Ex Ex-Pat

Last weekend I met a woman my age who lived in Costa Rica for several years. Like me, she sometimes wonders how she ended up in our cute little town, and, like me, has come to accept this latest stage in her life. When I first mentioned that I lived in Mexico for three years, she was excited to meet someone else who had lived outside the US because so many people here have never even left the state. I’m not saying anything bad about people who’ve chosen to stay put, but living abroad gives you a perspective on life that I wish more people could experience.

I haven’t done a “It’s Been X Number of Months Since…” post in a while, mainly because my life has more or less returned to how it was before I left. (Aside from the whole living-in-my-parents’-basement thing.) The things I still carry with me from my time in Mexico will always be a part of who I am. My views on money, especially in regards to wants vs needs, are forever changed, as are my ideas on what truly constitutes a bad day. I touched on this before and worry that I ruffled a few feathers at the time, but I try very hard not to get caught up in what I consider “first world problems.” That’s not to say I don’t grumble as much as the next person when the idiot in front of me insists on driving fifteen miles below the speed limit (IN A 25!), but how I choose to respond has changed considerably. I may complain to a friend via text, but I try to let it go and certainly don’t air my thoughts publicly.

While in Mexico I often made light of the bizarre things I saw on a regular basis (like having a machine gun pointed at me β€” I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of that feeling) when really, that’s been the only time in my life I was probably justified in my whining.

Anyway, my point is that a part of me will always be an ex-pat. I try hard not to insert “when I was in Mexico” into more than one conversation a day because I know that can get tiring, but it’s changed who I am and made me the person I am today.

Just wanted to share.

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. I think this post is a valid one. What’s more, that you have learned from the time you were in Mexico, and have taken from it the truth about the situation–looking from both sides. How you sort of bent to fit circumstance while you were there, but also how it’s affected your outlook for that which will come. I admire you that.

    This statement hit me, “…really, that’s been the only time in my life I was probably justified in my whining.” That’s an important perspective, I think. And it’s very admirable that you *did* choose to handle it the way you did, making light and such. It saved you, I’m sure, and all those who love you and were worried for your welfare while you were so far away.

    And who couldn’t use this lesson in the way we react to daily “problems”? Wouldn’t we all be better off if we could give the driver in front of us a break?

    [Wow, I’m full of hot air this early morning.]

  2. Stephen Parrish

    “living abroad gives you a perspective on life that I wish more people could experience”

    Don’t get me started. I’ve said that to people who thought I was talking about the food or something. Spend a year overseas, I tell them. Rent an apartment, visit a doctor, have your car repaired, all in a foreign language. Watch how the world has its eyes glued on the U.S., while American high school students can’t even find France on a map. As I said, don’t get me started.

    • It’s funny you mention food because I was going to say that I also think everyone should have to work as a server in a restaurant. But to your point, what’s amazing to me is the things that change are not necessarily the things you anticipate will change. I also appreciated unlearning some stereotypes about Mexicans — like not all of them want to live here. They couldn’t believe it when I told them that.

  3. I haven’t lived outside the country but just having lived in different cities and states makes me different from most people – especially in the little town I’m in now. I didn’t grow up here – and having lived all over I have a different perspective. When I go back to where I grew up I realize there are people who’ve never left and never experienced the things I have. Even with a boatload of life problems in my past – I feel fortunate to know the world outside myself.

    It all becomes part of us. Makes us who we are.

    • I know you and I have talked about this before, and it’s true. Just moving out of your comfort zone teaches you about yourself in ways you never could if you never take that risk.

  4. I would love to try a year or two in another country. Preferably one with running hot water.. πŸ™‚ I’m glad you don’t have machine guns pointed at you any more!

  5. kevin


    Oh the places you will go… I can’t imagine the things that would have been different if more of us had had forward looking glasses back in the days of the orange kitchen and purple carpet. B called me at my office yesterday to share a work story and today I read this post.

    I miss you kid. And yes, I feel comfortable in my age to say that even though you have grown so so much in the few years since we worked together.

    Keep writing and do your best to get that AWESOME perspective of yours in your YAs! Our youth need all the help they can get.

  6. q

    I can barely tie my own shoes and you’re suggesting I try living somewhere that uses the metric system? Pfft!

    that’s just crazy talk.

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