Today, December 30th marks the 6 months of my blog. Why did I do it? I won’t lie to you, I did it mainly to justify myself. To explain to the people in my homeland what I was really going through. To open eyes on our position. To break some walls. I had no clue where it would go, and I had no plan about what to post and when. I knew I wouldn’t post as often as I should and that the quality of the posts wouldn’t always be the same. But I just knew I loved to write. I’ve always loved to write but somehow, I was convinced (or told) that I couldn’t be a good writer because I don’t read enough books. It could look like a paradox, I don’t like to read but I would love to write a book, obviously not for people like me.
The blog was an idea at the back of my head for a year now and I asked my husband about it after a friendly reminder of my dearest Sophie that I should start doing something with my brain (you have to love the Dutch honesty). He told me “Just do it. Give it 6 months and then you’ll be able to assess whether you want to keep going or stop it”. Here we are, 6 months later. Time for the test.
I decided that the topic implied my blog to be written in English. You can’t really talk about being an expat only in French. Oh, wait, yes you could, the French do it. But I’m not French, I’m Belgian, and I basically wanted to meet anything but my community. It was a little bit scary at first: can you really be yourself in another language? Will my humor transpire in English? But in a way it protects me. Not all of my family and friends understand English, so they just don’t read the blog and in consequence I have more freedom, hooray!
I had NO idea this would turn out like this. While some of my Belgian friends supported me but didn’t really understand why I put time and energy in something that’s not making me any money, I got huge support from the expat community. Obviously, my American friends were a great support in my idea. You have to give them that, they know how to cheer you on. Much more than any other nation in the world, I think, they seem to embed the values of initiative and innovation. They support you in creating your own business. Where in Belgium, we are afraid of the new. Don’t get me wrong, we have good reasons to be afraid. In Belgium, if you have an idea, not really mainstream, brace yourself, the way will be long and full of ambushes and if you fail, they won’t tell you to go at it again. But that’s another story.
Through this blog and the Instagram account linked to it, I met so many people. I was able to connect to different kind of diplomats, expats, trailing spouses (Gosh I hate this term, it pictures us like a caravan the husband is carrying around). We were able to exchange life stories. The differences, the similarities, the frustrations and the happiness. It helped me. First because writing is very therapeutic. Second because meeting people in the same situation always helps! I received dozens of emails of people from all over the world and exchanging with each one of them was a real pleasure.
To talk purely about numbers, because for the economist I am, any test means factual numbers. In 6 months, I wrote 19 posts who have been read by 2000 people from 64 countries. I made almost 1000 friends on Instagram. It may seem small, but for me it’s huge. I had no idea it would lead to that. Though I started without any clear objectives I consider it to be a success that exceeded my expectations.
If you write, want to write, hesitate about sharing your story, go ahead! It will be a nice experience whatever the outcome is. We are so lucky to be expats living in the internet world. We are not alone anymore. And it’s the same on every topic. I remember when I had my first baby, the internet was the only helping hand telling the truth about how hard it is while some friends and acquaintances kept telling their bullshit “it’s only happiness and the best time of your life”. Expat friends play a different ball game, they rather speak the harsh truth, there’s no time for fairytales. Also, for us nomads, it’s so useful to communicate and see how life is in other postings! Yes, remember, in 2 years I’ll be leaving Abu Dhabi. I would love to speak to someone living in our future possible destinations before drawing up the wish list and even more so before going there. Because living in a place has nothing in common with going on vacation to that place. We face different challenges that only the people living there know about. The fanciest vacation spots are sometimes the worst places for an expat with young kids to live and some of the countries that are culturally closest to us are real isolation traps. And we are all so different, adapting each in their own way.
Dear blog, you passed the 6 months test. Congratulations, you’ll see 2020 and the craziness this year will bring.
Dear follower, dear occasional reader, thank you for your time. I hope you enjoyed reading my posts as much as I enjoyed writing them. I hope it helped or at least made you smile on a bad day. I hope your idea about “this Arab country” changed along the reading. I also hope you will think twice before judging a housewife, a trailing spouse, a diplomatic partner. We are not so desperate, and the common fight between the working moms and the stay at home moms shouldn’t exist. May we help and value each other in what is good for each individual in a particular period. Life is definitely a cycle, and nothing is permanent, definitely not opinions.
Turns out it’s also the end of a decade, so it’s time for me to wish you the best for this new year. 2020, sounds like a year to remember, make it count!