Welcome to Relocation Recap, a regular feature on the Health & Wellness Revolution blog – sharing the relocation experiences of people from across the world.
Feeling alone is a common challenge of relocation.
This interview series aims to shines light on the many ways you can feel more connected, inspired and capable when moving from your comfort zone to somewhere new and unfamiliar.
You may well read about someone who faced similar challenges to your own, and surmounted them. As you can too.
If you, or anyone you know, would like to be featured in this interview series, please contact Kylie here.
Welcome Claudia, thank you for joining us!
Where do you live now, and where have you lived?
I am presently living in Jakarta, Indonesia, but I have a long story of relocations behind me.
Back in ’89 I joined my husband who was working for the International Red Cross in the Sudan, and that was the beginning of our international, adventurous and absolutely fulfilling life. After the Sudan, we lived in Angola, and then Guinea Bissau and Congo Brazzaville, before moving to Latin America. There, we spent four years in Honduras, and six in Peru. We then moved to Jerusalem, for almost four years, and we are now in Asia.
What do you do, what ‘hats do you wear’, how do you spend your time, paid and unpaid?
In 2004 I set up a global website to support expat women in all phases of their relocations, expatclic.com. It is a voluntary project, but I am very passionate about it, and the good thing is that it is completely online, so I have been able to “bring it with me” all over the world. I still devote a lot of time to this project, which has grown so much in time. Apart from Expatclic, though, after a career break of fifteen year, during which time I raised my two boys, I went back to work, completely recycling myself into the intercultural communication field, and later as a mobile careers coach. Today I combine my voluntary work for Expatclic with my paid profession as a coach and intercultural trainer. Even before going back to work, though, I was never bored. In all of the countries where I have lived, I did a lot of volunteering, I discovered the cultures I was living in, I learned their languages, I learned to dance Latin rhythms, I have always invented something to keep me alive and happy.
What have you gained by relocating?
I feel like my mind and heart have expanded to embrace a wider vision of the world and humanity. I have also given myself so many skills (foreign languages are just one of them), and discovered and developed talents, like flexibility, creativity, patience, reflection…
What have been some of the challenges?
At times it has been hard to watch my children suffering, for instance when we were relocating to a new country and they had to say good-bye to their friends, or when they found it difficult to adapt to the new culture.
Saying good-bye to a country after living there for years has always been difficult for me as well. Despite loving this international life, I tend to put roots and to feel secure and happy when I have discovered a reasonable amount of the place that hosts me. I throw myself with no reservation into new friendships, which makes it hard to say good-bye.
More recently, with my mom’s declining health, I have found it very challenging to manage the whole situation of brothers taking care of her while I live very far away. Feeling guilty for not being there to help or to simply spend the last years of her life with her, has been the major challenge I had to face in these last months.
What have you learned, about yourself and others?
I think the main lesson I learned from this mobile life is that there is no limit to how much a person can open up to diversity and to the wonderful variety of this world. Despite having moved a lot and in very diverse places, I still feel excited like a child when a new post comes up.
I also learned to relativize and to give less importance to what I used to consider personal problems. Seeing with my own eyes the magnitude of human suffering has taught me to be content with what I have (which, by the way, is a lot!).
What would you have missed out on, had you stayed in one place?
Everything. People, cultures, joys, exchanges, sharing, lots of friends from all over the world, diverse food, adventures, landscapes…the list could go on.
Did your physical and emotional health improve or decline after relocating?
My first relocations were great under all points of view, including my physical and emotional health. I lived in harsh countries, and I was even very sick sometime (I had two attacks of Dengue fever in Honduras, for instance), but when my health failed because my body had to adapt to a very different environment, my fulfilled emotional side always helped me to recover.
This last move to Jakarta, though, has seen a decline in health, which I am still trying to understand. Jakarta is a rough place, and expats in general fall ill very often, but it is also true that I am facing it while starting my menopause, which could have an overall influence on my wellbeing.
What did you do to feel as healthy, capable and happy as possible while relocating?
My first concern were my children. I always put all of my energies to help them settle well in the new school, and to make new friends. Once that was done, I crossed my passions and desires with the possibilities the place had to offer. With time, I have gotten to know myself quite well, and I knew that relationships are my basic reason to live a happy life, and the core of my happiness, so I always found ways to get in touch with people and make new friends. Women’s clubs, voluntary work, sports, and generally being open both to locals and foreigners, have always worked very well for me.
When and if you experience self-doubt, fear or stress, how do you embrace these feelings and move on?
I have gone through some of these feelings to a certain extent with this last relocation, which has proven a bit different from the others, because I did not feel a sparkle with Indonesia, as has always happened with the other countries I lived in. What gave me strength and motivation back, and helped me to keep stress and doubt under control, was definitely, once again, people. When I managed to gather enough courage to face this overwhelming city, and went out and found friends, I felt re-established.
Invariably the first week or month of a relocation yields a really funny story – sometimes only in hindsight. Do you have a tale to share?
The thing that made me laugh recently, is that with all my experience around the world, and with being an intercultural trainer (so I should know), a month after employing my maid here in Jakarta, I affectionately hugged her and kissed her profusely before going to Italy. She froze on the spot. Indonesians are not keen on physical contacts, especially when a hierarchical relationship is involved…oh well, she has learned by now that my Italian side is hard to die…
What would you say to others contemplating a relocation?
Just go. I would make it compulsory, actually.
What would you say to yourself if you were contemplating another relocation?
Anything you’d like to add?
I just want to thank you for what you are doing with your blog and your work as a coach. I am a quite enthusiastic person and through my relocations I never suffered too much both physically and emotionally, but I have seen so many people struggling with anxiety and with physical adaptation. Anything that can help overcome uneasiness and health-related problems is welcome.
Thank you Claudia!
Now back to you, dear reader – are you contemplating relocating?
Check these out:
Relocation Ready: a mini-course, FREE to join
Relocation Health Resources: articles, recipes, tips, FREE
Your Relocation Solution: be healthy and happy wherever you are: a guidebook for women wishing to feel connected, inspired and capable when moving from their comfort zone
Healthy Relocation Coaching: one-on-one coaching program, tailored to your situation and needs
And please comment below, your thoughts, ideas, experiences and challenges are welcome and appreciated.