I left my home in Dublin 24 years ago. I had just turned eighteen. This means I’ve spent the majority of my life living abroad. I stayed in England for over a decade, I also spent a year in Scotland, and took a brief sojourn in Saudi Arabia. I have been living in Thailand for the last 11 years. I love my current life and wouldn’t change a thing. I made the right decision to leave Ireland all those years ago, but despite this I still get periods of homesickness.
The Homesickness Bug
I’ve become used to these periods of homesickness. I know that each year there will be a few days when I’ll pine for the old country. I treat these emotions in much the same way as a common cold. I just sit them out, and I know that they will pass. These days there is wonderful technology that allows me to feel like I’m back in Ireland without leaving Bangkok. I can listen to Irish Radio and even watch Irish TV. I can even go for a walk around my old neighborhood with the help of Google maps street level views – one of the most fantastic tools available on the internet. This might sound like I’m wallowing in my homesickness, but it does help – it is not like this is something I do every day.
The Ireland I Left No Longer Exists
One uncomfortable truth that many of us long-term expats have to face is that the place we left no longer exists. Ireland has changed so much since the eighties that I can feel like a bit of a stranger there when I do visit. I will always consider it to be my home, but in so many important ways it is not my home any longer. I have a new life and Ireland has moved on without me.
I remember about twenty years ago talking to this old guy in a London pub – he had been living outside Ireland for decades. This old fella urged me to return to Dublin right away before it was too late. He warned me I was about to embark on a life where I’d always be a stranger. I would never completely feel like I fit in my adopted home, and I’d feel like a stranger when I went back to Ireland on holidays. His prophecy turned out to be correct, but there are some advantages to being an outsider. It has forced me to grow and challenge so many of my cultural assumptions. It made me who I am.