What it’s Like to be an Expat
I moved abroad 6 months ago now, but it honestly could be 6 years or 6 days. Time has moved so fast, but it's been really crazy and stressful and we've packed so much in, I have trouble remembering the time I've been here. That could be a good or bad thing.
Since there a lot of people that don't know my story, I'm going to refresh your memory:
I was born on January 14, 1987. Just kidding. Not going that far back. But if you are SUPER interested in baby Helene, here's my birth story.
Okay, for real, a few years ago, my husband Michael and I decided we needed to move abroad. We traveled over the years to Europe, each trip making us realize how much we wanted to see, and that we'd never really get to see it without actually moving over here. First step was moving out of Texas, a place we've both lived in our whole lives. We settled on Nashville, Tennessee and lived there for a year, oh I also quit my job and became a full time blogger. We spent months researching and landed on Heidelberg, Germany because it's centrally located, Germany is a great place to live, and while they speak German, there are a lot of English speakers here. It also doesn't hurt that it's a little fairy-tale city. You can read WHY I made the decision to move abroad here.
We moved with two suitcases each, two dogs, and not a clue what to do next. We stayed in a hotel for 5 weeks (the longest of my life) trying to find a place to live. Turns out, the real estate market here is crazy.
Okay, now that you know the brief rundown, here's what it's like to be an expat. P.S. I liked a bunch of posts on our move above, If you're curious about our moves, the hows, or the why, click any pink text.
Who are your friends?
Most of the friends we've made are through online communities like Meetup. I intend to write a post all about this, because stuff like this has been SO incredibly helpful. Many of our friends are expats, from all over the world. But we do have some German friends too. Before moving to Germany, I'd never step foot in the country. I've learned a lot about Germans and that many stereotypes are just plain wrong.
Do you travel all the time?
I am traveling a lot more than I used to, but it's not all the time. I am still running my own business and that means I try to find balance. I also think there is a big difference between travel and vacations. I am traveling. That means learning about the culture, seeing it's history, going to museums, and trying to see all that I can. You won't find me lounging much. Even though Instagram might paint a different picture. I am always writing down what we are doing, staying, eating, and any hidden gems we find along the way.
What's been the biggest change?
The culture is a big shock. Not in a bad way at all, it's just different. For instance, you have to throw away your glass in a separate container… down the street. Oh, and it's all color coordinated and you can't do it after 7:30 pm or Sunday. To me, this is kind of extreme and hilarious. But Germans like their rules and this is one of them. For the most part, everyone speaks English which is just plain crazy to me.
The biggest change is that life is still very different. We don't have a car – we have trams or our bikes. Simple things tend to take longer and we're still adjusting to what works.
What's your favorite part?
The travel for sure. Being able to hop in the car, on a plane, or train and be in a different city or country so quickly is incredible to me. Europe is so diverse. There is so much to see, so much culture, and history, it's easy to fall in love everywhere you go. Oh, and Heidelberg is incredibly safe.
What's the hardest?
I am missing out on some big life events for my friends and family. It hurts me that I am not going to be there. And I also still want to be present in their lives. For example, my sister is graduating college this year and I won't be there. Even thinking about that makes me choke up, but I still have take the opportunities that I can, while I can. And now is the best time to be here.
Another very hard part is adjusting to life here. It's just very different to not have a car, to not have some very “easy” things that I had at home. Michael and I struggle with making some things work because it's just so different but it's also teaching us patience.
Has life changed a lot?
My daily life is different sometimes, but others, it's very very similar. Sure, going to the grocery store is an experience and I'm still learning “the rules.” But my “work day” still feels a lot like the same. It's just weird that my friends are 7 hours different. I actually keep my FitBit in central time zone so I'll always know what time it is there. That might be weird but I don't care. It makes me feel like I'm still connected.
How has moving affected your blog?
Since I moved, blogging is still my favorite thing to do. I've always loved writing. I admit, I used to post more and I wish I had more time to post. But I am trying to balance travel + business + personal + blogging, which isn't always easy.
As for blog “success” it's grown much more. I can't put my finger on exactly why, maybe people are more interested in my life, or maybe it's just grown over time. I know, for example, my Instagram has really gained traction, but I also put a lot of time and effort into that.
I know my blog has changed a bit since moving. I definitely focus much more on travel. I know not all my readers will like the changes, but this blog has always followed my life, and that's obviously a big part of it.
What has this taught you?
A lot, really. I've learned about myself, my relationship, and that really you do not need much in life. I came here with two suitcases and stressed over bringing just the essentials. Now I realize that I probably didn't even need half of what I brought. When I travel, I go with just a backpack, and it makes life much easier. Here's everything I pack when I travel.
Of course, it's taught me about so many other people around the world. When I traveled to Europe before I definitely met others, but actually living here has brought on a whole new level of understanding. Not to say I understand all cultures, I do not! But getting to be friends with people from Saudi Arabia, Germany, Australia, Italy, etc has really opened up my eyes to how people view the world, and even the US, differently.
What do you miss most?
Besides friends and family, Mexican food. Hands down. Right after that is the fact that I don't get some shows on Netflix or Amazon. I tried to find Big Little Lies (the TV show) last night no no avail. Then, right when I thought I could watch it, I hit play and a pop up came up telling me it wasn't available in my country. BOO.
What did you have to do to make this happen?
Moving abroad is fun and exciting, but it is HARD. It's one of the most stressful things I've ever done. Lots of people say “I want your life!” but they don't realize how much time and effort went into planning this. Also, just living abroad itself is no walk in the park. There are new challenges everyday. I wouldn't change anything for the world, and I love the experiences I am getting, but it isn't easy. Michael and I literally spent years saving and making these plans. But it is worth it.
If you do want to make this happen, start saving and researching now. We saved and saved because you never know when something might come up. I am not in any debt while traveling, and I take pride in that. Also, find out where you want to move then figure out how you can get there. Do you need to find a job? Work remotely? What is important to you for your move? This can be said about almost any place you want to be in life.
Check out Western Union’s How to Become an Expat blog post for more information and to see my feature!
That's what it's like to be an expat, at least, so far! Have any other questions for me? Let me hear 'em!
Thanks to Western Union for Sponsoring this post.