5 ways to document your expat adventures

  • keep an expat diary
Article
Published last year

Expatriation is synonymous to adventures and discoveries — a different environment, cultures and traditions; all become part of your new life abroad. But how do you keep hold of the memories and show your friends, family, and the wider world what your host country has to offer? Catie, an American expat in Turkey shares with Expat.com some tips to help you document your expat adventures.

Catie Funk

An American expat living in Izmir, Turkey, Catie is a part-time language learner and part-time blogger/podcaster for Funk Travels. Catie has worked as a university study abroad coordinator in the U.S.A. encouraging students to learn through international and intercultural experiences. Previously, she has lived for four years between Turkey and Afghanistan. Her goal is to support local events in Turkey and travel with other internationals through her website.

You know how a deep, sound sleep can disorient you? I woke up one morning and asked myself: Where am I? Something in the room made me think I was in Turkey on a chilly fall morning — maybe it was the sunlight streaming in through the windows just so, or the smell of the crisp morning air coming in through the open window. Reality quickly set in — I was no longer living in Turkey, but instead I was in my bed in the States. It's funny to remember that now because my husband and I now live in Turkey once again. The smells and sounds of the neighbourhoods are ingrained into my memory, and I know this is our lovely Turkey.

I've spent five of the past ten years as an expat — both single and married — and I love to keep hold of the memories of the journey and adventures that come with every expat experience. I know that when my husband and I are back to the States, I will enjoy retrieving the different ways I used to document our time abroad and reminiscing and sharing the stories.

Here are five ways I have used to document the adventures of our up-and-down, never-dull, fun, sometimes frustrating, but always fascinating expat life.

Keep a simple journal

keep an expat journal

A journal provenly helps people to reflect and process change, but it's mostly the perfect place to hold memories. Just a few ideas are to keep a running list of the things you love about the culture and place you live, to write stories of interactions with local people (e.g. unexpected kind gestures on the street), or everyday things such as the laughs of the neighbourhood children after school. Journals are easy to take with you and write in at any time!

Start a website

This is probably the most popular choice. A site can replace the traditional journal and is an excellent way also to include your photos. If you are super tech savvy, vlogs are growing in popularity. If you enjoy writing as a creative outlet, a website gives you the opportunity to share your expat life with others and become a member of a vast online community.

Start a podcast

record your expat memories

Audio series are another medium to share your expat stories with others. My husband and I enjoy listening to podcasts together on road trips, while working, or on long public transportation rides. When moving to Turkey together, we decided to share our expat journey with others via podcast.

Create a photo book

If writing isn't your thing, then why not consider creating a photo timeline of your journey? Photo books are one of my favourite ways to record a trip, experience, or even an entire year. There are many websites to help you create beautiful digital photo books of your travels. And if you are looking for fully hands-on experience, make your personal photo book from scratch. The crafty project will be part of the memory too!

Organise and print those pictures

expat photos

Perhaps there isn't time to do any of the things mentioned above, or writing and audio recording doesn't work for you. No problem, just taking the time to organise your pictures is a way to document your expat life adequately. And when all fails, just print those pictures piled up in your memory card! An effective tactic is to gather your favourite photos of the month and print them — move the old photos over to a photo album, and hang up your newly printed pictures.

Those are just a few of the many ways you can document your expat journey. Overall, the primary goal is to start from somewhere and keep the memories alive! Expat life can be overwhelming, and you may easily get lost in loads of new experiences.

Have you used any of the ways above to document your story? How have you documented your expat adventures? What are your tips for others who want to start documenting their expat life?

2 Comments
stef7sa
stef7sa
last year

When we moved to Italy in 2008 to start our bed and breakfast our family and friends 'forced' us to keep them informed through a weblog, which we then kept writing for very diligently. In hindsight that has turned out a very good idea as I could later use all our stories to transform it into a book about our expat adventure, Living in Italy: the Real Deal So my advice would be to start documenting your life on a daily basis right from the beginning!

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reywatwrite
reywatwrite
last year

Good article. I started a blog five years ago to inform my family and friends in the states as to my activities. Every so often I download the blog to keep as a memory. I also started travel writing, the publications and web sites also preserve my memories. reywatjapan.blogspot.jp and Japantravel.com. Now I am working on a book I hope to publish next year about my life in Japan.

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