Guest Post: Preserving Your Expat Memories

24 June 2013

Whatever your reasons for moving abroad, and no matter what nation you move to, your time as an expat is likely to be exciting and daunting in equal measure.

New places to see, new people to meet, new experiences to enjoy – at the time it can all seem a bit overwhelming and it’s often only with hindsight that we can look back and really appreciate the most thrilling periods of our past.


But once you’ve returned home or moved on to another country, day-to-day life usually intrudes and your expat memories can start to fade.

That’s why preserving aspects of your life overseas is so important, so that in years to come you can look back and remember not only how you, but how your family and your world in general, were affected by your move to foreign shores.

There are many ways of preserving memories in a physical form, like keeping a diary, taking photos, keeping postcards, tickets, leaflets and gifts. These kinds of items should be stored or displayed together so you can easily lay your hands on your expat past when you get nostalgic for your former home. In order to protect your items from damage and fading, keep them in a dry place, away from direct sunlight.

However, in this information age many people are producing more digital material than physical.

Now photos, emails, videos, texts, websites and audio files can help form a complete picture of our lives, a veritable time capsule we can look back on in the future – but only if we take the time to preserve them properly.

The problem with digital memories is that they are far more easily erased, lost or recorded over than their physical counterparts – but there are ways of protecting them.

Here we share some top-tips for making the most of your digital expat history.

Digital Photos

Go through all your digital photos. This means trawling through social networking sites, cameras, memory cards and computer files. Pick which are the most important to you. (That blurry picture of a man in a sombrero might not be worth keeping for example, while that one of your first expat friend just has to be saved). You may also want to go through all your physical photos and pick out the best ones for scanning in.

Organise the photos by naming and dating them (where possible) and when you have the time create a unique file for them.

Make copies of this file and save it in different formats and on different types of computer software, storing your copies in different areas.

To avoid data loss, create new media copies every five years.

And, if you’re willing to pay out a little, you may want to get the photos printed so that you have one physical version to keep.


Go through all your email accounts, work, home, personal etc. For each account look in all the folders (sent/deleted/saved/archived) and pick out the most important, interesting or emotional communications.

Remember to look at any attachments connected to the important emails!

Export the emails (you can do this using the ‘save as’ command in the email browser if you’re happy to export them as individual files).

Save messages in an open format if you can, and retain the ‘metadata’ – meaning the email subject, sender, date and time etc.

Name and date each email file.

Create a special folder to hold all of your email files.

Make copies of this folder and save it in different formats and on different types of computer software, storing your copies in different areas.

To avoid data loss, create new media copies every five years.

As with the photos, you may want to consider printing out a physical copy of your email communications.

This advice is based on information sourced from the Library of Congress, so for more information about archiving your digital memories check out this really useful resource.

Archive Your Memories

And for those of you who prefer physical forms of communication and interaction, but are afraid that you just don’t have the room to store all your expat memories, there is a solution – The Expatriate Archive Centre.

The whole aim of the Expatriate Archive Centre is to store the memories of expatriated and repatriated individuals, keeping them safe and secure so that they can be accessible to future generations. Their hard work also means that they are successfully documenting a vast social history.

The Archive Centre is happy to store all sorts of materials in its collection, from newsletters and blogs to paperwork, journals and scrapbooks.

And once you’ve started a collection you can continue adding to it, no matter how long your expat adventure lasts.

If you’ve got some Expat memories you’d like to protect simply contact the Expatriate Archive Centre for more information.


the-expat-hub-logoThis post was provided by The Expat Hub, a top online stop for expatriate advice, support and information.

If you’ve already moved abroad, if you’re in the process of moving abroad or if you’re only thinking about it, the Expat Hub is here for you.