There comes a point (or several) in every expat’s life abroad where you start to wonder: “Should I move back to my home country?”
What I’ve seen is that expats typically fall into two camps as to why this question comes up at all.
Either you always feel like there is something missing from you life abroad, you want more ease, or you simply hate missing out on all the celebrations and family gatherings back home.
What’s more, expats most often reach out to me with these concerns right around a meaningful event (whether good or bad) or right after a trip back home. This is only natural because those are two key times when homesickness is typically at its peak.
That said, there is a right and a wrong way to go about sorting through your thoughts and feelings when you’re homesick and wondering whether you should move back home. For one, it’s never wise to make a long-lasting decision based on a feeling that will pass.
But keep reading to find out what are the 3 most common mistakes expats make trying to find clarity on whether to stay or move back home.
Mistake #1 – You Don’t know enough about what you want
I’ve lost count of the number of times my clients have struggled to tell me what it is that they want for their life in the short or long-term.
All they know is what they DON’T want – and there’s typically a long list of those things.
But I get it.
Of course you’d want to eliminate all the negatives and only enjoy the good stuff in life. That’s what we all want.
But you don’t need me to tell you that there will always be negatives involved in every choice we make.
Which is why it’s much more important to ask yourself: “Well, what is it that I want to see/experience/do instead then?” and let that be your guiding post in life.
When you’re able to identify the things, activities, places and people that bring the most joy, fulfilment and happiness into your life – AND you spend the majority of your time on those things – that’s when the inevitable negatives lose most of their power over you. You’re just too busy enjoying the good stuff.
So before you ask yourself whether you should move back to your home country, get very clear on the kind of life you want to live and only then ask yourself whether your home country could provide that kind of life for you.
Mistake #2 – You FOcus on superficial things
The next mistake I see expats make is not knowing how to order their needs and desires in the right order of priority. Superficial things (from my clients’ perspective) that, at the end of the day, won’t mean much somehow end up much higher on the list than big ticket, core value needs.
For instance, I distinctly remember convincing myself that not being able to commute with a bike in Estonia in the same way that I had gotten used to in Denmark was somehow a major dealbreaker. Meanwhile, I had much better career opportunities in Estonia compared to Denmark…
That said, it’s perfectly okay to not want to give up anything good, even if that something isn’t absolutely vital for a fulfilling life.
Mentally, it can be very difficult to imagine sacrificing the good things about your life abroad by moving back to a place that doesn’t have those perks.
To get over this hurdle, make a list of all the good things you’d gain by moving back home and the good things you enjoy in your life abroad. Once you’ve done that, compare the weight of the good things in those two countries and see which one comes out on top.
It’s a powerful exercise in shifting your focus to what you’d gain by moving back home rather than focusing on all the things you’d be giving up.
Of course, some good things are harder to give up than others. That’s when it’s important to see what kind of alternative options could come close enough in their home country.
My experience has shown that there’s always a solution when you’re set on finding it. Don’t go looking for more obstacles.
Mistake #3 – You keep worrying rather than taking action
Perhaps the most difficult place to end up in is a state of constant worry and anxiety, which is the third mistake I see expats make when they’re trying to understand whether they should move back to their home country.
For instance, you don’t see yourself living in your expat country in the long-term but you’re also terrified of starting from scratch back home.
You worry about raising or having kids in your expat country without support from family and friends but you don’t want to deal with the negative stuff you know you left behind in your home country.
You’re tired of the uncertainty of where you will be next year or in a few years’ time, but you don’t actively start looking into your options either.
In short, one can get very comfortable in going around in circles because it’s less scary than taking a step into the unknown and dealing with change.
Of course, sometimes you’re just not ready to make a big change.
That said, it’s important to be honest with yourself whether you’re just avoiding making a change and making yourself miserable through constant mental chatter and inaction instead.
If you’re struggling to find clarity on whether moving back home is the right move for you then check out my coaching services. Let’s untangle that knot of issues making you feel stuck so you can move forward with confidence instead.
Katherine is a retired world traveller and former serial expat of 15 years. Based on her professional and personal experience as well as PhD research, she now helps expats, travellers and location independents decide whether to stay or go, whether to move back home or where to settle down.