The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

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6 wishes for the Displaced Nation’s birthday number 6

Readers, new and old, I’m thrilled to announce we have just now embarked on our seventh year as a “nation”—the very first Displaced Nation post having been made on April 1, 2011.

Why did we choose April Fool’s Day, you may wonder? The other two founders and I were aware of the irony but thought it appropriate at some level.

Wasn’t it all a bit of a lark?

Since Year Two, I’ve insisted upon doing birthday posts on the site. One of my favorites was the time I likened the Displaced Nation team of writers to a tango of swashbuckling pirates. Or how about the time I proposed a virtual hot air balloon party, toasting the Displaced Nation Thermal Airship while also pointing out our tendency to be full of hot air?

But by our fourth birthday, I’d run out of metaphors (saying a lot!). Since then I’ve settled into the pattern of delivering as many wishes as the number of years being celebrated.

In keeping with this new tradition, allow me to share my six wishes for the coming year:

1) The inspiration to start up a Displaced Nation Instagram account. Hm, what kinds of pix would we post? If you can answer that question, please email me!

2) More followers on Facebook and Twitter. I enjoy the interaction.

3) More Displaced Dispatch subscribers. That way I’ll get more suggestions for content to feature. (By the way, if you like this post, it’s the kind of thing I share with Displaced Dispatchers on a biweekly basis, along with news on new works by international creatives, recent matters of debate in the expat realm and some surprising discoveries global travelers have made.)

4) More poetry on the site. This past year, it’s been fun to showcase a couple of works by displaced American poet Robert Peake.

5) Continued success for all of our columnists. Note: Two new columnists will be making their debut this month; give it up for them!

6) More humo(u)r. The other two founders, both Brits, have since retired, leaving me, a Yank, on my own to hold up the side for self-deprecating humo(u)r, which, according to the Displaced Nation Charter, works well for handling the vicissitudes of the displaced life: “It soothes personal anxieties and can also build bridges.”

Okay, time to wheel out the chocolate cake (chocolate being another necessity for the displaced life) and to thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you, readers, for being part of this year’s celebrations—no foolin’!

ML Awanohara, one of the Displaced Nation’s founders and its current editor, often composes pieces of this kind for the biweekly Displaced Dispatch. Why not subscribe and brighten up your expat life every couple of weeks?

Photo credit: Happy Birthday, by Daniel Lewis via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

STAY TUNED for more 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, and much, much more. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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5 lessons from 5 years of running an expat & international travel-themed blog

The Displaced Nation is five years old today, hooray! Who ever dreamed, when we originally formed a more perfect union for expats and other internationals with a creative bent, we’d still be around half-a-decade later?

And no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke—though as I recall, the other two founders and I thought it would be quite a good wheeze, and a bit of a hedge, to start up a collective enterprise on April 1st.

At some level, we regarded our mission of carving out a space in the already overcrowded expat and international travel realm as rather foolhardy. But we persisted because of our belief that expats and other internationals needed a space where they could be free to express both the bad and the good of what it feels like to be displaced, living in someone else’s culture, eating their porridge (okayu, or congee, for those of us who’ve lived in Asia), sitting in their chairs (or on floors, ditto), and sleeping in their beds (or on futons, ditto).

And as the years passed, we wanted to celebrate those who created something out of experience, whether that was a memoir, a novel, a play, or a set of paintings…

Are we any wiser now? Or, I should say: Am I any wiser now, as the other two founders have since retired…

Here are five lessons from the past five years:

1) Even a site that prides itself on encouraging eccentricity and humo(u)r, especially of the self-deprecating variety, isn’t immune to blogging trends.

We blog less frequently than we used to; less interaction happens around our posts than before because of the rise in popularity of social media; visuals have become more important; and our most popular posts are lists. Indeed, one that I wrote in the first year of the Displaced Nation’s life, “7 extraordinary women travelers with a passion to save souls,” continues to be one of our most popular to this day. One social media trend we’ve resisted, by the way, is Instagram—but can an Instagram account be far off? We shall see…

2) Changing with the times doesn’t mean letting go of the past.

We’ve had pretty much the same site layout, and banner, since we started. Hm, but will we opt for a fully responsive design, the kind all the big kids are playing with, in 2016?

3) As predicted by the blogging coach we consulted at the beginning of this enterprise, a collective blog can work if one person serves as editor. It helps to have a house style.

That would be me. And, because of that, I post much less often than I used to. As Displaced Dispatch subscribers will note, I tend to show some of my eccentricity and humo(u)r in our weekly e-newsletter. Check out a recent issue here—and get on our subscriber list NOW. A weekly newsletter is a major commitment. Who knows how much longer I’ll be able to keep this up?

4) Friendships and alliances of the nurturant kind can happen through the blogosphere.

In an age when we are becoming obsessed with the ways technology has enabled terrorists to spread their messages of hate and fear, I think it’s worth remembering, as tech journalist Nick Bilton put it in his last New York Times column of yesterday:

[Technology] connects us to people who are not with us, geographically or physically, and make[s] us feel a little less alone in this big confusing world.

At this point in the Displaced Nation’s life, I feel I know all of our columnists quite well, despite having met only one of them in person. Likewise for our frequent commenters. I love the way we’ve connected through our writing about common experiences. The circle we’ve created over the years is precious. On days when I need to know there are others out there who feel as displaced as I do, it keeps me going.

5) When you can pick your blogging launch date, make it a memorable one.

I’m afraid I must disagree with Bruce Feiler, another New York Times columnist, who tweeted today:

Au contraire, my good man, I continue to find it amusing that we started up the Displaced Nation on April 1st. I like that it gives me an annual chance to tweet/say/announce: “No foolin’!”

After all, in a world where too many people have had displacement forced upon them, it can seem incredible that there are people like us who choose to occupy this kind of life. But it makes sense when you realize that for most of us it is, as we indicate on one of our Pinterest boards, an enchanted realm.

* * *

Thanks so much, readers, for staying with us—and if you want to give prezzies, here’s what we’d like:


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, and much, much more. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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The Displaced Nation’s 4 wishes for birthday number 4 (no foolin’!)

Happy 4th Birthday to the Displaced Nation!

Photo credit: “Today I’m 4 years old,” by Emran Kassim via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Greetings Displaced Nationers, old and new.

How many of you have been with us from the beginning, could I see a show of hands?

Hmmm… Are there one or two hands out there? Thanks for sticking around! We’ve come a long way together since the Displaced Nation’s humble beginnings on April Fool’s Day 2011.

Actually, can you believe it’s been four years and we still haven’t run out of things to say about the displaced life?

We can’t!

Still, today is not for introspection. It’s a special occasion, a day to celebrate with cake!

Photo credit: AlainAudet via Pixabay

Photo credit: AlainAudet via Pixabay.

And, although it’s not customary to do so, I’d like to reveal my four wishes for the coming year:

1) Reach a new milestone of 500 followers on Facebook.

For some reason we never tried very hard during these four years to get FB followers, and our numbers reflect this insouciance: we are now at 467. If any of you can help us find 33 more “likes”, we’d deeply appreciate. Of course we’d like to have even more than 500, but we’d be happy with that milestone for now. (We post on FB twice a day, and always strive to be amusing and/or thought-provoking…)

2) Have more people discover the new and much improved (if we say so ourselves!) Displaced Dispatch.

If you’re a subscriber, you’ll know that we’ve already celebrated our birthday in last Sunday’s issue by sharing the Danish idea of April Fool’s (no fooling’). Seriously (actually, I am serious), the Dispatch is now like chunky ice cream. It goes down smoothly but also contains six tasty morsels:

  • What to celebrate this week: Holidays and other commemorative occasions around the world.
  • While we were all on social media: New book releases and other milestones in the lives of international creatives.
  • TDN updates: Our past week’s posts.
  • Alice Obsession: Our latest discovery about Alice in Wonderland, whom we see as our muse.
  • Matters of debate: Contentious issues raised by various expat and travel bloggers over the past few weeks.
  • Surprising discoveries: Stuff we didn’t know before sifting through said sources. (Turns out: there’s a lot we don’t know!)

3) Deliver a fitting commemoration to Alice in Wonderland on behalf of the 150th birthday of Lewis Carroll’s celebrated book.

One hundred and fifty years, really? That puts our four years in perspective! As long-time readers will know, the Displaced Nation has treated Alice in Wonderland as our special muse from the very start, beginning with Kate Allison’s brilliant “5 lessons Wonderland taught me about the expat life, by Lewis Carroll’s Alice.” For the past three years, we gave out monthly Alice Awards to a number of international creatives. For that matter, we also have a thriving Alice in Wonderland Pinterest board. But for this special year in Alice’s life, we are planning a special “wonderlanded” series, to be rolled out starting this month. (Know anyone who would be game to channel Alice from the perspective of someone leading a life of global residency and travel? We are open to suggestions. Send to

4) Introduce a new look to the site.

Good news: I already have a theme picked out! Not-so-good news: I can’t seem to find the time to transfer the contents, resize the photos, and so on. (Blame the day job!)

* * *

And assuming I get another wish, to grow on, that one will be that we can always have a rich crop of international creatives as columnists.

Speaking of which, I’d like to give the first pieces of our birthday cake to Beth Green, Lisa Liang, JJ Marsh, Joanna Masters-Maggs, HE Rybol, and Shannon Young: The Displaced Nation would have little to celebrate were it not for the seven of you!!!

And if anyone out there is still with me, you deserve some cake as well. Thanks so much for your support.

Photo credit: blickpixel via Pixabay.

Photo credit: blickpixel via Pixabay.

Bottoms up, cheers, kampai—oh and thanks for all the prezzies! What prezzies, you may ask? Well, I assume that from now you’re going to:

And with that final pitch, I’m off to fetch another glass of champagne. Huzzah!!

STAY TUNED for more 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, and much, much more. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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A spoonful of imagination helps the expat life go down: In tribute to our 7 columnists

Sugar spoon by jppi (Morguefiles); jet painting by Prawny (Morguefiles).

Sugar spoon by jppi (Morguefiles); jet painting by Prawny (Morguefiles).

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, as summer draws to its inevitable close, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the talented individuals who write columns for us from an expat or otherwise displaced perspective.

Curiouser and curiouser! If it weren’t for them, we’d know a great deal less about the contours of the kind of creative life that is lived across two or more distinct cultures.

Fiction, fantasy, food, photos, theatre—oh my! Our columnists also serve as the Wizards who can help the rest of us transform our travels into a trip down the Yellow Brick Road.

(Yes, Dorothy has now joined Alice as a Displaced Nation heroine.)

Without further ado, they are, in alphabetical order:

1) Andrew Couch

COLUMN: Here Be Dragons
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT ANDREW: He spent this summer developing the Peanut Butter Bar WordPress app, which allows you to attach sticky bars to the roof of your site that stay visible no matter how far a user scrolls. (“Smooth” is free. “Chunky,” which has more features, costs $15.)
COLUMN PURPOSE: Andrew demonstrates, through snippets of his own writing, the possibility of collecting materials for a fantasy novel from a life of international travel.
MOST POPULAR POST: Andrew’s first, “The expat life as fuel for fantasy writing,” perhaps because his concept is a little fantastical.
WHY YOU SHOULD FOLLOW: You will never look at your displaced life in quite the same way again but will see yourself as the protagonist in your own Alice or Dorothy story, a story you’re not only living but could (should?) be writing…

2) Beth Green

COLUMN: Booklust, Wanderlust
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT BETH: She grew up on a sailboat and, though now a landlubber, still enjoys a peripatetic life.
COLUMN PURPOSE: Beth selects books with particular appeal to international creatives.
MOST POPULAR POST: Her first, about the Dublin Murder Squad series by ATCK writer Tana French, perhaps reflecting Beth’s own passion for mystery (she is also a member of the Sisters in Crime mystery writers’ association, another interesting fact about Beth).
WHY YOU SHOULD FOLLOW: The peripatetic Beth has a correspondingly eclectic taste in books, sampling everything from psychological mystery to journalistic memoirs of China to biographies of eccentric female travelers of the past century.

3) Elizabeth Liang

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT LISA: Lisa spent part of the summer in Iceland, putting on her one-woman autobiographical show about growing up as a TCK, Citizen Alien.
COLUMN PURPOSE: Lisa profiles Adult Third Culture Kids with unusual talents. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of them find success as actors, just as Lisa has.
MOST POPULAR POST: Lisa’s interview with Laura Piquado, an actress in New York City who grew up all over the world and told Lisa she is now

dyak and atheist, Muslim, Christian, Bahá’í, Jain, Egyptian, Italian, Canadian—there is nowhere in the world that has ever felt foreign to me.

WHY YOU SHOULD FOLLOW: Because they weren’t originally expats by choice, adult TCKs can teach the rest of us a lot about the glories as well as the challenges of leading a displaced life. Plus Lisa’s gutsiness in developing her own TCK show gives her creds. She and the show are terrific! I know because I’ve met her and seen it.

4) Meagan Adele Lopez

COLUMN TITLE: The Lady Who Writes
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT MAL: Meagan Adele Lopez (nicknamed MAL) is both Anglophile and Francophile (she once lived in Paris). Talk about open-mindedness!
COLUMN PURPOSE: MAL writes about what she wished she’d known before setting out to write and self-publish her first novel, Three Questions, based on a romantic adventure that started at the end of her first expat stint in the UK (in Bristol).
MOST POPULAR POST: MAL’s first, suggesting that expats may easily be able to find a novel in their novel lives. Note: MAL has just wrapped up her six-post series for us.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Rather like Dickens, MAL calls on elements from her thespian background (she used to be an actor in Hollywood, no less) for writing a novel. Her characters are real: she imagines “dining out” with them!

5) James King

COLUMN TITLE: A Picture Says…
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT JAMES: James now lives in Thailand but during his previous expat stint, in South Africa, he ended up settling in Capetown, where he still has a house he’s renting out but would like to sell. Anybody interested?!
COLUMN PURPOSE: James tries to coax expats and other displaced types for whom photography is a creative outlet to tell the stories behind their favorite photos.
MOST POPULAR POST: James’s interview with Irish “ruin hunter” and photographer Ed Mooney, which generated a whopping 32 comments.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Why people feel compelled to take photos and what their favorite subjects are turns out to be a great window into the displaced mindset. Kudos to James for developing the series in this new direction.

6) JJ Marsh

COLUMN TITLE: Location, Locution
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT JJ: She plans to attend the Chorleywood LitFest on November 16th, 2014, wearing a toga. Hey, carpe diem and all that!
COLUMN PURPOSE: JJ interviews well-known authors who are expats and/or set their books in far-off lands about the role of place (location) in their imagination and subsequent writings (locution).
MOST POPULAR POST: JJ’s interview with Amanda Hodgkinson, who finished her first two novels, 22 Britannia Road and Spilt Milk, after relocating with her family to southwest France.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: JJ commands respect in the writing world for her own achievement in crafting a European crime series featuring detective inspector Beatrice Stubbs, in which place plays a major role (she thinks of it as a “character,” she says). This must be why so many other authors are willing to share with her the techniques they use to transport readers to other, more remote parts of the world. Her columns are invariably illuminating.

7) Joanna Masters-Maggs

COLUMN TITLE: Global Food Gossip
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT JOANNA: She is a school friend of Displaced Nation founder Kate Allison. Want another one? She is half Irish and half English, which surely qualifies her as a TCK?
COLUMN PURPOSE: Joanna provides the inside story on food that comes from having lived as a trailing spouse in eight very different countries for more than 16 years.
MOST POPULAR POST: “There’s no taste like home,” in which Joanna confesses that she’s been so busy trying to cook the local food for her four kids that she neglected to introduce them to traditional English dishes.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Her repeat expat life has turned her into a creative chef extraordinaire. She knows how to make her own clotted cream (and provides a recipe) should homesickness strike, but is equally adept at Texas Barbecue Brisket.

* * *

In other news…

Have you checked out our Pinterest pins lately? We’ve quite the collection of displaced reads, movies and people, eg:

We can take you on a trip out of this displaced world should you wish to be further displaced; or for those who prefer a fantasy metaphor for their escapist tendencies, check out our Alice in Wonderland and Follow the Yellow Brick Road boards.

IT’S FOOD! is one of our most popular boards (natch!), as is World Parties, Holidays & Celebrations (hooray!). We also have two boards that celebrate the spirit of two previous blogs by me and another Displaced Nation founder, Kate Allison:

Speaking of Kate, you may have noticed that after producing episodes of her novel Libby’s Life on a regular basis for a couple of years (90 episodes, can you imagine?!), she is now updating the story on her author blog and aggregating those posts every so often for the Displaced Nation audience.

Last but not least, if you haven’t caught up with our Displaced Dispatch lately, take another look. Besides links to the latest posts, we have ORIGINAL contents by yours truly, exclusive giveaways (there’s one on now!) and candidates for the monthly Alice Awards.

Yes, we are still doing our Alice Awards and have now added an occasional Wizard of Oz column about repatriation: “Emerald City to Kansas”. We’re a busy (dis)place!

STAY TUNED for the announcement of August Alices.

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 original contents, book giveaways, and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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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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Up, up and away: The Displaced Nation turns three today (no foolin’!)

TDN Birthday CardWal-lah! The Displaced Nation is turning three today. Yes, our birthday is April 1st—no foolin’!

To celebrate, we would like to invite you to a virtual “hot air balloon” party.

Yes, a hot air balloon party—no foolin’ on that score either, though you could have fooled me as I had never heard of such a party until a day or so ago. Back in my day, when I still celebrated birthdays, ordinary balloons would suffice. As Winnie the Pooh once put it:

Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.

But surely they can be even less uncheered with a hot air balloon—or so I’ve come to be persuaded.

What’s more, I’ve come to realize that hot air ballooning represents most of what we’ve been up to on this site over the past three years. Here are the three observations that led to this considerable epiphany:

1) We are full of hot air.

I won’t point the finger at anyone in particular. We are all guilty. But if I had to start somewhere it might be with:

2) But we’ve steadfastly adhered to our goal of putting air under the wings of international travelers and residents.

Just because we’re full of hot air, doesn’t mean everyone else has to be. Tellingly, our most inspirational posts tend to be by our current crop of columnists. They produce monthly tales of international residents who’ve used their time creatively. Who can fail to feel uplifted when reading about individuals like:

And these are just from the past month! Thank you, JJ Marsh, James King, Lisa Liang, Joanna Masters-Magg and Meagan Adele Lopez (her column comes up tomorrow!) for the critical part all of you have played in keeping us afloat.

On this note, Kate Allison deserves special mention for keeping us entertained with her serial expat novel, Libby’s Life, for the entire length of this voyage. She recently posted its 90th episode! The thought of writing that much fiction online is enough to puncture anyone’s balloon, but not Kate’s!

3) We go wherever the wind takes us.

As regular readers will realize by now, we don’t really steer the balloon, because, well, we can’t. And to be honest, we never had any particular destination in mind. We started out with monthly “themes” of global residency and travel, in hopes we would one day land in an island full of great wealth and fantastic inventions, the kind of place where our themes could become memes. Everyone there would say, how right you are, we international travelers are all writing our own versions of the Alice in Wonderland story! Let’s have a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to celebrate. As a matter of fact, let’s turn it into an island-wide holiday!

As it turns out, however, we have yet to share the fate of retired schoolteacher Professor William Waterman Sherman. We have not yet found (or founded?) the utopian displaced community of our dreams. Thus, on our second anniversary, we rebranded ourselves as something a little tamer: a “site for international creatives”: fiction and nonfiction writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and activists.

But we kept two categories that pay tribute to our original concept: Pot Luck and Just for Laughs. And to this day, we enjoy lurching towards the odd (you can say that again!) thematic post. We just can’t help ourselves! As most regular readers know, we still give out monthly “Alices” to those with a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of life as a global resident or voyager. And, just last month, we embraced a new heroine for the repatriate challenge many of us have faced: Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz!

Is it any wonder we are throwing a Hot Air Balloon Party?

* * *

I’ve just now heard that the band has arrived. They’re called The Fifth Dimension—what could be more appropriate for take-off?! Up, up and away!

Hey, even if you’re not a balloonatic yet, we guarantee that this is the most fun you’ll ever have in a wicker basket. (And perhaps the most fear…)

Before leaving, let’s all raise our glasses. Here’s to another good year aboard the Displaced Nation Thermal Airship! Three cheers! Hip, hip, hooray!

Readers, if you have any posts that you particularly enjoyed in the past three years, please let us know in the comments. We can see if we can produce more of the same (depending on which way the wind blows, of course).

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s fab post from The Lady Who Writes.

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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Ahoy, mateys! Splice the mainbrace. The Displaced Nation has spotted some treasure!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAhoy me hearties! Two years ago on Monday, The Three Pirateers — how I like to refer to Anthony Windram, Kate Allison and myself, the Displaced Nation’s founding contributors — swashbuckled our way into this site and declared it a home for ourselves and anyone else who has ever felt “displaced”.

Land ho! we cried, thinking we’d finally found a place to settle our poor, restless souls. No foolin’! (Hm, I wish I were sometimes!)

But as time went on, we were less confident about the nomenclature we’d selected:

Our debates always ended with one of us saying: “Let’s drink grog before the fog.” And a bottle of rum would be passed around … after which we’d conclude that even if we couldn’t find a satisfactory descriptor for our state of mind, international travel had changed us into a bunch of scallywags.

By that I mean, people who’ve taken the road less traveled by — which, ironically, means we’ve traveled more than most. Certainly more than our kith and kin. Indeed, a significant number of us come from families where we are the only ones leading the so-called displaced life.

Our not-so-hidden booty

Avast ye!

We were so busy navel (hahaha) gazing for our first two years that we missed the treasure that was right in front of us.

It wasn’t even buried!

Our treasure, of course, consists of those creative geniuses who’ve produced something remarkable out of the displaced life — be it a novel, a travelogue, an artwork, a business or a social enterprise.

Blow me down! We are a site for international creatives, that’s what we are.

Blimey, how come it took so long for us to figure it out?

Our second incarnation

“Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!” I can hear some of you saying. “I don’t give a crusty stocking for your second incarnation. I like the Displaced Nation just the way it is.”

To which I may respond: “It ain’t healthy fer a ship to sail too long without off loadin’ some cargo, lest it start to fester, aye?”

That said, to call this a second incarnation may be going a tad overboard.

Particularly as we still have a category “just for laughs.”

Indeedy deed. We will continue to shelter anyone whose travels have helped them to cultivate a cutlass-sharp sense of humor.

We’ve still got our black pirate hearts…

Besides, we aren’t clearing the deck completely. That wench Libby — and her crawfish! — will still be here. But on the weeks when she isn’t published, we will have posts full of observations on England versus New England (the stuff that matters when navigating the globe!).

And we’ll still have Capital Ideas — only the treasure hunts will be even richer.

And we’ll of course have even more writers and artists on board.

Last but far from least, we’ll be rolling out some new columns. I’m not giving anything away here, but one of our new mateys is the infamous Cap’n Jack! (Now if that isn’t a hook, I don’t know what is!!)

Aye, plenty of booty for ye!

* * *

Okay, I’ve got two pistols, one plank and I’m out of patience. Any questions?! Seriously, if you have comments or suggestions as we proceed into our third year, let us know! And every time you run across a creative work by a displaced person, please email me (or one of my mateys)! I don’t know about the rest of ’em, but I can be reached at ml [at] thedisplacednation [dot] com.

Until then, may fair winds and good grog come yer way — and never forget that from now on, ye know where “home” is!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, some musings on the fine art of photography in an international travel setting by Andy Martin.

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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Image: MorgueFile

Do refugees and migrants have anything in common with us expats? No, and yes…

displacedvdisplacedBelieve it or not, the Displaced Nation has occasional qualms about whether “displaced” is the right word to describe a group of expats and internationalists. What does a group of privileged travelers have in common with refugees or migrants who’ve had no choice but to leave their homelands? We thought we’d begin the new year by touching on this vexed question, this time with the help of a mentor, Andy Martin. Andy is now an expat in Brazil, but he previously worked with refugees in London.

— ML Awanohara

Before moving to Brazil in February 2012 I worked with refugees as a social worker in the UK, and my last job entailed supporting unaccompanied minors: children as young as 11 who flee conflicts and persecution in countries such as Afghanistan — on their own.

And it is of them that I remind myself when I reflect upon my own struggles and anxieties at being “displaced” from my own country. Suddenly, my tongue-in-cheek British moans about uncomfortable buses and lopsided pavements (yes, pavements), or my frustrations with struggling to learn Portuguese, seem trivial when contrasted with the experiences of the young people I worked with.

Given this, it would seem bizarre for a rich (relatively) migrant like myself to even contemplate comparing my experiences of displacement with those who flee poverty, persecution or some other unimaginably unfortunate situation that most of us will thankfully never have to experience.

Or is it?

Well, I guess the differences are probably easier to distinguish — for example:

1) The reasons for the migration

Whilst refugees are forcibly displaced through circumstances outside of their control, more fortunate gringos like myself possess far greater agency when it comes to the motives for our movements: love, jobs, travel, etc.

2) The journey itself

Forcibly displaced people often leave their homes unexpectedly with no belongings, or else hurriedly sell whatever possessions and land they have in order to fund their flight, whilst my wife and I had carefully planned our move for over two years (well, we read a few books and, to be fair, she is Brazilian herself — which helps).

What’s more, the route a refugee takes is often perilous, taking months or even years, and in turn may comprise many different means of movement: on foot, by car, on overcrowded boats, airtight lorries or refrigerated trucks. On top of that, their destinies also usually lie in the hands of people smugglers.

My wife and I, though, as middle-earners in the UK, booked our flight with a click of our laptop, and the path from our flat in London to our new life in São Paulo was no more than a day’s inconvenience — and a relatively smooth and comfortable one at that.

I had the cabin crew to serve me unlimited amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and my biggest anxiety was which of the in-flight films to watch: Moneyball or Midnight in Paris?

3) The arrival at the new destination

Refugees are typically at the complete mercy of the host countries they successfully manage to reach. Most likely, they are from countries for which there are strict immigration controls and they are typically confronted not with empathy but with a culture of disbelief — yes, 11-year-old kids from Afghanistan with no family.

A British citizen like myself meanwhile, merely through my place of birth, possesses a passport that requires one of the fewest number of visas to travel around the world. Even when there is a requirement, particularly to live or work, it’s often pretty straightforward.

Refugees, though, even if they are granted some form of status, will by the nature of their former lives typically have to start from scratch, their qualifications often meaningless (that’s if they can even prove them) — and thus with access to only menial jobs and bottom-of-the-rung housing.

And then, once they’re settled, the mental scars from the trauma they’ve experienced will slowly emerge.

Fortunately for me — with the education I’ve received, the qualifications I’ve gained and the work experience I’ve accumulated — I’ll be in a far better position to start my dream life abroad.

Just take me to the beach already!

* * *

So far, so different then.

Is it really possible then that the experiences of forcibly displaced people can ever be compared to those whose displacement is chosen?

Well, yes, I think they can. Here’s a couple of ways we are similar:

1) The requisite adjustments to a new culture

One of the fascinating things about my job back in London was listening to people describe their reactions and adjustments to their strange new worlds. And, as you can imagine, the youthful frankness of the kids I worked with often made these accounts hilarious and, perhaps, more honest.

For example, I remember one young person seemed bemused as to why on one particularly hot day (well, relatively anyway) in London, so many people were stripping off their clothes and heading to the local park to sunbathe. He only realized why when by the next time I had seen him, there had been subsequently been 20 successive days of rain in London.

“Welcome to the UK,” I joked.

2) The occasional bouts of homesickness

It wasn’t, of course, just the things they were discovering which were intriguing, it was also what they were missing. For some it was their homelands, for others it was speaking their language, whilst often it was specific things like their mother’s home cooking, although most commonly it was the weather — of course.

However, a common and I guess obvious sadness amongst all of them was missing people — whether that be their friends, family or both.

* * *

In sum, writing my blog over the past year has made me realize that despite our very many differences all migrants share some common behaviors: that of exploring, adjusting and, inevitably, comparing (in my case moaning), as well as reflecting upon the losses we have to make in order to get to where we are.

At the same time, I’ve also acknowledged that my own anxieties are not trivial just because they might seem so in comparison. They are real and probably shared by many people. However, thinking about those kids back in the UK just gives me the motivation to try even harder.

Thank you, Andy, for that reality check! Readers, what did you think of Andy’s analysis?

British by birth and slowly becoming a little more Brazilian each day after moving to São Paulo a year ago with his Brazilian wife, Andy Martin is also a qualified social worker in the UK, who specialized in supporting refugees in negotiating the process of displacement. Now, as a migrant himself, he is finding out whether any of the advice he gave them was of any use in the first place. Andy is also known to drink tea, warm beer and play cricket, none of which Brazilians seem to be massively convinced by. You can learn more about him by following his blog, The book is on the table, and/or following him on Twitter: @andyhpmartin.

STAY TUNED for next week’s 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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Images: The photo of the boy is from Morguefiles; the other photo is of Andy Martin (his own).

Highlight of 2012: “Pinning” down expat, TCK, travel & other displaced themes on Pinterest

Would it be mixing my metaphors too much to say we stumbled upon Pinterest in 2012? I suppose so. But that’s really what happened.

By the end of last year, Kate Allison and I were debating about Pinterest: should the Displaced Nation be participating in a pinboard-style photo-sharing site that some commentators were predicting might surpass Facebook in popularity? Kate felt cautious about making another major commitment to social media, whereas I was gung-ho to give it a whirl.

Kate also pointed out, very sensibly, that the Displaced Nation isn’t trading primarily in food, fashion and weddings — the most popular Pinterest topics. Not wishing to be dissuaded, I reminded her of our “IT’S FOOD!” category, adding: “We also do fashion, and multicultural marriage…”

It came to pass that one day in early April, Kate, for reasons still unknown to me, took the Pinterest plunge. She told me about it afterwards and said we’d been missing out on a whole lot of fun! As anyone who reads Kate’s posts will know, for her to say something is fun is a high recommendation. “I wanna get me some of that,” I said to myself.

The bubble tea of the social media world

The first time I pinned, I was reminded, in a strange kind of way, of my first experience with Taiwanese bubble tea. Just as I wasn’t sure what to do with all the tapioca balls or pearls, I wasn’t sure what to do with all the images on a Pinterest page. But as with the tapioca balls, which proved to be chewy and addictive, so with Pinterest. It was not long before I was pinning with the best of ’em.

This pinning business is amusing, that’s for sure, as well as mildly addictive. But let’s not overlook the fundamental question. Do collections of photos that are archived on Pinterest bring more attention to issues that are important to the Displaced Nation? We’re talking not only food but expat stories, TCK experiences, travel yarns, books about the displaced life, movies about said life, and so on.

As New York Times senior writer C.J. Chivers said in a Poynter article listing the ways journalists are trying to use Pinterest:

Used poorly, [Pinterest] would be just as much as a time suck on work and on life as the rest of the Internet can be.

Two dozen boards and counting…

The Displaced Nation currently has 28 boards and has accepted invites to several shared boards, including the one for #hybridambassadors, a group put together by Anastasia Ashman, and two on travel.

The boards that get the most traffic, by far and away, are the shared boards on travel.

Why is it that comparatively few have discovered our other collections? Especially as five of those boards would qualify as a useful “visual index” of themes I would posit to be the core of the shared displaced identity.

Here is just a small sample of what people in our circles may be missing:

1) Displaced Reads
Purpose: Originally created to keep track of all the books by and/or about expats we’d been featuring on the Displaced Nation, this board has become a repository for any books we happen upon that involve global voyages or living in other countries.
Recent pins: Tequila Oil: Getting Lost in Mexico by Hugh Thomson; Beirut: An Explosive Thriller, by Alexander McNabb; and To Hellas and Back, by Lana Penrose.
Recent repin: An Inconvenient Posting: An expat wife’s memoir of lost identity, by Laura Stephens (via BlogExpat, their “Expat Books” board).

2) The Displaced Oscars
Purpose: To keep track of the films we’ve been reviewing since launching our Displaced Oscars theme last March. As with Displaced Books, Displaced Oscars has morphed into a record of all the films we hear about that involve expats, displacement and/or global travel.
Recent pins: The Iran Job, a documentary about an American pro basketball player who signs up to play for an Iranian team for a year; Infancia Clandestina (Clandestine Childhood), a cinematic memoir about a family returning to Argentina after many years in political exile; and Tabu, an experimental fiction that ranges from contemporary Lisbon to an African colony (Portuguese Mozambique) in the distant past.
Recent repin: Notting Hill from the Jetpac blog — they’d pinned it to their “Movies to Fuel Your Wanderlust” board.

3) Third Culture Kids
Purpose: To highlight the third culture kids who’ve contributed to this blog, along with other accomplished people who fall into this category.
Recent pins: Fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra, who was born in Paris to a French-Basque father and Chinese American mother, and now lives in the U.S.; Maggi Aderin Pocock, who was born in Britain to Nigerian parents and is now the BBC’s “face of space”; and Isabel Fonesca, a writer born to an American mother and Uruguayan sculptor father, who ended up living in London (she is the wife of Martin Amis, and they’ve now moved to Brooklyn).
Recent repin: President Obama, via Kristin Bair O’Keefe (her Inspiration board).

4) Multicultural Love
Purpose: To continue one of the blog’s most popular themes, especially after the momentum gained this past February, when we did a whole slew of posts in honor of Valentine’s Day.
Recent pins: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton; Carla Bruni and Nicholas Sarkozy; Martin Amis and Isabel Fonesca.
Recent repin: Becky Ances and her Chinese boyfriend, in Shanghai, via Jocelyn Eikenburg (pinned to her board “Chinese Men and Western Women in Love”).

5) Displaced Hall of Fame (Historical) & Displaced Hall of Fame (Contemporary)
Purpose: To flesh out a category that has been somewhat neglected on our live blog — not for want of examples.
Recent pins: Historical: Robert Sterling Clark, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune except that he preferred to explore the Far East; Josef Frank, the Hungarian-born architect and designer who became a Swedish citizen and lived in New York; and P.L. Travers, the Australian-born author who moved to Britain in her twenties and composed Mary Poppins in a Sussex cottage. | Contemporary: Writer and literary critic Francine du Plessix Gray; Pakistani writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif; model and actress Diane Kruger.
Recent repins: Historical: Lady Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies, a West African royal who was taken to England and presented as a “gift” to Queen Victoria, from #hybridambassadors. | Contemporary: David Beckham, via Smitten by Britain (her “My Favourite Brits” board).

Is Pinterest Pinter-esque?

There’s such a wealth of images on Pinterest that I sometimes feel that, as in a Harold Pinter drama where what the characters don’t say speaks volumes, it’s what you don’t pin that’s more important than what you do, in shaping your Pinterest presence.

Right now we are in a period of excess — it was just so right-brain-stimulating to become immersed in the Pinterest world. Or, to put it another way: I’ve done so much pinning, my head is now spinning!

But might we move to more curated collections in 2013? Instead of pinning all of our Random Nomads onto a single board, for instance — with their food choices in another board and their favorite objects in yet another — could we give each one a board of their own, with all of these items?

Readers, we are dizzy and would appreciate your help in getting our balance back. Can you answer these questions please:

  1. What are the rules of the Pinterest game?
  2. What’s a “secret board”?
  3. Should we have fewer boards, more boards?
  4. Are there any other topics we should be covering?

I apologize if you’re fearfully bored (hahaha) but I’m on pins and needles awaiting your advice. What’s more, if I don’t hear from you soon, I may go back to pinning (yes, I’m pining away!).

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post from the author of a displaced read (yes, her works have been pinned to our “Displaced Reads” board!).

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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LIBBY’S LIFE #65 – All about a dress (by Melissa)

Scene: A holiday office party at a Golf Club near Woodhaven. Libby and Oliver are already there, and Libby has just seen her nemesis, Melissa, arrive, wearing an identical dress to her own.

Melissa:  This dress is kinda tight and I have to suck in my belly because even two pairs of Spanx aren’t doing it for me. And when you suck in your belly, everything else rises and spills over the top, so I have to keep pushing it back in while no one is looking.

The dress looked awesome when I tried it in Macy’s three weeks ago, but that was before Mom force-fed me pumpkin cheesecake last weekend. I was like, “Mom, you know I don’t eat dairy,” but she got all snotty, asking if I was on another of my fad diets, and wouldn’t it be easier just to cut out the daily pack of Oreos.

Like, that’s so not fair. I don’t eat a pack of Oreos every day. Not usually, anyways. Only when I’m stressed, and I guess I’m kinda stressed right now, what with the divorce and all, so yeah, the Oreo intake has gone up. But I figure if I cut out dairy, that should compensate.

I didn’t want to come to this party tonight. Between you and I, I’d rather chew my own arm off than go to these god-awful office events. Given the choice between socializing with people I work with and spending an evening watching bad TV, I’d rather stay home and zombie out in front of Downtown Abbey or whatever it’s called. You’d need to be out of social options before you watched that, right? But Terry said if I didn’t come tonight, it would look suspicious, that people would think I have something to hide.

Personally, I don’t care much what people think. It’s not my problem now I’m nearly divorced. But I said I’d come, as long as he paid for a new dress.

“You have to come to create a diversion,” he said. “Turn on the charm with Oliver. Make everyone think you’ve only got eyes for him. If he’s not going to play ball, he will have to live with the consequences.”

Terry offered Oliver a promotion a few weeks ago, a kind of bribe to not say anything about me and Terry to Caroline, Terry’s wife. Only Oliver didn’t take the promotion, and now Terry’s afraid Oliver might rat him out to Caroline, so if I pay a lot of attention to Oliver, Terry thinks I will create a — what did he call it? — a smokestack.

Or something like that. Whatever.

Actually, it should be a lot of fun, flirting with Oliver under Libby’s nose. Irregardless of my dress being a little tight, I’m looking hot tonight. Not bad for forty-,  I mean, thirty-two. Better than Libby, who’s had three kids and, judging by the last time I saw her, has let herself go.

Except Libby doesn’t seem to be here, which is a shame because if she’s not here, making eyes at Oliver isn’t as much fun.

I can see Oliver over on the other side of the room, near the fireplace with the stuffed moose’s head, talking with Sam’s wife Anita, and a pretty blonde woman in a red dress a bit like mine.

Identical to mine, in fact.

I can only see the back of her, but she’s thinner than me. She mustn’t have had kids. You’re only that skinny when you’ve not had kids.

I wonder who she is? And — ha! — more to the point, I wonder if Libby Patrick knows who she is?

I push my way sideways across the room, trying not to spill my Chardonnay everywhere.

Oliver’s still talking to the blonde and Anita, and from my position behind them, I can see his hand go round the blonde’s waist. Then he moves his hand down and squeezes her butt.

I’m kinda shocked, you know? All this time I’ve been throwing myself at him at the office, and he never takes the bait, but here he is in full view of everyone at the party, groping a woman who clearly isn’t his wife.

It’s almost enough to make me drive back to Woodhaven and tattle to Libby. Almost, but not quite. Not after she changed the locks and accused me of stalking her husband.

No. This is — what’s it called? — pathetic justice.

“Oliver!” I say, and bat my eyelashes at him, which turns out to be a mistake because I overdid it on the lash-building mascara earlier and now my left eyelids are stuck together.

He turns. “Melissa,” he says, and nods, then bends down and murmurs something in the blonde’s ear.

Kinda rude, I think, but these Brits have no manners.

The blonde turns round, resting her head on Oliver’s shoulder, and I feel my mouth droop open a little.

“Melissa,” she says, looking me up and down as if I’m something her goddamned dog walked into the house. “Long time no see.”

Holy shit. When did Libby Patrick turn into Drew Barrymore?

She smirks a little, and leans over to say something to me.

“You might want to visit the restroom,” she whispers. “You’re losing your dress.”


Next post: LIBBY’S LIFE #66 – The ladies in red

Previous post: LIBBY’S LIFE #64 – Shades of red (2, not 50)

A note for Libby addicts: Check out Woodhaven Happenings, where from time to time you will find more posts from other characters.  Want to remind yourself of Who’s Who in Woodhaven? Click here for the cast list!

Read Libby’s Life from the first episode.


Stay tuned for our next post!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe for email delivery of The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of the week’s posts from The Displaced Nation. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Img: Map of the World – Salvatore Vuono/

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