Izzy Ashton | an expat living in Asia
Welcome back! How is your packing going? Did you spend a few hours researching forums and expat blogs? The internet can feel like a deep vortex of information sometimes. If you need refresher, click back to Part 1 of this blog, and if you have questions don't hesitate to reach out. I'd love to hear from you and help in any way I can. For Part 2, I'm going to talk through some paperwork tasks, those last days with family and friends, and making the space for yourself to stay sane in the flurry of final things to do.
What paperwork are you going to need when you get to your new host country? Will you need a visa before you go? Is your company taking care of this, or is it on you to pull together? Will you need to apply for a different visa when you get there?
For our first time in Asia, we were able to apply for everything in country, needing no additional paperwork. (“In country” is expat-speak for the destination or host country.) But for this next assignment, we needed to get an apostille for some of our papers — an international certification of documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, school transcripts, diplomas, and more. Each document must be officially certified from the state (or province, etc.) that issued it. It’s extra work, yes, but I am so thankful we knew to do this before we landed overseas! There are services you can hire to do this for you. Head’s up that having the apostille translated may cost extra.
We also needed to have our driver’s licenses translated — a service that, while available in our new country of residence, was much easier to have done in the U.S. before we left. Plus, now we will be able to drive on day one! But, that may not be true in the country where you’re headed. It may require an International Driving Permit (IDP) that you must keep with you in addition to your personal driver’s license. Many countries have a set number of days or months you can drive on a foreign license before applying for something more permanent. You may even need to be tested and licensed locally before you can drive.
Friends and Family
Times goes by quickly! Make sure you schedule time with your family and close friends before you head out. Get some of your favorite food, ask your mom to make your favorite home-cooked meal, have a picnic, or whatever helps the people you love come together. Make memories and be fully present, allowing yourself and your people to be excited and sad together.
Consider what you’ll be missing, too. My sister-in-law’s baby shower will be just three weeks after we leave and I’m so sad and disappointed to be missing it. The last time we see her before we leave, I will give her a gift and celebrate with her and my brother in person as we wait for the birth of my nephew.
Does your family have an annual gift exchange? Prepare the gifts (wrapping and all) in advance and leave them with a relative. Even if the exchange is months away, the fact that you’ll “be there” with your family will feel like a big deal for you and for them.
The biggest thing to remember in this flurry of transition is to make space to breathe. Like to enjoy your cup of morning coffee in silence? Get up a little earlier to do it. Don’t make your to-do list until your last sip.
In our final weeks of preparation, I’ve been going to sleep with my phone on airplane mode and not turning the signal back on until 45 minutes after I wake up. I need that space to breathe, to pray, and to remind myself of who I am in Jesus before I tackle the tasks ahead of me. Maybe for you this is with a cup of tea at night, after your little people go to bed. Or maybe it’s eating your meal outside during your lunch break. Whatever works for you, take time to be present.
Finally, we are having (and will continue to have) grace with ourselves. We’re going to make mistakes, forget things, do things wrong... and learn along the way.
Izzy Ashton* holds a masters’ degree in counseling, is rarely seen without a book or pen in her hand, and enjoys learning how to help people thrive. She and her husband Michael are experienced entrepreneurs who develop businesses cross-culturally that will make a positive impact on their communities. From her home along the Mediterranean, she is striving to learn the balance of well-being and self-care in a rigorous business world. Talk to Izzy.