One of the greatest challenge in the run up to any FIGT conference is explaining it's unique appeal to those who might not have been to one. Those of us who have had the joy of attending any of the conferences over the last two decades use phrases like "a roomful of friends we have yet to meet" "finding my tribe" and "an overwhelming sense that I belonged". The difficulty is that those phrases might imply strong preexisting networks and community, when in reality, every single one of us felt nervous, awkward and often intimidated before we arrived. And each of us can retell the moment when those feelings were replaced by warmth, belonging and joy at being somewhere where we were understood, inspired and supported, not matter our background or experience.
Sarah Black, our current social media lead, wrote this piece on her return from #FIGT17, and it beautifully sums up how many of us feel about our first ever Families in Global Transition conference.
Sometime around two weeks before I was due to fly out of Houston to attend the 2017 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference in The Hague, I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake.
I had just started a new job, my first full time position in seven years, and there were deadlines looming on either side of my trip to The Hague. I hadn’t managed to post anything on my blog in weeks as I struggled to adjust to my new routine. And I couldn’t remember the last time I had spoken to another expat, other than my husband.
The timing felt all wrong. I felt that I didn’t have anything to contribute to a group of globally savvy, experienced travelers. I was intimidated by the conference program. I wasn’t sure that I would fit in.
I packed my bags with more apprehension than anticipation. I focused on the thought of spending two days in Amsterdam with an old friend rather than the conference just after it.
To say that I need not have worried is an understatement. While the conference program boasts some of the most qualified, expert and erudite academics, entrepreneurs, writers and leaders in the expatriate and global nomadic world, it is much more importantly what we Irish would call ‘great craic’ (pronounced ‘crack’).
Let me explain to you what the ‘craic’ is. It is notoriously hard to define but the essence of it that 'good craic’ is good conversation, light-hearted exchanges, occasional high spiritedness and in fairness, perhaps a wee glass of something alcoholic, though it is not an essential ingredient. To be able to have a bit of ‘craic’ with someone, there must be trust, a meeting of the minds and a recognition of another as a kindred spirit. It is the exchange of ideas; it is a bonding experience.
It is something to look back upon fondly.
The ‘craic’ is also personal – its whatever is going on with you; it is your story, it is your experience.
And there is plenty of ‘craic’ to be had at FIGT. This is a place where everyone’s story is valid and accepted; where strangers become friends over the course of a single Kitchen Table session; where ideas are exchanged with enthusiasm, passion, and empathy. This is a place where big ideas are debated alongside the celebration of individual’s highly personal stories.
It is a place where all of us who face the challenges of living in ‘global transition’ can talk freely about the anxieties, the fears as well as the opportunities and be not just heard but supported, emotionally and psychologically.
As an expat and as a writer, FIGT is probably one of the safest spaces I’ve ever been in. I look back and realize that I missed opportunities because I didn’t fully anticipate the scale of the opportunity presented to me as an attendee.
If you are reading this as a potential future attendee, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity and become part of the whole FIGT experience.
I promise you, the craic is great.
This article was originally published in Insights and Interviews from the 2017 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference – Building on the Basics: Creating Your Tribe on The Move