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Expat Serendipity

One of my favorite words in the english language is serendipity. It’s defined as finding something good without looking for it. I think serendipity is planted where you least expect it, and can come in many shapes and sizes.

Lately, I have really been noticing how many serendipitous encounters I have been having when it comes to my relationships with people or places. These moments are little reminders of how #expatlife is more common than ever before. I keep going back to this hashtag, but I seriously love it…and if you missed my original blog post about #expatlife on the Families In Global Transition website, click on this link.

A few weeks ago my family and I had dinner with two sets of friends. We all knew each other, but not as a collective group. This triangular friendship is a prime example of #expatlife. An friend and colleague of my husband, who lives in Switzerland (we met while living in Belgium) was visiting their South African office. Ralph is the little brother of the best friend of my dear friend, Marybeth. I mean seriously…what are the chances?

These episodes of chance have been popping up for ages, but they are becoming more personal each time. For example, I have a friend who moved from South Africa to Detroit last year…She lives on the same street as an old college roommate of mine. I was once talking to a mom at school in Mexico City and found out they had lived one mile from where I grew up, and their kids attended the same elementary school I did. On a flight from New York to Johannesburg, my husband discovered a Brazilian coworker had a brother who was an exchange student at my husband’s small town high school over 25 years ago…and my husband remembered the coworker’s brother too.

The latest coincidence happened the other day, and was made possible through my connection with Families In Global Transition (FIGT). I returned home to my small West Michigan town two weeks ago to find out not only one, but two well known FIGT presenters (Megan Norton and Michael Pollock) live in an adjacent town and the other literally lives right down the street. This connection spurred the opportunity for me to participate in a panel discussion at Michael’s book discussion about Third Culture Kids.

As expats, we seem to be able to make connections with other globetrotters with ease. We also have the ability to connect others with those we know around the world…creating a large web of relationships. Expat networks are vast, and technology has helped create easily accessible platforms of knowledge and virtual tribes who understand #expatlife for us to tap into for guidance and support. All of this is great stuff, but the personal bonds we uncover when global nomads collide are what really amaze me. The happenstance of two people who live on opposite sides of the Earth and share a tiny piece of historical landscape is an incredible example of how the world creates relationships amongst its citizens.

These types of discoveries are what make #expatlife such a special experience for me. Being an expat has unleashed me from having a connection to only one specific place with links to the local community. My global lifestyle has given me the chance to connect to an army of global citizens of the world, But, I must admit… I do get a little excited when I‘m able to root out small ties to one of the many places I have called ‘home’… it reminds me of my past experiences and those who have crossed my path. It also fills the small holes in my heart that I carry (I like to use the word nostalgia instead of homesickness) from country to country.

So here’s my theory… The small connections we unearth while living abroad are the surprising benefits of playing the expat version of “Six Degrees of Separation”. As you begin to peel the nomadic onion, I predict you will begin stringing together a laundry list of connections quicker than you’d ever imagine. The expat world is a microcosm, but it’s spread across all corners of the Earth. Even though you might feel like a small seed in this big world, you never know when an unexpected coincidence will fill your cup and help you BLOOM.

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