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Deep down, I think I hoped the situation might change. I spent almost three years in crazy London. During that time, I evolved more as a person than I have my whole life, impacted by the chaotic environment, new cast of characters ad crazy work opportunities. I soared and succeeded, then crashed and burned. Through it all though, it was an indescribable adventure I loved, living the expat life.

tower bridge close up london

Then the time came to move on, as all good things come to an end. My husband and I chose to move back to the US – maybe temporarily, maybe for the long haul. Who’s to say. Overall the decision was positive and we’ve been enjoying life in the US, without slowing down our adventures too much (and even buying a house, fingers crossed!)

PS – are you an expat who flies between the US and UK often? Here’s a great guide to weigh the pros and cons of the different London airports.

It was an overwhelming process, but personally I thought it easier then the move over to the UK. I knew what to expect mostly ‘back home’, and felt I didn’t need as much stuff to take with us. I could mentally prepare for the transition and knew how to detach or re-group with panic set in. Here’s a few things below I think could help a fellow ex-pat out when choosing to move back to their original base.

sign that says welcome eileen london

When You First Decide to Move

The best advice I can offer on repatriating is holding off on the announcement. So much can go wrong or change during this experience. You don’t want family rejoicing or friends in your expat community throwing you leaving dos to only have the date moved. Make sure visas are sorted, jobs are secured and flights are booked; THEN you can make the announcement.

Here’s a checklist of basic things needed for your re-patriating process:

  • Check expat Facebook groups for advice and tips.
  • A notebook for labelling content of boxes, especially if you have a million of them.
  • Good sites for selling items you don’t want to take with you (Gumtree and Shpock were great in London). It’s also nice to know the charity shops you can donate unsold things to before you leave.
  • Housing in the new country, or a game plan. Hotel hopping or crashing with family is fine, but knowing a month or two of housing plans can make the transition easier.
  • Have plans for cellphones, wifi, etc. so you’re quickly connected and secure.

westminster tube sign london

Taking Care of Yourself

Physically and mentally this is going to be a challenge. It doesn’t matter if our move is from Canada to the U.S. or Thailand to Australia – it’s a lot of moving parts. Take note not only off all the crap you’ve but in boxes, but also how you feel and if you’re in a good place. Here’s some idea to maintain good mental and physical health while in the repatriating process:


  • Communicate with friends and family where you live now and where you’re living next. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in the move, or just with some time to take a break.
  • If things are really stressful, consider seeing a counselor to just help organize your thoughts. A neutral party can always be a welcoming way to put things into perspective.


  • Have a routine where you’re moving, exercising, stretching and meditating. There might be a lot of celebrations (or tears) with food, drinks and more, so you’ll want to maintain balance. Hydrate baby!
  • This might sound silly, but avoid injury! It’s tempting to haul giant heavy boxes and do the bulk of the work yourself, but getting on an international flight returning to your home country with a pulled back or sprained ankle isn’t fun. Take it easy.

When You Go Back to Visit

front door city relay apartment london

It’s been a couple months, and I just had my first trip back to London after the move. I’m lucky I was able to visit so soon. You can decide when you’d like to go back, if at all. There’s no set rules.

While it was such a blast to see everyone, I kept a crazy schedule. I had come off a conference in the Netherlands and a side trip to Belgium. I was thrilled to see friends, but I knew it was important to have some down time and privacy too to help process all the excitement of the trip.

What helped soothe the chaos was having a couple days to myself. I loved seeing friends as much as I could, but couch surfing can be tough on the mind, if you feel like you’re imposing or jumping from place-to-place.

city relay apartment london

Consider an apartment rental in your old neighborhood. I appreciate my friends hospitality so much, but a few days at once of City Relay’s apartments was a wonderful breath of fresh air. In London, it’s one of the best options for an apartment rental – for vacation or for a visit. It’s as close to living there as you can get, with lovely, decorated spaces that can cater to your ideal location and desires.

I’m excited to go back again to London this fall with my husband – and hope we’ll have the chance to cozy up in a flat again on our return. For us, making regular visits has made the transition all the easier so far.

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

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