My Best Ex-Pat Repatriation Tip: Viewing “Home” Through Ex-Pat Eyes

A Photo of a Live Oak Tree in an Austin Park downtown
What I Love About Texas…

It really is good to be home!

We made it! The grand total of miles traveled on this epic road trip stands at….  3,372 miles.

I admit that I did get a break on the way back. (Fortunately) I was sharing the driving of a one-way rental/moving truck on the way down, so I got to fly about 1,500 of those miles on the way back. Whew!

What I gained in hands-free travel by flying, though, I gave up with security checks, running for gates that have been changed at the last-minute, delays, weather turbulence and missed connections- still not a walk in the park by any means.

For those of you who have been following our travel saga, as we compare this trek to distances around Europe and what people will be travelling this week for the start of the Sochi Olympic Games, you already know I’ve been traveling the opposite direction, from Washington DC to Texas by car and U-Haul moving truck, getting my daughter moved to Houston.

In my last post (Why Texas Isn’t Sending a Team To The Olympics in Sochi), I mentioned that on the second driving day of this trip, the long one, we drove our two vehicles roughly as far as Brussels, Belgium is from Vienna Austria.

Today, after calculating the entire trip, the total miles, end to end, would cover more than the distance from New York City to Los Angeles, California.

Overall, if we were in Europe, we’d have driven the equivalent of taking the A4 from Paris to Bucharest, Romania, and flying back. (Google Maps was kind enough to tell us that this road has tolls, and, believe it or not, it crosses multiple countries… no kidding?!)

If We had Been Driving Through Europe
If We had Been Driving Through Europe

I was excited to help Caryn, not only because that’s what I think family does (at least in my head that’s how we work), but also because I got to go back to Houston after a long stretch in DC’s chaotic and dysfunctional orbit.

Last summer, in my posts on Re-Entering Earth’s Atmosphere and What Are The Marker’s for Success, I talked about how hard this repatriation has been; how I mostly have felt like a fish out of water here. I also wrote about the World Colors Project Naomi Hattaway and Anne Lowery started that caused me to think of how living here and working in DC might well be viewed as another expat assignment. It’s been that different here. That seems to have been a good key.

Since then, that mindset has really helped me accept the foreign-ness of the DC culture and continues to remind me that I should try to see this place, the United States, with “Ex-Pat Eyes” even though it’s here everyday.

“This is a great time to be exploring the world, as the internet can bring resources as close as your fingertips. Just please don’t tie yourself to the interweb world at the expense of the ‘real’ world.

One ‘mistake’ I see now that I made, one that Naomi Hattaway (Box 53b  and Project #WorldColors/#WorldColours) , and Anne Lowery (Part Time Traveler and on Facebook ) have shown me through their photography, was burying myself in my work and not taking advantage of opportunities to take more photographs of  people and places. I was abroad before the internet was widely in use and photos were still film based. Some of the few photos I did take, got lost before being scanned. More is the pity in that sense.

So, what Life Lessons have you learned?   What would you like to have a ‘do over’ for, if you could?”

Winter in the East... an auspicious start to our road trip.

Winter in the East… an auspicious start to our road trip

My “do-over” is remembering to see everything as a visitor would, with excitement and curiosity. Viewing this new home through “Ex-Pat Eyes” has made a big difference. Instead of taking this all for granted, I am learning to treat my home country (and Washington, DC) as an Expat destination to be discovered anew.

I decided to focus that mindset on this trip, capturing thoughts and photographs along the way.  On the long day it was hard because we didn’t stop much and drove a long way at night.

Off to a good start, the first “Lesson” I learned is that I don’t know much about my phone’s video function.

I took some awesome video footage (of the cup holder) while driving, keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes forward, of course… because I also didn’t see that my phone camera was OFF some of the time I thought I was recording, and some of the time, as I was putting it away, I actually turned it on, only to discover it minutes later-so ultimately I have lots of footage of the cup holder in the car and U-Haul truck.  “Be safe and get nothing” is my new motto apparently!

The snowy image above is the start of our trip in typical Eastern Seaboard winter weather. Driving south to Tennessee, it snowed some more as we loaded the truck and prepared to head out for Houston, driving both vehicles through Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi on the long second driving day.

Stopping for the night just north of New Orleans in Picayune, MS, I saw this sign at a local gas station.  Of course!Only in New Orleans will you find Pre-Lenten King Cakes, Mardi Gras, and Cappuccino rolled into one!

Only around New Orleans would somebody try to combine their Pre-Lenten King Cake, Mardi Gras, and Cappuccino- and roll it into one, at a gas station!

(A King Cake is associated in a number of countries with the festival of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season, and in other places, like Catholic Louisiana since the 1800s, with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras / Carnival.  For a fun story about this history, check out Margo Lestz’ post over at The Curious Rambler- The King Cake Holds A Surprise.)

We later learned that in 1972, a small bakery in this town of Picayune, Mississippi, Paul’s Pastry, started adding flavored fillings to King Cakes such as cream cheese, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry. A so-called “Zulu King Cake” has chocolate icing with a coconut filling, because in New Orleans the Krewe of Zulu parade’s most celebrated throw is a coconut.

These photos below are some of my other favorite moments in this road trip once we arrived in Houston.

While there, I also made a side trip with Caryn, driving another 3-1/2 hours (a further 225 miles)  over to Austin and Marble Falls (Horseshoe Bay). I spent some time with my step-mother at my dad’s place. It was the first time I had been able to go home since he passed away, so it brought some closure to that chapter and helped me to see that Eleanor is doing well despite missing my dad.

All in all it was good; a time for healing and renewal. A fresh start for Caryn in the hometown she grew up in, and for me, a time to be home with family.

But beyond that, after such a long road trip, I began to feel, for maybe the first time, a sense of “home” sickness, that I wanted to be in my home, with Joe in Alexandria.

Maybe it really works… trying to see it all with “Ex-Pat Eyes” actually has helped me open up to accept this chaotic DC area as my new home and to anticipate what’s in store in the year to come.

I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing this journey with us- and that you too can see some things with new (Ex-Pat) Eyes this year.

Houston T-Shirt with Bear and Hiker
Humor in Texas… There are No Bears In Houston


Tex-Mex In Houston

Tex-Mex In Houston



Turkish Delightfulness, Pasha Restaurant on University in Houston
Turkish Delightfulness, Pasha Restaurant on University in Houston



Who Says Airport Food Can't Be Good? Pappadeaux knows!
Who Says Airport Food Can’t Be Good? Pappadeaux knows! (IAH)


Arrived... safe and sound in Houston

Arrived… safe and sound in Houston


Wide Open Spaces, Let Your Heart Breathe It In

Wide Open Spaces, Let Your Heart Breathe It In


Texas' Pink Granite  State Capitol - viewed from Congress Street, Austin

Texas’ Pink Granite State Capitol – viewed from Congress Street, Austin


A Unique Twist... "Roaring Fork" Restaurant, Austin: The Ladies Room Door

A Unique Twist… “Roaring Fork” Restaurant, Austin: The Ladies Room Door


The historic State Theatre and The Paramount, side by side on Congress Street Austin, Texas

The historic State Theatre and The Paramount, side by side on Congress Street Austin, Texas


My Step-Mom, Eleanor, Hand Feeding The Deer- Marble Falls, Texas (Horseshoe Bay)

My Step-Mom, Eleanor, Hand Feeding The Deer- Marble Falls, Texas (Horseshoe Bay)

Texas 2

2 thoughts on “My Best Ex-Pat Repatriation Tip: Viewing “Home” Through Ex-Pat Eyes

  1. Pingback: Russia’s 3 Best Olympic Souvenirs? … Friendship, Friendship, Friendship! | Life Lessons

  2. Pingback: Repatriation Anxiety: Is It About “Coming Home” Or “Leaving” Home? | Life Lessons

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