I promise I don't only read travelogues and memoirs by women, it just happens to be that I've consequently read many of the sort :). Still, there's certain safety concerns and precautions that I would assume cloud the mind of female globetrotters more so than their male counterparts. This book, Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad, is a testimonial to just that.
The writers of these 22-short stories are teachers, international businesswomen, mothers, and students (like I was). They've traveled and settled in places as far as Borneo; they've lived alongside the coasts of Greece, and within the family homes of Egypt. Others have moved to neighboring countries like Mexico or placed their roots in the so-called familiar such as Australia (in reality, the English language is the only similarity, and about half of it at that). Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad literally and honestly makes it's way around the world.
It should be no surprise then, that this book lured me in from the start. I don't recall having doubts, but if I had, the back cover alone would have eliminated them: Expat taps into the bewilderment, joys, and surprises of life overseas, where challenges often take unexpected forms and overcoming obstacles (finding Drano in Ukraine, shrimp paste in Prague) feels all the more triumphant. Featuring an astonishing range of perspectives, destinations, and circumstances, Expat offers a beautiful portrait of life abroad.
There is a difference, you see, between traveling and living abroad, one that I have experienced first hand. I've had the opportunity to visit multiple beautiful places and cultures around the world, and yet have only had the unique honor of living in three international cities. I am not saying that this is a small amount, for I am aware that the majority of people can go their entire lives without making a home outside the borders of the United States or Canada, I am just pointing out a contrast. This contrast is similar to many expats, a certain period of time in one country, maybe two, and it is certainly true of the writers in this book.
To live as an expat signifies that you not only observe the culture, you experience it, you don't only practice the language, you learn it, you don't only taste the local cuisine, it becomes your primary sustenance.
Whether you yourself have lived it or not, Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad is an inspiring must-read. Any reader with a passion for travel can understand the transforming effects of cross-cultural experiences; these memories don't just tell the stories of our past, they dictate our future. And this alone will continue to motivate us to step outside our comfort zones time and time again.
As risky as it may be, there is no other way to find yet another home that we never knew existed.