As expats on a golden isle, we all know that our time here is limited unless we choose to settle here or take Bahraini nationality. Most of us – this writer included – came to Bahrain with the idea of working here for three or five years, getting a head-start in our financial planning and returning to our home countries. Some of us used Bahrain as a platform to migrate abroad to places like Canada or Australia where our skills could be exchanged for more permanent residency.
Meanwhile, for 90 per cent of us, the “three to five years” came and went and it’s now nearing four decades that we have lived in Bahrain, bringing up our families and progressing from young parents to grand-parents, from professionals to entrepreneurs and this country has always given us so much to cherish. We’ve worked, partied, celebrated success and mourned losses, made friends (okay, enemies too) and even if we leave, Bahrain will always loom like a benign sun over our lives and memories since it features as the place of birth on our children’s birth certificates and in many cases, they even married here.
In all these stories of the good life, though, the bittersweet truth of the final departure is the underlying tug. And try as you will, sometimes, life throws you a curveball that makes you realise just how unprepared you are to leave despite years of reminding yourself that this piece of Paradise is temporary.
In our circle of close friends, we have been helping a couple who were the ultimate planners and who had to suddenly come to terms with an unravelling to-do list. After retirement, they had planned a gentle winding down over six months when an illness changed everything and one of them had to return from holiday to close the Bahrain establishment. The person in charge of the dismantling was left to make decisions about what to pack for a scaled-back lifestyle in India and what to give away, all without the inputs of the other half. You see, these decisions are not just about “things”. They are memories – that slightly chipped dinner set is the first one bought as newlyweds and has seen many joyful parties. It is more valuable than the later Noritake china set that represents a more sophisticated taste. But can we afford to take both to a home where storage space is not as much?
The logical move is to spring-clean ruthlessly and periodically and always discuss with your partner what is precious and what can be given away in a crunch. Unfortunately, we all think these are decisions we shall be taking together and postpone these talks.
The other big mistake is about postponing the experience of things we love. We keep telling ourselves that we will hone our passion for baking, learn scuba diving, travel the world... all after we retire, only to find that our energy levels post-60 is so different from the fizz of our 50s and priorities have a way of centring around health and finances instead of hobbies and leisure.
We have to put as much thought into the next move away from Bahrain as we do into building our lives here over the years – where to live, what to take there, pace our new lifestyle, make room for leisure. Because, believe me, these can be life-altering decisions that will have a huge impact on how our lives take shape. Remember the Triple D rule – Discard, Downsize and Discuss regularly. That way the regrets are fewer and we get to live fuller lives.