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Meet the Expat – Naomi Hattaway, now living in Nebraska

Naomi Hattaway knows a thing or two about moving home – she’s done it 15 times! She’s passionate about helping families through the (often painful) relocation process and has developed a community for individuals wanting to network with others who live outside their passport countries. Meet Naomi…

“Leave well. It’s a two word phrase that our family uses for each and every move and I can’t stress its importance enough. Take a photo walk of your favorite locations and snap images to remind you of your time spent there. Honor and acknowledge the home you are leaving and, even though it may sound strange, mentally say goodbye to each room in your house and let the memories flood in.”

When I first moved back to the United States, I felt a deep sadness for the lack of adventure and excitement. While overseas, it seemed that beautiful things to see and do were around every corner, but “back home” every day seemed dull. This picture reminds me that there are wonderful things to explore – no matter where you are located – but you have to take the step to get out there and see it all!

Where do you live now?

Currently living BACK in my passport country, United States. I recently made the move to my 15th home – in Nebraska.

When did you first become an expat? Where have you lived before? If so, what was the leaving process like?

My first experience as an expat was when we moved to New Delhi in 2009. After three years in Delhi, we moved to Singapore for one year and then back to the United States, living in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and now Nebraska. My husband was an expat for many years before we met, so he was fairly accustomed to the leaving process. I’ve determined for myself however, that each relocation offers a unique set of challenges and adventure, based on the ages of our children, the locations we are leaving and then arriving to, etc. When we first left the United States for India, the leaving process was an amazingly crazy mix of anticipation, nerves, excitement, and a feeling of incredible adventure!

How do you spend your time? Do you work?

I steward the I Am A Triangle community, which is an amazing online and in person network of individuals who reside all over the world, yet crave and desire close connections with others who live outside their passport countries.

I am also licensed as a traditional Realtor and our team loves working with families who are on a search to thrive and flourish in their homes. Our clients want their experience to be one where they feel taken care of through the process and we aim to please! I also run a connection program where I introduce families across the country to real estate professionals who can assist with their relocations.

It’s interesting because both of the things that I “do” have been born from a passion of wanting to help families – like ours – settle into their new locations and homes, whether that’s moving from one town to the next, or across the ocean.

What did you appreciate the most in your adopted country?

For India, I adored the beautiful celebration of ceremony and ritual. Whether it was Holi, Karva Chauth or Raksha Bandhan, it seemed there was a festival or honoring for every occasion! Add to that, the music, colors and the amazing food. I really appreciated those experiences.

In Singapore, one of the things that stood out to me was the absolute beauty and care that was so important to the Singapore residents. Some might say it was a bit over the top, but to have an entire island where cleanliness, respect for the land and a high attention to flora and fauna really impressed me!

MAD Holi – at the residence of the US Ambassador to Delhi, celebrating holi with the Make a Difference students. These children lived in Vivekanand, the slum across from the school my children attended. A group of women created an English program in 2010 to teach these beautiful children and the program still exists today!

How do you make new friends in your new home?

With each new home – and we seem to make a LOT of moves – one of the first things we do is to meet the neighbors. They are often an amazing source of information about the new location, and can also be helpful in a pinch as you make initial strides at settling in. Volunteering is another amazing way to meet new friends or at least acquaintances with a friendly smile! I do think that it’s important to keep ties with friends you’ve left behind though, so I think a healthy mix of technology time with old friends and “in person time” with new friends is vital.

My I Am A Triangle community has been vital for finding new friends and also learning about a new location before arriving . . . so the members there are invaluable.

Do you obviously stand out as being foreign? What’s your experience with this?

When we first moved to India, I had a realization that I blended in! I was surrounded by a sea of brown people! I have a black father and a white mother, and growing up and into my adulthood, I just didn’t see many mixed people who looked like me. It was an interesting feeling to notice myself no longer scanning a room or an event venue to mentally take stock of the diversity present.

One of the things I loved to do while we lived in Delhi was to photograph everything I experienced. I took photography classes with an amazing Indian man and learned so much from him!

If you have children, what are your observations on Third Culture Kids?

TCKs are such an interesting group of individuals, although my children do not personally call themselves as TCKs – possibly because they aren’t at the age where they feel a need to belong to an identity or label. As the term is defined though, they are truly third culture kids! I can see the ways all of the cultures they’ve experienced have shaped who they are today. The depths of their capacity as it relates to kindness, generosity, compassion and open mindedness is quite amazing. They both have an innate awareness of the differences in others, and celebrate and acknowledge those unique things about each human being. That, combined with their ability to not judge so quickly and learn from others, are a few of the other traits I think come naturally to TCKs.

Any tips for successful repatriation? 

  1. Look at it as though it is another expat assignment! Even if you are moving back to the place you originally left, and you feel it is known to you, embark as though it is another great adventure.
  2. Realize that while it seems everything is the same “back home”, you are not the only one who has changed in the time you’ve been away. Return home with an understanding and open mind.
  3. Settling in after a repatriation can take a very short time or it can take a very long time. There is no magic pill or recipe for repatriation. Join a community of people who have experienced the same thing, or make sure to seek out help when necessary. There are many coaches, therapists and programs to help with the process of repatriation. Seeking help is important and should be looked at in a positive light.

What’s the most common question you are asked about being on the move so frequently?

I often hear “you’re a pro at this, it should come easy to you by now?” when we announce yet another move. The truth is, it’s never easy to move. Relocation is literally a pain, and while there are often many feelings of excitement and joy concerning the new location, it also means conflicting feelings of sadness, loss and grief about the place, memories and people being left behind. Grief is a real part of the process, and often you can begin adjusting the way you settle into future locations, because of the memory of saying goodbye in past homes.

As a family, we try our best to dig in upon arrival and really attempt to settle right away. We hang art on the walls soon after we land, and begin creating traditions and routines. We figure it’s better to love hard and plant roots, even though we know one day they will need to be yanked up to transplant somewhere else.

Are you settled in one place now? Or do you plan to move on one day?

Our recent move to Nebraska was a full circle moment for me. I was born and raised in Nebraska, and while I didn’t have any plans to return there, I am excited to get back to my roots and share my early childhood memories and the life I began, with my children and husband. We do plan to move back overseas again at some point, but I think it will be after the two youngest children have flown the coop and are finished with their education.

Returning “back home” in the truest of senses, that place where I originally come from, brings a whole host of emotions and realizations. I think it’s important to recognize that the journey “home” (even if not to the literal place your story began) is one to be processed and planned for, just as if it were another relocation to an unknown place.

Would you share something that our readers can implement to help with their next transition.

Leave well. It’s a two word phrase that our family uses for each and every move and I can’t stress its importance enough. Take a photo walk of your favorite locations and snap images to remind you of your time spent there. Honor and acknowledge the home you are leaving and, even though it may sound strange, mentally say goodbye to each room in your house and let the memories flood in. If you are able to, choose a keepsake from the place you are leaving to commemorate your time there. We have an ornament on our Christmas Tree from each location, and I personally have a coffee mug collection from all of our homes as well. I also write a “Leaving Well” blog post each time we are on the move to put a time stamp on our family’s favorite restaurants, locations, things to do, etc.

Keep in touch!

Naomi HattawayFind more amazing articles, great resources and join a community of thousands of expats, TCKs, internationals and global nomads on Naomi’s website I Am A Triangle. And follow their Instagram community here.

 

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