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Expats to Repats: A traveling family rediscovers its Buffalo roots

When Jennifer Gibas graduated from LaSalle High School in Niagara Falls in 1992, she decided to move to Phoenix to live with a friend. It was the first time she'd felt the urge to travel and live elsewhere. And it wouldn’t be the last.

Gibas, 43, moved back to Buffalo two years later. At the time she was unsure of what to do with her life, as many 20-somethings are, and she was considering college. Then she met her now-husband, Gerry, through a mutual friend. He was attending Niagara University, and they began dating.

The Gibas family has lived all over the world, but the couple has returned home to Western New York.

The Gibas family has lived all over the world, but the couple has returned home to Western New York.

“We dated for two years,” said Gibas. “After graduation, he was offered a job with the Department of Homeland Security. We thought he’d get a job here at the border, maybe the Rainbow Bridge. But there was an opening in the Bahamas. I didn’t have any commitments here so we said, why not?”

While settling in the tropical oasis of the Bahamas, Gibas said she and Gerry got married in what turned out to be the perfect setting, and they began their lives together.

Two years later in 1998, Gerry was transferred to Southern California. They lived in the Golden State for almost 10 years before he received another transfer order, this time to Cairo, Egypt. Gibas, always up for a traveling adventure, was more than game.

“I love traveling, I really do,” she said. “Our whole family does. Along the way, we had two boys. And they got the experience of living in different locations both here and abroad. It was a gift.”
One of the reasons Gibas said she didn’t mind picking up and moving each time is because she never rooted herself in one particular place. She always worked odd jobs here and there -- in retail, customer service and even a taxicab company. They were jobs that she could pick up or leave easily, which kept the door open for relocating anytime.

image3“California was the ideal place for me because of the weather,” Gibas said. “But we really enjoyed Egypt. [Cairo is] a huge city and it’s dusty, but it’s an amazing place. You can hop in a taxi and go anywhere for just a couple of dollars.”


Name: Jennifer Gibas
Age: 43
Current location: Wheatfield/Amherst
Previous locations: Bahamas, southern California, Egypt
Loves most about Buffalo: The waterfront
Missed most about Buffalo: Family, regularly changing seasons


Gibas worked in the U.S. embassy while in Egypt, and her two sons attended school there for a few years. But the Department of Homeland Security only allows employees to be stationed overseas for a certain period of time.

Gibas knew the family would be moving again, and as she and Gerry began discussing the possibility of going back to the States, nostalgia began to creep in.

image2“We were thinking of going back to California or moving to the Carolinas,” she said. “Texas was on our list, too. But as time got closer, I got this overwhelming sense that I wanted to go back home. I missed Buffalo. I missed my roots.”

Of course, there wasn’t an open position in Buffalo. But Gibas said that Gerry made a couple of phone calls, talked to a few people and asked for a favor. It worked. Homeland Security created a position for him, and they moved back at the end of 2010.

When they first left Buffalo in the '90s, the city looked and felt a lot different. Gibas said she never ventured downtown back then. Now, they go downtown all the time.

“I love what they’ve done with the waterfront,” she said. “There are so many events and happenings to choose from. We came back just in time to witness the city’s revitalization. It was like an added bonus.”

Though they bought land in Wheatfield and invested in building a house, Gibas said that moving again is not out of the realm of possibility. Her younger son would like to attend college somewhere out of state, and her older son joined the Navy so he could see more of the world. Traveling is in their blood. But for now, Gibas is happy to be back in Buffalo.

At least for the time being.




If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email

Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a freelance writer and award-winning author. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @darcangel21

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