When Travel is Stress: the Lesser Talked About Side of Expat Life

Sometimes jetting off on an airplane is not a fun filled adventure

Steffany Ritchie


A woman walks near an airport entrance pulling a suitcase on wheels
Photo by Oleksandr P: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-walking-on-pathway-while-strolling-luggage-1008155/

I just rebooked a transatlantic flight that was due to take place in a few days for the second time in two weeks.

My body is filled with adrenaline, and not the fun kind. There is tough stuff happening on a personal front, and what was originally planned as a nice visit home has changed in mood entirely.

The timing is somehow both terrible and good that I am travelling now, but I am very much in a constant state of anxiety.

Am I doing the right thing travelling now, should I be postponing this trip in case I have to fly again in a month or two months, how will I afford all of it, are the thoughts running through my brain.

When times are bad and your family needs you you do what you have to, obviously, but I know I am going to have to make some decisions that involve guilt and stress about money and all sorts of things that are seldom mentioned when we talk about expat life.

Most of the time we hear about expats, we hear about young people living the dream, footloose and fancy free. Long term expat life, aging with an aging family far away, is not all rainbows and sunshine.

A little over a year ago I had to fly last minute when my Dad died suddenly. It involved far more logistical, practical decision making than I was prepared for. I felt guilty for not flying out immediately the day after I heard the news, but it was a case of thousands of pounds to rush to a scene that was not changing if I flew the next day or the next week. We knew we were cremating him (given the circumstances it was not advisable to try to see his body) and it was all arranged before I set foot on the plane.

I knew my Dad would leave me nothing and I would end up in further debt just dealing with his affairs. Which I am aware may sound cold but when you are dealing with an estranged parent things are complicated.

I have had to make a few tough decisions living so far away from my homeland in recent years. I missed my uncle’s funeral. We weren’t close, but still, it would have been nice to be there for my mom and be with the family.



Steffany Ritchie

Hi, I write memoir, essays, music, and pop culture. American in Scotland. Accepting coffees if you enjoy my stuff :-) https://ko-fi.com/steffanyr