An Expat Blogging Manifesto

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MANIFESTO

There was this BOOM-CRACK moment inside my head, and I realized something jolting about this little part of the Internet that I inhabit: Nobody writes an expat blog for five years. 

When I started, there were blogs by Americans in Sydney that I loved reading, and they showed me how to make my way. None of them carry on. Over time, I’ve followed more, including blogs by several of my real life expat friends. They served their purpose and quietly concluded. There are always new expats blogs, but in terms of the prospect of longevity, the odds are not in their favor. I can tell you what happens: People move and want to share the experience with their friends and family back home, so they start a blog. They write about their experiences and impressions for months or even, sporadically, a couple of years. Then they get settled into regular life and they feel there’s just not much to write about on an expat blog. It’s not an adventure, any longer. Or else, their expat assignment ends, and they go home.

I don’t fault the blogger. I think a blog only ought to exist as long as it needs to, and I love that they live on in cyberspace, a record of a personal place in time.

Realizing this was an unsettling jolt for me because, five years into this venture, I keep typing away, like a determined grandmother, knitting an endlessly long scarf, when most everyone else completed their very useful potholder squares ages ago.

I thought for awhile recently that perhaps I should “make myself useful,” and lost a few months to the idea of monetization and “making it” in the blogging world. I dropped my joy at this party for a moment, and had to pick it up from a haze of advice about “SEO optimization,” “branding,” and “social engagement.”

Though I wouldn’t mind making some coffee money off this project, going “pro” wasn’t my expat blog raison d’etre.

I went back to my origin story. I started this blog, which was until a year ago, called by the haphazardly chosen name “In an Opal-Hearted Country,” just like everyone else. I wanted to share my adventures with the people I left at home. I came and went from it when it suited me, with little rigor or panache. But, something changed when, in February 2014, I led a group of fellow expat bloggers in the month-long Expat Blog Challenge. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And, I read, and read, and read. We forged a community, and I found a truthfulness and depth in my voice that I’d never had before.

I got serious about writing. I’m an expat. I’m an explorer of this city we’re choosing to call home. I’m a mother. I’m a person with opinions. That’s what this blog would be about.

In thinking about this long scarf I keep knitting, I realized, it’s not a scarf at all, but a scroll. And though it didn’t start this way, the writing I do now exists first and foremost for my daughter. One day, when she’s old enough to be curious about her mother as a person, she can look here and see what I valued, what I questioned, what made me laugh, who I cared about, what I saw, and what I believed to be true. So, it all has to be the truth.

I am going to keep my fingers busy with this handicraft for her, and for anyone else who’d like to join for a post or for the whole ride.

This is what I can tell you will be true about this expat-and-parenting-in-Sydney blog, which goes on despite its mysteriously advanced age:

  • I won’t write to optimize my spot in search engines (though, I won’t complain if I stumble upon a great traffic-driver).
  • I continue to believe that there are discoveries to be made about the expat existence, even if they aren’t the discoveries of the newly arrived.
  • I will write things that I believe will add something to a conversation.
  • I will take my writing seriously, even if I’m writing something funny.
  • I’ll try to write funny things.
  • I won’t publish anything that doesn’t pass the “in my gut, I know this isn’t junk” test.
  • I will approach my subjects with gratitude, openness, and generosity.
  • I will seek to build and grow a community.
  • I’ll stop when I drop my joy and can’t find it in the haze.

If you’re reading this, thank you for being part of this community – my friends, family, expats, travelers, parents, and Sydneysiders. Onward with the crafting. We all have our work to do, wherever we’ve landed today. This is mine.

4 thoughts on “An Expat Blogging Manifesto

  1. Erin of TexErin-in-SydneyLand

    Great perspective. As you know, I’m an expat…but I don’t consider my blog an expat blog. I write a random blog, and I happen to be an expat. I don’t consider myself a lifestyle blogger or any other label either. I’m completely, totally random, and I’m okay with that. From time to time, my random thoughts that I share will include comparisons between life in Australia and life in Texas, well, because that’s my life. I think you have a lot to offer as an expat blogger that is settled into your new home. Keep sharing!

    1. Cristin Post author

      Thanks much, Erin! It helps me to have a focus – as broad as that focus may be – but I love your “random” blog! Most important, I think, is to put your real self out there, and the people who relate will connect.

  2. Nena

    I also had a blog when I was an expat in Switzerland. I blogged about being at home with my daughter so that my family could watch her growing up. When she was 8 she discovered the blog and she would read it and look at the pictures and videos I had posted. When she turned 10 she asked me to make it private so that no one would see it. 🙁

    1. Cristin Post author

      Yes, I’ve thought about how my daughter and I will have to discuss privacy issues as she gets older. Not sure what that will look like.
      It’s still a lovely record for the two of you, though.

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