How long do you intend to be an Expat was the question put out to the community by my favourite blogger 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle. My gut answer would be: it's a mindset as much as it is a formal posting abroad.
Technically I have been an Expat all my life; my family left my native country when I was two. I grew up as a Third World Kid, only at the time I didn't know I belonged to either of these two groups. As a matter of fact I didn't fit in anywhere. All through childhood my two best friends were "misfits" just like me. I realise today "being different" is what we had in common and created a bond that still keeps us close after decades.
My parents didn't see themselves as Expats once they decided to settle in Switzerland, so we simply became foreigners calling Zürich our home surrounded by an enormous Anglo-saxon community.
It was only after I married and moved to Argentina that I started defining myself as an Expat... and this opened up a whole new universe. A world where you dare to step out of what is normal, simply because you don't always realize what is considered normal in your host country. Family and friends are far away which means you need to rely on yourself but this also gives you the freedom to explore and re-invent yourself time and time again depending of your destination.
Now THIS is where I found my fit! Thriving with every move and jumping head first into every new adventure, trailblazing making sure my family could keep up.
Being an Expat to me equals venturing out towards new boundaries, opening yourself up without giving yourself up, embracing changes and rising to challenges. It means pushing yourself that extra bit and making the effort to learn the language, meet the natives and explore the local culture.
You change with every expatriation just like your kids mature after every trip you take them on. Places impact you, people leave a mark, cultures influence your character and age shapes your attitude.
After 10 expatriations - in order to maintain an inquisitive spirit and always walk one step beyond my comfort zone - I have taken an active decision to remain an Expat for life even if it looks as though we are settling down in Paris.
After all an Expat is "a person who lives outside their native country" and although this might be the official definition, for me it's the philosophy that I am hooked on, mustering up the courage and determination to plunge into the unknown, knowing that sometimes it may be a bumpy ride but that the rewards will outweigh the hardship!
I have never been known to be able to resist a positive challenge!