Giving up temporary… or trying to.

February 12, 2014


Okay, before you can read my post you need to go read this post that my homegirl, Janice, wrote about her decision to move back to her home country of Canada after fourteen years abroad. It’s like a prerequisite for this post. So, basically, if you don’t read her post, you shouldn’t even think about reading this post.

Have you read it, yet?


Have you?

I should remind you that I will totally know if you’re lying because I’m a teacher and I have a superhero-like ability to detect shifty-ness and crappy excuses.

Okay, even if you’re not going to read the whole thing because your Internet connection isn’t working and your dog ate the URL and your eyes hurt because you have some kind of rare eyeball-parasite and you even have a doctor’s note to prove it, and, OMIGOD STOP IT WITH THE EXCUSES ALREADY, can you just skip down to the part where she talks about being temporary?

Are you at that part, yet?


Are you?

Okay, I see I’m just going to have to do all the work here. So I’m just cutting and pasting the part I want you to read. Which I realize is wrong, but what was I supposed to do? I mean, you gave me no other choice. Hopefully, Janice will forgive me for totally plagiarizing her blog because we used to play bar trivia together in Thailand which means we’re pretty tight.

Anyway, this is the part I really want you to read right now:

“When you’re living, travelling, working, snorkelling or eating your way through other countries, it’s easy to pick and choose elements of culture that resonate with you. It’s fun to identify things you love about your host culture… and easy to grumble about things you’re not so fond of… the not-so-awesome things are tolerable, because you know they’re temporary. Eventually you’ll move on, and you won’t have to take the unpleasant things with you..”


I haven’t lived overseas nearly as long as Janice has, but this whole “Whatevs, Stupid-Stuff-That-I-Hate, I don’t care about you! Because I’m outta here, okay?” attitude?


In fact, even though I’m not living overseas anymore, I still have that attitude.

Shortly after moving to Michigan, I decided I would give it three years. I just couldn’t swallow the idea of being here indefinitely.

I mean, no offense against Michigan. It’s a lovely state. But, frankly, I have trouble swallowing the idea of being anywhere indefinitely.

So I came up with a time limit. After years of working on temporary work visas, I gave myself my very own temporary work visa.

And, just like I used to back in China or Japan, every time I get worked up about something — maybe some super, duper long meeting at work or the lack of adequate artisan cheeses in the grocery store —  a familiar thought will pop in my head, “Who cares? This doesn’t apply to me! Because I’m about to blow this popsicle stand, ya hear?”

Unlike other people who might find comfort in stability, I relish in the temporary.

Temporary is my security blanket.

It’s my comfort zone.

It’s also kind of my crutch.

You see, it’s prevented me from really branching out and meeting people and becoming a part of my community. In the past six months, the only people I’ve really met are work-people.

I’ve thought about meeting other people.  I’ll think, “Hey, I should join a club or volunteer or audition for a show or do that Internet dating thing that all the kids are talking about.”

And then a second thought will pop into my head, “What’s the point? I’m only passing through here. I wouldn’t want anyone to get attached. Why don’t I just hang out and watch wedding reality shows on Netflix instead?”

This is probably not the best use of my time. Or my Netflix.

I think it’s time I give up on temporary.

It’s time to start embracing the good stuff about my new home (Like, beer! And more beer! Did I mention beer?) with the bad stuff (Like, snow! SO MUCH FREAKING SNOW. I mean, I know I’m from Buffalo, but, for serious, ABOUT THIS SNOW? WHY????)

It’s time to act like I’m here to stay and not like I’m here for an overnight stay.

It’s maybe even time to, ohmygodIcan’tevenbelievewhatI’mabouttosayrightnowbutheregoes, settle down.

Or, at the very least, it’s time to stop introducing myself with, “Hello. I’d tell you my name, but I’m not going to be around long. It’s probably best if you don’t get attached, okay, bucko?”

This is probably not the best way to meet new people.

Although it does get you some fun looks.

Are you a stability-seeker or a temporary-forever kind of person? And is it possible to change from one to the other? And, umm, how? I mean, is there some kind of pill I can take or something?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On February 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm Katie said:

    I can relate to this 100%. My first year back in Chicago after being overseas for a year, I didn’t really put myself out there and didn’t make the effort to reconnect with old friends or make a lot of new ones because I just felt deep down like I wasn’t going to stick around that long. Now, I find more and more things that I want to stay around for and am trying to live in the moment more and not think about whether I’m here 6 months or 6 years from now.
    Katie recently posted..What I Learned Watching the Olympics in Turkmenistan

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm Sally said:

      The whole getting my head out of the future is super hard for me! But I like what you said about finding stuff you want to stick around for. I’ve been keeping a list of all the cool places and festivals I want to go to in Michigan and the surrounding states. By now my list is so long I need to stay at least another year…

  2. On February 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm Janice said:

    Well said, my friend! I’m happy to contribute to such a worthy cause =) When people ask if my move is permanent, I find myself saying, “Let’s call it indefinite.” Now I can totally see myself taking your advice too much to heart, and introducing myself to everyone with, “Hi! I’m Janice. I LIVE here.”
    Janice recently posted..Adventures in … Saudi Arabia?

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm Sally said:

      Maybe just get a t-shirt that says that? Could make things easier. If slightly more awkward. And thanks for not minding my plagiarism! Actually, I think it was just textual borrowing. (I learned that phrase at work today. I’m totally using it all the time now.)

  3. On February 12, 2014 at 11:18 pm Heather said:

    I can relate to this, too. For my first few months in Shanghai, I really put myself out there and tried to make friends, but every time I clicked with someone they moved away. It was exhausting and kind of demoralizing. So I adopted the attitude of being just temporary myself and set off solo to make the most of my time. Those afternoon teas weren’t going to drink themselves!
    Heather recently posted..New York City Revisited: A Fanciful Retreat

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm Sally said:

      I felt temporary the whole time I was in China. Every semester, I’d tell myself that THIS was the semester I’d finally get out and meet people outside of my work. And every semester I ended up spending most evenings on my couch watching Hulu. Because, yeah, The Bachelorette isn’t just going to watch itself!

  4. On February 13, 2014 at 3:46 am Katharina @ 100 Miles Highway said:

    I completely get it. I, too, seem to live on a permanent temporary status – specially in London. I keep on telling people that “this was my last flat move in London”, “this is my last job in London” and even “this is my last winter in London”. It gets worse sometimes – I’ve been here for 3 years and tell people that for sanity reasons they should not consider staying here for more than 4 years!

    This attitude is temporary itself, as well. One day I would be like “oh my god I’m out of here” and the next I’d be calculating mortgages to purchase my own place in the city. Not that I can afford it, but a tiny part of me still dreams of settling. I guess I’m contradicting myself a lot here! So the point is – yes, lets embrace both good snd bad things and stop planning the next move 🙂
    Katharina @ 100 Miles Highway recently posted..London’s Wild Side – A Walk through Richmond Park

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:22 pm Sally said:

      Oh, contradiction! My favorite hobby, too. I do the same thing — one moment I’m planning my next overseas teaching gig and the next I’m dreaming of adopting a cat and living in some old, creeky Victorian. If only I could have it both ways!

  5. On February 13, 2014 at 4:25 am Alex said:

    I can SO relate to this. In the past five years, I’ve moved eight times (including three different countries), and had two long-distance relationships, so I’ve always been flitting here, there and everywhere. Now I am back home in the UK, and been offered a – gulp – PERMANENT job. It’s a good job, not in the place I want to be, and I keep telling myself “Give it a year! It’s okay!” The idea of settling down literally terrifies me. I like moving around too much.

    However, it is now getting to the point where everyone around me IS settling down. Friendship groups are tighter, relationships are forming. I’d quite like to feel more of a “part” of my community, as opposed to drifting in and out of several. Maybe this feeling will pass, who knows? But I’m going to commit to the new challenge of staying somewhere for a year, commit to a place, and see what happens.
    Alex recently posted..7 Things I Learned from Life in Italy

  6. On February 13, 2014 at 6:27 am Megan said:

    Mmmm. Interesting. I’m on move #15, but I blame most of them on being military. You are spot on about the temporary mindset..there’s a cost. To be completely honest, I was an incredibly outgoing person before I started all this moving shenanigans…but switching communities constantly, doing the meet-love-leave cycle 15 times and the constant “I’m outta here” mindset left me much more cautious, less likely to engage and probably way too nonchalant about leaving people behind. That doesn’t mean I regret moving around but it changes you. It does. Sometimes, I envy the stay-in-one-placers…the community, the friends, the comfort. It usually lasts about 20 minutes and I’m over it, but still….
    Megan recently posted..Hurtigruten: The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:18 pm Sally said:

      Totally agree! I remember when I first moved to Japan, I met this woman who had been there for years and years and her first question to me was, “How long are you going to be here?” Her whole attitude was if you’re not around for long, let’s not even bother. I remember being really kind of offended and thinking, “What? You don’t even want to TRY to get to know me?” But after a year or two, I totally got it. I had met and said goodbye to so many wonderful people, it was just exhausting. I found myself just not wanting to meet new people if it meant I’d have to say goodbye to them.

  7. On February 13, 2014 at 6:28 am Ceri said:

    I have no idea how to go from being a temporary kind of girl to a ‘sticking around’ one, sorry. 😛 But, yes, you should definitely get out there and meet new people and make the most of everything. Even if you do decide to leave again one day, just break a million hearts along the way by making sure you did everything and schmoozed with everyone. 😀
    Ceri recently posted..9 Ways You Can Afford to Travel

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:15 pm Sally said:

      I like this. Instead of worrying about people getting attached, I should just make the goal to break as many hearts as humanly possible. Except that would probably mean I’d first have to start talking to people, huh?

  8. On February 13, 2014 at 7:36 am Heather said:

    I’m in the same boat! It’s only been 3 years for me but I find myself thinking of “home” in Canada. And settling down. And getting involved in a community instead of living in hostels or only being in one place for a few days. It’s a daily thought for me: “Once I’m done my Masters, what happens next?” This was the end of my plans. And the thought of being in one place permanently, absolutely terrifies me.
    Heather recently posted..Bruce and Larry

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm Sally said:

      It’s super scary, right? Every once in a while I think about staying here forever and I literally hyperventilate. Like CAN’T EVEN FREAKING BREATHE. Who reacts like that?

  9. On February 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm Laryssa said:

    I agree!!

    I’ve done that with my room and house — not wanting to commit to making it look like anything, or give it a “style”, because I always felt my time here would be short.

    And I’ve been living in the same place for four years.

    The life-altering change that scares so many people is an adrenaline rush for others, and I definitely feel I belong in the latter…but then again, I’m living in the same place still!
    Laryssa recently posted..PAs that Act Like EPs: Can a Good Work Ethic Be Learned?

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:13 pm Sally said:

      I can relate to that. I did the same thing in China and Buffalo. Because my apartments came furnished and because I was never sure how long I’d be there, I never bothered surrounding myself with my stuff. I just lived surrounded by other people’s stuff. Since moving to Michigan, I’ve pulled out all my stuff and really made my place my own. I love once again being able to have all my travel mementos and gifts from family and friends around me. And, if anything it’s the one thing keeping me here for a while — I don’t want to have to deal with taking down all the shelves and wall-hangings I put up in my apartment!

  10. On February 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm Erika said:

    Once again, you write my life! 🙂
    Erika recently posted..Guest Post: Why We All Need to Be A Little Unreasonable

  11. On February 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm Aurora said:

    Yes! I keep thinking, oh, well – it’s ok that i haven’t made a big community here or found a great guy to date – I’m only in NYC temporarily. But, that not being present, that not laying down of roots — it’s holding me back and hurting me! Sure…. it’s great to dream of the future and where the next journey is… but equally important to be here. now.

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:09 pm Sally said:

      I love every time when I write a post and I struggle with what I want to say (as I did with this post), someone comments and their comment is so exactly what I wanted to say. And you did that right now! My temporariness really is holding me back and hurting me and leading to a lot of unrest and unhealthy behaviors on my part. Time to start living in the now! Or at least trying to!

      • On February 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm Aurora said:

        Ok… then let’s pinkie swear to go out there and start living now! 🙂 And… just for the record, I thought of you the other day when I considered taking an art class!
        Aurora recently posted..30 for 30s

        • On February 16, 2014 at 9:32 am Sally said:

          Do it! I loved my art class. It was much better than the Holistics Health class I signed up for this semester (and dropped… after I got in an argument about coffee with the professor… it’s a long story).

  12. On February 13, 2014 at 5:36 pm Isabelle said:

    The more I travel, the more I discover, the more I realize that here is my home. My base. My roots. I love travelling but I feel very privileged to live here and have a home here. The more I leave, the more I like my home! That being said, I plan to travel around as much as I can when I’m retired and maybe just have a room here for when I stop by between long term trips. I don’t think I could make it work with no home at all…

    • On February 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm Sally said:

      This sounds lovely! I would love to have a home base in the States and still be able to live/travel overseas. It’s just so exhausting to have to restart my life in the States every time I come back (it’s been 3 times and counting so far!). I just need to find someone to sponsor my home-base-purchasing!

  13. On February 14, 2014 at 10:03 am Beth said:

    This is totally me. Sure, there are things I complain about in Hong Kong and Japan… but I get by because I know it’s temporary. I’m not sure I’d be able to give up temporary.

    Also, really happy you went ahead and used ‘blow this popsicle stand’.
    Beth recently posted..Foto Friday: Lanterns of Love in Hong Kong

  14. On February 14, 2014 at 6:44 pm becky hutner said:

    I have a temporary mindset even though I’ve lived in the same city for 14 yrs!! Now riddle me that.
    (and I totally read Janice’s post tvm).
    becky hutner recently posted..Fashion ‘Round the World: What people wore in Jan ’14

    • On February 16, 2014 at 9:29 am Sally said:

      Ooo, interesting. I suspect I would be the same way if I were in the same place for 14 years. Maybe it’s something you just can’t change no matter where you live and how long you live there. I guess I’m just doomed!

  15. On February 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm Jess said:

    I do this, even though I’ve been living in the same place for at least 8 months a year for the past 3 years. I don’t really want to commit to anything that would make me feel like I can’t leave at a moment’s notice – even when ‘commit’ means something as noncommittal as signing up for a class or making an effort to find more local friends.
    Jess recently posted..Valentine’s Day in the USA

  16. On February 14, 2014 at 7:13 pm Mags said:

    I so get this. I haven’t done the expat thing (not yet at least), but every move I’ve made people have asked if it was “forever.” Yikes. I think I’m a location specific commitment phobe.

  17. On February 15, 2014 at 4:06 am Naomi said:

    I’m sort of on the other side of this, having put down roots in my current place for the last 13 years (longest I’ve ever lived in one place) and am now planning long term travel. I’ve been both consciously and unconsciously disengaging from my community for the last 12-18 months, waiting for my old dog to pass on, not really putting the effort into less important friendships, bowing out of committees and volunteer activities I’ve been heavily involved in…
    You and Janice have just made me realise I’m becoming temporary. I was starting to think that there was something wrong with me, that maybe my depression was coming back, but it all now totally makes sense.
    Thankyou for this post, I’m now feeling a whole lot better about myself.
    Naomi recently posted..Volcano madness

    • On February 16, 2014 at 9:27 am Sally said:

      Glad I could help shed a little light on the whole temporary mindset! And it’s interesting what you said about depression. I guess the 2 share similar characteristics — disengagement, drawing away from others, etc. I find that I very often get depressed when I’m in one place or one situation (job, etc) for a longer period of time… maybe the two are linked. Depression and being antsy. I wouldn’t be surprised.

  18. On February 16, 2014 at 7:35 am Lisa said:

    I can relate to your dilemma,but on a completely opposite level. It makes me think of contentment or more specifically discontentment. I have been saying lately “I have had the same zip code all my life””. I say this not with pride, but with a contemptuous “what’s the matter with you…can’t you venture out and truly LIVE” attitude. So, my “solution” is sell our house and move to the next small town 5 miles away….. Not really a solution, or a risk I might add…unbrave ones….. So I think what I am really looking for is contentment…and my zip code or geography doesn’t really matter. I am done WAITING for this or that thing to happen and then I will be content or happy. I have found that when whatever my inner criteria happens or doesn’t happen, I am not necessarily content either. So where does that leave me? I am trying to “bloom where I am planted” (sorry for the cliche) and just truly live that day the best I can. Some are better than others. So I try to give myself a break and make the next one better than the last in terms of how I treat others and myself. Can I be content with that? It seems that is all I have control of on this planet.

    • On February 16, 2014 at 9:23 am Sally said:

      Thank you so much for commenting & I really appreciated your perspective. I always look at people who’ve been in the same place for a long time and assume that they must be content and feel like they’re in the right place and are not constantly doubting themselves like I am. And, well, I’m a little bit jealous. (Okay, a LOT bit jealous.) So it was interesting to hear that this might not always be the case and maybe we all get a bit restless about our location… some of us just more than others!
      And I agree with you that your zip code shouldn’t matter when it comes to contentment… although, I do have to say moving and shaking things up a bit can do wonders to your perspective. And it doesn’t really matter if that move is 5 miles or 5 million miles — it’s a good (if expensive! and drastic!) way to get out of whatever rut you’re in. Maybe that’s why I’m always doing it!

  19. On February 16, 2014 at 9:20 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    Oh, the settling down thing…I’ve gotten questions about it a few times, but fortunately not so much as I’m still only in my late twenties and not expected to be gay married just yet.

    People here in Taiwan have asked me questions along the lines of, “do you think you’ll settle down here?” I have no idea. I only started my new job properly yesterday, and I’ve been here for exactly one month as of today. But I’m not scared at the thought of settling down here, but there would need to be something to keep me here, like a super cute and funny and smart gay husband who loves to eat and cuddle (not necessarily at the same time).

    Even in this first month here, I’ve been thinking, “where should I go next?”, even though I adore Taiwan. I guess time will tell. And now I totally want some artisan cheese which I can get because THERE’S A BAR/CAFE/STORE CALLED ‘BEER AND CHEESE’ HERE IN TAIPEI.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..7 Scrumptious Ways To My Heart

  20. On February 16, 2014 at 8:48 pm Krystal said:

    I’ve been living in Houston for a year and a half now. In that time, I’ve made a whole 2 friends that aren’t coworkers. It’s my first move outside of an organized program/college, and making genuine friends has been a lot harder than I realized it would be in the “real world”.

    The issue is, my life is temporary. I work offshore. I don’t have a schedule. I don’t know how long I’ll be in Houston before being relocated or before quitting for the dream of traveling.

    What your post made me realize is that even though I’m living a temporary life and constantly planning my next move, I need to convince myself that this is my indefinite location. In doing that, maybe I’ll be able to get my butt off this couch, away from House of Cards, and out to a bar or some meetup so that I can meet real life people and not just be terrified that Frank Underwood is going to find out that I know too much about him…
    Krystal recently posted..Freedom to Fail

    • On February 17, 2014 at 6:23 pm Sally said:

      I definitely think it’s much harder to make friends as an adult! Especially when you’re in a place where there aren’t a lot of transplants from elsewhere. I remember the first time I moved back to Buffalo from Brazil (about 10 years ago) it took me over a year to get invited out to happy hour — and this was with people I worked with! But a lot of people in that city have grown up there and stayed there and have tons of friends and family already so they’re not really looking for new people to hang out with. So when I moved back last year, I just didn’t even try at all to meet new people, especially since I knew I was probably not going to be there long.
      But, yeah, when you start to suspect you’re a character in your favorite Netflix drama, it’s probably time to get out more. I knew I had a problem when I started to suspect everyone was out to get me a la Amanda from Revenge.

  21. On February 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm Sine said:

    I think I might have to disagree with you on this one, at least on the point of making friends: I feel it’s had the opposite effect on me, i.e. knowing that most likely we’d only be somewhere for a few years, I went out and pursued new friendships much more actively (and with less inhibitions) than I would have had I stayed in my home country. Or maybe it has something to do with just getting older and getting better at meeting people. In any case, I made the most friends the fastest in the places we stayed to shortest. I guess in the end it comes to the same thing – moving a lot might be something we all get addicted to, because we like the idea of leaving again (and I DO agree with the idea of leaving behind the bad stuff and therefore being more forgiving in your host country than you would in your home country).
    Sine recently posted..Groenkloof, Negentienhonderd, and Other Tongue Twisters

    • On February 17, 2014 at 6:20 pm Sally said:

      I guess it all depends on where you are and how long you’re planning on being there. In Japan, I definitely made a lot bigger effort to meet people. I knew I was going to be there at least 3 years — which to me is a long time. Plus, I was in an international city, surrounded by other international cities, so it was relatively easy to join clubs or go out and meet people who were either expats and/or interested in hanging out with expats. In China, I hardly tried at all because I never knew how long I was going to stay there (I originally planned only 6 months, and then added another 6 months, and then another 6 months). Plus, where I lived didn’t have a lot of social options for meeting people besides bars. Plus, I had Hulu. 🙂

  22. On February 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm Ashley said:

    I have never traveled long term, but I have always wanted to. Still, I am very much temporary minded – but my husband is even more stability minded. It makes things interesting….I’m working on him though…

  23. On March 1, 2014 at 5:55 pm Karen said:

    This ‘temporary’ thing has me concerned, while we slow long-term travel indefinitely with our youngest 7 of 9 dc. I wonder what impact it will have on them connecting, making friends, investing in relationships.

    We are often in a place for only a few days, sometimes a week or 2, but currently we are here (Chapala, MX) for at least 2 months. So I’ve made more of an effort to connect, and this week decided the kids could at least ‘connect’ on some level by volunteering at a dog rescue, which they all absolutely loved.

    We are in the process of considering settling down for a longer period of time, possibly a year or more but haven’t decided on it yet, thinking it might be good for all of us.
    Karen recently posted..Coffee Trucks and Cafes on the Lake

  24. On March 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm MightyTravels said:

    This stuff is not easy! Feeling for you!
    MightyTravels recently posted..Earn 250 US Airways Dividend Miles per day with Avis

  25. On July 24, 2014 at 5:50 pm Allyson said:

    HI Sally,
    I realize I’m commenting on a blog post from months ago but I was googling “how to get the f**k outta here” (while at work, shhh) and stumbled upon your blog. I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s of course funny but also really inspiring. I am from NY, like I think I read you are too and have worried for sooo long that I’ll never land a stable job and be a ‘real person’. Now I have a job and, uh, can I go back to being not so real? My purpose of writing to you is really to ask for some advice on how to make that first step to changing, uprooting and becoming one of those adventurous people. And what might that first step be? If you don’t respond to this I understand (old blog post) but if you do I would be thrilled by any tid-bits of guidance you might provide. Thank you for sharing your world with THE WORLD. All the best.

    • On July 24, 2014 at 8:19 pm Sally said:

      Hi Allyson,
      I think you’re already in the first step. The step where you’re like, “Okay, yeah, this isn’t working.” Now, all you have to do is figure out what you want to do. Not right away or anything. I say give yourself a timeline and end date and tell yourself that you will move on at that time.
      That being said I don’t always think quitting your job and traveling around the world or moving to Peru or living in a campervan will solve all your problems. You’ll still probably end up with the same problems no matter where you go. (Restlessness, in particular, is a doozy to get rid of. As is depression. And indecision.) But at least you won’t have to worry about the problem of wondering, “Hey, what if I had done that thing where I was going to quit my job and move to Peru.”
      Anyway, I hope that helps. Best of luck!


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