I am back in my home country for a visit and I feel a tad overwhelmed. On the one hand I am overjoyed to be with old friends and family, eating favorite foods and visiting favorite places. On the other hand I feel like I have abandoned my family, whom I left in the middle of this busy pre-holiday period. I’ll only be away for a week, but still – I won’t be home when my daughter gets back from college for Thanksgiving break, and I am missing most of the preparations for the big feast, as I only get back the day before.

I know my angst is based on a combination of guilt and worry – there is guilt for not being around, and worry about how to make sure everyone is happy – both here and there. Actually, I think it’s all guilt, in one way or another…

Expats often feel extra pressure this time of year, wondering how to get it all together. One of the biggest dilemmas for many is whether to go back home or stay in the host country. If you go home, it’s likely to be fun and familiar, but also expensive and exhausting. In addition, you miss the opportunity of building your own traditions in your new place.

I’ve been thinking that it’s time to start framing this whole “going or staying thing” differently – in a positive way. This situation should be viewed as a win-win, one where there are at least two great options (if not more): if you stay, you get to make your own holiday traditions and you get the chance to experience local holiday culture and foods. If you go, there will be familiar faces along with favorite foods to eat and old haunts to visit. There is something appealing to both scenarios! And who says you can’t switch it up completely and go someplace new all together?

Despite my ambivalent feelings about the current trip, I’ve had a great few days so far. As I am writing this I am on babysitting duty for my nephew. He just fell asleep and as I was putting him to bed, I realized I had forgotten how sweet it is to read bedtime stories and have a five-year old put his little hand in yours as he falls asleep. These are the moments to cherish. I know I regularly miss out on exactly these kinds of things because I live on the other side of the planet.

In a few days I’ll go back to the US. It’s far from home, but yet home in so many ways by now. I doubt my kids, who are all approaching adulthood, will let me read them a bedtime story. I know for sure they won’t let me hold their hands as they go to sleep. I’m glad I made the trip – I’ll be equally glad to be back. That’s usually the way it works and that has got to be good enough!

By: Felicia Shermis

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