Expats: On Life & Leadership… Lessons From Around The World

As many of you know I am in the midst of preparing for the adventure of a lifetime!  (A move overseas to the ONLY place in the world my husband and I said we never wanted to live.)  A few months have passed since we were asked to do this, and we are actually getting excited about our adventure!

As we’ve been preparing for this transition, I’ve reached out to several people that have experience living outside of their home country.  Those conversations have been inspiring, thought provoking and filled with insights that apply to life, not just international moves.

As you read through their quotes, think about your life right now.  What stands out?  You are invited to share your stories and your learnings at the bottom of this post!


Janet George – Lived in 5 countries outside of the United States.

When we spoke, Janet emphasized that she never imagined a life like this and that with every move she was consistently filled with apprehension before the move and always sad each time they left.

Pearls from Janet:

  • “Take it for what it is.”
  • “Jump in with both feet!”
  • “Make more friends, be more social!”
  • “Travel as much as possible.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to share if something is getting you down.”

After we hung up the phone she sent me this message, “Remember that you are an ambassador for your country, so try to remember that in your travels.”


William Powell – Is in the midst of his 3rd expat adventure.

William emphasized that living in various cultures has taught him to be more self-aware.

What he loves the most:

  • “Brilliant stories.”
  • “Being reminded, how small I am and how great humanity is.”

The hardest part of every move has been:

  • “Putting up with people that don’t think like I do. “

His biggest learning:

  • I am selfish, narcissistic, and want things my way.

His advice:

  • Live in the moment.  If you are always wishing for a better moment, you will wish away today.

My favorite quote from William, “Every culture/nation has something beautiful and something vile.”  


Alli Polin – Is several months into her 1st expat experience.

Alli emphasized that when she chose to be positive instead of focusing on what could be, she got over the fear.

Her biggest challenges:

  • “Making this my home.”
  • “Having a career in the U.S.  …I still have a career but I am recalibrating.  I am working with clients differently, doing more virtuallly and working different hours because of the time difference.”

Her advice:

  • “Bring the things that are special to you.”
  • “Commit to building your own community.”
  • “Stop worrying about the chats or what’s on Google or in the news reports.  Go out and form your own opinions.”
  • “Worry about the right stuff – what does and does not matter.”

When Alli shared her two biggest challenges, she asked me, to consider,What if this move was not temporary?”  I had such a gut-kick that I think I gasped out loud.  Then her question resonated loudly and I wondered if it is possible to bring my whole-heart to this experience if I am counting the days until I can go back to the familiar…

And on the note of familiar:  Both women emphasized how tempting it is to cling to what you know, even with food!  (Imagine vacation suitcases filled with Velveeta cheese or learning to make your first pumpkin pie from scratch because you can’t buy canned pumpkin and it is Thanksgiving!!!  …And yes, I am already guilty of making sure I can get Dove dark chocolate in our new home!)

As you look through their collective wisdom, what stands out to you?  Why?

One thing rises to the top for me.  Can you guess what that is?  


THANK YOU Janet George, Alli Polin, and William Powell for sharing your experiences!

Photo Credits:  iStockPhoto

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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9 thoughts on “Expats: On Life & Leadership… Lessons From Around The World

  1. Hi Chery,
    Best wishes for your upcoming adventure. If you are not already following Anne Egros on Twitter (http://twitter.com/AnneEgros), you may want to now.

    She is a “pro” at living in different countries and is now in Russia. Very generous and always willing to share her “expat” tips and insights.

    I will be interested to read your stories and hope you will be publishing them on your blog.

    Warmest wishes,

    • Kate ~ Thank you so much for the comment, the encouragement to share the journey and for the introduction to Anne! I will be sharing this experience on the blog. With the hope that by sharing the highs and lows of extreme change that others will find vision and hope in tthe midst of whatever change they are facing and at some point that they will share their stories to help others! Anne and I have connected on Twitter! I am looking forward to learning from her! Have a great weekend Kate!

    • Thank you Karin! It has been really encouraging to visit with others that have done this. Each one looks at things differently, and yet there was a common theme that the most successful expats always remember, “It’s not about me.”

  2. Chery, great link. I still miss the food in Malaysia where I came from. But it is a great adventure and it opens up so many more new memorable adventures.

    • Thank you for your comment Richard! I’m so new at this, I don’t have as many personal stories to tell. But I am in complete awe of the people that have lived this life for years and sometimes for generations!