I’m Catriona, a writer and editor, currently lucky enough to be living in France for the third time, this time in Paris. Since leaving Scotland with my husband in 2009, we’ve also lived in Uganda, Congo, and Denmark.
In that time we’ve had two sons, seen seven moves, lived in nine homes (plus temporary accommodation!), spoken three languages, and enjoyed some incredible travel opportunities.
On these pages you’ll find my articles about travel and expat living, Parisian discoveries, and how I meet the challenge of living internationally and creatively. If that’s what you like to read, there’s more to enjoy when you join my loyal email readers: sign up here for bonus expat stories, creative living insights, and useful links.
The word ‘expat’ comes with a mixed bag of connotations, not all good ones. But as someone who moves country frequently, not settling in one place, but managing the demands of everyday life along the way, the term ‘serial expat’ resonates for me. Among the privileges that lifestyle brings, the biggest challenges I faced in the early years of living abroad were losing a sense of home, a sense of purpose, and a sense of identity. Because what moves us around is my other half’s career, some might think I have no choice in where we go and how we live. But I’ve learned the importance of creating a portable sense of home and purpose, in owning the choices I’ve made, and in blazing my own trail. It’s important to me to share those challenges, and those lessons – comment below if that resonates with you!
At the time of writing (Spring 2022), international travel has not been a big feature of most people’s lives for a while, although the world is opening up again. I’ve always loved creating a strong sense of place in my writing, to make you feel like you’re there. Even when we’re close to home, taking time to observe surprising or just everyday details can create a fresh perspective. One thing that both travel and temporary living have taught me is that it’s exhilarating to look at the world around you through the eyes of a visitor, no matter how familiar it may feel. Look out for my word sketches that focus on a moment in time to create a sense of place.
I never used to think of myself as a creative person. Before we left the UK, I worked for ten years as a high school English teacher. I loved literature and art, and of course I know how to string a sentence together – because I taught people how. But I wasn’t an ideas person, didn’t create.
Fast forward to when I was preparing for move number five. I’d done a bit of teaching while abroad, and I’d been studying to add English-language teaching to my repertoire. I was wondering what jobs I’d have available to me after we arrived, but I just didn’t want to go on like that, waiting and seeing. I wanted to work on my own terms. That was when I realised my situation was an opportunity, not a constraint. I was ‘waiting and seeing’ because I thought I had to stay on the path laid down by my previous qualifications and career. But questioning that very premise made me understand the path could take another direction. Teaching had been a job, not my identity. I had the chance to start again, and I asked my 16yo self, ‘What do you want to do?
‘Write,’ was the instant, surprising, yet inevitable reply.
When I had written before, as a teenager with angsty poetry and descriptive fiction, and then at university, writing music reviews for the student newspaper, I hadn’t been full of ideas then, either. I’d written about was in front of me, the world as I saw it.
What I know about creative living today is that ideas are not a prerequisite. When I write, I’m making connections to myself, to the world around me, and to you. The more of those connections I make, the more ideas flow from them. But still, it’s the connection that matters most. So I’m going to be writing more – here, but especially for my email readers – about where I see those connections, the resources I’ve learned from, and the insights that have helped me, in the hope of inspiring more connected, creative living.
You might know me from taking part in the #MayontheMove Instagram challenge. In early 2019, I was looking around for prompts around international living that would help me post more consistently. I wanted motivation to write and share more, as well as to engage with more potential readers. I had seen lots of month-long photo challenges on the platform for things like travel, sewing, and other interests. But I couldn’t quite find the one I was looking for.
So I created it. In May 2019, I shared a set of sixteen prompts and invited others to join me. There were about a dozen participants that first time, old friends and new contacts, and connections that went deeper than before. The following year, I wasn’t sure anyone would want to think about being ‘on the move’, but it turned out that connection was what people really needed, and the community exploded. Last year there were over 100 ‘grammers contributing to ‘community across cultures’.
Planning for the next #MayontheMove is in the works, and we now have monthly prompts to stay connected throughout the year, so make sure you are following on Instagram to take part. There may be a few tweaks each year, but the core idea is the same: 16 prompts across the month of May. Which illustrates perfectly what I always say is the key to creating a deeply connected community: do the thing you want to do, and invite others in.
There’s a book in progress! Nest is my memoir of home on the move, of losing identity and purpose then finding it again, as I invite the reader into each of the ‘nests’ that we made home along the way. I started with a very messy draft for NaNoWriMo 2019, and it’s had a couple of reboots along the way while jostling for attention among a pandemic and a messy international move. I’m now working through a much tidier and more structured draft, and I even have a draft blurb!
When Catriona Turner seized the opportunity to leave the UK for a 3-year stay in France with her fiancé, she had no idea that over a decade later, she would still be on a journey beyond the Pyrenean foothills, to the bustling urban hills of Kampala, the dusty Atlantic beaches of Congo, or the flat suburbs of Denmark.
Along the way, she encountered an emergency birth in France, the complicated luxury of compound living, curfew in Congo, and mental health struggles. She became bilingual, a leader, a parent of Third Culture Kids, and a foreigner in her own home. She studied, she worked, and ultimately, she created her own sense of purpose in her life abroad.
But through it all, she had to confront her core belief about what it means to be home. And just when she thought she had it all figured out, along came a global pandemic…
What do you think? Is that a book you want to read? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to join my email readers to be the first to get sneak peeks and updates.
The anthology of expat stories, Life on the Move, edited by Lisa Webb, features my essay ‘A Bag of What-If’, all about a very memorable weekend of Congo living. Click here to get your copy.
That book is a follow-up to Once Upon an Expat, where I wrote about ‘How Not to Say Goodbye’. Get your copy of that one here.
“Venice is stunning. It’s delicious. It’s sinking. It’s sickening.”
Click here to read this long-form essay on Medium about Venice.
I now offer my professional services as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader via my business website The Word Bothy. My clients get much more from my work than a more stylish and accurate text: with my inner teacher always around, they also get bonus personalised tips to streamline their writing!
Wait – there’s more!
In summer 2021 I made my first podcast appearance – being interviewed by my writing guru Rachael Herron on episode 253 of of How Do you Write? We talked about editing and writing, not being daunted by our writing heroes, and I even got to give her some of my best expat living tips.
I’ve been writing bits of poetry lately (less angsty teen, more honest self-exploration) and had some words featured recently as part of the Spectra light festival in Aberdeen. You can read more about that here.
Apart from words, and family, and Din Djarin aka The Mandalorian, my other passion is theatre, and I’ve been lucky enough to take part in productions in Uganda, Congo, Denmark, and now in Paris too. I’ve been making more and more creative connections between stage and page, so look out for some of those insights coming up!
Phew! I think that’s more than enough about-ness to be going on with. If you’re still with me by now, you must be finding something that resonates or has value. I’ve chosen not to monetise this website, and I don’t have any subscription-only content, so why not buy me a coffee? It’ll help fuel me to get me to that final book draft and editor search!