I love being an expat for a litany of reasons. Not least of which is my ability to be a perpetual tourist. Expats are the best tourists and the most vocal proponents (or opponents, as the case may vary) of their new homes.
Expats have more time to devote to discovery than a typical tourist. And they also have a more inspired interest than a typical local.
We expats explore and share our new homes with abandon.
Notes From a Serial Expat
Being a serial expat allows me to delve into a new place time and time again.
I love the beginning stages of living in a new place. The wide-eyed wandering, the confusing daily dealings, the endless planning and scheming to see and do everything!
If you’ve never moved to another country, imagine taking an extended vacation inside an enormous museum.
It’s like a children’s museum, though: you can touch everything and explore and play and learn at every corner!
Being an expat evokes that childlike curiosity and sense of adventure.
As expats explore their new homes, they often want to share what they learn with friends and family back home.
Through social media, we create a visual storyline of life in a new locale.
With excitement, we share what may seem mundane to locals.
With insider knowledge, we share what most tourists overlook.
Check out My Expat Timeline to see where I’ve lived (so far)
The Expat Experience
As a newcomer to the area, expats see everything with fresh eyes.
Since we don’t know the social history of a place nor the connotations it may hold for locals, we don’t hold any grudges or preconceived notions.
We venture into each new day and make judgments based on our personal interactions and experiences.
These daily learning experiences establish our own perceptions of a place. However, that’s where the tourist leaves and the expat stays.
The expat makes connections with locals, who will then share their own perceptions based on a larger historical and social context.
Those locals will add to the expat’s initial perception to create a new level of understanding in place and time.
Tourists vs Locals
A tourist sees only a fragment of a place within a specific moment in time.
Of course, tourists can learn a great deal! And it is only through exploring new places that we continue to grow and evolve.
But a tourist simply does not have the time to study a new place in-depth.
Tourists take an introductory course covering the outline of the area. But an expat delves deeply into the sub-categories and detailed lessons of the same place.
Locals, on the other hand, assume that they know everything through osmosis. Merely by being from an area, a local is very familiar with its sights, sounds, tastes, and very essence.
But – honestly – how often do you walk around your hometown and truly marvel at every turn?
By necessity, locals have to get through daily routines and cannot stop to gaze at their home in admiration.
By necessity, locals often ignore the very reasons why tourists visit their homes. But most expats only reach that stage after years of childlike wonder – some never even reach it at all.
Being an Expat in Roatan
I speak from experience. Living on the Caribbean island of Roatan, we marvelled daily at the breathtaking ocean vistas and mesmerizing sunsets.
We regularly stopped mid-conversation to watch the hummingbirds or the guatusas or the iguanas. We never tired of the natural beauty of this island home.
Our local friends, however, never tired of teasing us for staring at the sunset day after day, seemingly blinding ourselves.
They never tired of teasing us about our childlike curiosity.
Those views had been there since day one for them – their appreciation had waned over time through necessity.
Being an Expat in Scotland
I also speak from current experience.
Living in the magical city of Edinburgh (seriously, JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter here, so obviously there’s magic!), it amazes me to watch locals walk past the castle without even a glance in its direction.
Humans have lived on that rock since at least the 2nd-century AD.
There has been a royal castle on that rock since the 12th century.
It is a massive castle on top of an extinct volcano in the middle of a capital city. You can spot it from innumerable locations around town.
Yet, people walk by as if it’s just another office building.
They forget how truly remarkable the sight is, despite having to constantly deal with tourists suddenly stopping to take photos.
Expats may eventually stop taking photos at every turn (I’m clearly not there yet). But we never cease to be amazed at the beauty and significance of such a daily sight.
Get more insights into how to move to Scotland
Expats are the Best Tourists
Yes, expats are the best tourists.
We see more, do more, learn more, and understand more than tourists.
We also marvel more, appreciate more, and are more inspired than locals.
Through that happy medium, we become the best advocates for our new homes. We share their beauty with friends and family back home and encourage people to visit.
Many of us share our explorations with an even larger audience. We help tourists to go beyond the guidebook and help other potential expats with their moves.
Expats are the best tourists and the best advocates for our adopted homes, wherever those homes may be.
Being an expat is an exceptional experience…it’s one that I am incredibly grateful to have and to share.
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