The Expat Dilemma: longing to be everywhere at once

With each move, I find myself with a new home and a new future place to miss. I felt this especially intensely during weeks four-to-eight of our recent move to Hong Kong: I missed America, I missed mainland China, I missed England. I missed everyplace and wanted to be everywhere at once with friends and family that understand my jokes and at least pieces of my history.

Illustration from Arnold Lobel’s “Owl at Home.”

I was delighted to pick up a children’s book that addresses this same issue. I adore Arnold Lobel (and especially his “Frog and Toad” books for their keen observations and rather droll sense of humor). His book of (very) short stories, “Owl at Home,” includes”Upstairs and Downstairs,” which I deeply relate to as an expat:

When Owl was downstairs he said, “I wonder how my upstairs is?” When Owl was upstairs he said, “I wonder how my downstairs is getting along? I am always missing one place or the other.”

“There must be a way,” said Owl, “to be upstairs and to be downstairs at the same time.”

“Perhaps if I run very very fast, I can be in both places at once.”


“Faster, faster, faster!” cried Owl. Owl ran upstairs and downstairs all evening. But he could not be in both places at once.

“When I am up,” said Owl, I am not down. When I am down, I am not up. All I am is very tired!”

I need this message as much as the young readers this book is aimed at: enjoy the place you are at the moment because you can’t be everywhere at once.

And, since I am just back from a lovely weekend in Yellowstone National Park and have just relaxed through a great evening of fireworks, it is very easy to say that I am enjoying every moment of my American “home leave.”

Details on the book itself: Arnold Lobel, “Owl at Home”, 1975, HarperCollins Children’s Books; New York.

9 responses to “The Expat Dilemma: longing to be everywhere at once

  1. Glad to hear you are enjoying the now. I think that’s the only way to truly function.
    Enjoy your leave. The typhoon was pretty bad i understand.

  2. I agree. The more places you live in, the more places you miss. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy where we are right NOW. (even though it is so unbearably hot…? urgh…)

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