The year 2015 is here and it is time for my family (and Kimberlynn’s family…not planned, but that is just how it worked out) to make our way back to the U.S. for a few months. Anyone who has made an extended trip home, whether for a break in between contracts or an organizational assignment in your home country, knows that there are a million things that need to be done before you ever board an airplane. So today starts a new series “Preparing for Furlough.” We are going to blog in real time as our families are checking off our to-do lists in preparation for the jump across the pond. We are 6 months out (give or take a week) so here is the first installment.
(Don’t forget to give your advice in the comments. We know there are folks out there who have expert advice. Don’t be shy! Share! We want to learn from each other.)
7 Things To-Do
6 months Before Departure
1) Double check housing / transportation: Hopefully, you already have an idea of where you are going to be living while staying in your passport country. Maybe a free house provided by your company/organization, your parent’s home or a rental; either way, send an email to make sure your dates are clear for arrival. This is also when you should start checking on school districts in the places you will be living if your children are going to public school. Look at requirements for records and day that school starts. Also, start thinking about a vehicle. Are you buying one, borrowing one, or do you still have one ready for you to drive? Start getting your mind wrapped around the basic needs of your family for your time home.
2) Start using your stash: I am not prepared to confirm or deny the fact that I have 4 bags of chocolate chips in my freezer. I may have two bottles of Bath and Body Works hand soap stashed away. Also, probably 8 bottles of children’s sunscreen. My husband calls me a hoarder. I prefer the word “saver”. Now is the time to start using all this stuff. Clean out the freezer and make sure all the homemade dry packets you may have been saving are used. If you don’t use it you will just end up dropping it off a day before you leave on a fellow expat’s doorstep in a large grocery sack.
3) Start a shopping list: The worst thing in the world is standing in the aisle of Walmart overwhelmed by all the choices with no idea what you want or need to buy. It helps to start logging your needs now so when you are home you can easily access your memory via your trusty shopping list. Also, if you have a list you can stash in your purse, you can start buying things as you see them going on sale during your time home instead of blowing $1,000 the last month in a frantic “must buy 10 bottles of baby Tylenol”. I have put together a free printable to help with the logging process. Hang it on your fridge for your easy access (and out of easy reach of the little crazy people running around the house stealing stuff…but I digress, that is another post for another time).
4) Start gathering clothes: It is winter now in the States. Soon all those winter clothes my friends’ children are wearing will be used up and gathered to either sit in boxes in the attic or to be given away. Since I know I will be home for winter and I have 5 children that do not own a pair of jeans, this is the time to start asking for clothes to be set aside. In the past, I enlisted one friend to help with the process and she gathered up all the sizes I needed and had them ready for me on my arrival. I cannot tell you how much this helped not only my sanity, but our budget. I was able to fill in the gaps of their wardrobe with just a shopping trip or two.
5) Take a look at your budget: Speaking of budgets, I don’t know about you, but my passport country is WAY more expensive than my host country. All those delicious restaurants I can’t wait to visit cost moula also! We have a plan in place to help us start saving some money so we can go out to eat and do fun family things without putting us in stress or debt. Plan for twice as much as you think you will need. Then if you have leftovers you can buy that Kitchen-aid you have been eyeing.
6) Prepare kids for cultural difference: I know my kiddos will stick out a little. They can’t keep shoes on, they speak two (now almost three) languages and live in a culture that is very different from America. There are things they don’t have to do here that they will need to know how to do in the States. Now is the time to start working on those things. For my kids it is learning the “Pledge of Allegiance” and learning how to eat with a fork. Anything I can do now to help their time home be less awkward…I’m going to try my darndest to do.
7) Set expectations: I think this is the #1 most important thing anyone going back to their passport country needs to do. Set expectations for yourself and your family. What are your main goals for your time home? What do you want to accomplish going home? Do you and your spouse agree on scheduling meetings and fund raising trips? What about your mom and your mother-in-law? What are their expectations for the time you are home!?! Holidays? I guarantee both sets of in-laws want you and your family with them for the holidays. That is impossible. You can’t be two places at once. Talk to them now. Come up with a plan before the emotions of “wanting you home” overtake your family members. Is your mom expecting you to stay at her house the week you get home and that is not what you have in mind for the ideal place to fight jet-lag? Tell her now. Be upfront and honest. I have heard stories from friends about how stressful their time home was because of the pressure they felt from family. Sometimes “no” (with love of course) is the healthiest word in your vocabulary. You have a few months for any rift to blow over but hopefully you will only encounter understanding…hopefully.
Expats live under more stress than can be imagined and a break from cultural living sometimes is vital for longevity in your overseas life. Time in our passport country needs to be a time of rest, rejuvenation, and connection. Preparedness will help alleviate the stress a trip home endures.
I know there are folks out there who have lived this process many times. What did I forget? Let’s help each other in the comments below. Remember our word for the year?
Also, don’t forget to grab your free Shopping List printable!
Don’t miss Part 2: Organizing and Purging
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