Reflections on Moving Abroad and Being an Expat

“You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Hemingway wrote those words in 1926, but they still pour salt on the wound of the expat today.  Expats are not having sex all day and drinking, just as doctors are not having sex in broom closets while at work as “Scrubs” and “ER” would have you believe. Though we  do seem to hang around cafes a lot….

Moving abroad to find myself…..

Sometimes I do feel like I have lost touch with the soil.  I am the American-born daughter of Mexican immigrants living as a perpetual tourist in Costa Rica.  Spanish was my first language but I speak English better than Spanish.   Where do I belong?  Back in Texas I knew exactly who I was and what my role was.  First generation Mexican-Americans are a dime a dozen in San Antonio.  I was also a doctor and a mother and a wife.  The problem was that my priorities were in shambles.  I quit my job and put my career on hold, despite the fact that it was a huge part of my identity.  I rearranged my priorities so I am a mother and wife before anything else.

Since my children are at school most of the day, I am often asked what I do all day.  Well, laundry, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, and running errands take longer here than back in the USA.  And when those menial but essential tasks are done……I am a writer!  Wow!  I cannot believe I said it.  I may not be a professional writer, or a great writer, or I may never go beyond writing for my blog.  But I am doing it and plan to make the most of the time I have during this year off.  If Hemingway had written “The Sun Also Rises” in our time, he would have said, “You spend all your time blogging and tweeting, not working……..You hang around coffee shops with free wi-fi”.

What becoming an expat has taught me….

Leaving the comfort of my home and job to move to Monteverde took a lot out of me.  I know it sounds glamorous and exciting, but in reality it is one of the most terrifying, exhausting, and stressful things I have ever done as an adult.  Surviving the transition depends a lot on arming yourself with a good sense of humor and patience , forging a support group with your new expat friends, and finding comfort in your family from your home country.  As the dust is settling from our move, I find myself feeling happy and grateful.  As much as I miss my family and friends and even my job, I learned I have more guts than I ever thought possible.  I have learned so much about myself, my family, and the remarkable ability of the human spirit to adapt to anything.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” 
― A.A. Milne

The courage it takes to leave your comfort zone behind, no matter how toxic, to redesign your life  is not limited to moving to another country.  It also takes courage to leave an abusive relationship, quit a dead-end job, or embark on a journey to weight-loss.  The process of walking away from negativity or turning a toxic situation into a better one is similar.  Everyone has a different idea of what treasure lies at the end of the rainbow.

This is the view I wake up to every morning. Pinch me to make sure I am not dreaming!

This is the view I wake up to every morning. Pinch me to make sure I am not dreaming!

How have you walked away from your comfort zone and lived to tell the tale?  Let me know in the comments below.

Pura Vida!

About Noemi Gamel

Noemi Gamel is a physician who prefers writing diverse children's fantasy stories instead of medical charts. She is a geeky nomad, too.
This entry was posted in Redesigning Your Life, Reflections and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Reflections on Moving Abroad and Being an Expat

  1. If you write, you are a writer. Congratulations, you have defined your world.

    That is the secret to becoming something greater; you have to get out of your comfort zone of ‘what is’ and start boldly living life as you want it to be.

    When I left my comfort zone, the 401k and the mortgage, the career and the medical benefits, I may have ‘lost’ a lot of things I had been building for years. But my life is happier now, and my children have a much better future.

    ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ – Neale Donald Walsch

    • Noemi Gamel says:


      I totally agree. I sold my dream home. I left behind a lucrative, successful career as a physician. I left everything that was comfortable and familiar. In return I got a lot more time with my kids and a less stressful lifestyle. So what if we dont have a car or our house is about less than half the size of our old house. We are much happier!

  2. icediva says:

    Oh, but it’s leaving that comfort zone that will make you strong and a writer! Can’t wait for class to start and to see you grow!

    • Noemi Gamel says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! I am so glad I left my comfort zone behind to follow my dreams to be a writer. Yes, there is no glory, no daily external validation, no paycheck! But I am happier than I have been in a long time.
      I am looking forward to your class,

  3. Tukaram says:

    I quit my job in December 2012, and can retire in February 2018. How is that for planning? Ha ha I love my new life in the Philippines. But it was easy for me – the 9-5 grind was never a comfort zone for me. Traveling has always my comfort zone 🙂

    • Noemi Gamel says:


      Sounds like you are having as much fun in the Phillipines as I am in Costa Rica. I agree with your feelings on the 9-5 life: I feel there is so much to do that being at work for 1/3+ of my day is no way to live.
      Good luck in the Phillipines!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s