Although it’s been more than four years living as an expat, which is nothing compare to my partner who has been doing it almost all his adult life, I think I have done what most expat done. Moving from one country to another.
I started with a suitcase and a rucksack when I left Jakarta first time, and this was like a one-way ticket. I don’t have home to go to, all my personal belonging in Jakarta was packed and stored in my mother’s storeroom, I rent out my property. Thus all my photo albums, book collections, less important documents, nic-nacs and other stuff, I had to put in the storage, and I may or may not need that when I come back, but I could never know when will that be. The reality is, whenever I visited my Mom, I never need all those stuff.
Within those periods, I moved house several times within one country; I also moved countries, without going home and touch base – to be honest it is a big question for me, where is my “base” anyway? – How big is my “crud” now? I’ve got three big suitcases, 5 boxes of books and other cruds, iMac, instead of laptop computer, a big bag of cameras and it’s lenses instead of one small pocket camera, a few furniture like a very big desk and it’s working chair. On top of that, I also has a travel partner with his belongings instead of traveling solo like 4 years ago.
My style of traveling might be different from other expat. Some expat who travels with their family maybe travel differently, they travel with family, with bigger bulk of suitcase, with lots of cruds like kids toys etc. But, they don’t move around between countries. They just stay in one country and maintain their home in their home country as their homebase. Their reasoning was mostly because of the kid’s education. Once their kid’s in school, they become less flexible in moving countries.
I have to agree, with the economic situation today, I have to be more flexible in moving around and follow where the job is. Of course I have the advantage than those with family, has less headache in moving from country to country, and less baggage too. Which means that I have to reduce my cruds. Yes, I have reduce a lot of my cruds, like the desk, I had to give that away to somebody.
Keith, my partner with whom I travel with once said, “expat travels light….” But, how light…? Which expat? Those with family were as expat as us, couples, as well as those bachelors.
A friend of us, John Higgins was maybe the real example. He has been an expat almost his career life. A divorcé who travels alone, has no family to go home to, he moved around the world chasing after jobs, he is there wherever the job is and he is ready wherever the headhunter called him. He has been to the Caribbean Countries, as well as Cyprus, Hong Kong, Russia, the middle of Ghanaian’s jungle and even in the middle of Iraq war. Almost every year or at least every other year he moved countries, he is really a very well traveled gentleman.
The best bit of being John Higgins maybe is that his flexibility of moving around become the favour of a lot of headhunter, as almost always he is ready to move on. Which also made him very easy to get a job as he would take any job, even though that job would be very risky, like in Afghanistan.
What about his personal belonging? Well, he is only traveling with one suitcase, and a briefcase, no more no less. In between? He never bought things, he never do any shopping, he doesn’t have hobbies as well, like photography or golf or other sport that add extra luggage, and never kept any memorabilia and other crap that we used to collect whenever we went to. Any trouble with his job, such an unexpected termination from the office, or being kicked out from the country, he could just pack his back in a minutes and he’s out of the country. The sad thing is when it comes to holidays, he doesn’t know what to do, when and where to go and who he has to spend his holiday with….
To be honest, this is really a practical lifestyle, traveling light, very flexible and “portable”, no attachment to anything or anybody. But do one wants to live this boring and sad like this? I don’t think I could do that; to me, that was a sad and lonely lifestyle….