We have been expats in London for about eighteen months. The time has flown and we have had loads of fun. We undoubtably made the right decision to uproot our life in NYC and relocate to London. But the underbelly of expat life is also its biggest downside. Just when you have adjusted, made friends and have a place that feels like home, your employer can request you back without much warning, putting you on a plane back home.

Your expat days can be over just like that.

Julie is on a two year contract and the two year mark is just around the corner but creeping up on us. Despite the reality of the situation, we’ve ignored the possibility that we might have to leave our lives in London and reassimilate somewhere in the USA. As the has date approaches, it is just a matter of waiting for Julie’s company to decide about our future and where we might be living.

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Being an expat is a unique experience. While most of our friends have growing families and are setting down roots in their communities, we have a rather cloudy future. The five year plan is out the window. We have literally no idea where in the US, or the world for that matter, we will be living in five years.

We could be in London in the fall, or perhaps back in NYC or maybe San Francisco. While we have some say, the timing is mostly out of our hands.

Take our good friends who just moved back to the US. They moved to London from Chicago a few years ago. They wanted to stay in London for as long as possible and then perhaps move to Asia for a year or two before returning to the US. But over dinner one night, they told us that the husband received a promotion at work and they were moving back to Chicago in six weeks. Their plan to stay abroad went up in smoke in a matter of days once he accepted the new position.

Planning for the future as an expat is challenging, when in a blink of an eye, you can be relocated four thousand miles away to a new life.

Our expat assignment started with the same abruptness, when we made the decision to move to London and actually moved into our new flat in two months. Our plans to stay in NYC for the foreseeable future vanished. London became our new plan. It was a whirlwind, but it was an adventure. We were happy to wipe the slate clean and write a new chapter. Now, our future in London is up in the air.

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We have grown quite fond of London and the UK and want to maximize our time here. We have traveled like no other time in our lives and met such unique people from all over the world.

After realising that we are not ready for our London adventure to be over, Julie’s company told her that they want her to stay for the duration of our three year visas, so we have unofficially been granted another year in this lovely city. Hearing this, we gave a proverbial sigh of relief. Of course, that means that in about sixteen months we will go through the same waiting game again, holding our breath for the news of what our future holds and where it will take us.

Frankly, we do not want the fun to stop.

We don’t know what our future in London holds and what will happen at the end of our three years in London. Maybe we’ll move back to NYC. Maybe we’ll get another opportunity somewhere else in the world. Who knows. We certainly don’t. For now, we will go back to enjoying our lives, safe in the knowledge that we will call London home for another eighteen months. But of course, a new deadline now looms, as we start the expat waiting game all over again.

Are you an expat? What are your thoughts about long term planning when your future is so uncertain? Share your thoughts below!

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  • May 26, 2015

    Know this feeling well…good luck!
    Alana – Paper Planes recently posted…The 4 Things I’ve Learned from 4 Years Living AbroadMy Profile

    • May 26, 2015

      Thanks! We just have to enjoy the present as much as possible and not waste our time thinking about what the future holds…

  • May 26, 2015

    We’ve given up on long term planning in the traditional sense of planning. We just focus on having fun and continuing a life of adventure 🙂

    • May 26, 2015

      Same here. The five year plan is more like a five minute plan. It does make life a little more exciting when you don’t know what to expect!

  • May 29, 2015

    We totally get it. We had plans of staying in China for a couple of years, but had to suddenly leave due to unforeseen circumstances. In a way, this uncertainty is exciting, but it also has its downsides..like having to suddenly leave your new home, belongings and friends behind. Saying good-bye never gets easy!
    Laura + Will @ Bottled Air recently posted…Cycling to India: The “Plan” and preparationsMy Profile

    • May 29, 2015

      so true. The excitement is nice, but its a bummer when you or some close friends have to leave suddenly. Luckily, when some expats leave, more arrive, so there’s always new people to meet in the expat community!

  • June 11, 2015

    Ah what a fantastically inspiring life you guys are living. We’re not expats yet, but are desperately working towards the time when we can sell our belongings, pack a backpack and set off on an indefinite adventure. The dream is to become location independent, digital nomads. We will get there one day :).

    I can definitely understand that the uncertainty may get a little tiring, but at the end of the day, you guys are living the dream and your adventures are definitely an inspiration to many! Enjoy your extra year!

    Gabby
    Gabby @ theglobewanderers.com recently posted…10 Rubbish Travel Tips you Should IgnoreMy Profile

    • June 12, 2015

      Sounds like you two have the right mindset. If you don’t work for something to happen, it rarely will. Expat life can be a little challenging at times, as your assignment location and duration is not entirely your choice, but the opportunities for exploring that it can open up makes it completely worth it. We both hope that one day we are entirely location independent, no longer having to rely on the “man” for anything!