I'm just finishing reading Rick Steves' Travel as a Political Act. He makes a lot of good points about Europeans, Americans, and travel. I particularly love the quote Steves gives from Muhammad: "Don't tell me how educated you are; tell me how much you've traveled."
While repatriation will be tough for many expats, I think it gives us an opportunity to impact our home countries from our learnings abroad in a positive way. And from that standpoint, when my time comes, I'll be looking forward to going home.
For instance: Steves discusses the European joy for life. I see this too. Most Europeans are happy to make do with less. They live in apartments. Many don't own cars. But they do have time off–and many aren't willing to part with that for more money and more stuff.
I've written about American work ethic before, and I don't think we will ever see protests in the street like you would in France if someone tries to take away your vacation time. But after living in Europe (and also working my butt off American style), I feel strongly that Americans have an opportunity to become less materialistic in exchange for a better work/life balance. I know Americans that work two jobs just so they can buy that fancy house with the three-car garage even though there are only two family members old enough to drive.
I didn't think I could go from living in an American three-bedroom house to living in a Swiss two-bedroom apartment, but guess what. It's great. There's less to clean, no grass to cut, and I have time to do other things instead: like travel and get educated.
Anyhow, for those interested in how travel (and living abroad) can help you improve your own country, I highly recommend Travel as a Political Act.