We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

The Secret Summers of Expats

As I’ve alluded to, our summer wasn’t all berry picking and whitewater rafting (though those parts were great!), but also included some pretty major stress. I’m not going into details, but when I got back to Cairo, a little earlier than intended, and started chatting with some other expats, I found out the truth about these seemingly amazing six-week vacations and annual leaves back to the US.

A friend whose family works for the US government and has been overseas for more than 20 years told me that every summer she swears, “Never again!” Of course she finds herself on a flight home, doing the exact same thing, one year later. And swearing yet again it’s her last summer in the States. And did she tell me some stories.

The first, about a woman whose two daughters absolutely trashed their grandmother’s pristine, crystal-filled white-carpeted house, a debacle so terrible that the woman and her mother didn’t speak for months.

The next, about legions of expats who cut their summer travels short to get back to their overseas home. And not because they love it.

I’d been warned that our annual leave could be expensive (the car rental alone is a major chunk of money) and overwhelming, especially if we hopped from house to house, family to family. We tried to keep things pretty simple, but we still failed. Mr. Four and I realized that next summer, at the very least, we need to carve our more time for just the four of us.

The six weeks of leave is a huge draw of overseas employment, but it turns that out many expats view summer leave as Americans view their Christmas and winter holidays: an obligation filled with some fun and lots of stress. I never would have understood this, or believed it, before.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of expats who have fantastic summers. I’ll let you know if I find any.


24 August 2008 - Posted by | expat scene, family, holidays


  1. For as long as I can remember, we’ve spent our big vacation every year – all our vacation money and savings – on going ‘home’ to see family and relatives. We’re really enjoying it this year, and a large part of the reason for that is because we didn’t have to pay for the tickets!

    As for the stress, eventually we AND our families have figured it out (after 13 years!), so I think it’s possible, although it sounds as if it may not be for everybody.

    Comment by Jenni | 24 August 2008

  2. We are having a fantastic summer!

    2 weeks in Spain.
    5 days in Rome.
    Month on the Red Sea coast.

    Notice what’s missing there? 🙂

    Comment by Jack | 25 August 2008

  3. Jenni, so there’s hope for us, maybe in another decade?

    Jack, I envy your summer! Sounds amazing. Congrats on your advanced certification, by the way.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 25 August 2008

  4. We managed to ‘get it right’ this year – ensuring that we put ourselves first… visits to family were short and lovely. It was expensive, but we were careful where we needed to be. Years ago, we were silly enough to spend 5 weeks with the in-laws.. that is a recipe for disaster we couldn’t wait to leave and they couldn’t wait to see the back end of us (even though they love their grandkids.. they need their peace and quite).

    I don’t know what the right answer is, and if I can’t work it out in 20 years, not sure there is one.

    Comment by lynda | 25 August 2008

  5. I have learned to hate home leave with a passion previously reserved for xmas eve shopping. Last year we took 18 flights in 5 weeks and spent only 3 days alone together. This year was slightly better flight wise but the only time we spent alone was in the car driving between families.

    Every year we swear that instead of going home we will enjoy ourselves doing fun things like Jack. But every year we end up sleeping in guest uncomfortable rooms, cuddling nieces and nephews, and counting the days until we get to return to the developing world. There’s a word for this sort of behavior…

    Comment by Typ0 | 27 August 2008

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