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Be a connected diplomat

  • Writer's picturePhil McAuliffe

On returning home

It's good to be home, right? Right??

Hello! It’s lovely to be back with you after a few months away getting settled into life back home. I hope that you’re going well, wherever you are in the world.

Let's get right back into it!

* * * * *

The end of a posting is a stressful time.

Not only are we leaving a place where we’ve lived for the past few years, we’re leaving a job, we’re leaving friends, we’re leaving a city and a country and all the things that, when combined, come with the home and the life we’ve built.

Aside from all that, there are all the practicalities that come with moving ourselves – and possibly our families – to somewhere else. Every time I’ve moved while living the diplomatic life, I’ve asked myself: ‘Why do we do this??’

I know that I’m not alone when I ask this question.

I’ve recently returned home after living in two other countries for the past six years. Each of those countries – South Korea and New Zealand – are home to me. Each time I left felt like I was leaving a piece of myself there.

This whole moving caper is emotionally wrenching, isn’t it? It’s the price we pay for living this diplomatic life. We know this, and I’m pleased to see that there are many resources available – within our employing agencies and from other businesses run by those who have lived experience – where the process is discussed and, importantly, support can be given.

One such resource is my post ‘On home’ which I published in March 2019. Read it here and listen to the fantastic interview I had with Katia Vlachos, author of ‘A Great Move’ here.

As for how I approached my most recent move, I wanted to approached it with some curiosity as I knew that I’d want to write and reflect on the process, what I noticed and what I learned. Let’s dive into it, shall we?

All the changes

Things had certainly changed after six years away. Not only had IKEA opened (surely the mark of a great global city), but the city just felt different: there was a confidence and a boldness that I’d not noticed before.

People had changed, too. A lot can happen in friends’ and families’ lives in six years. People grow. People change. Relationships can begin and they can end. Children grow. People get older. People change jobs. People move on.

This can be hard to digest when we’ve been away for so long and not seen the people in our lives much. We can have a picture in our minds of the people at home that’s frozen from when we last saw them. The realisation that people have changed beyond what we thought we knew can be confronting.

And I’d changed over the past six years. Oh, how I’d changed. So, in a similar way to how I’d noticed that friends and family had changed, they’d noticed changes in me, too. Yes, I was no longer in the same relationship and I’d come out as gay, but – surprisingly – it was the beard and haircut which shocked people most.

I learned that we can all keep abreast of what’s happening in each other’s lives through social media, but seeing someone physically and having a real conversation with them in real time is different to engaging with each other through a screen.

The realisation of how much I’d changed led to another point, which I’ll cover a little later. For now, I’ll end this point by stating that feeling the evidence that I’d changed was both liberating and uncomfortable, all at once and often in equal measure. I’d not anticipated it.

COVID empathy

It took me seven months to get home from New Zealand. During that time, I was homeless and poor. Frustratingly, I had a house and a job waiting for me at home. I learned a lot about myself and life during this time (which I’ll cover in upcoming content).

COVID’s been like that. So many people – diplomats and those who live the diplomatic life included – have found that they’ve also learned a lot about life over the past 18 months. Closed borders, enforced quarantine and periods of mandated isolation has brought the challenges of living life – including the diplomatic life – into stark relief.

Suddenly, work was not the most important thing in our lives. Sure, it was important, but our health and the health of those most important to us was paramount. And while our experience of COVID has been different, we are all experiencing COVID.

What I noticed from friends and colleagues is rather than near-indifference to my return from an overseas posting as there had been previously, there was empathy. There was an appreciation that living away from home was tough. And while the details of the lived COVID experience is unique, I noticed an understanding and a response based in empathy that was so supportive.

Moving is expensive!

No matter how you do it, moving is expensive. Setting up our lives at home is expensive. Connecting utilities are expensive. Restocking the kitchen is expensive. Buying, insuring and registering a vehicle is expensive. Rents and bonds are expensive. New school uniforms are expensive. Phone and internet plans are both confusing AND expensive.

Honestly, it felt like money was flowing through my account for the first two months. It left the barest trace of its presence in my account, with only statements showing that there had been money in the account at some point.

My tip: Soften the blow and save what you can during your posting while you’re receiving allowances, potentially not paying much – or any – rent and school fees.

It’s good to be home

After a personally and professionally eventful six years away, it’s good to be home. It’s been great to reconnect with family and friends. It’s been great to reconnect with my neighbours, my neighbourhood, the city and the country.

I see all through fresh eyes and new perspective.

My partner, Jeff, has been a huge factor in this. He’s made the move from New Zealand with me and we’re setting up our home and we’re all creating our family. We’re exploring and discovering our new home together. He’s seeing my home through fresh eyes, and I see it too. I see my home, my work and my life through my eyes now, not as I used to see it.

For all the expense and frustrations, I’m suffused with love and gratitude to be here. It’s safe. It’s clean. It’s home.

Have you moved back home recently? What did you notice?

How has COVID changed your experience of home?

Email me and I’d love to hear your reflections on home and I’ll reflect

on our collective experience in an upcoming episode

Want to connect with me? A reminder that ‘Minister’ and ‘Ambassador’-level members of The Lonely Diplomat can access my mentoring services and can talk to me regularly – and in real time – about what’s happening in their diplomatic life and receive wisdom distilled from lived experience as a posted diplomat, an accompanying spouse, a parent AND as someone whose relationship ended while on a diplomatic posting. Become a member here.

Thank you for reading this post. I really appreciate your support and I hope that my work continues to serve, support, challenge and inspire you as you reconnect with yourself and the world around you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and suggestions for future posts.



Important notice: All views expressed above are my own and do not reflect any official position. The words published above are intended to support, challenge and inspire diplomats and those living the diplomatic life as they reconnect with themselves and the world around them. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional.


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