Why I Said “Adios” to Being an Expat

Written by on December 15, 2015 in Blog, Europe, Expat Life, Expat Life Featured, Spain - 75 Comments

"You've always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself." After nearly four years of living as an expat, the story of why I'm coming home.

“You made me promise you two things,” Kyla begins as we sit in her car after my 24-hour trip from Madrid to Las Vegas. One of my closest friends in the world for almost a decade, she’s always been the one I ask to remind of previous statements I have made about life.

“Yeah …” I breathe, knowing at least one of the things about to come out of her mouth.

“One was to never let you cut your hair short again.”

“I know, but that choppy bob …”

“And the second was to never let you move back to Las Vegas.”

Right.

I’ve actually made her promise to remind me of that statement two times. The first time was when I was leaving Vegas after three years and heading to Atlanta to start anew; the second was when I was moving to Thailand to become an expat.”

“I know, I know,” I sigh. “But, maybe I was wrong?”

“D,” she says, heavily, “You were miserable here.”

“Yeah, I was,” I respond, emphasizing the was. “But, over the past three years, I’ve grown so much. More than I could ever imagine. And, the truth is, I want to come home.”

Coming to Terms

"You've always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself." After nearly four years of living as an expat, the story of why I'm coming home. For months, I’ve had an internal struggle about my definition of home. As an expat, I’ve never truly felt home in the places I have lived. Granted, Chiang Mai was comforting and amazing, there was always an air of anticipation, of knowing that my visa was not a residency, and that at any moment, it could be taken away or not renewed.

In Madrid, things were far worse. I’ve never felt like such a stranger in a foreign land as I felt in Madrid.

After leaving London, I was sad. Depressed, to put it more accurately. For two months, I lived outside of the city center in Madrid and had two friends: my roommate and a woman I was introduced to from a mutual friend.

That. Was. It.

Days would go by where I’d barely get out of bed, let alone leave the house.

I thought it would get better when I moved downtown.

Only, it didn’t.

It got worse.

After returning to Spain with my student visa, I expected my world to open up. To have friends. To have a life. Roots. Some semblance of expat stability (although, after almost four years as an expat, I don’t really believe it exists).

Days would go by where I was alone. And, for awhile, I sunk.

So hard. So deep.

At night, with a bottle of wine perched next to my laptop as I searched for words to describe my life, that feeling of being trapped would bubble. Boil. Resulting in near panic attacks as the reality of my situation began to sink in:

I’m an expat in Spain. I’ve paid for this visa. I’m living a dream. And yet, I feel terrible. Alone. The most alone I have ever felt, despite the fact that there is this magnificent city and culture outside my front door.

Tears spilling down my face, I’d wonder if I made the wrong decision leaving Chiang Mai in the first place. And then, I’d wonder if I made the wrong decision leaving London and going to Madrid instead of Berlin, as I originally planned.

Making the Most of It

"You've always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself." After nearly four years of living as an expat, the story of why I'm coming home.

But, I fought those fears. I began to work with my therapist from Las Vegas and have weekly Skype dates with her as we worked through things.

“You need to learn to be in the moment,” she’d remind me.

I’d get assignments from her: “Go out and meet someone new. Be friendly. Go on a date.”

And for each assignment, I’d oblige. Grudgingly, but still.

I even enrolled in Spanish class with the hopes of meeting people. While I did meet some lovely people, none of them ever turned into friends or a social circle, like I hoped.

My reality was I had three friends in Madrid, and more and more, I was choosing to isolate myself from those individuals because the pain of being alone was so crippling. For me, it was easier to have a self-imposed isolation than hoping I’d make plans with people and get out of the house.

I started to become obsessed with working out. With not drinking. With eating clean. These were all good things for me, but they also made it easier for me to sit at home on a Friday night and not go out. Even though I knew damn well I could go out and have fun without booze.

I even started a digital nomads group in the city, although it was hard to rally people to meet.

I could have done more, but in reality, it was all I could muster.

“Don’t give up,” my close friend, Will, would remind me regularly. “Go out. Meet people. Come out with me.”

Sometimes, I would. Sometimes, I wouldn’t.

Should I Stay … Or Should I Go?

"You've always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself." After nearly four years of living as an expat, the story of why I'm coming home.

“Move home,” my best friend would message me via our various communication methods. “Just come home.”

I’d argue against relinquishing my expat status. For years, I was adamant I’d never return to the States. That the culture in the US wasn’t in line with the life I wanted to live. That the cost of living was too pricey. That I valued being an expat and abroad more than I valued having some semblance of stability.

I didn’t want to give that up.

Instead, I met with an immigration lawyer who went over my options for a new visa once my student visa expired. They were all reasonable options, but all cost more money than I wanted to spend, and all required another trip back to the States for a month, a jaunt to the embassy in New York, and fees.

Maybe I will do this. Or, maybe I won’t.

I clung to the idea of staying, knowing that a little part of me didn’t want to admit defeat (although I don’t consider it defeat when I am bettering myself). But, also knowing that I had a lot to consider.

Did I want to stay in Madrid and work harder at meeting people? Did I want to return to the States?

Suddenly, everything changed.

I took a weekend off of social media to be in the moment, and to address my issues with being an expat. That weekend was actually the most fun I’d had in Madrid. I was surrounded by wonderful people. I had some semblance of a social life.

Then, I got my nose pierced. It was random, and something I had wanted to do for years. It sounds odd, but doing that actually freed me.

It was a challenge and something I wanted so very badly. I was willing to make myself uncomfortable. To almost have a panic attack. But, I did it.

Piercing my nose made me look at my life here. Was I willing to rise to the challenge? Did I want to continue to go through the uncomfortable (and I’m not talking comfort zone stuff, I’m talking seriously lonely, which can be damning).

My answer: NO.

The End of Expat Life

"You've always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself." After nearly four years of living as an expat, the story of why I'm coming home.

The reality was, I was tired. Tired of fighting for visas. Tired of being a stranger in a foreign country. Tired of trying to make new friends who may or may not stick around. I was tired of having an apartment where I couldn’t actually buy things to make it a home, because I had no idea if the investment was worth it.

I don’t even think tired is the right word. I was exhausted.

After nearly four years of being an expat, the one thing I kept craving was a place where I could hang photos. Where I could feel home. Where I didn’t feel like everything — in something as simple as taking my cat to the vet — was a struggle or a challenge.

The day after I pierced my nose, I got on a Skype call with my family.

“So, I was thinking … of moving back to the States.”

I didn’t even expect to say it, the words just popped out of my mouth.

But, as soon as I did, those words released me. They released me from feeling trapped. From feeling anything but love for Madrid. The weight of years of being an expat fell off of me in that moment.

“Where are you thinking?” My parents asked.

“Vegas.”

“We support you 100 percent.”

And so, six weeks after that call, I’m in Vegas. Posting this.

Originally, I had planned on moving back to the States after my lease was up, and taking the TEFL course I paid for in Madrid. But, circumstances changed. While I was home after Thanksgiving, I was thrown full throttle into preparing for an international move within the time span of 18 days.

“You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.” (Wizard of Oz)

Kyla helped me find a gorgeous flat. My parents sat through tears as I grew overwhelmed with United’s crappy customer service. They reminded me of questions I needed to ask my new apartment complex, United about flying the kitties over, the movers.

Within two days, I managed to get a lease, have movers come, and book a shitload of flights so my cats could fly in-cabin with me (thank you, Mom, for making the ridiculous trek from Philly to Madrid to Newark to Las Vegas and back to Baltimore).

Now, here I am. Back in the desert I swore I’d never return to.

Is it the right decision? Yes.

“You’re giving up the Spanish dream,” Will would joke with me in the days leading up to my departure.

“I know,” I’d respond. “But, it’s the right thing for me right now. I can always come back.”

If there’s anything I’ve garnered over the past few months, particularly in talking with other travelers, is that it’s time to settle down a bit. It’s time to plant roots. It’s time to have friends who aren’t transient. It’s time to be back in my country and have regular tasks not be so difficult. It’s time to make more money and focus on writing versus being so deep in a hole I can’t get out.

But, more than anything, it’s time for me. Of course, there are new things to deal with, like reverse culture shock, and getting clients, but I couldn’t be happier about my decision.

I still plan on traveling, but Las Vegas makes a pretty decent home base. In fact, I’m leading an ethical (and awesome) tour through Thailand this August!

Sure, I made Kyla promise not to let me move back. But, she’s also the one who helped facilitate my move.

I would never take back the past few years as an expat. And I would recommend being an expat to those who would consider it a viable option. But, I’d also recommend coming home.

There is a comfort and a peace only home can provide.

I have launched a consultation business offering social media, copy writing, ghost writing, experiential writing, SEO and more. Hire me!

Do I feel like a failure for not sticking it out?

Not the slightest bit. I feel — I know — I’m giving myself an opportunity to experience life back in the States from an entirely different, refreshed, and more mature perspective. I can’t wait to start.

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"You've always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself." After nearly four years of living as an expat, the story of why I'm coming home.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The founder of Vegans, Baby, you can normally find her hanging out at vegan restaurants around town, exploring the beauty of the desert southwest or camped out at a coffee shop banging on a keyboard. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

75 Comments on " Why I Said “Adios” to Being an Expat "

  1. Mindy December 15, 2015 at 12:34 pm · Reply

    Happy to hear that you’re doing something that’s good and healthy for you. So, the big question is, does your place in Vegas have room for guests?

    Lots of love!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:37 pm · Reply

      Of course it does!!!!!!!!!!! Come visit! Love to you!

  2. Claudia December 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm · Reply

    What a beautiful read… I totally understand what you mean with that it’s the right thing right now. Follow your heart, you know what’s best for you.

  3. Candice December 15, 2015 at 4:57 pm · Reply

    After our email exchange, I’d say you made the right decision. I haven’t been an expat nearly as long as you, but I totally get it. Mad respect for staying true to you. <3

    (Also seriously, there are worst places in the world than Vegas. Hahaha.)

  4. Amanda Kendle December 16, 2015 at 4:26 am · Reply

    Good on you! I see so many travel bloggers who stay abroad longer than they want to just because they think they “should”. Moving home sucks in some ways (it took me years to get used to it, I have to admit) but is great in lots of others. Now, I love being a traveller with a permanent home base. Plus your base will still be closer to most of the world than mine is. I’m glad you are taking your cats too!! xxx

  5. Steph December 16, 2015 at 1:07 pm · Reply

    You know, I think a lot of people overlook the fact that having this kind of freedom means you also have the freedom to pick the life that is most comfortable for you, even if it’s not exotic and different. You don’t have to live abroad just because you CAN. This was hard for me to come to grips with at first too, but moving back to the US has been beyond great for us. Sure there are things that bother me (ahem, politics), but the familiarity, the community, the big ol supermarkets, it can’t be beat.

    I’m happy for you!

  6. Molly December 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm · Reply

    I’m happy for you! As you capture here, being an expat is many things – both wonderful and not so wonderful. After my 4 years abroad (including ~2 in Spain) I came to the same conclusion. Even once I spoke Spanish nearly fluently and was earning enough to sustain myself, life just sometimes was harder and lonelier than it needed to be. Moving back was definitely an adjustment. However, I don’t regret it. Sure there are moments but when I look at what has come of my life thus far, I know I am far happier than I was when I made the decision to come home.

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:37 pm · Reply

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I know moving back — once the honeymoon is over — will require some adjustments, but so far I am blissfully happy being here. I’m glad you made the right decision and know I did as well. Thank you so much for your support!

  7. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family December 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm · Reply

    What an interesting read! I’m glad you made a decision that feels right for you.

    We are going back to NZ for a few months next year and I am absolutely dreading it. I couldn’t think of anything worse than returning home at this stage but there are a few things that need to be sorted out. I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I want to move back home. I’m not sure.

    See you in Vegas next month maybe! 😉

  8. Emanuel December 16, 2015 at 2:38 pm · Reply

    Been following your blog since residing in Thailand, just thought Id chime in and say. Keep writing your story!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:36 pm · Reply

      Thank you so much!!

  9. Gloria Atanmo December 16, 2015 at 2:39 pm · Reply

    Loved this, D! I know we only met briefly in Bangkok but I see so much heart in you.

    I’m going through the same emotions and will be going home for a 2-month break to relax, regroup, and refocus.

    In the mess and madness of pursuing a dream, sometimes we forget to put our happiness first. Because the two don’t always coexist.

    Love and light your way! Xx

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:35 pm · Reply

      Aw, thank you so much!!!!! I’m glad you are going home to regroup. You’ve been going non-stop!!! I’m so glad we met and look forward to seeing you somewhere in the world sometime soon. Love and light to you, too!

  10. Dani December 16, 2015 at 5:53 pm · Reply

    I 100% understand this feeling. I’ve been going in and out of Medellin and it’s lonely when I’m there because I don’t have many friends (really only a couple) and my spanish sucks.

    I’m still planning on moving there, and hoping things will be one easier as I become more fluent. But sometimes making yourself leave the house is just so much work. It’s a huge struggle I deal with too. I love Colombia. I hate when I’m there because I feel alone (and I am aware much of the loneliness is self imposed because of, idk, insecurity I guess).

    So this article just made me feel so much better because it puts into words what I feel abroad but haven’t come out and said yet. Maybe knowing I’m not the only one that feels this way will make it easier next time I visit.

    Or I’ll be calling you so we can have a winey skype date. 🙂 (Get it? Winey? I’m hilarious)

    Im glad you’re back in Vegas. Can’t wait to see you!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:35 pm · Reply

      I am so glad it made you feel better. I am always honest about my experiences and don’t want people to ever think my life is perfect and I walk on clouds and toss flower petals everywhere. I cannot wait to see you!

  11. Jenna December 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm · Reply

    Absolutely no failure! I always think of life in chapters, and we go through them as circumstances and needs change. I have had my own expat experience and while not as long as yours, I did experience some difficulties that made moving back home the right choice at that time. And my dad was an expat for about a decade–even though he loved it for a while, it started to become a bigger challenge, and he just moved back to the U.S. this year. He has been so happy since being back. Best of luck with the next steps! 🙂

  12. Linda December 16, 2015 at 8:02 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the honesty. Being an expat can be (and is) a life changing experience – it can also be some of the loneliness times of ones life as well. In my experience it is a time of extreme highs and extreme lows and at some point you really just start to crave some middle ground – and there is no better place for that – than home.

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:34 pm · Reply

      Yes. Exactly!!!

  13. Jayne December 16, 2015 at 9:02 pm · Reply

    How exciting! As Amanda says above I think you’ve been incredibly brave to address the fact you are not happy and change it rather than feel like you should do something just you said you would. We are human, we change our minds! And I am a huge advocate of the having a home base whilst travel blogging malarkey – it’s given me a sense of stability to have a home here in Sydney but no less wanderlust. It is also much better for work (in my opinion) to be based in a familiar market that has so many opportunities. You’ll get to build clients in the US whilst keeping the ones in Europe so it’s a win/win! Good luck xx

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:39 pm · Reply

      I agree. There are far more opportunities here than there were for me abroad. I’m so happy to be back here and am so touched by all of the love and support I’ve received since I returned. Thank you so much for your kind words!!! <3

  14. Tricia December 16, 2015 at 9:17 pm · Reply

    Sad to hear, but glad to hear; you’re now starting the next phase of your life! We’re into our 9th year of being an expat, 7th in Thailand, and I truly believe that we have found our little niche in the world and this is where we are meant to be.

    Best of luck, remember it’s a new beginning and face life with all the balls we know you have.

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:33 pm · Reply

      Yes!! I am so happy for this next phase. Thank you so much for the kind words!!! I appreciate them and miss you!

  15. Barbara Weibel December 17, 2015 at 12:28 am · Reply

    Though you never actually said this in any of your recent emails, I somehow “knew” this was where you were at in my gut. Congratulations for being strong enough to make a tough decision, regardless of what others may think. And congratulations for being strong enough to recognize and honor what was best for you at this time. The most powerful words are always, “I can change my mind.” xoxo

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:32 pm · Reply

      That reminds me — I am seriously delayed on responding to your last email. As you can tell, things happened quickly and everything else in my life kind of fell to the wayside while I worked on my move and death with the transition. Thank you so much for your words of support. They mean a lot to me. <3 And you are right -- we can always change our minds!!

  16. Jmayel December 17, 2015 at 1:47 am · Reply

    Definitely not a failure. We totally understand this. 🙂 Well done on managing to cope with all this alone for so long. It shows real strength.
    We’d love to catch up with you in Vegas one day. It’s a beautiful place. 🙂

    Jmayel & Sacha

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:31 pm · Reply

      Thank you!!! There was a long period in there where I regretted leaving Thailand and wondered if I made the wrong choice. But, I feel that every decision is the right one and takes me where I need to be next, so I stuck it out in Madrid. Turns out, I needed to be there to get here, in more ways than one. I hope you two do come to Vegas. I’d love to see you. If not, I plan on being in Thailand in August. Happy holidays to you both!

  17. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas December 17, 2015 at 7:52 am · Reply

    I’m a long-term expat in Spain and now married to a sevillano, and the first few years were HARD. I remember them with a lot of fun nights out, the beauty of struggling in a language…and a lot of tears. Once I had the visa stuff figured out, all of the doubts came – about my choice, about my career, about what I might be missing out on. As my friends have packed up and gone home, I can happily say that each one made the right choice in heir situation, and that no one saw it as a failure. Enjoy being home – the churros will be here when you come back to visit!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:30 pm · Reply

      I miss the pan con tomate! I’m glad I’m not the only one who had a hard time at first. When I was talking to my close friend in Madrid before I decided to move, I told her that I wasn’t happy here. She had lived there for five years and told me that Madrid was very hard and a cocoon of sorts. She described it perfectly. I’ve never really thought I was missing out on anything, other than a support system. Being back here, even though it has only been a few days, has reminded me how happy I am with people in my life. I know this was the right decision for me and I returned not with my tail tucked between my legs, but with my head held high. Thank you for the support. Please, save some churros for me!

  18. Tabitha December 17, 2015 at 11:11 am · Reply

    Great post, really! I am glad you came to terms with it. I have had this feeling a few times – last time in Zambia (I was only there for 6 months though), for two months I thought I would just have to accept I’ll be a loner for that time, but then I moved to a new house and everything changed. Now I’m in Guatemala and I love the country but I just can’t get a grip of social life. So I’m leaving. Next is Australia! After I’ve been home in Germany for a while.
    Maybe you said goodbye to expat life for now, but not forever. Or you did, whichever way is fine 🙂 Now you can look forward to looking at your old home with a perspective!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:28 pm · Reply

      So right! I truly believe that I belong here, and it took me the past 10 years of moves and life abroad to realize this. Your adventure sounds amazing. What places you have been and are going! Enjoy!!!!

  19. Leah December 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm · Reply

    Although I’m not in the same mindset as you right now, I have nothing but respect for your decision to return to the US. I KNOW how hard it is to be an expat, and even I can’t rule out an eventual move back to the states if for whatever reason I don’t find my “forever home” abroad. I do feel like I’m getting a little bit closer, but only time will tell. The social isolation that can come with being a foreigner (and a freelancer who works from home, I mean, that doesn’t make things any easier) is not often discussed, and it should be. The struggles are so real. Proud of you, girl, and good luck with this new journey in an old place. xx

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:27 pm · Reply

      You’re not kidding. Being a freelancer and working from home makes it VERY difficult to meet other people. I have always had co-workers and an office, and the past year was just me. It was incredibly isolating once I got to Spain. Thank you so much for your support. Love you and miss you!!

  20. Global Brunch December 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm · Reply

    I can totally relate to how you were feeling Diana. I have recently relocated to my home country Germany after being an expat in the UK for six years. Although I had the most amazing time and didn’t have to deal with visa issues like you, it still felt like it was time to make Germany my home base. It feels good because for me it wasn’t just coming home, it was about really starting out as a freelancer and travel writer in an environment that feels comfortable. I wish you all the best with settling back in!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:26 pm · Reply

      YES! Exactly. There are certain benefits of working in your home country that you don’t get being in a different location. I hope you continue to have a wonderful time at home. Thank you so much for your support!

  21. Sadie December 18, 2015 at 2:15 am · Reply

    You followed your gut and that’s all that matters. I haven’t been on the road very long at all, but I get what you mean. Eventually I would like to have a home base somewhere in the states, but I can’t think about it right now. I hope you enjoy your new place and Vegas!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:25 pm · Reply

      I never thought I’d move back to the States! I always figured home base would be somewhere in Europe. But, I followed my gut and it took me back to Vegas 🙂 Thanks so much for your support!

  22. Natalie December 18, 2015 at 4:49 pm · Reply

    I completely understand what it’s like to decide that you’re tired of the instability of traveling oversees and wanting to move back home for a bit. I’ve been back for 4 years and now I’m finally getting the itch to leave again. I think people should always do what feels right for them, even if that means changing your mind about something you previously wanted. I applaud you for making the decision and I wish you the best in Vegas.

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:24 pm · Reply

      Thank you so much, Natalie. My parents were joking that I need to stay put for a bit. Whereas in the past, I would tell them I couldn’t make promises, this time I told them I would. I am happy to travel, but I want to stick around and have a lease and be longer term for the first time in five years. It’s actually quite a nice — and relaxing — feeling. I appreciate your support!

  23. Suzanne Fluhr December 20, 2015 at 12:18 am · Reply

    I guess it’s good you have friends who don’t listen to you. 😉 Buena suerte con todo.

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:23 pm · Reply

      Haha! YES!!! Thank you!!

  24. Alex Martin December 20, 2015 at 12:25 am · Reply

    A lot of people look at being an expat as some sort of badge of honor. Might be because I’ve been overseas in the same place for so long, but there isn’t really anything special about it. If I didn’t have family out here I’d probably leave as well. I romanticize the idea of moving to a place like Berkeley California just as much as my friends at home romanticize moving overseas. It’s just another choice of lifestyle people make. Moving home and wanting stability is not a failure. When you travel now you’ll be taking others, educating them on responsible and ethical travel, and making positive contributions to the communities you visit. That’s pretty freakin’ cool!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:23 pm · Reply

      You’re right. Many do. It’s funny, I always dreamed of living in Europe. I romanticized it in my head SO much. Then, when I got there, it was just a place like any other, just had a different charm. I would walk the streets and try to remind myself I was in Europe and had dreamed of it for years, but it never really resonated in my head. All I saw were the struggles. In a way, they were greater than the challenges I had in Thailand, which I think in large part stems from the tight knit expat community there. I am so excited for this next chapter and cannot wait to travel again. For now, I want to relish being in a place where I don’t have to worry about how long I can stay. Thanks so much for your love and support.

  25. Silke December 20, 2015 at 1:05 am · Reply

    Hi Diana, I just discovered your blog through this post and I need to tell you that I think that listening to your heart can never been the wrong decision. My life turned out quite differently to yours, my expat life turned into a move for good, but I can understand how difficult it must be to live in a place where you somehow don’t seem to belong. It takes courage to acknowledge that sometimes you need to move on and find a more fulfilling way of living, there is no shame in it at all. I wish you all the best in Vegas and hopefully the feeling of “home” will be with you from now on. All the best!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:21 pm · Reply

      I agree. I feel that even in the toughest times, the heart knows what it wants and there is no “wrong” decision. Every moment is meant to lead to the next. I’m so glad your experience as an expat turned out the way it did. Thank you so much for the support. I appreciate it!

  26. Mary Barnett December 20, 2015 at 4:10 am · Reply

    What a seriously brave and introspective decision. I hope it’s a wonderful next step in your journey. And I hope we can meet up at some point!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:20 pm · Reply

      Thank you so much, Mary!! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. YES. We do have to meet up. I will message you privately since we are neighbors again!

  27. Sherry Ott December 20, 2015 at 11:47 am · Reply

    I totally get it. Absolutely. After 1 year in Vietnam I felt pretty isolated, yet I also loved it there. But I knew I had to get out before I went down some worm hole. I totally understand he loneliness and isolation – it’s been sneaking up on me for year and I keep beating it off, mainly because I don’t know what else to do!
    So happy you are back in Vegas rooting yourself a bit and surrounding yourself by friends. It means a lot to be surrounded by people who actually know you and who you can talk to not over a computer or through a keyboard.
    You’ll do awesome…just look at how quickly you picked up and moved so fast…that’s f’ing impressive! Best of luck settling back in and hanging up your pictures! 🙂

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:19 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Sherry!!! It went at warp speed, that’s for sure. I knew that if I stuck around until my lease was up, I would sink more and I much prefer to start this next chapter now versus waiting. I’m so glad people understand why I decided to leave. I was actually thinking that I would get a lot of comments that I was nuts for giving up my visa and coming back to the States. The amount of support I’ve received has been so touching and overwhelming. Even in the first few days back in Vegas, despite mover hell and having to re-Americanize myself, I am so blissfully happy. Sure, it is a honeymoon phase, but there is something to be said for being able to communicate, having friends and being able to work legally. I don’t have a hammer and nails yet, but that’s coming soon. Thank you so much for the support.

  28. Bobbi Hitchon December 20, 2015 at 4:41 pm · Reply

    I had a very similar feeling of not belonging at the end of my expat days. I think the hardest part about returning to the USA is feeling like you’re not a traveler anymore. But that will ever be the case. You’ll always be a traveler – this is just the next part in your travel tale! Good luck in your return to Vegas. I can’t think of a more suited city for the phrase “3rd times a charm”. Hope to cross paths again now that we’re both on US soil!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:17 pm · Reply

      Yes!! I had a hard time being able to transition in my head and realize no matter where I am, I am who I am. I am not defined by my location, but my heart. It took me a long time to swallow that idea, and I think if I would have been able to accept that I am not defined as an “expat” sooner, I would have made the decision sooner. It is the life I have known for so long, so it is a huge change. But, it is one I am so excited to be making! Now that we are back in the same country, I hope we can see each other, too!! Thank you so much for the support!! <3

  29. Jeff Dobbins December 20, 2015 at 7:21 pm · Reply

    Welcome home, darlin’. Among my cherished events of 2015, meeting you is high on my list. Wishing you great happiness and look forward to seeing you again in 2016.

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:15 pm · Reply

      Thank you!!!! Meeting you and spending time with you in Thailand is high up on my list, too!! We must travel again soon!! That being said, you’ve got a room in Vegas!!!! <3 Wishing you all the best for 2016. Cannot wait to see your face again!

  30. Natalia December 21, 2015 at 11:32 am · Reply

    Very nice reading, many thanks for sharing.
    I have been an expat for the last four years and more I am outside of my country more I feel that settling in a home country is the most wise and secure solution.
    Home is people and family, and if you still don’t have one, being closer to your parents is an option. And it’s definitely easier to find clients being solo entrepreneur in your own country.
    I wish you all the best with your move and lots of success with what you are doing!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:15 pm · Reply

      Thank you so much, Natalia! Where are you based now?

      • Natalia December 22, 2015 at 10:34 am · Reply

        In Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, surrounded by many people from Spain. Before I lived in Germany. I had a very similar internal discussion on should I stay or should I go, issues with socialising and doing my own project. Slowly got to a feeling I should not give it up.

        • Diana December 29, 2015 at 1:00 pm · Reply

          I don’t look at leaving a place as giving up. I look at it as embracing a new opportunity. But, I get it. For a long time, I was so caught up in identifying myself as an expat, that I couldn’t fathom parting with that definition of myself. However, I really wasn’t happy being an expat anymore and I knew I needed to call a spade and follow my heart. I’ve only been back in the States two weeks, but I am REALLY happy and finding things I took for granted (like going to a bar to watch a football game) incredibly fun and novel. I’m reacquainting myself with American life, and while I am the first to say it isn’t all roses, I like the act of doing so. Who knows what the future holds! Keep enjoying Punta Cana!

  31. Chanh December 21, 2015 at 2:52 pm · Reply

    I last about 4 years as well before I moved back to the US from France a year ago. I always struggled to put in words about why I moved back, but reading this post really helped verbalized my reasoning. It is also a good feeling to know there is someone else who left that “perfect” life and moved back to the US. Good luck with your journey!

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:14 pm · Reply

      I’m so glad that it helped verbalize your reasoning! I think it’s funny: so many people would tell me I was living the dream and assumed my life was perfect as an expat. It was far from it. I think, no matter where you go in the world, there will always be challenges along the way. It’s about whether or not you choose to deal with them or seek different challenges elsewhere. For me, after almost four years, I wanted to be challenged by returning to America. Different set of challenges, and very welcome! Thank you so much for the s up port. How is your time going here?

  32. Diana Zuluaga December 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm · Reply

    Hi Diana,
    I’m sorry to hear about your experience in Madrid. I am very surprised this was your experience. We moved to Madrid 3 months ago from NYC and people have been incredibly open, inviting and warm. But I understand those things need to flow and not be pushed. Congratulations for doing your best and what a wonderful thing to have the freedom to decide where you want to live! Wish you all the best! Diana Z.

    • Diana December 21, 2015 at 11:12 pm · Reply

      I know a lot of my experience there came from being burned out and exhausted. I think the city itself is absolutely wonderful and so alive! Thank you so much for the support!

  33. Alex B December 21, 2015 at 11:55 pm · Reply

    I just found your blog through Lauren, and I’ve got to say that I have not read a single post that I can relate to more than this. In the past two years I’ve spent traveling, I’ve been through every single one of the things that you speak about. It’s so hard to “give up” on being a traveler and coming back to this country after everything you’ve seen and all the places you’ve been. It’s difficult to understand how to NOT be in motion all the time, but sometimes we just really need to have a home.

    I made the same decision while on my last trip in Europe (I would more of a travel for several months, go home to New York for a few weeks and then leave again type of person). After that trip I made the move that I had wanted to make since I was a teenager– out to San Francisco. I’m here now, but still looking for some permanency (a job, friends, long term apartment). I’m still trying to convince myself not to go again, but man it’s hard.

    If you’re ever in the Bay Area, feel free to get in contact. You’ve got a friend here 🙂

    • Diana December 29, 2015 at 1:05 pm · Reply

      Hi Alex! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate that you were able to relate to this post. It means a lot to me that my words meant something to you. I think for people like us is that our biggest struggle is that definition of who we are. In my circle back in the States, I’m the person who jumps and travels and lives abroad. It’s been how people describe me for a long time. To lose that is a weird feeling, and a scary one. But, I’m still ME. And I still want to travel and see the world. I just want to do it … differently. Coming home, so far, has been amazing. However, I know that at some point, I am going to sit and wish I was in motion, and had a place to just walk to versus get in a car. And have a language spoken around me that I don’t understand. And, have different countries in my backyard like Europe offers (affordable and easy to get to). But, I know that I traded in a lot of negatives to have this new life, and that makes me happy. Even if there will be days that are a struggle, I know this is the best decision for me right now. I feel like an entire world has opened up for me, and that I am a stronger, happier and braver woman than I was when I first left in 2012. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

      Congrats on making your move to SF! It is a beautiful city!! I will definitely let you know if I am in the Bay Area. One of my best friends is near SJ, so I know once I am situated, I will be by!! Thank you again for the sweet words and support!

  34. Philip December 24, 2015 at 12:16 am · Reply

    After 6+ years abroad with most of the last three based in Krabi, I can so relate to all the thoughts and feelings which you articulate so well. Even (or perhaps especially) being in an international relationship, those feeling have been front and center for me several months now. We plan a three month stateside visit this summer. It will be interesting to see where the pull back to Thailand is after that. Thanks for your vulnerability.

    • Diana December 29, 2015 at 12:58 pm · Reply

      And thank you for the support. 🙂 I’m curious to know how you feel after your return to the States. I know, for me, I felt the pull back to Thailand, but never back to Spain. I think at that point, I hit a time in my life where I didn’t feel like fighting for the privilege to live abroad anymore and what I wanted most was to unpack and know I wouldn’t have to pack it back up again in the near future. Best of luck to you! Let me know how it goes!

  35. alex December 24, 2015 at 9:31 am · Reply

    Congratulations for the chapter step in your life! Going back home isn’t a bad thing. Being away from a “normal” life after so many years is very draining and putting down roots somewhere is necessary. I’ve been ready for that for quite a while. The most important thing to remember is that you did it! You took a leap of faith and you’ll always have these past few years to look back at with pride. You challenged yourself and you succeeded. Good luck back at home 🙂

    • Diana December 29, 2015 at 12:56 pm · Reply

      Thank you!!!! You are right, it is draining. It makes me feel so much better with all of the support and others who echo the same thoughts I had in the past year. Like you, I believe having roots are important and necessary. I will cherish the memories I had abroad, but also look forward to creating new and beautiful ones back in my home country. 🙂 Thank you!!! <3

  36. Candice - Desert to Jungle December 27, 2015 at 6:53 pm · Reply

    You did what is right for you and your future, Diana, in no way could that ever be a failure. You’ve been a huge success during your travels, both through this blog and your advocacy work for elephants. You’ve grown and have had amazing experiences. Moving back to LV is simply the next exciting chapter!

    I’ve been an expat for 8 years and have never found it difficult but I’m sure that’s largely due to doing it together with my partner so never having to experience the loneliness that often comes with starting over in a new country. I love Chiang Mai and I’m very happy living here but I have never felt as settled here as I did in Dubai (where I thought I’d live forever!), partly due to the ever-changing visa rules, partly due to things like the Koh Tao case – do I really want to live in a country where that sort of thing is all-too-common? I don’t expect to live in Thailand forever but returning to the UK is the last thing I want to do. For now, life in Chiang Mai is easy and fun.

    Good luck back home in Vegas, I look forward to reading about this next stage in your lifelong adventure.

    • Diana December 29, 2015 at 12:55 pm · Reply

      Thank you so much for your support, Candice! I often thought that if I had a partner during those trying times, it would have been a very different experience. I get the unease with CM — the rules change ALL THE TIME and with the recent murders (along with the ones that don’t get the international attention), I can understand having a problem with it. But, stuff like that is common everywhere. I’m so excited to be back in Vegas and for this next chapter. I have a lot planned!!! Wishing you all the best! Thanks again!! 🙂

  37. Katie December 30, 2015 at 9:46 pm · Reply

    I think you are very brave and it absolutely sounds like it was the right decision for you. I have been an expat for almost 12 years now but all in English speaking countries which I think helps a lot in getting settled. I am planning on going home to NZ in a year for a couple of years. I love my country but to be honest, I feel more at home in Canada and that is where I want to emigrate to. Home isn’t always where the heart is

    • Diana January 3, 2016 at 5:51 pm · Reply

      It is definitely easier being in a place where the language is the same! That’s amazing! Home is wherever you feel happy! 🙂

  38. Carl E. Reid, CSI July 13, 2016 at 9:08 am · Reply

    Diana,

    You are a living, breathing and traveling success story hero. I have enjoyed being inspired by your travels and your writing style in painting pictures about your life experiences. I wish much success in Las Vegas. From New York my wife and I travel to Vegas a couple of times a year. I mostly like the dessert excursions, as I lived in southern Cali previously. Your travel adventures keep me inspired to pursue Expat experiences. We’re looking at panama, Belize Costa Rica for starters. We joined a a few house sitting networks which allow us save on hotel expenses big time.

    Until we meet again through your next travel post, continued AWESOME adventures to you, Diana. Keep inspiring!!

    • Diana July 13, 2016 at 11:13 pm · Reply

      Hi Carl – thank you so much. That means the world to me. Often times lately I feel I am writing into a black hole, so it is really wonderful to read your words and know they have inspired you. Thank you. Your upcoming destinations (or would-be destinations) sound amazing!! Please keep me updated. Next time you’re in Vegas, let me know!

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