When I was visiting Chile at the beggining of this year; after “when are you coming back”, the second question I got more asked was: why can’t you come back?
Why. Why can’t I come back? Can’t I?
Many clients of mine would love to come back, but they can’t right now (kids, job, partner, etc.) and they have a hard time coping with it. Me, I could come back tomorrow if I want to. Even my partner says to me “if you want to come back to Chile, we can do it. I’ll go with you anywhere you want to go”.
I have friends that I adore, mom is not getting any younger, I’m missing important moments in my niece’s and nephew’s life. I could work there (I’m online based) and I would have a place to stay until we find our own.
So the real question is, why won’t I come back?
Because I’m not ready. I left Chile not only because of my husband, but I also wanted to. I don’t remember experiencing this sense of belonging many of my clients describe. My way to see life was so different from the average I was considered a rebel.
When I moved to Europe, that changed. I found that the sense of belonging I always longed for was within me. The “feel at home, wherever you are” you read on my website is something it can be achieved and I know it because it’s true for me. So I don’t need coming back to my country of origin to feel that.
I don’t want to give up the life that I’ve built with my husband here in Spain. I had a glance at how repatriation in Chile can be, and I didn’t like it.
My brief Repatriation
I was 30 y/o and it was after one year traveling through Europe, alone. I resigned my job; 90% of the people were saying to me that I was irresponsible to give all my life away (financial security, an impressive career, flourishing social life) to follow a foolish dream.
Being the way I am, I did it anyway. I learned more about myself and my place in the world this 12 months than in the last 10 years of my life at that point.
Out of fear (of commitment to my Austrian love, of losing my career, my money, my social status) I decided to come back to Chile. One week before my flight I contacted my former boss asking if I could come back to the company, same position. She was so thrilled that she offered me both a higher position and salary.
Nothing can go wrong, right? Getting back to the work that at that time I hated, but it was something I knew, I was damn good at it and the money was amazing. “At least you have a job” (a phrase that I reject completely today, but at that time I didn’t know better).
This photo was taken in my office, the same office I had when I leave the first time. Here I was, a better job, same friends, same life. But I was feeling completely out of place. Again. Like before I went on my sabbatical, but worse.
Luckily for me, I had the perfect “excuse” to leave again: my partner. Once we realized WE HAD to be together (It took us almost one year to figure that out!!!) and that I wanted to be the one who moves, this feeling of not belonging started to fade.
When I broke the news to my family, friends and colleagues (including my overprotective boss) NONE of them was surprised. Some were sad, others excited for me, but they all knew. The knew before I did!
It worked out in the end, still, that year was pretty shitty for me. I wish I had known it was something called repatriation. That I could use some help to cope with it.
Repatriation, now what?
What happened when I came back to Chile: After 2 months, I wanted to go away again.
Partially, because I wasn’t prepared for all what happened with relocation. The Gabriela who came back wasn’t the same. The country changed. My friends and family changed.
But mostly, I didn’t want to come back. I did it anyway because I was terrified (money, work, insecurity, visa issues, etc.). Although I was extremely happy to see my loved ones again; I also said goodbye to the love of my life and to the feeling of freedom I never felt in Chile.
Are you ready to Repatriation? Ask your self this:
These 3 Questions are going to help you clarify your thoughts about repatriation. Be honest to yourself when you answer them!
1.- Do YOU want to?
Are you taking this step because YOU want to return or is it as a result of your family and/or friends pressuring you? Do YOU think it is time to come back? Do YOU assume you would be happier if you go back to your country of origin?
2.- Is this decision only affecting you?
Are you single abroad? Did you move because of the love of your life? Do you have kids? Did you fight to obtain the job you currently have and love?
It is essential to involve all the parties in your decision. I don’t want to say you have to depend on others, but see how much you care about their opinion. And of course, in case you have a family, if they are willing and how much would they be affected by your repatriation.
3.- Are you prepared?
Are you moving alone or with your family? Is your partner going to find a job there? Where are you going to live? The school for the kids? Your social life?
Try to organize as much as you can before actually taking the flight back.
Repatriation isn’t easy, the more you have off your shoulders, the stronger will you feel for what’s coming.
When you have the answer to these three questions, you will know how to move forward!
After living abroad, you carry a bag full of mixed emotions with you. Re-connect with your identity coming back home. If you need guidance through and after your re-entry process, I can help you, see how HERE.
Contact me, let’s talk. You are not alone!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.