One of the biggest battles of living ‘the dream’ in Dubai for longer than a year is the fear of moving home vs. the fear of missing life at home. We asked Shimmering Sands friend Charlotte Lepore, 5 months into her new life at home in England after 5 years in Dubai, how she managed the move, and we couldn’t have asked for a more honest insight:
Moving to Dubai seemed like such a brave move to everyone else but to me it seemed like a no brainer, an opportunity not to be missed and I could always ‘just come home’. A phrase I’d say to myself so many times of the 5 year stretch of my Dubai journey, a phrase that held me back in so many ways without even realising it at the time. Living as an expat you always have a huge question mark shaped cloud hanging over you with multiple questions relating to the same thing. Should I have come here? Should I stay here? Should I go home? Will this ever be home?
The answer is No… it will never be home whilst you have a foot in the door of your old life, keeping it slightly open for when you might want to dash back in and forget you ever left. After many times of hearing me say ‘I don’t want to be here, I want to come home’ a friend once said ‘you only want to come home because you have the option, I don’t want to be here sometimes but that doesn’t mean I’m going to move to Barbados’! Life changed for me in Dubai as soon as I realised that holding on to your old life prevents the start of a new one.
Fast forward on 5 years and I was in a job that I loved and had friends that had become family, life was pretty easy (once I’d learnt to live with Dubai’s general frustrations of visas, language barriers and Marina traffic). Brunches and boat parties became the norm, a sunset cocktail after work was a regular and having someone do all my chores wasn’t a luxury it was a necessity! So why would I give that all up and move back I hear you say? Well the truth was that my husband was over Dubai, he was all Brunched out as it were and although I didn’t take a second for granted, I knew it wouldn’t be easy to ‘just go home’ like I once thought it was. I had started to crave homely attributes of the strangest kind. Parking on my own drive way, not being expected to go to every social outing, wearing knitwear outside because of the cold fresh air not the fake freezing aircon but the thought of going home scared the life out of me and in true Dubai style, to save face I went along with the fact it was time to go but I wasn’t completely happy with my decision (ekkk). The last month felt like the longest last day of a holiday, I knew I was leaving so I would rather just get the painful show of traveling home on the road! Listening to my friends make plans that I won’t be part of, packing up ‘only the important things’ I realised don’t really equate to anything and the lingering wait for that final goodbye! When are you coming back? People would ask and I’d say ‘allllll the time!’ But even I didn’t know if that was true. Would I? Could I? Will I even be able to look at Facebook ever again through fear of seeing all these people live this amazing life that I had just given up?
When the day came around to go – leaving felt like a relief, I was going home now, the decision, and the move was complete and I’d just go back to my old life… Or so I thought.
Being away for 5 years makes you invisible, even getting car insurance was pretty hard. I guess that’s the punishment for 5 years of ‘living on holiday’ as so many people have put it.
All of a sudden I had the least I had ever had! Nothing to show for me, I couldn’t even get a contract phone! I couldn’t believe that a country I’m actually from was less understanding then the country I’d basically been using! Using for fun and experience with no intention to stay forever yet I was made to feel welcome and at ease and now what? No chance of even getting a Boots loyalty card?! The harsh reality and secret fears had started to set in that this wasn’t going to be easy, not at all! Moving to Dubai was fun and hopeful, moving home was like scrambling to get back what I once threw aside for the prospect of a better life.
The excitement of people wanting to see you when you are back for a visit isn’t there, it’s not a visit anymore! The questions you haven’t figured out the answers to yet start flooding in… Why did you move back? Do you think you will stay? What do you plan on doing? Where will you live? I wanted to scream I DON’T KNOW! I wanted to hide until I’d been home so long people didn’t ask anything anymore. The thought of trying to work these things out scared me, I couldn’t answer their questions, I couldn’t even answer my own.
My friends in Dubai being as amazing as they are kept me involved and up to date just like I was still there. I knew their every move, where they were going, eating, what they were wearing and what time they were meeting. I longed to be part of that, just one more time! I listened to office gossip and sat back like an outsider thinking that was my old life. I decided that I shouldn’t be part of group chats and I should maybe check in every now and again for proper catch ups to make it easier…
My phone broke one day and a group message was switched from WhatsApp to Facebook instantly so I didn’t miss a thing. They didn’t just carry on until I popped back up again, they noticed I wasn’t there and included me how they could! I thought to myself how lucky am I to have friends that notice when I’m not there but also don’t care that I’m not physically there and will do whatever they can to include me. Another big turning point for me as I realised the friends I made in Dubai are for life and we will be a huge part of each other’s lives wherever we go and how amazing is that? It made me realise how lucky I am to still be part of their lives, still know what’s happening day to day but just like I used to do with my family, I now get to be excited to see them, I get to miss them, I get to plan my trips and create amazing memories with them.
5 months on and I have got a contract phone, we have a house with a drive way and I’ve worn knitwear most days (and thoroughly enjoyed it). I’m currently 8 months pregnant and with 6 weeks until Christmas I get to feel that festive build up that I’ve missed out on for years. I don’t feel the guilt of life passing by too quickly whilst not being with my family and I love telling people how amazing Dubai is. I appreciate things that maybe had I never moved I still wouldn’t have noticed like how green England is, the changing colours of seasons, how polite shop assistants are (I think the bump attracts people with children and grandchildren), I get to plan holidays rather then using up days to go home, and see my friends children grow up (not only over Skype) and most importantly that question mark has gone. I don’t question things so much anymore, I know this is home and it always will be. That content feeling that I searched for during my time in Dubai has finally caught up with me.
Dubai is a rush in every sense of the word, it’s fast passed and always on to the next thing. Change happens over night and the lastest thing is on your list to do before you’ve had time to do the last 5 things. Moving home has taught me that as amazing as that is, a lot of the things I cared so much about – just don’t matter. If I don’t ever get to go to the best restaurant in the world or the tallest fashion show in the world, who cares? I get to see my family smile in person not just in pictures, I get to have a lovely home without a lease date looming and I get to plan amazing holidays back to Dubai where Brunches, water parks and beach days will be exciting again! I love Dubai, I love my friends there and the amazing memories we have made but at this point in my journey where I am looking for a homely life there’s no better place to have that then – at home!
Having said that I will never be completely at home again because part of my heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price I will pay for the richness of loving people in more then one place. I will still have days where I long to be in the crazy, thriving buzz of Dubai but I left on a high of loving everything. I have the most amazing memories and still so many more to come at home and in Dubai. I get to have both ❤️
Continue to follow Charlotte via http://www.meeks.me/