Keeping your independence during an overseas posting

A yellow school bus is the main focus. It is pulling away on a residential street
American adventure

During the first few months of our overseas posting in 2018, I really struggled with feeling like I had lost my independence.  But, thankfully, that feeling didn’t last forever.  I thought I would share my tips for keeping your independence when it feels like you’ve lost your focus.

Before I tell you how I got that sense of independence back, maybe I should start by explaining why I felt like I had lost it…

State sign for Pennsylvania hangs over the Interstate.
Welcome to PA

In 2018, my family and I moved from Scotland, UK to a posting in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.  In fact, this was my first-ever move due to my husband’s assignment so it was a year of firsts! In the six months prior to our move, my husband was also deployed so I was ‘flying solo’, with our two very young kids.  At that point, they were 3 and 1 years old.

So prior to our overseas move, I was living close to where I grew up, with my own network of family and friends. I was making all of the decisions in our household and raising the kids single-handedly.  On top of all of that, I was doing all of the admin to rent out our family home and organising a lot of our upcoming move to America myself.  Pretty independent, eh?

Then we moved and, once the dust had settled, I was suddenly aware of a lack of focus and independence.  My network was over 3,000 miles away, I no longer needed to plan the move and I was parenting with someone else again.  Obviously, that last part was a good thing but it chipped away at my sense of independence.

We had agreed that, while in the USA, I wouldn’t be working.  I previously had a career in Human Resources but this wasn’t really transferable to the USA, particularly due to drastic differences in employment law between the two countries.  If the truth be told, I also felt like it was time for a career change and I planned to use the break in the States to figure out my new direction.

However, not having a ‘career’ added to the feeling of lost independence in this overseas posting.  As it turned out, this was also the key to getting my independence back.

Prior to moving to the USA, I rediscovered a childhood love of writing when I wrote a guest blog for a military charity in the UK.  This blog was about dealing with our first long deployment as a family, as well as our upcoming overseas move. I had such positive feedback from this blog that I decided to continue.  I began blogging about our move to the USA.  Then I just carried on…about homesickness, settling in a new country, making friends, etc  I set up a website and before I knew it, I was a blogger.  

This focus on writing gave me a true sense of purpose again.  I came to realise that this was what I wanted to do and started to make a plan.  Importantly, that plan was for me.  It wasn’t a family plan or dependent on the military, it was just for me.  This was the first step to regaining my independence after our overseas posting.

A white woman with curly hair, wearing sunglasses, is in the foreground. In the background is the American flag and the Statue of Liberty.
Independent Woman

I also knew that, if I wanted to be independent, I needed to create my own network of friends to find my village.  I started by finding groups for the kids and started to make friends with parents I met there.  I also connected with military spouse groups in the area.  

I’m not a naturally outgoing person but I pushed myself to strike up conversations with strangers and walk into situations, I would normally have avoided.  The thing is, I would have avoided them because I had the privilege of having a support network nearby and that was no longer the case. So I said yes to all the social events until I found ‘my people’. 

Having my own social life aside from my husband and kids was a big part of finding my independence again and I met some really good friends as a result.  In fact, one of them is making the journey to the UK for a visit this summer and I can’t wait!

The other thing that helped my sense of independence was finding my way around the local area.  I am sometimes…geographically challenged, shall we say? But with my husband at work, I had to find my way around or I would never leave the house! So GoogleMaps became my helper so that I could find those groups and friends to make connections.  After a while, I found I didn’t need the Maps function any more but I definitely felt more independent when I knew how to get to the grocery store and back without getting lost!

Since this is National Moving Month in the USA, there may be people reading this who are about to move overseas.  My top tips are: find your way around; find your village; and have a plan for yourself.  Your independence may feel a little lost at first but you will quickly regain it.