My “y’all” has never felt more prevalent than when talking to our German landlord, asking for recommendations on nearby restaurants. My move abroad has brought on a rollercoaster of emotions, and I wanted to share 15 things that happen when you move abroad- some really might surprise you. Many involve cheese.
As a native Texan, I never thought I’d live anywhere else. The food is good, the economy is great, the weather is somewhat temperament – except in August when the devil himself comes to test the heat index. But when I traveled abroad as a teenager, tagging along with my parents study abroad trips they led, I knew I needed to find a way to see more of the world. That answer, to me, meant making a move.
My husband, Michael, and I were 25 years old and watching the Eiffel Tower light up. We had a make-shift picnic put together of various cheeses, a baguette, and 3 euro wine. It was one of the best meals of my life. We met some teenagers, who were enjoying a similar outing, except they had no food, just cigarettes. “You will love Paris. It’s magic. You will come back. You must.”
Those words struck a chord with me. I did want to come back. And not only that, I wanted to see it all. Europe has always held a fascination for me. I feel a bit more romantic walking the streets and seeing how the old fuses with the new. We needed to move, it was truly the only way.
Why the move? We felt the best way to truly see Europe (and beyond) was to get out of our comfort zone and into a life revolved around travel. We knew the life of a nomad wasn’t for us. The longest I’ve been away from a home base was about 3 weeks and that was enough for me. I’m not the type of girl that lives out of a suitcase. We also knew the dogs would be coming with us, so having a place where they could go to the vet and we could have some down time to write and work was ideal.
Despite opting out of the nomadic life, we still travel about 50% or more of the time. Last year we visited 85 cities and the goal this year is to top that. Although, tearing my ACL in the Austrian Alps might say otherwise.
15 things that I didn’t know would happen when I moved abroad:
1. You will lose weight.
Moving abroad isn’t romantic. Is moving ever romantic? Our move was particularly tough- we lived in a hotel for 5 weeks and our visa got denied for starters. Living in one room with a large man, a large dog, a medium-sized dog, and all of your belongings makes for a hairy situation. Literally. There was always hair everywhere. We ate Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and both lost ten pounds.
2. You will gain weight.
Once we found a place to live and discovered the neighborhood market that had the most divine cheese I’ve ever tasted (it’s called Galet de la Loire if you’re interested and it’s from France. On second thought, don’t eat it. You might not ever be able to stop.). Since we travel so often I have to remind myself that this isn’t my last vacation. I often find myself rushing to the continental breakfast buffets at the hotels and trying at least one of everything.
3. You never knew how much you cared about ice, salsa, and grocery stores.
Yes, they have grocery stores in Germany. But they are difficult. People are stocking the shelves at all hours during the day and the grocery store checkout line feels like a Nascar race. It’s scary. Ice is rarely, if ever, offered in drinks, and salsa here is a mix of ketchup and cut up tomatoes. I never knew how much I cared about these things until I didn’t have them. And absence makes the heart grow fonder.
4. You will bring way too much.
Bring nothing, y’all. Okay, bring some things. But we packed two 50-pound suitcases each. Why did I bring 18 pairs of socks? Or 7 white shirts (I really like white shirts). Most everything could be purchased when I arrived. What I should have packed were 45 jars of salsa, Jiffy corn muffin mix, peanut butter, and 5-Alarm chili. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Mexican food doesn’t exist.
Don’t try to eat Mexican food in Europe. I’ve been tricked so many times! “Oh the Mexican food at such-and-such is actually great!” says the Northerner. No offense, but as a Texan, we have a better taste for it. And it’s not here. We’ve tried again and again but it’s just not here. But pasta sure as heck is…
6. I’ve never been madder at my significant other.
I believe that fighting is a healthy ritual. Relationships that don’t have quarrels aren’t real and will fall apart at any moment. But if you can fight and travel together and still love each other, you’ll last forever. Traveling and moving abroad brings out the anger in anyone. Things happen out of your control. Garages in Italy close at 9pm even though there is no sign whatsoever and you’re forced to stay in a cheap hotel despite the lovely resort hotel you had booked for that night. You learn to get over it and laugh about it later. Traveling and moving abroad means a LOT of time together. You learn to love through the hardships. P.S. here are tips for traveling with your significant other.
7. You become that person, and you really can’t help it.
When we visited home after a year and a half we had a family dinner. My sister brought up some flower fields in Dallas. “Oh,” I responded, “but the flowers in Heidelberg truly last much longer.” I am that person. And I can’t help but obnoxiously compare things to a place in Europe. Thank you in advance for nodding politely.
8. Everything is “for work”.
To many, this might sound horrible, but to me this is an opportunity. Since I’m a “travel blogger” every where I go is part of my work. And I really really love working. Have to take pictures of this fancy hotel and eat this fancy food? Yes. It’s part of the job. Michael doesn’t feel like taking 23 pictures of me posing in various locations? Too bad, it’s for work. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to balance it all – travel, writing, publishing, etc. But that’s the part I really love. You can see how I make money while traveling full time from this article on the Penny Hoarder.
9. Your mind will change on things you thought you always knew.
I’ve always felt fairly strongly about politics, religion, and family values. But my mind is starting to change. Maybe it’s just getting older, but I think part of it is moving abroad and seeing how other people live. Getting a glimpse into a different set of laws and rules makes me question and more closely observe what I’ve grown up with.
10. Some trips run into each other.
If you put all my pictures together of cathedrals, duomos, castles, cobblestone alleyways, and museums, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to tell you exactly one from another. Sure, some really stand out. That’s not to say I don’t want to continue seeing all the things, I do. But Austria, Germany, Italy, France, and many other countries have an incredible monument every few hundred feet, so sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I think if we even had one in Texas people would flock to it. But it’s Europe and every stone is historical.
11. Your friends won’t visit (well, not all of them).
I had this idea in my head that all my friends would come here so often that our one bedroom apartment was far too small. I’m glad we just left it at one bedroom. My mom is the only person who has come multiple times. I have to get over it. And not hold grudges.
12. You become an expert packer.
I can fit 19 days into one carry-on backpack. Really. I secretly love packing and get really excited to see how I can arrange everything in one bag. It’s like a puzzle.
13. You’ll try almost anything once.
I used to be fairly bland when it came to food (chicken, please) and heights in general. Now I order things like the “blood sausage” and have to go to the edge of a cliff just to see what it looks like. Moving abroad seemed to give me a confidence boost that I wasn’t expecting.
14. An extreme opinion on cheese.
I know I’ve already mentioned cheese before, but it bears repeating. The cheese in Europe is different. In that, it’s better. I’ll compare it to a castle. Usually, the more aged, the better. It’s full of different layers, textures, and smells. And I’m basically on a mission to try as many as possible. Also, cheese with sweet mustard is an incredible dessert. Trust me.
15. But nothing really changes.
Sure, you might appreciate different things or develop new tastes and habits, but, life abroad still has its stresses, ups, downs, and heartaches. Traveling home for the first time after a year and a half reminded me that big life happenings occur but the people you love will always be there for you. I love life abroad, but I also love life at home. There is good in it all. And the best is to set up your life the way you want to live it, despite what anyone or society deems as “right.”
If you’d like to read more about our life abroad, check out this whole section!