Surviving summer and the expat exodus

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How to enjoy being ‘home’ without going ‘home’

Summer, the time of the year where the biggest event in the expat community takes place: the Expat Exodus.

What is the Expat Exodus?

Almost everybody takes advantage of the school holidays to repatriate at least for a few weeks and enjoy quality family time, real barbecue grilled burgers, fresh (vs. frozen) berries, good root beer, and very possibly some major shopping. Family gatherings that have been in the making for months are finally taking place and the kids get to see their cousins and fight over the Ipad instead of the tricycles like they did in the olden days. The familiar scents and flavors of home slowly start to fill the bellies, hearts and souls of the merry visitors going back to their original abode.

Alas, we are stuck home. We are stuck home but the routines of our daily lives that make our home a home seem to have evaporated as some of our friends have left for the summer or permanently, schools are off for the holidays and the expat associations and their activities seem to have come to a halt. The streets seem deserted (well, not really, we are still in Jakarta), the malls are full of locals and the occasional expat makes an appearance. Most of the expats still in Jakarta are either single or temporarily off-family-duty as moms, babies, kids, tweens and teens have evacuated the Big Durian for the summer.

We decided to wait to take our annual vacation until the latter part of the summer and with that miss out on the many activities going on as the school-year reignites. This decision was not taken lightly and it just worked out the best for us and our circumstances. However, I did not ever consider that the expat exodus was going to be so evident and tangible. When we were in Bangkok we didn’t even consider leaving for the summer as life seemed to continue its usual course and since Evan was so young we didn’t really feel a big change in our routine.

This time it’s different. Evan’s preschool is out and a lot of our friends are gone. This is the first time I have felt a big difference in our routines although the boys are still very young. I can’t imagine what it will be like when they actually start school. On the upside some really good friends are still here and the wait for that day in late July to arrive seems more bearable.

Surviving the Expat Exodus

In an attempt to “survive” the exodus here are some tips to make the time spent home and enjoyable one and make the best out of this cruel cruel summer (yes, I know, I just had to write it down since it’s been in my mind all week).

Play tourist

Visit the places you’ve been meaning to visit. They might be less crowded on the weekdays. Take notes of the places you like the most so you can be prepared when friends or family come visit. Go back to the places you visited when you first got here. You might see it with new eyes and appreciate little subtleties you never noticed before.

Meet old friends

With school being out organize outings with friends you can’t usually meet during the school year due to schedule constraints. Catch-up and enjoy some leisure time with your good friends.

Meet new friends

Summer is usually transition time and a lot of people leave the country, however, a lot of people also move in. This is a great opportunity to put your ‘local expertise’ to use, give some tips to the newcomers and make some new friends .


Engage your kids in activities you can’t usually do during the school year. I’m not talking only summer camp, maybe there is an art project you’ve been wanting to work on, or a photo shoot at a park you’ve been meaning to do since your now 3-year-old was 6 months old. Pick a theme for each week and have fun. Bake, plant a tree, put a puzzle together or build that 3,000-piece Lego toy that’s been stuck in your closet since Christmas.

Adopt a pet

If your living space allows it, adopt a pet. Many of your friends will be so thankful that a loving family is taking care of their beloved fish, dog, cat , rabbit or tarantula while they are gone. Teach your kids to care for something other than their beloved favorite toys and consider it as a test-drive in the road to pethood.

Go to NeverLand

Right in your living room, or playroom! Have an adventure at home. Make a pretend beach, balls, sand activities and all. Build a pirate ship out of sheets or use that tent you bought for going camping.

Plan your future travel

Rejoice as the prices for your future travel drop as the day pass by. With a lighter schedule comes more time to day-dream and plan the sites, restaurants and stores you want to hit when you finally go on a trip.


I know, it’s unbelievable- your ICal doesn’t have anything scheduled for this week. It’s a miracle! Take advantage of this time to relax and enjoy spending some quality family time together. Get a massage, get that pedicure you’ve been meaning to get for the past 6 months and enjoy the temporary stillness of the vacations.

If relaxing is too stressful, plan for the school year ahead

If you are like me, you might get restless after a few days ‘relaxing’. So, if it makes you feel better, start working out the activities for the next few months. Consider what you want to do for Christmas or for the next birthday.

Republished with kind permission from Ana Gaby via {Expat Life} Surviving Summer: How to enjoy being “home” without going “home” | Stumble Abroad.

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  1. Just came across this article! Our family has “stayed behind” this summer. We made a list of things to do before the summer started and that has really helped to give some focus and things to look forward to. We are about half way through! One thing that was not originally on our list, but has become an important part of our summer daily routine is taking care of friends’ pets. It’s been a quiet, but good summer so far!
    Here is our list:

  2. I can definitely relate to this! We are a homeschooling family living in China, and like to take our trips to our home country (USA) in spring and fall since we have the flexibility and the cost is MUCH less! We have had 4 families who have stayed here for the summer and are participating in activities for summer, and we have been able to concentrate on finishing schoolwork without so many distractions. Our International Ladies group that meets once per week usually packs out a Starbucks, but last week, there were only 6 of us (including my 13 yo daughter)! It was a great chance to meet some new ladies though 🙂 My daughter has missed her best friends though!

  3. My husband is a school teacher so we take our holidays during the summer meaning we are part of the exodus! When I was a child I would always come home to our host country from boarding school in our ‘home’ country so we had the reverse. To be honest our family were rather happy to have the opportunity to spend time together after months apart so we did not really notice the absence of others.

    1. We’re in this reverse situation right now! My daughter is here in South Africa with us for her summer holidays, but there doesn’t seem to be any other kids around for her to mix with. She’s so bored that she’s really looking forward to going back to school.

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