Me watching the sunset from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh - by Expat Edna

This was me five weeks ago.

It was only a week and a half into our big European backpacking trip (though it felt like we’d already been on the road for so much longer!). We had just climbed Arthur’s Seat, were watching the sun set marvelously over Edinburgh, the weather was perfect, and I remembering being so damn happy. The trip, the company; the stouts and scotches — life was so, so good.

Today I didn’t leave the apartment.

I’ve been paralyzed since arriving back in Asia last week. My heart hurts. My head hurts. Everything is in upheaval. (And yes, I realize this is becoming a recurring theme. At some point I’ll return to writing about travel.)

If it was just one thing, I could tough it out. But it’s multiple difficult situations at once, and I’m struggling to deal with it all in a mature, adult manner (because the current method of hiding under the bed covers is, while comforting, not wholly productive).


One big surprise is how much I miss Paris. For two years in Europe, I would not shut up about Asia and how much I missed it and couldn’t wait to get back.

Of course, as soon as I get out here, I discover: Europe changed me a lot more than I realized. (and if one more person tells me ‘the grass is always greener’ I am going back under the covers.) This just isn’t the place for me anymore. Asia was a chapter I closed, and it should have stayed closed.

(I was watching Parks and Recreation this afternoon, and at the end of the episode they unexpectedly cut to scenes in Paris — and I burst into tears. Over Paris! Who would have thought.)

Another big question mark is where I’m going to live this year. (“So where are you living now?” has become impossible to answer. It’s even worse than hearing about the location of greener grass.) I’m not sure I can stay in Asia (though I may or may not have to, which may lead to other big decisions), but returning to Europe isn’t so simple either. I have things planned out until just after the Olympics, so from the first week of March on, I could be anywhere.

…which would normally be exciting, but at this point I’m so tired of being unsettled. I’ve been living out of boxes since last June, and living out of a small suitcase since November. I don’t regret any of it — the adventure was absolutely worth it — but to face another two, four, possibly seven months of moving from country to country, crashing with various friends and family, every few weeks? It’s not me. I’m not a backpacker, I’m an expat at heart. I miss having a long-term base, a home, a community.

I realize all of this makes me sound like a quarter-life crisis cliché, but it’s where things are right now and I find writing about it helps. I’m sure (at least I hope) at the end of this year I’ll look back on this post and laugh at what a little ball of stress I was, but I’ve never started a new year off with so much uncertainty. Big decisions and changes are on the horizon.

Finally, one request: all the music I have is tied up in too many memories, and I need new playlists. So help me out: what are some of your favorite bands/albums?

photo of me taken by joe
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  1. ack, this seems to be the story of future me as my heart aches for asia/ china while I bumble about in paris. #notagoodsign

    come out of your covers and work your way out of this ! bon courage, things will work out and you’ll be happier in your new city this year. hugs.

    old but gold:
    kent – isola
    muse – absolution
    zee avi – ghostbird
    hello saferide – introducing… hello saferide
    hanggai – he who travels far
    four tet – pause
    team shadetek – burnerism
    the great gatsby ost

  2. I hope this all shakes out for you.

    World Cafe just featured a few Pittsburgh artists , and one I am especially taken with Joy Ike. Gorgeous voice and unique lyrics. Broken Fences is also interesting. That link as of this comment still offers free downloads.

    And of course, because of Pittsburgh, Donora.

    And since I’ve been back in the US for a few weeks (but leaving again this weekend), I’ve been listening to lots of public radio and the year-end music recaps. One artist that stuck out particularly for me was Bombino.

  3. You have to follow your heart and sometimes the path can make some sharp, unexpected turns. But nothing good will come from staying somewhere that doesn’t fill you will joy. Life is too short. You’ll get where you’re going eventually, and will appreciate it all the more because it was so hard won. Good luck!

  4. Oh Edna. I’m glad you’re writing. Let it out. YOu have a big amazing community at your finger tips. I’d give you a hug if I could. Who knows where the future will lead you… maybe you needed to go back to Asia to realize how much you have changed and where you want to head.
    Honor yourself. YOu’ve gone through a lot of freaking changes in a short amount of time… it would have most people hiding under the covers…Listen to your heart. Be still. In time, you’ll know.
    One day at at time. Starting over isn’t always so easy.

  5. Hi Edna, I’m sure you’ll end up right where you need to be. My FAVORITE and most relaxing song to listen to is “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty. It makes everyone smile.

  6. Aww Edna! Sending lots of positive thoughts your way! Phoenix, The Macabbees, The 1975, and the latest Bastille track are some of the things I’ve been listening to recently. American Authors “Best Day of my Life” is super fun and catchy. If it doesn’t make you dance around, I hope it at least makes you smile. Everything always works out in the end, even when it seems like you’re stuck in the middle of a tornado. You can do this! Bon courage.

  7. Social Distortion, Warren Zevon, and my old grunge-era favorites have helped me through a lot.

  8. ALL of Fiona Apple’s work has gotten me through really nasty times but lean more so on the first two albums. That’s where the solace and wisdom is found.

  9. (((((Edna)))))

    Sending lots of positive vibes your way, and fingers crossed that you’ll get things all figured out soon. Not sure if these are among the songs you are looking for, but here goes: Be OK (Ingrid Michaelson), Steer (Missy Higgins), Suddenly I see (KT Tunstall), and Brave (Sara Bareilles).

  10. OK, this song is in no way relevant to going through turbulent times, but it happens to be what I keep listening to on repeat: ‘Riptide’ by Vance Joy. Also, Gin Blossoms. They are way underrated. But take my recommendations with a grain of salt, because this is all coming from a girl who went to no less than 8 *NSYNC concerts in her heyday.

  11. I was thinking back to the first time I came across your blog and started following your journey. You were so vocal about not being in love with Paris and I appreciated your honesty. It’s amazing how things change when we had already accepted them as being something else. I still appreciate your honesty and hope an opportunity to put down some roots (even if they’re the kind that are planted for a couple of years) is just around the corner.

    As for music, I’m quite partial to Richard Walters, Angus & Julia Stone, The Paper Kites & Joshua Radin.

  12. I’m a sucker for country music and TV, so lately I’ve combined the both and my love for ABC’s “Nashville” and the soundtracks.

  13. I was just randomly thinking about you and then your post popped up in my blog list on my Google Now app/widget/thingy. I definitely understand wanting to feel at “home,” trying to figure out where home actually is (with me, I never felt at home where I grew up, which adds another challenge), and wondering if any place in particular would really give you what you’re looking for.

    On YouTube there are a lot of full concerts, and one of my favorites, as I listen to a lot of Spanish-language music is Soda Stereo’s MTV Unplugged. I think it’d be relaxing to listen to even if you know no Spanish.

  14. Can’t say I envy your situation Edna! I just got back from Australia (home) and am now jobless in Holland, so am similarly at a bit of a crossroads :P One playlist I love is Triple J’s Hottest 100 of the Last 20 Years (http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/musicnews/s3777726.htm) – a bit of Aussie stuff but basically my whole musical upbringing (ie kids of the 90s) can be found in these songs :)

  15. OK, I have not been reading enough here as I’ve been trying to deal with my childless holidays…. I’m going back to read up on what the heck caused this blog…… Edna, hang in there my dear! It’s a beautiful world, make today a good day.

    • Hey, what are you doing over CNY?? I’m headed to Vietnam and Cambodia from 2/25 to 3/8, wanna meet up on a beach??

      When I first moved here after being in Prague, it was mind blowingly different. I get the Asia after Europe blues! Let’s chat! mariflies on skype :)

  16. Hopefully things will sort themselves out during and after the Olympics. Until then–for times like these– may I recommend the Talking Heads? Listening to their songs helped me through a lot…. with lyrics that really remind you of the “big picture” instead of just right now. And most of it is pretty upbeat, so that’s a plus.

  17. I would feel the exact same. Just because to some it might look like some quarter life crisis, doesn’t make it any less heavy. Important decisions can be completely mind consuming thoughts and I’d hide under my covers as well. I also understand how much you must want to unpack your suitcase for more than just a week. Moving around so often totally exhausts me, and I become a droopy emotional mess if I do it too much.

    I can’t think of a good album to request at the moment, morning-brain-dead, but if I do I’ll send it your way :)

  18. I totally feel the same way- every post I write seems to come with some kind of excuse at the beginning AND not knowing where I’m going to live totally send me into a spiral of anxiety. Which is weird because I love not knowing when I’m traveling. ha!

    Things will work out :)
    I found this when my roommate and I were randomly perusing youtube. It’s not really for your playlist as it is to just make you laugh.

  19. Pink Floyd – wish you were here
    Dandy Warhols – 13 tales from urban bohemia
    Paul Simon – graceland
    The beatles – sgt pepper

    sometimes you have to listen to depressing music, but sometimes you gotta listen to cheerful stuff too.
    these songs fit both scenarios

  20. Hey girl. I don’t really know what to say on here but I just wanted to let you know that I read this and I’m thinking of you! Shit gets hard sometimes and it just sucks. I’m always an advocate of hiding under the covers. Feel free to email me or gchat me if you ever want to talk! Sorry if that’s weird since we don’t know each other too well. xoxo :)

  21. Annemette says:

    I usually don’t comment, (don’t know why, think I just want to be sure it is something clever… and I can never think of something, so I just don’t…) but this post just hit something – I know exactly how you feel. Recent graduate, have now fulfilled my dream and am a qualified vet, and I feel terrible. I don’t know where I am in a week or a month or a year, am I still sitting here, crying and feeling terrible? am I working somewhere awesome or somewhere horrible? was I wrong when I thought this was my dream?… and if I was, what should I do then?
    So, I don’t know what to do to help you, but I am sure you will get back on your feet and find something amazing to do. Silver lining and all that.
    All the best!

  22. Oh, hun, I’m so sorry you’re feeling like this right now. And, don’t worry – you don’t sound like a cliché. I know what you mean: I don’t like too much backpacking. I’m an expat at heart too.

    They’ll never be the best band in the world but when I was experiencing a similar crisis to you I found 30 Seconds to Mars’ This is War album to be extremely helpful. They convey huge messages of strength and figuring out what you want and working hard to go for it no matter what so I’ve always found them quite an inspiration.

    Listen to some Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger too (the Accoustic sessions album). Some of the most amazing lyrics and very accousticy and overall pleasant and calm to listen to.

    This is just off the top of my head but I’m a music junkie so tweet me if you need anymore. :) x

  23. Sigur Ros. They are from Iceland and create gorgeous music. Each of their albums are unique. The untitled album or “()” , Takk…, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust and Valtari are my favorite. Let me know what you think!

  24. Oh E, it’s alright. Things change, people change. I’m sure you’ll find your way be it in Asia or Europe or any where else in the world. If you ever need a place to crash, even long-term for your expat heart, we gotchu, girl — just have to move to California. ;)

    As for songs, I’ve been stuck on Musicals! Hahaha.. We just watched Book of Mormons and it was hilarious. Justin Timberlake always puts me in a good mood too. :D

  25. La Luz has been on repeat at my house lately, all-girl surf-rock/doo-wop. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SE94HWE3ks

  26. I can’t help you out with the music playlist (unless you listen to country, which is doubtful :-), but I just want to let you know that we’ve all been there, with the feelings of exhaustion from travel, of wanting to feel settled, of allowing the rush of constant change to rush in and overwhelm you. Try to go somewhere in Asia that reminds you of Paris (or home, or wherever you really want to be) and spend the day there – it’s a little more productive than hiding under the covers, and it always helps me feel so much better!

    On another now. Are you covering the Olympics?? So exciting!

  27. Writing definitely helps. It gets you to take a perspective, to summarise, to begin the process of coming to terms. Life-crisis cliche or not, if it helps you, do it – your friends and supporters will be the ones who’ll always be with you, and you’ll figure out those who’ll stay true when you compose these types of posts. This has been my favourite song for quite a few years and it seems relevant to what you’re feeling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-pbrRvwU0o (Gravity – Yoko Kanno, from Wolf’s Rain)

    On an unrelated note, I visited Paris for the first time this past October and I loved going to the places you suggested. Thanks for the all reviews and recommendations!

  28. I don’t know what to say but why don’t you come here, Vietnam for this year? :)

  29. Hey! Great blog! What you talked about in this post reminds me so much of when I backpacked Europe for my first time when I was 20. Anyway, I just recently wrote about homesickness and the anxieties related to travel on my blog. It happens and you’re dealing with it like a champ! It’s natural and the only way to get through it is to push through — it is only through experience we build up a resistance to future bouts of homesickness. Plus, think of all the independence you’re gaining.

    Anywhoo — some music. I’m not sure what you’re into, but when I need some vagabonding encouragement I look to Two Gallants and a guy in Austin, Texas called Shakey Graves. Both of these musicians are rambling souls whose words will certainly get you back in the spirit!

    Let me know if that helps!

    (Also, I have a newsletter — the next issue is actually going to be called “The Lonely Issue” where me and other writers will be talking about homesickness, long distance relationships and the natural longing for communities. Hit me up if you’re interested in being added to the list or even contributing!)


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