Home Leave: “ to visit ones home country in order to renew and strengthen cultural and family ties”
The wonderful and highly anticipated time for me to be reminded of what it is to be Canadian. To renew ties with my homeland, my family, my friends…my gynaecologist, my dentist, my GP, my optometrist, my hair stylist, my friendly Gap retailer, etc. etc.!
Depending where you’re posted overseas, a home leave visit can turn into a tight schedule of routine medical appointments, interspersed with intense family- time and whirlwind encounters with friends. Romantic visions of being a “tourist in your own country” quickly vanish as you cram every waking hour with essential family togetherness and checking items off your shopping list. (I have been known to email detailed schedules to family in order to maximize our time!)
Getting the timing just right is important. Too short home- leave can leave you exhausted, with pangs of guilt for not giving your bestie more time or connecting individually with each family member. Stay too long, and people stop going out of their way to get together, the “drop everything, Mary-Ann is in town” fades, with regular life kicking in for friends and family.
(My family may be an absolute exception to this rule! They grasp every opportunity to be together, go way out of their way, travel for hours, take time off work and are always there en masse for airport arrivals and departures! Love, love, love this!)
Home Leave needs to be just long enough to feel fully connected with what makes you, you. For me it’s when the smell of ripening canola fields and the sight of a never- ending sky satisfy my melancholy and when the overwhelming feeling of the whole family together in one place makes my eyes glisten and my heart swell.
Once your heart is full, get outta there quickly and return with an invigorated spirit!
Staying too long can ruin you for that return overseas. You can easily become ‘one of those’ expats who no longer find joy and excitement in the unknown and different, who complain about the dismal choice at the grocery store and find things just a little too dirty. Those who complain that everything is just so much better ‘back home’, who forget why they chose this life of exploration and enlightenment.
May I never get to that place!
For me, finding the balance between being the down-home, Sasky prairie girl, and the world traveller who has the opportunity for amazing, once- in- a-lifetime experiences on a regular basis, has been a learning process. Now, after a perfect home leave to keep me grounded and connected to reality, and a world of opportunities before me, I think I may have just found that equilibrium!
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett