve “been there, done that”

    Whereas with traveling it’s always fresh and exciting and you have that sense of urgency. Neither is right/wrong, but there’s certainly a difference between the two.
    T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted…Life on the Road – The Business of Travel BloggingMy Profile

    1. That’s true Tim, after being in the same place for a while, and if you’re lucky enough to see the landmarks of that place, it all comes down to just the social gatherings after that. For example in Egypt, I wouldn’t just wake up one day and go see the pyramids, I’ve been there, done that, more than enough times. However, if a friend is visiting me for the first time I’ll definitely take them there!

  2. Hi Mina,

    I’m Phebe and I helm a blog – The Travelling Squid. Was checking out your site – just wondering if you would like to exchange links? If so let me know, and I’ll add you right away.

    Here is a link to use for my blog – Please send me the one I should use on my blogroll. Be in touch soon!

    The Travelling Squid
    Phebe recently posted…A Kashmiri Photo Story (4) – Shalimar Bagh SrinagarMy Profile

    1. Hi Phebe, Thanks for your comment. I checked your blog and it looks interesting, will need to read more through it :) I’d definitely add you to my blogroll, no problem :)

  3. Yes, I hear you! I was an expat in Australia for 7 years and to be honest, hated it. I was in my native UK for a month over Christmas, as a “tourist” and did more and saw more than I would have done in a whole year were I still a resident. Now we are living in Guatemala, only for a month, but we’re hardly doing anything, we’re living a normal life. Expat, tourist, traveller, resident, they totally change your headset.
    Alyson recently posted…Attacked by Dogs in AntiguaMy Profile

    1. Alyson, you said the exact words I was looking for, it all comes down to your mindset while you’re traveling. And each word will change your headset and you’ll act accordingly. But seriously, you hated Australia?? That’s a new one! I’ve always wanted to visit Australia! Amazing landscape and interesting places as far as I know. Will have to decide myself :D

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