Today we welcome back Kat Selvocki to the Displaced Nation. She wrote for us once before: a travel yarn about spending Christmas in Europe with friends. She had just been toiling in the farmlands of Iceland as a volunteer, and was about to head Down Under to begin a new life as a yoga instructor in Sydney. Now, just over a year later, she is back in the United States. What happened? Here is Kat’s repatriation story.
— ML Awanohara
As my year-long working holiday visa for Australia began to wane, I started considering my options.
Or rather, my option.
I teach yoga: a career that doesn’t generally allow for work sponsorship. I also had a rocky relationship with my Australian boyfriend.
The only I way I could feasibly stay in Sydney was to enroll in a course.
I’d heard tales from other expats of reasonably-priced options — reasonably-priced meaning anything under $8,000 a year — but knew in my heart it wasn’t going to work. I no longer had that kind of cash in the bank, and even if I had, you wouldn’t catch me spending it on some ridiculous “business basics” class.
It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to stay; I just wasn’t sure I wanted to uproot my life after spending just eight months building a new life in Australia. There were places I still wanted to visit in that vast country, things I still wanted to do. And I loved the classes I was teaching.
But then I got glandular fever — commonly known in the US as mono, or the kissing disease. A month into fighting overwhelming exhaustion, all I wanted was for things to be easy again. In the end, it was having a such a debilitating illness that drove me over the edge.
I bought a plane ticket home.
The three emotions of repatriation
First came relief:
- No more comments about how my tattoos, taste in music, or style were “too American.”
- No more complicated calculations to figure out when friends or family would be available to Skype.
- No more job rejections on the basis of not being a citizen.
- And most importantly: central heating in abundance — finally, I’d stop getting sick so often!
Self-doubt followed. I’d spent years wanting to live as an expat, and when I finally had the opportunity, I’d been utterly miserable.
Had I failed, or not tried hard enough?
Should I have fought to stay longer, or at least until the end of my visa?
Were my reasons for leaving the right ones?
Why hadn’t I applied for that job working at a roadhouse waitress in the Outback, so that I’d at least seen more of the country?
Next up: fear. As I headed off to Oxford, UK, at the end of last year, to spend Christmas with friends before returning to the States to seek work, the wheel had come full circle. As reported on this blog in December 2011, I’d spent my first Christmas away from family, in Europe, on my way to a new life in Australia.
Whereas before I’d been full of excitement and anticipation, this time I was full of worry. I worried about how welcoming people would be when I returned. So many of my relationships had disintegrated while I was away, and I wasn’t sure if that was because of distance or because people were fed up with my use of Aussie slang in our conversations … or was it all my whining about being so bloody tired? (Hm, there’s that slang again!)
I had no idea whether finding work would actually be any easier, especially considering the much higher unemployment rate in the US.
I didn’t know how to talk about my time in Sydney without sounding bitter or depressed — but was also afraid that even if I sounded upbeat, people wouldn’t care to hear about it.
Old habits die hard…
I’d always believed that if something doesn’t work, you can simply head back to the place you were before.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure about that.
I had decided to move back to Seattle, a city where I’d lived eight years earlier. But would that be a terrible mistake? I pictured trying — and failing — to recreate the life I’d loved before.
Last time I wrote for the Displaced Nation, I reminisced about the four months I’d spent living in Prague on a study abroad. What I didn’t report was the depression and reverse culture shock I battle against upon returning to the United States.
If that were true after a mere four months, what impact would a year-and-a-half away have? Would I be feeling even more out of place? I dreaded the long readjustment.
I also worried about money, and whether I had enough to get settled again quickly.
…or do they?
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. (Except for the money concerns. Then again, I’m convinced that no matter how much I’d saved before returning, I still would have worried.)
From the moment I stepped off the plane, it was as if someone had flipped a switch inside of me. Even though things had changed — something that was particularly evident in New York City, which I passed through on the way to the West Coast (I’d lived there after Seattle) — it all felt normal. Easy. Almost as if I’d never left. My internal map and compass worked again; I knew where I was and where I was going.
And I still believe that — even though, two months after returning to the States, I continue to look the wrong way when crossing the street.
* * *
Thanks, Kat, for sharing your story. I found it very moving. Readers, any comments, questions for Kat — any similar stories to share?
Kat Selvocki — badass yoga instructor, photographer, writer and traveler — is currently kicking ass and taking names in Seattle after returning from her expat adventures. Learn more about her on her Web site: KatSelvocki.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @katselvocki.
STAY TUNED for the final post in our fashion and style series, by the ever-so-stylish Kate Allison! (Well, she certainly has flair!)
If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!
images: (clockwise, starting top left) Chelsea Market, NYC; Capitol Hill, Seattle; Circular Quay, Sydney; Chelsea Market, NYC; The Rocks, Sydney; in the air when flying from Sydney to Melbourne; Pioneer Square, Seattle. Center shot of Kat Selvocki was taken in Seattle. All photos are Kat’s with the exception of the Circular Quay in Sydney, which came from Morguefiles.