A well-run challenge is a sweet thing. Sympatexter has run a very thoughtful “2020 – Year in Review” challenge that has guided me in writing this post, something I might otherwise not have done. So, why was it my year to emerge? Keep reading to find out.
I want to feel a childish relief that it’s the end of 2020 and all will be better in 2021 but 1) the pandemic will not be over on 1. January and 2) I don’t want to negate all the experiences and growth 2020 brought.
It’s been a year of constant low-level anxiety, of over eating, and of many tears of grief and disappointment. But it’s also been a year of a fabulous summer holiday, of finishing our
house home and adding a puppy. A year of networking beyond my wildest imagination. It’s been a year of feeling connected to the world through shared experiences and of learning to truly appreciate the things we do have and can do, not focussing on what we don’t & can’t.
I chose a guiding word for 2020 in January: emerge. Choosing an anchor word was new to me but I found it incredibly useful all year. I will be doing this again for 2021 and will offer a free workshop for others to find theirs, too. Sign up here for the Word of the Year Workshop!
A Four-Legged Friend
It was a long time in coming but we took the leap this year and grew our family again. I grew up with animals (a variety, including goats) and have always wanted to add a pet to our tribe for all the amazing benefits they bring. With 2020 being a year of isolation and limited opportunities for the children to make friends in their new location it seemed like now or never. Travel is on hold and there aren’t any new assignments on the horizon for us. The kids pushed hard, especially J, going so far as to develop a presentation and getting up at 6:00am for a week to prove she was committed.
Enter Skye. A Golden Retriever puppy and the only surviving girl from a litter of 10. We picked her up outside of Munich the weekend before school started in September.
Getting a puppy is like having another baby BUT without the hormones to help get you through the days after the restless, sleepless nights. She can’t be left alone (yet) so we have all had to adjust our patterns. Working from home and flexible schedules, as well as German school that lets out at 1:00pm on most days have all been helpful in this regard but it was and is a major adjustment.
Puppy love makes it all worthwhile
What we have lost in flexibility and freedom, we have gained many times over in love. I’m pretty sure the last time all five of us sat around on the floor together laughing was just after O was born, 7 years ago. My husband takes time to give her a good cuddle before heading to work nearly every morning. When the kids curl up with her I can practically see the endorphins sparkling around them. She has grown considerably since we picked her up but still thinks she’s a lapdog and tries to curl up on my lap whenever she can. We are all in love.
I have done every single early morning potty run since September. In addition, I drag myself to puppy training at 7:45am in the freezing cold every Saturday while everyone else stays in bed. It’s worth it as I emerge as a puppy mom.
Expat Coach Coalition
At the end of 2019 I joined the Expat Coach Coalition created by Sundae Schneider-Bean. For a few months we met weekly to learn about developing and launching our businesses and to dive into the Adapt & Succeed Abroad program that we were being licensed to use. In March we completed our training but our cooperation didn’t end.
For the rest of the year we supported, encouraged and celebrated each other as the coalition continued to grow and life threw some crazy sh!t at us. Some of my fellow coaches have become friends that I’ve never seen IRL but would recognize anywhere. Crazy pre-2020 but not unusual now – we are even planning to coordinate and launch a business project together (see Outlook, below).
Bottom line – I don’t think I would have made it through 2020 as well as I have without these women. Thank you for helping me emerge as a coach and coalition member.
Global Mobility Trainer Business Launch
After successful completion of Expat Coach Coalition training and many iterations of name, logo and domain names I officially launched Global Mobility Trainer on 1. April. Four blog posts were live and the first website design was finished.
I decided against a Facebook group, but did launch a business page. Later I updated my LinkedIn profile and added a page there, too. Instagram came a little bit later but is the format I most enjoy and the place where I connect with other expat coaches & trainers. LinkedIn has developed into a platform for discussions and sharing of professional data and information I also enjoy.
Despite the support from Expat Coach Coalition and many posts, pictures and discussions it took me most of 2020 to decide on my niche. Now I look forward to offering much more targeted and specific services to parents raising children outside their passport country in 2021. I will be more clear about supporting parents in learning about the challenges and opportunities their CCKs face while not neglecting themselves.
My word for 2020 was ’emerge’ and in January I wrote this as my goal: Come out from behind the Expat spouse cover and create my own identity and work. To celebrate in December I will look back on a growing support network, I will have done some trainings (and gotten paid for them) and have a clear outline and full calendar for 2021.
I can happily say that 2/3 of my goals were achieved despite (or perhaps because of, who knows?) my hesitancy and the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ll take that as emerging.
Blogging my heart out to create valuable content
I strongly felt that I needed to have content before I could publish my website and talk about by growing business. Before going public with my page I started writing. The very first post was about cooking and why it matters to me. It starts “My sister and I …” and in hindsight I see how relevant that was. We grew up together as TCKs. All formative experiences were shared and despite our many differences we are very much alike.
What I couldn’t foresee but what has been a wonderful development were her contributions and insights into expat life. She has contributed a number of blog posts, reflecting both on growing up as a TCK and on living life as a single expat (read them here).
Guest Bloggers & Building my Network
But my sister wasn’t the only guest blogger. Our mom contributed her experiences about what it was like to go to Yugoslavia as a young American in the late 60s. I learned things I never knew about her life.
Because that was so much fun, I opened the doors to other expat professionals and invited them to contribute posts. This has been – and continues to be – a fun way to connect, network, and share experiences and thoughts across the worldwide coaching sphere. To date I have hosted guests located in Mexico, Turkey, England, and Italy, with more coming. I have greatly enjoyed connecting with these women and look forward to more. Find the collection here.
Together we have posted 48 articles since April. Makes me proud to see that number. Emerging as a blogger and member of a growing network. Check.
Networking on Instagram & LinkedIn
What’s the use of creating content if you don’t tell anyone about it?
So, off I went, into the big wide world of social media. As mentioned above, I have built a presence on Instagram and LinkedIn. While taking baby steps into these unknown worlds, I soon realized that there was more to it than met the eye. To grow my audience and gain followers I had to educate myself. Luckily the www is full of free information. I’ve learned about posting frequency, hashtags, video and stories and have moved from novice to beginner while growing my audience from 0 to a few hundred in 6 months on all platforms. Finding the balance between effort and return remains a challenge and I will continue to test the waters in 2021.
One insight I have gained is that Instagram is a great place to connect with other expat coaches & trainers. This has not been a great platform to attract clients on (yet?) but I’ve built a network of coaches that has been supportive and educational.
LinkedIn has been a good place to find other professionals, networks and a few HR, relocation and global mobility specialists. I enjoy the professional exchange and shared articles and data that come up there.
Facts & Figures
This feels a bit cringy but for the record, I currently have: IG followers (271), LinkedIn contacts (409), FB page followers (92). Can’t wait to see what these numbers are like in December 2021!
Side note: On Strava I recorded 641km of runs. My goal of 650km is attainable by the end of the year, despite injuries (resulting from wanting to learn how to play football with J during our first lockdown), busy schedules and a very time-consuming puppy. I feel good about this but definitely want to improve distance and speed in 2021. OK – we’ll call this one re-emerging as a runner.
Summer Holidays in Austria & Germany
As a globally mobile family in the past our holidays were usually spent either travelling around Germany or the USA visiting far-flung family and friends or exploring the country or region we were living in. We loved it.
After repatriating to Germany in 2019 we’d planned to spend our vacation travelling Europe. Germany over Easter, Greece in June. We even got a camper van to explore Scotland this summer. Yeah well, that didn’t happen.
But Austria was open. And travel within Germany was allowed. So we did two things we’ve never done before: we spent a week hiking in Austria with my brother-in-law and his family. A few too many ‘cooks in the kitchen’ when it came to planning out our days but the kids loved spending so much time with their cousins. And I love being in the mountains (and not having to cook!).
Summer Holiday, Part 2
The second thing we did was drive up to the North Sea island of Langeoog. This is a car-free island my husband has many happy childhood memories of. We stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment with a patio, rented bikes and explored the island and the beaches by bike and on foot. For 10 days.
We’ve never just stayed in one place for so long and before we went I was a bit skeptical about it. Would we get bored? It seemed such a conservative thing to do. Something people do that lack imagination & curiosity about places to visit.
I have no problem admitting I was wrong. It was surprisingly wonderful and very relaxing.
We had a great time because we stayed put. There was no stress about moving on and we could really settle into the island vibe. The kids are old enough to explore independently and keep themselves busy. By staying in one place they gained confidence and knew their way around so they could also have a say in where and what we did. Plus, we could send them shopping 🙂
Wonderful extra benefit – the kids now also have happy childhood memories of Langeoog, just like their dad.
Is it age or just the right time to let this phase of holiday making emerge in our life?
A bit delayed and definitely odd, overall. We are continuing to adjust to life in Germany but the kids regularly talk about China and our life there. This still doesn’t feel like ‘home’. This is in large part due to the lack of normal things like building friendships by having friends visit, sleep over, drop by, get to know your family, etc. All this is lacking as we live in a strange limbo blending lockdown and life.
The major advantage of living in Germany – being close to at least one set of grandparents – has not come to pass this year. There is lots of grief & disappointment associated with this. The kids had really looked forward to spending more time with grandparents & cousins. A sad reality of 2020 but we have emerged and grown through the experience.
Covid-19, some highlights
The year was obviously dominated by Covid-19. Not a single person world-wide was left untouched by the pandemic. My business aspirations were most definitely dampened as relocations came to a virtual standstill for a while, but I have used the time to build by network and develop new ideas while finding my voice.
The pandemic has been scary, anxiety inducing and devastating for relationships, mental health and businesses globally (and waistlines). However, there is another side:
– I have never felt so connected to people through a common experience.
– I’ve been impressed by and excited about the creativity and innovative spirit of businesses and governments worldwide.
– I have felt proud of individuals for their rapid adoption of technology previously rejected.
– From an intercultural viewpoint I find it curious that some countries use ‘Covid’ and others prefer ‘Corona’ as their word of choice. Why is that?
I’m tired of ‘waiting’, tired of worrying about getting sick, tired of not knowing when I will see my parents & sister again. Then I remind myself it’s been less than a year. There are no bombs falling on our home, we have no shortage of food, heat, love or WiFi. We are not being asked to bear arms and go to war, we are being asked to cover our faces and stay home. We have nothing to complain about and much to look forward to in 2021.
After the past year it feels a bit daring to write an outlook for 2021. But we are in control of our destiny, right? Whatever life throws at us, we are in charge of our reaction to it, or so they say. Keeping that in mind, my broad brush plans for 2021 are:
- Network even more with other expat focused professionals and relocation companies and see where that takes me.
- Blog less but with more intention and higher value for my niche.
- Support growth of Here We Are Germany through networking and workshops. This will kick off with “Start your year strong: uncover your anchor word for 2021” at the end of January. I will lead this workshop to help everyone find their guiding word of the year. This workshop will also be offered outside of HWA. Sign up for my newsletter to find out when.
- Launch “adapt.succeed.together” group coaching program with some of my fellow Expat Coach Coalition members early in 2021. We’re all very excited to bring this program to our communities! Contact me for more information and watch this space next year!