Heidi Sand-Hart was a missionary kid who spent the majority of her childhood moving from one exotic location to another. Like all TCKs she struggled to find a sense of belonging and a place to call home. The most tangible results of her struggles is the book Home Keeps Moving, which serves as an homage to the global nomadic lifestyle and all the good and bad that goes with it. It is an honest, moving book that encourages all TCKs to do the hard work necessary to find their sense of belonging in the world.
Heidi was interviewed by Susan Adkins, a freelance writer for Parenting While Abroad.
You write very honestly about your experiences as a TCK. What made you decide that this was a book you had to write?
Basically it came about as a result of my search for more personal literature on the topic of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and the discovery that there were hardly any books out there. I started processing my own TCK journey more than 10 years ago and begun writing Home Keeps Moving then. The task was too overwhelming at the time but as I’ve gotten older, I have realised how exciting, colourful and unique my own childhood was and the desire to share that with others has progressively grown.
What is the main message that you hope readers get from your book?
It is my hope that people with traditional upbringings will understand TCKs a little better and that I play a little part in giving validation to my fellow TCKs (in many ways, a forgotten tribe). I hope TCKs will realise that it’s okay to have an unusual upbringing and not know where we come from or belong! There are many positives to be gained from a cross-cultural upbringing but I‘ve had to convince people of that fact over the years (and still do). Many people expect TCKs to have roots planted the same way as them (in one house, city or country) and view our restlessness as a sign of weakness. I disagree completely. The same logic applied would be to tell someone who has lived in one place their whole life to “move to the opposite side of the planet and relocate every year or two forever”…I can’t see too many reacting positively to that suggestion so why should it work the other way around?
How has your family reacted to this book?
Very positively – my family is incredibly proud of my achievement and my parents are currently distributing Home Keeps Moving in Finland for me. They encouraged me while I was writing it and have been fantastically supportive. My brother Ben provided me with a brilliant contribution for the book and is a very proud older brother.
How has faith played a role in your work and in your writing?
A lot of thought went into how my opinions would come across to the reader and I suppose that was predominantly because I didn’t want to offend people. I made a great effort to take ownership for my views and tried to convey them clearly. My faith helped drive me on in difficult times and gave me the self-belief I needed.
If you could recommend one thing adults can do to ease a child’s transition during a move abroad, what would it be?
Include them in the decision-making process…let them know that their feelings are important and allow them to speak freely. Encourage them to talk openly and focus on the many positives of living abroad whether they be beach holidays, eating out more or camel rides in the desert.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learnt how hard it is to write a book!! That finishing your manuscript is just the beginning – the process is long, difficult and requires a lot of mental energy and patience.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I touched on it earlier…trying to weed out the potential of people misunderstanding me. Being ultra careful to clearly communicate my point and hopefully not offend people in the process! I didn’t want to come across as “preachy” but simply share how life has been from my perspective. It is a very hard balance to obtain. It was also difficult being open and vulnerable, knowing that I was granting the world access to my soul. I worried about how it would be received and still cringe every now and then but I think if you’re going to write your story, it has to come from your heart.
Your husband grew up in a New Zealand suburb. How have his experiences and childhood memories changed your perspective of your own life as a TCK?
It hasn’t changed my perspectives of my own TCK upbringing as much as acutely highlight the differences. It’s nice to see the security and enjoyment that my husband gets from having a very stable upbringing – his mum still lives in the same house – and he is constantly in touch with his childhood friends. I suppose some TCKs could be saddened by the losses or feel jealous by such stability but Paul & I have shared many conversations about the differences and what that means for us as a couple. I am just as secure in my “uprooted” upbringing as he is in his traditional one.
You mention that friendship is the biggest struggle for you as an Adult TCK. What advice do you have for other people with similar situations?
One thing my upbringing most definitely has taught me is to enjoy to the fullest those rare moments that I am with my friends and family and that is a beautiful life-lesson. We never know how long we have on this planet so it’s good to try to appreciate those we love and let them know that. The internet has made transient lifestyles much easier and we can at least be connected with our dear ones in a virtual world if not in a physical one.
You married someone with a very different background. What is your general experience with forming friendships with people who lived in one place growing up?
I try to see people for who they are and not define them by where they grew up or which category they fit in. It’s probably true that I relate to TCKs a little differently – maybe delve a little deeper quicker – but I can find something in common with almost anyone. Half of my closest friends have lived in one place their whole lives…I find people’s perspectives and mind-set far more important than which country or state they grew up in.
If you have found a difficulty in forming lasting friendships to be the greatest drawback of being a TCK, what has been the greatest benefit?
I may not have a traditional home but have ‘family’ to stay with all around the world. The greatest strength for me is that of adaptability – I love feeling ‘at home’ in the most bizarre corners of the globe… when I disembark in Bangkok, Mumbai, Vancouver or Heathrow.
Home Keeps Moving is available from Amazon.