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10 Essential Expatriate Travel Skills

I recently met a woman who heard I have lived in the Horn of Africa for sixteen years WITHOUT AMAZON PRIME. She figured that was probably the hardest thing about those sixteen years. If she only knew…

Being sans immediate doorstep delivery of all the things does not constitute suffering in my worldview. That said, it does make expatriate life a bit more challenging and requires a bit more creativity. There are some important skills to develop. When prodigious amounts of travel are required to see your children, attend a wedding or funeral, pick up your life-saving medications, purchase new running shoes, or simply get a break in an English-speaking country, there are some important skills to develop. When navigating two worlds, there are some important skills to develop.

If you already live abroad, you know of what I speak. If you don’t, but are planning to move, here’s some skills to start developing now.

travel skills

  1. Packing the right amount of peanut butter. How long will you be away from peanut butter? How many children do you have? How lazy are you when it comes to dinner (if you’re anything like me, the answer is: very)? If you’re packing a load of this liquid gold, here’s an easy link to order it. Via Amazon. Because why not just buy the 80 ouncer?
  2. Knowing exactly what 50.0 pounds feels like. Airline staff will be impressed and you won’t have to literally spread your underwear all over the airport floor in front of everyone, re-shuffling.
  3. Accurately guessing what style and size shoes your toddler/tween/teenager will wear eighteen months from now.
  4. Purchasing the right running shoes to get through the next 2,500 miles. My go-to’s lately are Brooks Ghost and Altra trail shoes, nice and wide for my toes, and great for off-road.
  5. Sitting nearly upright for fifteen hours at a time without losing your mind.
  6. Walking off those fifteen hours in preparation for another 8-10 before doing it again, while in a cramped airport lugging carry-ons, purses, computer bags, backpacks, diaper bags, strollers, and 1-3 zombie children.
  7. Filling out visa and immigration paperwork with one hand, the paper balanced on soft-sided luggage which is balanced on top of your thigh which is leaning against the metal bars that hold up those red ropes, so that you can stand in line while filling it out instead of getting stuck at the back of a group of not-from-around-here tourists, while hollering at your children and passing out Cheerios, while holding your pee and ordering everyone else in the family to hold their pee because you are NOT going to the back of the line.
  8. Peeing from any level of squat regardless of the availability of toilet paper or hand sanitizer or bathroom stall doors or bathrooms.
  9. Calling two countries home.
  10. Knowing that ‘home’ has multiple meanings.

What have been some of your essential skills?

*image via Flickr

*contains affiliate links to things you can order on AMAZON PRIME!

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Creative Travel

Quick link: 7 Travel Options for Airplane-Weary Expatriates

Over at A Life Overseas today, as we head into a season of peak expat travel. Some of us are so.stinking.tired of airplanes. Some of us love them, but the cramped quarters, the sheep-herding mentality, the long immigration lines, the getting yanked from your seat and bloodied, the stress of no Kindles or computers in the cabin, the fear of what if they are in the cabin…it is getting to be a bit much.

We need relief! Thankfully, there are several better options for travel. Here are a few:

Run Fast (1 Kings 18: 45-46)

Tuck your skirt or man-skirt up into your belt and run like mad. You might outrun chariots and you might outrun a thunderstorm. Your swag might be a death threat from a queen. No worries, run on!

Fish Cargo (Jonah)

Get swallowed by a fish, nearly digested, and spit up on the land of your choosing. Er, no. The land you absolutely did not choose. But, there you are, undigested, make the most of it.

Click here to read the rest of your new (old) travel options: 7 Travel Options for Airplane-Weary Expatriates

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How Do Long-Term Expats Stay Well?

Quick Link: 8 Ways for Expats Who Stay to Stay Well

Other expatriates come and go and come and go and we just keep on staying. By choice, by necessity, because of our bosses or because of our dreams or because of our desires…some expats stay and stay. This is both good and hard, like pretty much everything in life. So how can we do it well, make the most of a long-term stint in a foreign country?

Stay Well

How can stayers stay well?

Love the ones you’re with. Most likely, you are not the only long-term stayer where you live. You might not have a lot of options and the people around you might not be people you’d naturally gravitate toward in another situation. Fine. Love them well anyway. Think of them like family, people you are committed to through thick and thin. People who remember your kids when they were in diapers, families with children you have loved from preschool until university. These long-term relationships are invaluable. We need people to reminisce with, to hold shared memories with, people who know us well enough that they can call out our weaknesses and recognize our strengths.

Keep exploring. Keep learning. You’ve been here a long time, you actually know things now, not like you ‘knew’ things when you first arrived. But don’t let that stymy your learning. There is always a new restaurant, a new vocabulary word, a new campsite, a new experience. Stay curious, stay engaged. Go deep.

Click here to read the rest: 8 Ways for Expats Who Stay to Stay Well, there are some hard-earned tips in here. Things I’ve picked over 12 years of staying in one country, after 1 year of blasting through four.

Dad’s Gone? Time to Break the Rules

Quick link: We Break All the Rules When My Husband Is Out of Town

Today I’m at Babble, writing about survival when Tom travels. It is, of course, a lot easier now that our kids are big and independent and can even be left alone but in the days when they were little? It was hard. One tip that I forgot to include: If you have young boys and girls who love to wrestle or fight (like us), hang up a punching bag. Ours was right in the middle of the living room and it was fantastic, well worth the aesthetic sacrifice.

Dad Gone? Break the Rules.

My husband travels often and he goes to, um, interesting places. We live in Djibouti, and he is a professor and director of our development organization who consults on various projects. He has stayed in a hotel in Jordan two days after it was bombed, figuring lightning wouldn’t strike twice in the same place (plus he got an obscenely low price … for obvious reasons.)

He once called to tell me that upon takeoff to Somalia the engine of the plane he was on caught fire … but that now the fire was out and they were taking off again. Phew. I can’t worry the whole time he is gone, I have three kids so I have to keep functioning!

So, how does a mom stay healthy, maintain her sanity, and not worry while dad travels?

Click here to read the rest of We Break All the Rules When My Husband Is Out of Town

Make the Most of a Once-in-a-lifetime Ride in Business Class

Quick link: One Mom’s Guide to Faking It ‘Til You Make It in Business Class

Remember that five day flight fiasco that got me back to Djibouti this fall? After I dropped the twins off in Kenya, I boarded the final leg of my journey completely exhausted and pretty emotionally drained (it never gets easier to leave them at school). But I did receive the gift of a seat in business class on that last flight. The ticket was guaranteed instead of stand-by and it was much cheaper than a coach class ticket. Don’t ask me why, I just bought it and got myself home. Finally.

busines class

As we walked through the Nairobi airport before I dropped the kids at school, Henry said, “Well, at least we’ve got a good story to tell.” And what did I do? I told that story. And I wrote about it again for Babble. Here are some of the fun things I learned about how to enjoy business class. Like revealing your newbie status by photographing the food.

I stood in the business class check-in line and felt like an impostor, like the business class police would yank me out of line and send me to the back of the long, snaking, coach class line. When no one came to put me back in my proper place I decided to make the most of this adventure.

Here’s what I learned …

Use the transit lounge.

Use the bathroom, the wi-fi, the comfy chairs. Eat the free food, take up space, pretend you are rich.

Board early.

In Kenya everyone boards early anyway, no sense pretending you didn’t hear that only first class and business class passengers were supposed to board and no sense playing martyr and waiting until the very end and losing your overhead luggage compartment and your spot under the seat in front of you and possibly your actual seat. Board early with confidence, you belong here in the front.

To read the rest of my fun tips click here: One Mom’s Guide to Faking It ‘Til You Make It in Business Class

*image via Wikipedia

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