Tips for people with friends or family living abroad
There is nothing worse when you are living or travelling abroad than getting a Whatsapp from your Mum saying “urgent, call me as soon as you can”. Your whole world drops out of your arse.
Actually, I stand corrected. It would be far worse to receive a text from someone else saying “call me as soon as you can, it’s about your Mum”.
Whereas previously you’ve never thought of having favourite family members, you suddenly worry about each person you love and care for in the order you prefer them.
Expats, do not deny this.
Having received numerous “urgent, call me ASAP” texts, emails and Whatsapp messages during my time abroad, and them only being “urgent” in as much as the sender wants to tell me something before they forget, or ask you where I’ll be for Christmas even though it’s only April, I have tried to educate my family on the importance of only sending such “urgent” messages when it is genuinely, truly urgent, and/or awful news.
Having recently split up with a boyfriend (the cool, calm and collected way of saying that I was brutally dumped by text), I’d been calling home a lot, largely to talk about myself and cry down the phone to my Mum. She dutifully filled in the time until my friends were ready to take me out for wine.
They were long calls.
There were a lot of them.
They usually started at 8.30am.
However, one day, after applying two inches of make-up ahead of a night out at China Grill in Dubai, I noticed that I had several missed calls and texts on various devices from my Mum, all asking me to call her.
I knew it was bad news. My Mum is never next to her mobile long enough to make two calls in a row, preferring instead to call someone and then not check her phone for a day.
I made the call knowing that life was going to be just a little bit different (at best) or potentially life shattering (at worst). I said a small prayer for my favourite people on the planet, the same small prayer I say before each and every flight I go on, and waited for her to answer.
A few months before, having already been home six weeks before that, I’d abruptly flown back to England for a long weekend as I missed my grandparents. Everything was well each and every time I called them, but on that Sunday evening, I came off the phone and burst into tears. I just wanted to curl up at theirs and be in their company, preferably with one of my Granny’s famous home cooked dinners and a box of Guylian left on my pillow.
None of us knew at the time, including my Granny, but sadly she must have had cancer when I flew back and didn’t know.
When I called my Mum back, she told me on the phone that my Granny had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It felt alien to be so far away from both her and my Mum.
The daily struggle that comes with living abroad and traveling the world is being away from those you love more than anything in that world. It is a constant feeling of guilt that your parents and grandparents are ageing as you brunch, boat party and generally play hard.
In that instant, the upset I’d felt about my recent break-up paled into insignificance. If people choose not to be in your life, let them leave. Focus your energy on the people you’d be lost without should they leave this world.
*I’m so very fortunate that my granny made a remarkable recovery. My life’s hero and inspiration. Spending time with her is the ultimate holiday.
** I really need to demote the ex that dumped me by text from my “Hollie’s most loved” list. That is, my prayer priority list when I fly in turbulence, stay in dodgy back street hostels in San Francisco, or am so hungover I have grounds to believe that this particular Sunday morning could be my last. I’m working on it…