The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

4 observations after 3 years of holding up a mirror to expat (& repat) life

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, I wrote a post in celebration of the Displaced Nation’s third birthday, which occurred on April 1st.

For three years we’ve held up a mirror, as it were, to what we’ve been calling the displaced life, writing and commissioning posts on what motivates people to venture across borders to travel and live.

During the past three years, here’s what our looking-glass has revealed:

1) We aspire to be the fairest of them all.

If our site stats are anything to go by, the Fountain of Youth myth is still alive and well. We may not be searching for water with restorative powers on our travels, but we never tire of reading about Jennifer Scott’s top 20 lessons she learned from Madame Chic while living in Paris, TCK Marie Jhin’s advice on Asian beauty secrets, or my post summarizing beauty tips I picked up on two small islands, England and Japan (three of our most popular posts to date). Heck, even 5 tips on how to look good when you backpack still gets plenty of hits.

2) We mostly just want to have fun.

The popularity of two of Tony James’s Slater’s posts—one listing his five favorite parties around the world and other other telling the tale of his attempt to overcome language barriers in pursuit of an Ecuadorian woman—suggest that good times and love still rank high on the list of reasons why people opt for the road much less traveled. That said, some of us worry about going too far with the latter, if the enduring popularity of my post four reasons to think twice before embarking on cross-cultural marriage is anything to go by.

3) But we love hearing stories about international travelers with a higher purpose.

Most of us do not venture overseas in hopes of changing the world, but we are inspired by tales of those who once did—how else to explain the golden oldie status of 7 extraordinary women with a passion to save souls? And our fascination with the international do-gooder of course continues to the present. Kate Allison’s interview with Robin Wiszowaty, who serves as Kenya Program Director for the Canadian charity Free the Children, still gets lots of hits, as does my post about Richard Branson and other global nomads who delve into global misery. Perhaps we like to bask in reflected glory?!

4) Last but not least, we think we know things other people don’t.

Indeed, the most common phenomenon that has occurred when holding up our mirror to international adventurers is to find our mirror reflected in theirs, and theirs reflected in the lives of people they depict, ad infinitum, in a manner not unlike a Diego Velázquez painting (see above). In my view, this mise en abyme owes to the conviction among (particularly long-term) expats that in venturing so far afield, they have uncovered things about our planet that are worth examining, reporting, and creating something with, be it a memoir of what they’ve experienced (think Jack Scott’s Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam Move to Turkey, Janet Brown’s Tone Deaf in Bangkok, or Jennifer Eremeeva’s soon-to-be featured Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow), a novel based on their overseas adventures (think Kate Allison’s Libby’s Life or Cinda MacKinnon’s A Place in the World), and/or an art work that springs from what they saw and felt when living in other cultures (eg, Elizabeth Liang’s one-woman show about growing up a TCK).

In short, although many of us can relate to Alice’s feeling of having stepped through the looking glass, we also aren’t afraid to hold up a looking glass to that experience. I often think of Janet Brown telling us she almost went home “a gibbering mess” upon discovering that her Thai landlord was spreading salacious rumors about her, but the point is, she survived to tell us about the experience in her gem of a book. Surely, that’s the kind of hero/ine Linda Janssen has in mind for her self-help book The Emotionally Resilient Expat?

* * *

No doubt there are even more insights our three years of running the Displaced Nation have revealed, but I’ll stop here to see what you make of this list of traits. Does it strike you as being accurate, or perhaps a bit distorted? (Hmmm… Given this site’s proclivity for humor and sending things up, how can you be sure this isn’t a funhouse mirror and I’m not pulling your leg? Har har hardy har har.)

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts.

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!

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8 responses to “4 observations after 3 years of holding up a mirror to expat (& repat) life

  1. Karen April 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Thank you and congratulations, ladies, for all that you have posted over the last three years. It’s been fun to participate in and read your adventures! Here’s to three more years of Displaced Nation!

  2. cindamackinnon April 27, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:The Displaced Nation is by far my favorite blog.
    Thanks for including me with all of these well- traveled creatives!

    • ML Awanohara May 15, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      Well, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you’re a great fit, Cinda! Here’s to featuring you & your latest work again in the not-distant future!!!

  3. Jack Scott April 28, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Happy birthday and thank you for the mention. Long may Displaced Nation continue to keep that mirror held high but who’s the prettiest of them all?

  4. Linda A Janssen (@Linda_A_Janssen) May 1, 2014 at 10:12 am

    In my opinion, this article showcases what is so right about The Displaced Nation. One of the reasons I – and I suspect many others, too – enjoy The Displaced Nation so much is the wide-ranging wealth of riches it offers, not only in terms of expat/cross-cultural topics but also voices, genres, formats and interests. Rather than settling for being labeled ‘the global traveler site, ‘the traditional expat site’, ‘the global family blogger site’, and so on, TDN hasn’t been afraid to be the community for ALL cross-cultural wayfarers. I love reading the interviews, round-up lists, book reviews and topical posts, feeling part of the globally mobile community while learning more about my fellow citizens, their interests and what makes them tick. Nothing cookie-cutter here, you celebrate nomadic diversity, and we the readership are the better for it. Congrats on your 3rd birthday, here’s to many more! And yes, it’s the ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, have a good laugh – or cry – and keep moving’ attitude of Janet Brown et al that personifies emotional resilience. Many, many thanks indeed.

    • ML Awanohara May 15, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      True, Janet is an inspiration to us all, but so are you, Linda! Thanks for paying tribute to the diversity of our topics, styles, and formats. We may be many things, but cookie cutter we’re not. And though our humor may be offbeat at times, you are right, we are genuinely interested in what makes us all tick. So many of us, for instance, come from backgrounds where we’re the only person in our families to have traveled far afield. Why is that? Is there a wanderlust gene? Well, until they find it, we ponderers will remain in business… 🙂

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