March saw Apple Gidley in Washington DC, in her capacity as Board Director of Families in Global Transition, who held their annual conference in the US capital. It was also the month her much anticipated book Expat Life: Slice by Slice was published.
The daughter of seasoned expats, she has spent her life transitioning between cultures, marrying a global spouse, following his career around the world and raising two global nomads in the process. Read her professional resume and it’s both inspiring and intimidating.
Over the next few weeks, when many of the FIGT delegates might be forgiven for taking a few days to kick back and unwind, Apple will be returning to Houston, the place she now calls home, to promote and focus on her book.
By anyone’s reckoning she is an authority on expat life, with her first posting to Nigeria at a month old, followed by twenty-five more through twelve countries, over the past 50 years. You’d think the challenges and upheavals she experienced would leave her exhausted and drained, ready to grab a G&T and put her feet up under a palm tree on a sun drenched terrace, somewhere in the mythical world of expatland.
Not this lady.
Throughout her travels Apple has taken her position as an expat in a foreign country seriously. She was a third culture kid before anyone knew they existed, instilled with cultural awareness by parents who took their roles and responsibilities seriously too.
Apple describes her childhood as growing up, “in the cooling embers of colonialism.” She describes the people who looked after her family, and helped raise her, with appreciation, acknowledging how privileged her life was compared to theirs. Mixed with this she had an innate awareness she had no right to interfere or change the way these people lived to make them fit her cultural expectations.
Marriage and children saw her expat life continue with the joys, challenges and sadness it inevitably brings. She rose to those challenges in the only way she knew how, head on with courage and optimism. She’s definitely ‘old school’.
These days, with the immediacy of global communication, the world of the modern expat has changed beyond recognition. What hasn’t changed are the human issues of loss of identity for the ‘trailing’ spouse, staying connected with family and friends, global parenting, caring for elderly parents, dealing with death, retirement and the biggest of them all, Where is home?
Apple’s book is a wonderful blend of sage advice gleaned through years of experience, mixed with wonderfully descriptive stories from all periods of her life. From memories of the heat of exotic (and not so exotic) locations in Asia, Australia, Europe, America and Africa, creating her own identity along the way, this book is a wonderful resource. What Apple felt and experienced as an expat teen helped guide her as she raised her own. Watching her own parents adjust to living in settled retirement after a lifetime of travel, gave her insights as to how she would deal with the same situation.
This is not an ABC survival guide for expats, it’s a well-thought out, well written, thought-provoking book on what it means to be an expat. It’s written with wit, humour, insight and deep pathos. There are a couple of times you will reach for the kleenex.
Most of all it’s a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement for first time expats and a reassurance for those more seasoned travellers amongst us. You will survive, obstacles will be overcome and new challenges are on every horizon.
It’s a wonderful life.
ISBN 978-1-904881-71-1 (print);
ISBN 978-1-904881-72-8 (kindle)
314 pp, paperback