Home keeps moving
Serial expat Heidi Sand-Hart has been to more than 42 countries, and never stayed anywhere longer than four years. Here, she explains how her childhood instilled in her a love of travel and change.
I remember my school friends talking about going round to their nan's for tea and feeling a pang of jealousy, since my grandparents lived in Scandinavia and I couldn’t even communicate with them in their own language, let alone see them whenever I liked. And when the time came, I didn’t make any of their funerals since I was living on opposite sides of the world.
There is a term which I think expresses perfectly what I am - "Third Culture Kid” (TCK), someone who has spent much of their childhood years outside of the parents’ culture, who absorbs elements from lots of different countries and has a sense of belonging to those who have had similar experiences. (See Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds by David Pollock and Rquuth Van Reken.)
I lived in India for five of my formative years and it has left quite an impression on me. Seeing drastic poverty, beggars and inhumane living conditions at the tender age of six left its mark and made the sacrifices I’d made (western food and running hot water) seem quite insignificant. India proved to be one of the most colourful backdrops for any childhood, full of chaos, colour, noise, chillies, monkeys, vibrancy, monsoons, elephants and smiles. India is a land of immense beauty and it saddens me to see how often it is portrayed negatively, as if it is nothing more than the slums of Calcutta or Mumbai.
Travel well and truly forced its way into my bloodstream and I have continued to incorporate this transient lifestyle into my adulthood. Since leaving home, I have lived as an expat in America, Canada, Thailand, India and New Zealand, being anything from a secretary to an orphanage volunteer. I have been to more than 42 countries (and counting) and never stayed anywhere for more than four years.
I am constantly seeking out new excuses and opportunities to live overseas. Having experienced such a colourful and varied childhood, I struggle to accept that life must be lived simply vegetating in one corner of the globe. Travel opens, challenges, and broadens mindsets and in that respect, Third Culture Kids are rich individuals indeed. I have gained an appreciation for other countries: their cultures, people, customs... what makes them unique. There is so much to see and be learned from other cultures, and for me, experience is the best form of education.
For me the grass always seems greener on the other side. I tend to glorify the future, cling to the past and have trouble ever really settling into the present. I let my mind wander to the vibrant, bold and warm when all that surrounds me is grey, dull and dreary.
I often get asked when I’ll “settle down and get a real job” but for me, the road is my home. London is currently where I reside but “home” is where my family are… it is anywhere and everywhere. I have grown accustomed to the adrenalin that flows with packing up one country in exchange for another, traversing from West to East and leaving for the excitement of the unknown.
I think deep down inside, we all know it will be the things we failed to do that will haunt us on our deathbeds and I intend to go with a smile on my face, thinking of the sun rising over the Himalayas, drinking tea with the Bedouins of Jordan, snorkelling in the Perhentian Islands, riding camels in the Sahara desert, seeing lightning storms over Mount Bromo in Indonesia, the invigoration of leaping from a boiling sauna into a freezing cold lake, walking The Great Wall of China and riding off from my wedding on an elephant's back into the Kerala night.
Heidi Sand-Hart's memoir, Home Keeps Moving, is available on amazon.co.uk, or can be ordered directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.