40th Birthday Reflections of a Long-Term Ex-pat

July 12, 2022 in Ex-pat, Personal Development

expat coach

I turned 40. It happened.


The age I always thought of as the scary age, the age where I was officially old or at least firmly middle-aged. Whereby then I should have “it” all figured out. Right?

My 20-something-year-old self, looking at my 40-year-old self, wanted to see a woman with a thriving career, a lovely home that I owned, in the perfect town of my choosing. My community would be strong, and I would have a beautiful group of friends around me. My life would be organized and clear. I would know exactly who I am and what I want. There wouldn’t be a lack of spontaneity or whimsical dreaming, but there would be clarity and a deep sense of self, laying the foundations for having “it” all figured out.  

And yet here I am, a long-term ex-pat, preparing again for another move this summer to follow my husband’s job back to Europe. We bounce from rental property to rental property and new town to new town. We're constantly making new friends and trying to recreate a social life wherever we land. My community is ever-changing. I do not own my home. My current house still has boxes of belongings not unpacked from the last move – we’re far from organized.

We’ve had six international moves in 11 years. The ex-pat life has been magical and amazing in many ways, but it has not always been easy, and it does not lend itself to the version of myself I had been developing in my head over the years. Being an ex-pat has, frankly, turned it on its head.

ex-pat coaching

The part that fits my vision is my career. I love what I do and am motivated daily to get up and work on my business. I love helping women, especially ex-pat women, find their path and feel greater joy and satisfaction in their daily lives. I enjoy working with people. I love being a part of a passionate community choosing to improve their lives, to show up in the world with more positivity, love, and compassion for themselves and others. In this regard, my vision of a successful life as I constructed many years ago, holds up. 

But I still don’t have “it” all figured out.

And you know what? I feel more empowered and comfortable with myself now than ever before.

Here is what I know…


I am half amazing and half mess, and that is OK. Life is not a puzzle to be put together. With that last piece comes the idea of completion, and life is a never-ending journey. It is one of beauty and disappointment, of great success and infinite challenges. And as I look back on the last years of my life, I can be proud of myself even if it is not what 20-something-year-old Karly envisioned.

At the age of 40, I am more secure in my skin, less worried about the judgment or criticism of others, and concerned with the well-being of my loved ones but aware that I can’t be what they need me to be if I don’t look after myself, practice self-love and self-care. 

I know that I decide how I show up, that no one nor circumstance is responsible for my feelings, and I am in the driver’s seat of my own life.

The image I had was not a realistic picture because there will never be a time when I have “it” all figured out. Each year I change and grow. There will always be challenges and uncertainties, there will always be joy, and there will always be moments that define our lives. 

We can’t control everything.  

I would not change anything. I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.


ex-pat coaching

Are you an ex-pat looking for support in your personal and professional life abroad? Are you seeking clarity of self and a more fulfilling life? We would love to meet you and share the beauty of the ikigai philosophy.

We are two of only a few ikigai coaches who are trained and certified in the unique and powerful ikigai coaching framework and methodology approved by Japan’s leading ikigai authority, Clinical Psychologist Professor Akihiro Hasegawa, and developed by Nick Kemp of Ikigai Tribe. 


Our clients are often:  ex-pats, trailing spouses, those looking to change careers & moms.

We use the ikigai philosophy to help women who are at a turning point in their lives; who want to gain greater clarity of their life path and life goals; who want to live with more vibrancy and purpose; who want more joy in their daily living... 

Click here to learn about our services and how we can help you.


Karly and Chloé are certified NLP and Ikigai coaches. Vibrant Ikigai offers workshops and 1:1 coaching services to help you find your ikigai.

Contact us today to set up your free discovery call!