Welcome to Day 16 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

There are multiple realities for the expat that fall under the “takes some getting used to” category.  The lifestyle of living abroad requires much more adjustment than just cross-cultural transition.  There are dozens of aspects that have nothing to do with the differences between “my” culture and “their” culture but actually take up significant space  For example:

  • Life in community.
  • Constant goodbyes.
  • Navigating time zones for communication.
  • Frequent travel.
  • Raising third culture children.
  • Homeland visits.
    • Dealing with frustrating comments from friends and family (bet you’re glad to be back)
    • Learning to tell our stories.
    • Learning that not everyone wants to hear our stories.
  • Packing bags to EXACTLY the maximum weight limit.

This list goes on for miles . . . or kilometers . . . either way.

Here’s one though, that there seems to be very little information on . . . Life in Limbo.

Limbo is very much a reality for people who do transition a lot.  By nature, transition is moving and changing from one place to another, one existence to another and one reality to another.  As we make preparations for those shifts we tend to focus our attention on one or the other.  We round out our current reality and start preparing for the next.

Meanwhile we feel stuck . . . In between . . .  unable to fully connect anywhere.

It happens when we are preparing to move abroad.  It happens again when we move from that location to another, whether it be back “home” or on to something else.  On a smaller scale it happens during high transition points during the year, like the Expat Exodus.

Here’s the thing — Typical expats transition a lot.  Limbo times may suck up six months each time (3 months before leaving and 3 month after).  So let’s do the math.  If you transition 6 times in 20 years (not a ridiculous thought) you will spend 3 threes in limbo (expat purgatory?).

Here are some of my initial thoughts on how to deal with life in Limbo.

  •  Make Limbo a Destination:  Don’t just let the in between times be the residue between two times that matter.
    • Name this time (something besides “Limbo”)
    • “That time we . . . “
  • Ask the right questions:
    • What can I accomplish during this time?
    • What can I do now that I never have the time for apart from limbo?
    • What relationships can I focus on?
    • What are my goals?
  • Zoom out
    • Look at the timeline
    • What is significant about this time?
  • Do what you can
    • Send out your CV (resume)
    • Learn about where your going etc.
  • Don’t do what you can’t
    • Don’t waste time worrying about what you can’t control.
    • Don’t focus on scenarios that aren’t going to happen.
  • Hang pictures on the wall
    • Settle in — even if you’re only there for three months
    • Have some things that travel with you are remind you that you are solid.
  • Maintain your routines
    • Hold on to family night
    • Date night
    • Morning and bedtime routines
    • Don’t let your disciplines get washed out in the chaos.
  • Keep Learning 
    • Don’t let your brain settle
    • Learn something local
  • Live the memory.
    • Don’t let limbo get washed out.
    • Live so you will be saying, “Remember that time . . . ”  for years to come.
    • Do a project
    • Take a trip

And those are my 500 words.

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