Holiday Expatations

If you’re contemplating taking on an expat assignment, it’s possible that while you’re trying to work out if you can live without your favourite local Chinese restaurant, two others things keep running through your mind. 
Money and travel.
Maybe you’ve done the calculations on what you can save by renting out your house or perhaps you’re just celebrating the fact that you no longer have to pay someone else’s mortgage – finally a rent free existence.
Then there’s the holidays. With a new location on the other side of the world this could be your chance to finally explore Asia, South America or the States. Which takes me back to point number one.
In our early expat years G and I went anywhere and everywhere. With only one child who was yet to start school and a role for G that required travel throughout Asia, we made the most of it. If G had a meeting in Thailand we’d all pack up and head off together. While G went off to work I’d strap The First Little Traveler in a backpack and head in search of food, trinkets and dodgy knock offs. And then reality hit.
Another child, another plane fare, another bed in a hotel room and suddenly it wasn’t as cheap (or as easy) to bring the family along. 
In fact, when we checked the bank balance we realized we weren’t saving any money at all. All of those “bargains” had started to add up. Turns out if you buy 5 pairs of cheap sunglasses they’re actually not that cheap after all. If the grand plan of eventually having a house in Australia was going to happen, something had to change. And as close as Bali, Phuket, Singapore and Langkowi were, it was financially unrealistic to think we could do all of them.
On Thursday afternoon the Little Travelers walked out of the school yard excited about the following week of their school holidays. I listened as they said their goodbyes to friends. Someone was off to Nepal, someone else was going to London, someone had a scrapbook with their map of Disneyland that they had been working on for months. It was school holidays and there was a buzz in the air.
I thought back to my school holidays in our little country town. Someone might have driven to Adelaide and slept on their Aunty’s floor so that they could go to the Royal Show. Someone else might have stayed in a caravan park in Mt Gambier where it was so freaking cold their father drove them to the communal toilet block at night. Or maybe they just rode their bike to the pool every single day knowing they’d run in to someone they knew if they hung around for long enough. Yes, all of those people might have been me.
I like to share these stories with my children in the familiar when-I-went-to-school-we-walked-5-miles-in-the-rain kind of way, particularly when they ask why we’re not going to Disneyland. 
Over breakfast on Friday the third little traveller announced that he might pop over to visit a friend on the compound “you can’t” said the second little traveler “remember – he’s gone to Mt Everest”.
The sentence above is not one I recall saying in my childhood. Someone went to Sydney once but I can’t remember a passport ever being required.
I think back to the caravan holiday, the road trip to Ballarat. “Did I tell you about when Mummy was little and we stayed in the Motel in Bendigo and Granny let us have hot breakfast instead of the cereal we’d bought from home?” 
They can see where the story is heading, soon I’ll mention walking to school in the rain.

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