Category Archives: military

Expat: Choosing the Expat Life

The first Thursday of every month I will be linking up with Lost in Travels and Postcards from Rachel for the Expat Diaries instead of my usual ‘Throwback Thursday’  photography posts.  Today I commence the Expat Diaries series on my A Compass Rose with a beginning look at ‘Choosing the Expat Life’.  This is my personal look at how my husband and I got to where we are today living abroad in England. 
When I met my husband at Harding University we were in a traveling theatre group that ministered to youth groups in churches in and out of state.  He was a sophomore with an ever changing major and I was an incoming freshman with a plan to leave after two years.  My whole life up to that point had been centered around theatre and living overseas.  I was going to work on my theatre degree for two years and then hopefully transfer to a prestigious Theatre school in Australia.  I had already planned out my semester abroad the following year at the University’s campus in Sydney to help me in my endeavors.  Short story: The goal I had for myself was that I would be going places.

On our first date during Spring semester I told him how I was going going to be leaving to go to Australia to pursue my dreams in Theatre.  My husband told me later he knew on that date that he was going to marry me.  Long story short I fell head over heels for the American boy and my first real love.  We dated for one semester before getting engaged for just a year.  We got married the summer before his Senior year, nine months later we  were pregnant with our first son, and had a newborn nine months after that.  Any plans to go to Australia or be a starving actress in Los Angeles shifted as my life took a new focus and direction. 

During our engagement we came up with new plans that would involved the two of us together.  My only need was to be living overseas.  Since we were going to a private Christian university this developed into embarking on a life of mission work.  There was a current team at my small church in Naples, Italy where I had lived before we moved to the US.  I figured we could put together a team from students on campus and return to help with the on going work.  It seemed perfect because my husband could see the place where I had lived twice in my life, being the closest thing to a home that I had.  After we were married a situation arose back in Italy closing down that path to us.  As one door closes another one opens.  We were invited to join a team going to southern Thailand with a summer camp friend of my husband.  I had not yet been to Asia and my husband had not yet left North America, so the excitement of a new world captivated us.  We formed a small team to live in Thailand that Summer working with a church to teach English.  I was pregnant with Ronan when we lived in Bangkok and so our family was top priority on our minds.  We learned from the locals how dangerous it had become recently where we wanted to move with the other missionary team.  Between the issue of safety and other circumstances the group never went forth to that area of the Thailand.  My husband and I felt lost at that point because we knew we wanted to go abroad but we did not know what to do with our lives.  We needed to decide fast because Ryan was finishing his degree and I was getting closer to having our baby.  

I was a freshman during 9/11 and Ryan and I had been together that first weekend on a trip with our ministry theatre group.  Since then talks about the military (due to my father being an officer in the USAF) came up frequently.  Ryan had even talked to a recruiter about a master degree to be a chaplain in the military.  So we decided after the baby was born we would move to Arizona where my parents live and he would enlist.  My father, dressed in his officer’s uniform, escorted his son-in-law to make sure the recruiters did not try to pull the wool over his eyes (as they can do).  He put in that we really wanted an overseas assignment and we began the process of being a military family.  My parents did six overseas tours in Europe. I figured, having known enough families that would rather stay stateside, it would be easy to do.  My husband got a linguistics job that ironically would never send him to Europe, nor Asia, despite the fact that he was learning Chinese.  After training in Monterey, California it would be one tour in Hawaii, followed by DC, and repeat the process through out the time spent in the military.  We were so blessed to be stationed in such beautiful places but my heart was calling me elsewhere.  
The Military Life on Oahu, Hawaii 

The actual story of how we got from that point in our life to where we are today is not really a pretty one. Nor is it flattering. Since it does not pertain to life of an Expat, I’ll leave that story for another day.  I had my English passport and I was more than ready to leave. I came to the US in 2000 with my parents and in 2011 my husband took me back to Europe.  Though he was enrolled in school for his masters degree, we came with no jobs and no place to live.  We essentially lived in a hostel until we were able to figure things out.  It included an expensive trip back for Ryan when we were told incorrect information about his application for a marriage visa.  We have also learned a lot of other mistakes along the way as rookie expats.  To be fair I knew what an expat was in definition but did not fully know what it meant to be an expat until we became expats.  I also did not know how vast and huge the expat world is today.  Honestly had I known and had I been able to connect years back maybe I would have saved myself from some of the heartache of being a Third Culture Kid living in a foreign land of America.  

Living in England with our family
The current life for expats is much different than how it would have been twenty or thirty years past due to online social networks.  An expat life can be open to loneliness especially when you live very far away from family.  However I do not have a ‘home’ and I dont have those friends I have grown up with my whole childhood from moving so often.  But I connect with people living nomadic lives as adults that now it seems you dont ever have to feel alone.  I had not realized even until the start of this year how much resources there are for expats and how many expats share their personal stories online through blogging.  I find much happiness and fulfillment from just conversing with other expats all over the world on a day to day basis.  I never found twitter as useful as I do today because I can easily talk with people who understand the ups and downs of expat life in seconds.  If you have a heart for travel, for the world, for letting new cultures and ways of living into your life then I recommend choosing the expat life.  Although the community of expats is spread worldwide, it is a close knit community.  We chose the Expat life to come back to the only life I had known.  We choose to stay with the Expat life because we have made a home for ourselves and essentially found our home in the world.  
Q: Why have you chosen or do you want to choose the Expat life?

If you liked this you can also check out: Expat: Finding Love Abroad and Travel: Moving Abroad

Bonnie Rose

Living in England during the Gulf War

Part of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is how the memories of your developmental years shape the rest of your life.  There have been two periods of my life as a young girl where I lived in England. My father, a USAF officer, was stationed in England for three tours for a total of nine years.  Two of those were at military bases of Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire and Lakenheath in Norfolk.  During his years at Lakenheath AFB, we lived on the economy in a small village called Saham Toney  All the other American children I knew went to school on base, while I went to the primary school in the village.  My mum has recollected how being the only American family in that village was a positive situation for us while the Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Storm, took place.  It was a time period in 1990 to 1991 where my father was absent from my memories of Norfolk, England.

I remember the day my dad walked me home from school and talked to me about the war going on in a place that seemed so far way.  I would have been about eight years old, the same age my son Ronan is now.  We discussed about the other missing fathers and mothers who were off fighting the war already.  He held my hand as we walked and began to tell me he would be going away too.  I was so sad and did not want to believe the news.  I remember asking about my mum and how she took the news.  What would we do while he was away at war?  Did he really have to go?

He did.  I understood it was part of his job in the military.  Something I accepted as all military dependents do.  I could not have asked for a better place to be during that time than in that small village going to school in a place that seemed so far away from all things war related.  I was the only child whose parent was off fighting in the war.  I did not have to be reminded daily by seeing other military men and women in uniform or by the tearful eyes of other families missing their loved ones.  We were so taken care of by everyone at that primary school and by our friends in the village.  Even the kindness of strangers by those who lived near by and knew of the American family who lived at that farm house.
It is a period of great memories and I am today facebook friends with classmates of mine from that time.

What really helped was having my friends at school and being involved in activities like Brownies (version of girl scouts).  I remember putting on a play for our Brownie troop with my friends with a script based off of the American Girl Doll, Molly, who grew up stateside during WWII.  We used to have it on video, and watching an american play with us little girls all in english accents was priceless.

Most of my favourite memories are from years growing up in Europe and many of them include my dad now that he is really gone.  One of the best memories I have is when I was finishing up a day from school.  It was the afternoon and I had just completed a game of field hockey with the other girls and we were now changing to go home for the day.  A classmate ran into the room and exclaimed to me that my father was outside.  I remember shaking off the news with out a care because I knew my dad was not there.  He was a world away. He was in a desert.  He was not in England and certainly not at my school.  Grabbing my belongings I left the school building to be proven very wrong as my eyes met  my fathers.  I remember the way he looked. He looked so tall (from my short stature of being a young girl) and so tanned.  I do not remember my father every looking so dark. He was smiling and I dont remember if I dropped my bag or ran with it under my arm. But I ran all the way to be greeted by his arms in a hug.  To be honest my eyes are filled with tears as I write this because it was such a happy memory.  Times when I wish I had my father now I wish I could just close my eyes and open them again to see that same smiling face.  To be able to give him one more hug. To hear him say ‘I love you’.

That would not be the last time my dad would be away.  More reasons and situations would call him away and more memories without him would be made. However my memory of him being gone so frequently is outweighed by all the wonderful and beautiful memories we shared together during his life. Many of which involve my land of birth, England.

Travel Thursday: Moving Abroad

Travel Thursday.  I love to travel.  I also love to move. By ‘move’, I do not mean down the street or across town.  I love moving to another country and better yet another continent.  It is the norm for me and this nomadic lifestyle has been a major part of my life since I was born in England to my American parents.  With the weekend right around the corner, I find Thursdays are the perfect day to start talking ‘travel’. I hope to share to you all my love and passion for being a Wanderlust Third Culture Kid.

“Honestly I feel more at home in an airport and on airplane.” – Bonnie Rose

My Childhood. I grew up on military bases up and down Europe until I was seventeen years old. Unfortunately that meant I would spend my senior year graduating in the USA as well as adopting to the (new to me) USA culture.  Every cloud has a silver lining and for me it was getting to spend the summer after graduation in Italy to see my classmates get their diplomas.  For the next decade I would spend my life living through out the mainland USA and on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  My  nomadic needs were catered to with time spent in Australia, Thailand, and Cambodia between the years of 2002 and 2011.  Though I carry an American passport and have an American accent, my goal had always been to use my UK passport and return ‘home’ to Europe.

My friends and I at the Naples American high school graduation – 2011 in Naples, Italy

Moving Abroad.  Since Ryan and and I started dating 11 years ago, he has been aware that I would want to live in Europe.  Straight out of University we went ahead to achieve that goal through following a path to be missionaries.  When that door closed the door to the USAF opened and through it the next six years.  While my husband worked as a linguist our dream of being stationed in Europe was not in the military’s goals for us.  I will say that the 3ish years in Hawaii living an island wife was not half bad. 😉  In the Summer of 2011 with my husband fresh out of the military, we took the leap and moved to England.

If you have a goal to move to another country, make it a goal and do it! Take your dreams and your wishes and pair it with action.  I have talked to a lot of people since the summer of 2011 about why we made such a big move.  In response back I have heard frequently the statements of ‘oh I wish I could do that’ or ‘wow, I couldn’t imagine just moving to another country like that’.   I will be straight with you. Moving abroad will not be easy, but if you want to do it then figure out a way so it does not become a future regret. I love the mantra that ‘Life is Short, Live every Moment’.

This was our last photograph taken with our sons before we left.  They would join us once we were settled.
This was the last photograph taken of us together before our plane left for England. 

How We Did It. Moving abroad is not an easy feat. While I thought we were both prepared for our move we did learn a lot along the way.  We chose to move to England without either of us having a job lined up, nor a place to stay.  That is not the whole story, so please do not go by that strategy to move abroad.  You definitely need to do your research and figure out how you can get a visa.  A simple tourist visa will not allow you to live and work inside a country and every place has its own rules.  Know the restrictions and what you will need before you hop on a plane.  The easiest way to move to another country would be with a job that you already have, that will send you to work there.  While we tried that with the military, this way did not pan out for us.

Another way to get a visa to live and work is to look at getting a student Visa and attending school.  My husband decided to use his GI Bill from the USAF and get his masters in England.  We moved abroad with my husband accepted to University of Sussex in Brighton, England and I was traveling under my British passport.  OOPS! That is right, we made mistakes along the way. So in a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ fashion, I will repeat that you know the guidelines for acquiring the correct Visa.  You will want to confirm with several sources or you will end up like we did.  Though we read online that Ryan could apply for his student visa in the country, that ended up being a misprint of bad information on the website.  My husband had to leave the country, apply for his visa in the USA, pay to have it expedited  and then return to join me.  The paperwork and dealing with people can end up in costly mistakes if you are not careful.

At Heathrow airport my husband looks for wifi as we wait for our train.

Navigating our way to Victoria Station with the Underground.

First Arriving into England
Though we did not have any personal contacts in Brighton, we did plan out our journey down to Brighton and reserve a place at a hostel.  We did not know at this point how long it would take to find jobs, so living in a hotel would be far out of our means.  Hostels however are perfect if you are traveling sans kids and was one of the reasons we chose to leave our kids with family while we figure everything out. Staying in a hostel for us was smart. However traveling with the amount of luggage we brought proved to be a bit challenging and did result in a little heart ache.  Anything I knew we needed needed to be in our suitcases I packed.  On vacations we pack like pros, but moving to another country changes the game plan a bit.  If you do come to Europe, know that there may not be lifts (elevators) like there are back in the USA.  We had to take several trips many times up and down different flights of stairs across the train stations all the way to Brighton.  Which was not as terrible, as it was that I broke my camera lens trying to shuffle bags.

Another tip of advice.  There will be plenty of time for photos.  When maneuvering your luggage, keep your camera where it will be safe. 😉 

I was so excited to be home in Europe after so many years.
Everyone we met was so polite and helpful and we were smiling the whole way to Brighton. 

Outside the Brighton rail station on the coast of England.  

Ryan eventually got his marriage visa, went to school, and worked part time. I began work for the next year at a salon and our kids joined us in September to start the school year in England.  After all was said and done I am so glad that we decided to just do it.  Our family has only come closer together living here and being married to my expat in England is everything for which I had hoped.  We have since moved to Bath, as of the end of December 2012 and we currently have no further plans of moving.

Where would you move to if you could go anywhere in the world?  Have you or do you currently live abroad from your ‘home’ country?  I love to meet other expats and future expats! 

* Photographs belong to Bonnie Rose and cannot be used without written consent.

Support Military Kids!

I was born in England and lived on military bases overseas until I turned 17 and my family ‘returned’ to the states. I later became a military wife and had two of my own military ‘brats’. This is cause near my heart. Theres a lot that military kids go through. The moment my dad came home from the gulf war when we were in England still sticks to my mind as one of the best days of my childhood. Seeing him alive and home, even better yet, that he surprised me at school after field hockey brought the biggest smile to my face.

“Know what would be awesome? If everyone wore purple today. I’ve worn shirts of every color in support of all kinds of causes well this is one very near and dear to my heart. Very often the sacrifice that is made by the children of service members is overlooked. So today wear purple and if you know a military kid…give them an extra hug.” – anonymous 

Reorganized the Shelves

I took all the books and clutter off our shelves today and then reorganized the whole lot.   We do have books in the office of our flat as well, but these are the ones displayed out in our living room.  From left to right and starting with the shelf on the left we have Theatre, Poetry, and Military History inspired novels. That leads us into our faith and theology section and then into our travel and linguistic section.  On the other side are all of our novels and favourite fiction series.  The very bottom rows of both shelves have a good misc. sections including history, nonfiction, photography, yearbooks, etc. I

Organized the books on our shelves.