When you’re an expat, it’s hard to know if the best place to spend your holiday is truly at home. Balancing support for your family, their long list of chores; and mending yourself back to sanity after a long winter.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that vacations and going home at times appear mutually exclusive. There’s often pressure to travel around and meet all your relatives, friends and anyone you left behind. And so there’s no wonder that many expats don’t consider a trip home to be a holiday at all.
The factors in the equation
How you plan on spending your vacation time will likely depend on many things. On your side, you have to consider how much time off you have, how far away you have to travel, as well as the costs. Perhaps you have children that attend school and other activities.
And then there’s your family’s side of the equation. Are there health conditions that necessitate you traveling home, maybe you have shared admin with your parents, and they need your help with paperwork, moving houses, and they just generally want to see you.
There are always alternatives
There’s always the alternatives of not going home for every holiday. Whether that means, once a year or every so often, depending on the above factors.
You could also consider contributing to the cost of family coming to visit you, or you could choose to meet up somewhere half-way, so all parties share the distance.
Don’t go on a guilt trip
I think all expats struggle with guilt when it comes to these decisions. Few manage to play on guilt as good as a Greek mom (although my friend says Jewish moms have a strong game too :thinking_face: )
My advice to you is to not plan trips home out of guilt. You’ll be putting yourself a double misfortune, by both going against your own grain and then also not enjoying your holiday.
It took me a while to realise and also put my foot down on this. Where I now refuse to do things out of guilt but instead choose to do them out of love and compassion.
4 steps to optimise holidays home as an expat
The secret sauce quite simply lies in knowing your self, your limits, and communicating and upholding these. I’ve prepared this list so you can work your way through the four steps I take to get the best of my holidays and supporting family:
1. Gather information ahead of time
The more you’re able to plan ahead, the better. Try getting insight up front on what you need to get done during your trip and what things you are absolutely required for. Planning alongside your parents or siblings will help you understand how much of your time will be taken up by chores.
You might even find that some things can be taken care of ahead of time, which will save you precious holiday time.
2. Time box & communicate!
After you’ve gathered a list of the what you need to get done, communicate carefully to your relatives precisely what you will be taking care of while you’re home. It’s also essential to communicate that you have your scheduled planned and that you most likely will not be able to do anything beyond what’s been agreed.
The key here is to communicate this very clearly; probably repeatedly. Setting and managing expectations can do wonders for you!
3. Plan a few overnight getaways in new places
Of course, planning and preparing will only get you so far. Additional things will undoubtedly arise, like last minute tech support, last-minute dinners with relatives and friends.
If you’ve had an unusually hard time at work, with stress and a shitty boss, this step will be of particular importance for you to follow through on.
Ahead of your trip, book a getaway for a few nights to a place you’ve never been before. Explore your home country or go someplace you know and love and have always wanted to return to. It can be great to do this with a friend you don’t see often and want to spend some quality time with.
4. Set your limits in stone
While the emotional pressure to dote on your mom can be strong, commit to your limits for your own sake.
This step is all about promising yourself to uphold your boundaries for yourself. You can’t do everything, and being expected to do so is unreasonable - and frankly, not cool.
Be kind and generous with yourself. Maybe this means spending money to hire help for specific tasks. If it takes the stress out and improves the time you get to spend with family, it will most definitely be worth it
Temporary short distance care(giv)ing
As we spend most of the year as long-distance caregivers, the time we have back home is a gift. Some gifts require extra attention to be enjoyed. Just like flowers need to be cared for and need the right conditions to stay green, survive the seasons, and continue to grow.
Mon Tonton - for long-distance families
At Mon Tonton, we’re on a mission to help secure a healthy and happy future for aging loved ones. The wellbeing of all parties is equally important in a relationship.