Life's a Beach: The Ups & Downs of Expat Living.

Living in England means I can travel to Italy 
several times throughout the year
on a budget that is anything less than luxurious.

Living in England means
I can be a ten minutes walk 
from Kensington Palace...
and that much closer to becoming 
best friends with Kate Middleton.

Living in England means
I get to dress my baby in Baby Zara.

Living in England means
I get to wander Notting Hill's Portobello Road
ever single day and still be enchanted 
by the colorful houses & stalls of aged wares.

But living in England also means
that I'm far away from home...
and that we live, as expats, in a transient society.

People come for a few years
to work or study,
and then, it seems, 
that they leave in waves.

Right now, we are in one of those times
where it seems like life is pulling our friends
back out to the lives 
where they originally came from
and our community is washed down
like a sand castle by the tide.

image via

This month, we are saying goodbye to several of our friends here
and also the two expat bloggers that I've spent my time abroad with:

I'll be honest,
as excited as I am to see our friends so happy 
for theses new chapters of life,
it kinda sucks to start over.

When I arrived at college 
and was feeling the standard freshman awkwardness
of the gap of loneliness that happens
when you leave your high school friends,
but are yet to make your college friends.

My friend, Amanda, was a sophomore at the time,
told me that her freshman year,
she asked God to give her just one person for that day
to help her feel less lonely.

So that's what I decided to do,
and over a few weeks & months,
those small interactions became friendly faces
and then those friendly faces became friends...
and by Christmas, 
I had more friends than I knew what to do with.

So when we moved to England,
I did the same...
and, again, God was good
and brought some ridiculously sweet, smart & talented people 
into our lives.

When you live abroad with family far away,
your community of friends 
becomes like family to you.

When our babies were born,
our little group of friends rallied
in a way that made us feel so loved.

I'll always be thankful that our lives were so full of dear friends at that time.

image via

Now as it begins to drain back down
I can only wonder what new, wonderful friends 
the tide of relocation & expatriotism will bring our way.

It can be lonely.
It can be awkward...
but it always shakes out to be okay, doesn't it?

I think so, too.


  1. This was such a sweet, sweet post. I understand what it's like to have friends move on and feel like you're left alone. You have a gorgeous family by your side, and I know you'll make plenty of new friends in time. Just as quickly as God can bring people out of your life, he can also bring new people in.

    And Baby Zara is a total plus :)


  2. i know exactly how you're feeling, being an expat myself. it's like you're two different people, or more, struggling to feel rooted. but i found that as long as you're present in your interactions and thankful for the experience (which you totally are.) then anywhere you are will feel like home, will feel right. (you rock the metaphors, btw!)

  3. I just found out that I'm moving in two weeks, and I've been having those feelings of excitement mixed with those feelings of starting over. This is such a beautifully written piece about "the gap."

  4. I needed this post. We are relocating to a new state and town and I wondered HOW to make friends at my advanced age. Good advice.

  5. This sums up my entire life as a nomadic child in a military family, then married into the military, and then on our expat life. Friends are always in the state of coming and going. I've not known anything else. Hope we can get back together this summer sometime Lauren. Zoe will be here in July/August we can do a Camp Tahkodah reunion. :)

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose

  6. Well I'm crying. Love this advice. And tell Viola I'm really jealous of all the Zara.

  7. So true Lauren...and I think London brings an extra layer of complexity. The sheer size of the city adds to the feeling of anonymity (much more so than when I lived in Scotland and Ireland). I too have felt the loss of ex-pat friends when they returned to Australia - and given that I have now chosen to make my life permanently in Britain it is even more important for me to establish that sense of community that goes some way to ameliorate the fact that my family live on the other side of the world. For me it is always a challenge to overcome my innate introversion and throw myself into new opporunities - as one never knows when you meet someone who could become a kindred spirit!

  8. Gotta take the good with the bad. Hope new friends come along soon, not that they could replace old friends, but at least to have that closeness again is good.

  9. Thank you SO much for this post! I just recently moved to England from Japan and your prayer is just what I need in my life at this very moment. My husband is military so moving is nothing new, but for some reason this one has been incredibly trying on me. Your friends do truly become your family and they add so much to our lives especially as you choose them. So being separated from that is quite a hardship, but we need to always remember that is isn't goodbye, just a see you later. Plus with the internet it makes keeping in touch so much easier.

    Anyways, thank you for your prayer idea and yes it will be ok. Who knows maybe you will meet some fantastic people while searching for treasures on Portobello Road :)

  10. New chapters in life sometimes frighten...I think that when someone leaves a city, or even their job, everything changes...but, don't worry, I'm sure you'll meet other precoius friends!!
    A huge hug from Italy!

  11. Um, if I lived in London I would never leave you. Just sayin.

  12. Such a great post...I'd LOVE to be your friend :) Making friends, especially, as an adult can be tough. But I'm guessing you won't have too much trouble making friends once you meet people. Wishing you guys new great friends to keep you company in England.

  13. I love this post! You write beautifully.

  14. I have never been an expat, but I know that feeling so well. When my husband was in grad school, our circle of friends was changing constantly. My 5th (and final) year in Clemson was by far my happiest. We had a wonderful, wonderful group of people around us. When looking for full time jobs, we knew we might be in Clemson longer, but we also weren't sure we wanted to put down those roots because most of those wonderful people would also be leaving. It was the best and worst of things. We ended up moving to Missouri and now we're back to trying to find those friends that will hopefully be long-term. It's tough.

    I'm so glad you were able to make such wonderful friends, and I hope you continue to do so!!

  15. Great post and so spot on in my books too. I posted last week a photo on my FB page of Audrey Hepburn sitting on a stool and looking somewhat lost in thought. I titled it..sometimes you just feel lonely; I don't think many understood that I was pertaining to myself. My families lives continue back in the states without me & sometimes the reality of it hits home and hard. I do know that when I"m too old to leave my home and sitting with my memories I will not regret the choice to try out life in Scotland; and yes Baby Zara helps (I'm a new grandmother) as does the occasional 'creamed tea' (scone with clotted cream and jam). Thanks for the reminder today and here's to the next great wave!!

  16. so true! your thoughts sum it up perfectly!

  17. Hey Lauren! I have been meaning to email you for a while now - I'm an American/British "expat" that was raised in the States, where my parents still live, but have been in London for the last 4 years. I can completely, totally, 100% agree with everything you've said about this post - what an amazing city to live in but maaaan, it's hard to feel settled when half your friends leave every year! Anyways, I'm here to stay and am always looking for new buddies to commiserate with over our serious lack of a) donuts b) ranch dressing c) Target bargains... you know. :)

    Ceri x

  18. Lauren- Awesome post. Totally explains why I feel so close to the people I've met in London. We definitely support each other like family. It will be VERY hard to leave them in September.


  19. Oh Lauren, I want move to London to be your friend during this time! Thinking of you, and being your friend from afar x

  20. Periods like this are a bit uneasy, but it does always shake out ok and I am positive you will not be lonely for long (who can resist a lady with your love for cake! You are the perfect blate!), plus in the age of tech and airmiles friends are never lost, just moved x

  21. your words are always so well written. you will have no problem meeting and making incredible friendships I'm sure!

  22. Really loved reading this - on the bright side, you also get to meet so many people that you may not have met in the States! I've really loved seeing your adventures w/ your expat friends... hopefully more come into your life and you have even more stories to share!

  23. In a way, that's precisely why I, as a British expat in the US, have shied away a little from expat groups and meeting other Brits in my area. I love connecting with other expats online because they understand the frustrations and loneliness of expat life, but in person, where I am, I'd rather hang out with locals.

    Although I realize it's silly really because people still move away or leave or whatever, expat or not. More friends are better than none, right?

  24. Since we are so new to the expat community this time around, I have yet to experience this here. But I remember it VERY well from when I was a kid. I learned to dread the end of each school year because it meant a good chunk of my friends would not be returning the following year as their parent's expat deals ended. It was hard, but the bright spot was that come August when we all returned from summers in the US, there were plenty of new faces around to befriend. Life's just neat like that. :o)

  25. I loved this post! I moved back to the states from Italy two years ago and it's so hard for people to see past the amazingness of living in Europe to realize it's not one long vacation. I was thinking about that when you did your post about France because we did that all the time too, take little side trips. But when other people see pictures like that they just think all expats do is travel. Glad you shared the other side today! -Courtney

  26. excited for your new influx of friends. but im just going to say it, no one will be as awesome as me.

  27. ^ her reply hilarious .... Such a comforting and positive way to look at things .love this! :)

  28. thank you so much for this post. i live in south korea where the influx of new expats changes by the eek, sometimes by the day. when we came we also started from scratch, not knowing anyone. but then before we knew it, we had a family of friends around us and it was more than we could ever ask for. over the last four months over 90% of those people have left and it has put me back into that awkward/lonely stage again. but i have to be grateful for who is sticking around and who is yet to come that i haven't met yet. it's the hardest thing about living abroad.

  29. this is so sweet - and so bittersweet as well! but you're not losing friends. you'll keep them forever! and you'll make new ones along the way :)

  30. Lauren,

    Found your blog through Gina. I was an expat a long time ago......But I love reading about young folks that are doing it now. Things really haven't changed that much....Janey

  31. When we packed up and moved to Tennessee after wasn't England...but it was 12 hours away, and we had no money to fly home. It was amazing for our marriage though, as it forced us to turn to each other. Our friends there were our family. We married there with those friends around us. We had our son there with our friends around us.

    Since moving back near family, our circle of friends is, sadly, smaller.

  32. Love this post. You always seem to sum up a lot of what I am thinking and feeling. This expat experience is incredibly wonderful and I would not change a thing but I know from experience that it is quite bittersweet. There is nothing like making new friends and bonding with new people especially since family is so far away but parting is such sweet sorrow.
    The good outweighs the bad and you are right it always shakes out in the end. xx

  33. Definitely has it's ups and downs. Stay in touch with them, I'm sure God will also bring you a few new friendly faces. Great post.
    Love, Kierra Makayla

  34. I'm planning an expat life for next year, and I must admit I'm both ridiculously excited and ridiculously nervous!

  35. I wish I had found last year when I was living just outside of London and waiting for a marriage visa and not being able to work and my husband having trouble with work and me being depressed out of my brain.
    I would've asked if I could come and volunteer at your work and you would've inspired me to get out of the rut and see things. but alas it did not work and things are very messy now.


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