If you asked me what I thought about the first day of #FIGHT17NL, I’d tell you that I can’t wait to get home to think about it all properly. It has been an extraordinary day – challenging and affirming in equal measure.
Every session I attended today really deserves a blog post of its own (and that might yet happen) but for tonight, I just want to capture a few of the things that emerged from a very full and hectic day.
Community is everything
Naomi Hattaway, founder of I Am A Triangle, reminded us that community is the thread that brings us together; allows us to advocate for and support each other as expats and provides us with support we don’t always know that we need. She challenged us to build strong communities, focusing on what we can offer each other.
She also reminded us that community is not something we can take or leave – its essential to our wellbeing.
This theme of community resonated throughout today’s sessions – from ’empty nest’ parents sharing often heartbreaking, and occasionally entertaining stories, to a fabulous social networking session in the evening. Today was very much about finding common ground.
This year’s conference theme is ‘Building on the Basics – Creating Your Tribe on the Move’, and there’s been much discussion today about how we connect with each other as expats.
But perhaps unexpectedly, another theme emerged today for me – that of knowing yourself better. One of the sessions that I know I’ll be following up on was led by Doreen Cumberford who challenged us to figure out what our vision of our life is and to move in that direction, letting go of old beliefs, fears, attitudes and judgements along the way.
Once we know where we want to be, we can set about finding a tribe that supports that and helps us realize our vision. She also raised the issue of asking ourselves whether the tribe we’re in is the right one for us – something an expat desperate to make new friends in a new location might not stop to consider. Doreen made me think about new approaches and attitudes to expanding my current tribe and strategies for finding new ones in the future, and my own direction in life – not always a comfortable or easy thing.
Though I am happy to report that she did explain that expats do have superpowers!
This theme of challenging our perceptions and attitudes also emerged in a ‘Kitchen Table’ session with Cate Brubaker – can we be global and live a local life? Can we change our idea of what home might be? There’s definitely an argument that global is a state of mind, not a location and that you can live a global life while staying in your passport country by continuing to challenge yourself to get out of your bubble and broaden your experiences. For an expat living a largely ‘local’ life in Texas, this really resonated with me and also validated my own expat experience.
To sum up…..
I think I’ve met more new people today than I have in the last three months and for someone who just started a new job, that’s saying something! I’ve heard stories that gave me goosebumps; I’ve heard stories that made me laugh; I’ve heard stories that made me want to cry with people. I’ve met people I want to spend a weekend just talking to about this crazy expat life and the general state of the world.
I’ve found people who share my passions and I’ve been challenged to think about what I really want from expat life, and what to do with the opportunities it affords.
Its only Day 1 but I’m beginning to think that life might never be quite the same again.