#WanderWomen: Lifting Up Black Voices in the Expat Community

The recent protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd have brought an important and hard conversation to the forefront. I’m hopeful something good can come from the righteous anger that’s risen to the surface, but it’s clear real action is needed to further the fight for justice and equality. There are countless women of color in the travel space who don’t get nearly as much shine as they deserve. So, I want to discover: Who are they? Where are they? How do they navigate life abroad? In the spirit of celebrating Black content creators and expats around the world, the upcoming #WanderWomen features will be more representative of these women doing amazing work abroad. I’m so excited to share their expat stories and work.

The #WanderWomen series highlights diverse women around the globe every Wednesday who took a leap of faith to leave comfort and familiarity behind and embrace expat life. In some cases, it was to find themselves, love, work, or something else entirely. I hope these stories ignite the inner adventurer in you, to remember that no matter where you start over, there’s a new home waiting for you if you’re up for it!



Meet Christine

Meet Christine Job. Originally from the US, she’s been living in Barcelona for the past two years where she runs Flourish in the Foreign, a weekly podcast that “elevates and affirms the stories of Black women who live and thrive abroad.” After graduating from law school in Florida, she worked as a business coach and consultant. In Spain, she’s now using her platform to lift up other women’s expat stories, highlighting their ‘triumphs, tribulations, and how they created a flourishing life abroad.’ Learn about her experience living abroad as Black woman in Spain, her advice for other Black women wanting to make the big move overseas, and ways people can spring to action to combat inequality and racism.

I’m always curious about how it started for the expats I meet. Was there a particular moment or revelation that made you move abroad?

There was no one moment that pushed me to move to Spain. I’ve always wanted to live abroad and I’ve traveled extensively internationally since I was 10 years old. Walking the Camino de Santiago in 2014 made me really fall in love with Spain. After returning from that trip, I started putting the gears in motion for my eventual move in 2017. 

How long have you been living in Barcelona? What are your favorite things about being there? Your least favorite things?

I’ve been living in Barcelona for 2 years. Some of my favorite things about being in Barcelona is being super close to the sea (I live 5 minutes walking from the beach). Although Barcelona is pretty cosmopolitan, the lifestyle is still pretty relaxed and laid-back. I also really enjoy how well-connected the city is, the metro system is good and there are a lot of direct international flights to Barcelona.

Some of my least favorite things about Barcelona are definitely the water quality and air pollution. The water pipes are super old and the water is very hard. Having calcium build-ups in your faucets or shower-heads is very typical. 

With the events going on in the world right now bringing social justice issues and racism to the surface, what would you like my readers to know if they’re wanting to spring to action instead of staying passive in this fight?

I think your readers have to first do their own research. Do not expect Black people to educate you and answer your questions. There are professionals/educators on race who can help you, seek them out, and pay them for their books/services. But Black people, in general, do not and should not do the emotional labor of helping you become anti-racist. Also for your non-POC readers, please NEVER try to “whitesplain” race, discrimination, prejudice to a POC. It will not end well and you will just showcase your ignorance and inability to actively listen and actually be an ally. 

VERY IMPORTANT:

Support Black businesses, Black Art, Black Creatives, Black chefs, Black scientists, Black writers,  Black podcasts, etc! Black American culture has given the world SO MUCH! Usually for free or severely discounted/ripped off. Pay the people that are the generators of so much culture–global culture.  Don’t just follow them on Instagram and stream their content, but pay them. Put your money where your mouth is. 

I think it’s important to not look at recent events and think “oh that’s an American problem, that only happens in the US”. Racism and police brutality is a universal problem. There are Black people that have been brutalized in Belgium, just because there were no marches does not mean that it didn’t/doesn’t happen. Ask yourself these questions (source: instagram.com/iamtabithabrown): 

Ask yourself how many Black businesses you support? Do you know of any? 
Call out your colleagues when they say something racist. 
Call out your friends when they say something racist. 
Call out your family when they say something racist. 
If you haven’t spoken out at all this week/last week or whenever there have been incidents of racism and police brutality, ask yourself why?
If you feel uncomfortable using your platform/position to speak out for Justice, ask yourself why?
If you feel comfortable posting about the women’s march and climate march but not about just for Black lives, ask yourself why?

Look around your office and count the number of Black colleagues you see. Don’t substitute women for visible minorities, by saying “we embrace diversity, most of our employees are women”. It’s not the same thing. These are two very real fights, but you don’t get to substitute one for the other. Take a moment and reflect on your childhood/school days and think about all the times that racism was apparent, jokes about, and a part of everyday life. Sit with that.

What is the advice you would give younger Black women based on your experiences?

The advice I would give younger Black women about living abroad is if you have the opportunity, do it! If you don’t have the opportunity, make one. It is so important to go out and see the world for yourself and make your own conclusions.

It’s also vital to see other ways of living so that as you build your career and life, you are truly cultivating an experience you want, not just settling for whatever is the norm in your country.

Definitely work on your language skills and have a solid portfolio of marketable skills with enough emotional intelligence to be able to adapt to different cultural norms.

Would you say Europe – and Spain – have a long way to go in terms of equality and treatment of minorities?

Definitely, I feel that Europeans have a very convenient disconnection to the residue of their ancestors’ colonization of the world. I find the Spanish specifically to be woefully ignorant of the effects of their colonial empire and you can see it in how some Spanish people treat Latin Americans in almost a mocking way because they come to Spain with their “funny accents” and clutching a rosary (that the Spanish gave them in their forced religious conversions centuries ago) hoping for a better life. However, I think that is pretty universal in Europe–convenient amnesia of their plundering of the world and the generational effects that has caused.

I think Spain does have a long way to go in its treatment of minorities, you could be 2nd or 3rd generation “Chinese-Spanish” and the Spanish would not think of you as one of them. It’s something that is actually discussed in the 1st episode of my podcast with Niana, where she discusses being an English teacher and having only 1 black student in her class. And how that student would cry to her about how her classmates would treat her.

I also believe that “passport privilege” is a big thing here in Spain.

Passport privilege” – how does that manifest itself there?

I’ve had some experiences where some Spanish people might make an assumption when they first see me, like “oh what does this Black girl want”, but as soon as open my mouth they know I’m a foreigner (I’m working on my Spanish lol) they immediately become intrigued, and when they find out I’m American ($$$), they’re entire attitude changes and becomes demonstrably more welcoming and warm. And to be honest, I’m not super comfortable with that “privilege”. I’m more like “keep that same energy”, if you didn’t “like” me because I’m Black, don’t be nice now that you know I’m a Black American. There are a lot of African immigrants in Spain, who have lived here way longer than I have and speak perfect Spanish. There is no reason why they should not be respected in this country and there is no reason why I, as an American, should be given more respect as if I’m a cool novelty item. 

What do you want people to know about the Black Expat community abroad? 

When you talk about how terrible it is that people are treated differently based on skin color, recognize that this acknowledgment means that people can be policed differently based on the color of their skin. 

I want people to know that the Black ex-pat community is not a monolith.

The Black ex-pat community is made up of people from everywhere, living anywhere for a variety of reasons. There is not a “typical Black ex-pat”. Also, Black people moving and living abroad is not a new phenomenon, it’s just getting more coverage and people are taking notice. *Advice: If you ask a Black person where they are from and they tell you, DO NOT say, “no, where are you really from?” We are not trying to trick you, we simply answered your question in a way that you were not expecting.

Who are some of your favorite Black Instagram content creators right now?

Here are some of my favorite Travel/Expat influencers:

@brownbelleabroad

@chronicles_abroad

@theblackexpat

@pickygirlstravels

@thejackieolife

@bwtpod

@lasmorenasdeespanamade 

Check out and support Christine’s podcast via the links below:


Facebook page

Instagram

Spotify

Patreon

Do you have an expat story worth sharing or know someone who should be featured? Please reach out to me for more information.

FOR MORE #WANDERWOMEN STORIES, HEAD HERE.

#WanderWomen: Finding the Missing Piece in America

What does it take for someone to leave everything behind? To move to a new destination with a thousand unknowns, dive headfirst into starting over with a new culture, language, people, cuisine, novelty abound. It might look glamorous from the outside, but longterm life abroad isn’t without hardship or awkward adjustments; it’s also full of beautiful and surprising twists and turns.

This #WanderWomen series highlights diverse women around the globe every Wednesday who took a leap of faith to leave comfort and familiarity behind and embrace expat life. In some cases, it was to find themselves, love, work, or something else entirely. I hope these stories ignite the inner adventurer in you, to remember that no matter where you start over, there’s a new home waiting for you if you’re up for it!



Meet Elke, A Belgian Living Out Her American Dream in Colorado

This week’s #WanderWomen is one of my absolute best friends in the world! When I met Elke, I was working and living in Belgium and I realized quickly that we were kindred spirits. We both felt disconnected from our home countries and we both had a deep love of travel and exploring. Elke’s love for the USA was always obvious and she beamed anytime we would talk about life there. I knew it was only a matter of time before her dream was actualized. Sure enough, she took the leap to move to Colorado this past February, and since then, she has found the piece of herself she always felt was missing in Belgium. We talk about the disconnect with her home country, the openness of Americans, life under Covid lockdown, dating and more!

As long as I’ve known you, you’ve always had the ‘expat urge’! Do you remember when it started for you?

A couple of months ago, I was having crepes with my mom at the Christmas market in Ghent. Just by saying the words, “Mom, there’s something I have to tell you,” she reacted with, “Where?”

She just knew it was time.

When I told my dad about my move, he said that as a kid I mentioned moving to Australia when I was older. I always had that urge to travel, so it’s definitely not something new I developed recently. What caused that urge? There’s no straightforward answer to that.

You’ve mentioned feeling a disconnect from Belgium in the past. Can you put your finger on why that is?

In general, Belgian lifestyle is just not made for me. It’s felt like a bad Tinder date since the beginning but I somehow felt stuck with my match for years and years. The Belgian culture is fairly introverted, local, and simple. Most Belgians won’t take risks, and that’s in multiple layers of our lives: on the job, in relationships, sports…Openly giving a compliment about someone’s clothing? If you do that in Belgium, they give you a weird look. Chatting with the person filling your shopping cart at Colruyt? Why would they if their mobile phone is just as interesting?

It’s probably just the general Belgian culture and mentality I don’t feel a connection with.

And of course, in any country, there’s something you don’t align with, but the trial period in Belgium was over for me. There was always something missing.

I needed to discover if that piece was really to be found abroad, where I always thought it was. Spoiler alert: since I arrived in Denver, I found that piece, and I can finally say I found my identity. Being surrounded by such open-minded, extroverted, outdoorsy people, being able to use my language skills every day and the change of scenery…It just feels right

So far it’s been 3 months of you living out your dream in the US. How are you doing?

I currently live in Denver, Colorado.

I moved here from Belgium mid-February and I’ve absolutely been loving it so far. I’ve been coming to the States once every year for the past 5 years so the country felt very familiar. I absolutely love the culture, American accent, lifestyle, nature, etc. and as I studied languages for 8 years, I always said I wanted to go abroad to practice those languages. One of the favorite things about this new setting is – without a doubt – the friendliness and openness of the people. At the grocery store cash register, Starbucks, or on the bus, Americans really take the time to say hi and exchange some words with you. Also, the stunning city or mountain views that take you by surprise at the most random moments. This country’s incredible nature can definitely be added to my list of favorites. Even in the most urban settings, you’ll still find the most gorgeous parks, trails, and lakes, and they’re often just right around the corner. 

One of the challenges for me was the grocery store, no matter how silly it might sound.

The new products, other names for products you know so well, the expensive cheeses, etc. I’m a big cheese and wine enthusiast, so paying 10 dollars for cheese and having to drop by a liquor store for some wine, it makes you re-evaluate your habits. But maybe that’s not a bad thing at all. Hehe. Apart from that, the hardest part is, of course, the stay at home order right now. But it’s actually quite an interesting and extraordinary experience when you think about it that way. Go outside and explore your surroundings even if it looks like a ghost town now.

Who can say they’ve wandered the empty streets of Downtown Denver? Try to see the beauty of it.

A general tip that I can give to others considering moving abroad is to enjoy the abundance of firsts you get to experience. And with that, I mean absolutely enjoy every single minute of it. Say yes to every opportunity. The last one is a tip I got from another expat and yes, she was absolutely right. 

Before moving you had to choose between Colorado and New York. Are you happy with your choice?

100% yes!

Denver is small enough for me, the people are incredibly kind and most of the people I meet here (I would say 90% of the people) also moved here from elsewhere. Denver locals are pretty rare so I have the feeling that the friendships you create are just more intense because they become family in a certain way. And so are you to them. Not many people have true roots here, so you basically only have each other. I absolutely love that about this city. In other cities or areas like California & NY, I think you get placed in the box of ‘(just) another expat’ more easily.

And people don’t like to invest in friendships that are only temporary, that’s why expats usually search each other’s company. 

Have people been welcoming as you try and make friends? What do they say when you tell them you’re from Belgium?

It often takes them a while to notice I have a different accent, and then when I tell them where I’m from, they usually don’t really know where Belgium is situated on the map. Or Brussels is in Germany. Or in Bulgaria. Or in Croatia. It always makes me realize how tiny my country is, but they’re always very interested to know more about my origins. What language do you speak? Do you like Belgian beer? How far is Paris for you? 

Something I also notice is how easy they go on you when they know you’re not from around. They explain everything, and you can take that literally. From what are the best products at the grocery store, to these are the rules for playing flip cup (maybe don’t be the last in line, you don’t want to be the anchor point for your first time).

The people I know here are so patient and kind; we could genuinely all learn something from this. 

What habits & routines do you have right now that you never had in Belgium?

One of my best friends lives in Dallas (Hi Jordan!) and she gave me the advice to always say ‘yes’ to anything. Every time someone asked me to do something, go to a happy hour, go to bingo night at Larimer Lounge, go for a hike, go brewery hopping, you name it, I had to say ‘yes’. Of course, we’re talking ‘BC’ here. And I did. Even when I more felt like hanging on my couch and watch Netflix, I just went for it. Geez, looking back at this habit now, I’m so thankful for that advice. And this is an awesome habit I’ll definitely keep up with when everything opens back up again.

It’s the best way to meet new people and places, and those moments usually end with the craziest and most memorable stories.

Sooo. Let’s talk dating. What’s it like in the US for a single Belgian lady?

When it comes to dating in another country, there are definitely quite some obstacles. The language barrier is of course the biggest hurdle. Even though my level of English is fairly good, I still can’t express myself the way I otherwise would in Dutch. I’m a huge language nerd so making mistakes is something which I think is rather unattractive; sometimes I’d rather not say anything at all than making mistakes. Oh, and then there is the European accent of course.

Even though I hate having an accent, it sure makes an opening conversation a lot easier and more interesting.

Some differences I notice, is that compared to Belgians, guys here are really impressed (or worried?) about the fact that I have 2 master’s degrees, I speak about 7 languages, I don’t know how to snowboard and that I never had mimosas until recently. But hey, we’re taking baby steps here. 

You moved to Denver and then Covid hit. Has any ‘good’ come from these lockdown months for you? 

Of course, all of this is an incredibly awful time, but I try to find the beauty in it. I truly treasure how it forces you to move and experience things at a different pace. I was going at such a high speed that first month, that I hadn’t even been to a park that’s just one block away from my house. I have more eye for my surroundings and neighborhood now. Walking to the park every night around 7 pm with a margarita, do some people watching (my favorite hobby), and join the 8 pm howling to cheer for the frontline workers, those moments are precious to me. Now that I discovered how such simple things can bring me joy, I will definitely know what to fall back on if I board the discovery train again (yes, feel free to call it a bar-hopping train).

What’s your advice for someone wanting to work in the US but thinks it’s too difficult to get a foot in the door?

I would say don’t be afraid to reach out and contact companies even if there’s no obvious job opening! I did lots of research on LinkedIn, but in the end, Belcham (Belgian Chamber of Commerce) reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in doing a traineeship. I got 2 job offers, and from there I just followed my gut feeling.

I’m looking forward to growing in my current position at my company, NGDATA. I’m here on a J-1 visa, so as a trainee/intern. It’s cool to notice how every week I love the job more and more, as I really start to understand very well what we’re doing, where we’re going and what my role can be in all of that. I have a good connection with my team, even though they’re all in Belgium, so the timezone difference can definitely be a pain sometimes. Literally. Waking up at 5.30 to be at the office for your 7 am meeting, not always easy when it follows after a bingo night. Haha. 

Now that your work visa has been extended (woo!), what does the rest of your American year look like? 

I’ll be exploring Denver every day of course, and hopefully I can have that full experience then. With the sports season going back to normal and concerts being allowed again. Also, there are some trips I’m really looking forward to such as a road trip to Mt Rushmore & Yellowstone with my roomies, and visiting some friends in Dallas (Hi Jordan!), Los Angeles (Hi Bianka), San Francisco (Hi PJ!) and Phoenix (Hi Chris!). Next to that, the outdoorsy levels here are mile-high (Denver is the Mile High City, get it?) so it’s quite difficult not to get influenced by that. That’s why I’m hoping to discover some new passions, as I am already really digging the weekend-y hikes in the mountains. Maybe some biking, rock climbing, or snowboarding?

I’m excited to see what the future holds for me. 


Do you have an expat story worth sharing or know someone who should be featured? Please reach out to me for more information.

FOR MORE #WANDERWOMEN STORIES, HEAD HERE.

#WanderWomen: 8 Years of Expat Life in the French Riviera

What does it take for someone to leave everything behind? To move to a new destination with a thousand unknowns, dive headfirst into starting over with a new culture, language, people, cuisine, novelty abound. It might look glamorous from the outside, but longterm life abroad isn’t without hardship or awkward adjustments; it’s also full of beautiful and surprising twists and turns.


This #WanderWomen series highlights diverse women every Wednesday around the globe who took a leap of faith to leave comfort and familiarity behind and embrace expat life. In some cases, it was to find themselves, love, work, or something else entirely. I’ll share candid stories to inspire the inner adventurer in you, to remember that no matter where you start over, there’s a new home waiting for you if you’re up for it.



Meet Sonia Dunstan, An English Expat and Chef who Lives in Nice, France

In her 30’s, Sonia had hit a slump in her life. She decided to take matters into her own hands – literally – as she trained to become a professional chef. After training, she loaded up her car with less than £1,000 in her wallet and drove to France never having been before. The beginning of her new life in a new country freed her in new ways and helped her rediscover a love for her home country in a surprising way. She’s still in what she calls ‘the most beautiful city in France’ but isn’t sure the slow lifestyle is for her anymore. She adores her French home but even a place as parfaite as Nice can present some challenges. Read on!

You lived in the USA for a short time. How did you end up in France if you loved Florida so much?

When my parents decided to move to Florida I didn’t have to be asked twice when, three years later, they asked if I’d like to move over too. And I LOVED Florida! Those palm trees, the rugged outdoor lifestyle, friendly people, gorgeous beaches and the shopping – well just everything! It also turned out that I’m actually a huge closet redneck! I still always choose barbecuing over cooking, love off roading, prefer a pickup over a car, and of course, shooting tin cans.

In my early thirties I’d sit staring from my rainy office window in the UK thinking “there has to be more to life than this!

Unfortunately I was unable to get a long term visa so sadly, three years later, I unwilling went home. I immediately started training as a chef as I knew I could work almost anywhere with this skill; so at the age of 35 (and after cutting every onion in my poor Grandmother’s fridge while watching Ramsay on YouTube) I started as a trainee chef.

What did your exciting start in France look like?

I packed up my car and headed to France with just £700 in my pocket. I’d never been to France before, didn’t speak the language and used a website exchanging labour for lodgings, I got lost – a lot! Cried – quiet a bit, and always ate in McDonalds as I couldn’t read or order from menus in local restaurants! But without doubt I had the best year of my life! I stayed with multiple families on vineyards, cheese farms, hostels, yoga retreats and private homes; working 4-5 hours a day then joining in with their daily activities, it was as freeing as being a child again.

I slowly made my way down south to Nice where I found myself a job in a fine dining restaurant and a few months later took on a gorgeous apartment – bang on the Promenade Des Anglais overlooking the sea… I can’t deny I didn’t feel proud of myself, my unusual and sometimes tearful journey in a strange country with just £700, turned out better than even I could have expected.

Sonia’s apartment view on Promenade des Anglais.

France is such a delectable country. What are the things you savor most being in Nice?

These past eight years have been an incredible adventure! I obviously adore the weather here, which goes without saying! But weather & beautiful scenery aside, it’s the lifestyle & culture of France I enjoy the most, it reminds me of England when I was a child. The respectful way strangers address one another, the low level hum of voices barely ever raised in public, neighbours courteously abiding of quiet times through lunch and over the weekend. 

There is a tranquillity and respect here I noticed has sadly faded from the UK since my childhood days. If I had to pick my favourite thing about France, without doubt I would say dining! Not in restaurants, but as a guest. To sit among family and friends at a large family gathering is such a treat; there is always a happy energy and excitement of all involved, even the teenagers! Issued with just one plate for the many courses to come (usually five), the younger men of the family take pride in standing up and serving each person. Beginning with the eldest lady at the table, they attentively spoon the food onto the plate waiting for the nod of “that’s enough thank you”. It’s the traditions, respect, and attitudes like this that I adore the most about French culture. 

But these past three years have become a double edged sword for me.

This slow lifestyle and polite nature I’ve come to adore definitely lacks the buzz of English style social actives; and sometimes I just feel the need to break out into that good old English humour and banter, which to be quite frank would just be a little rude here. I miss shops being open all day and on Sundays, I miss taking my pick from a variety of endless and different activity clubs available, I miss wandering around the low priced stores offering everything you can want for your home and more, and I miss teasing someone with on the edge banter and getting back as good as I give. For this reason I’m thinking of going back home, just for a while, because sometimes I just feel too young for France. 

Can you explain what you mean by ‘too young for France?’

Maybe, if I was married with children I would feel differently, but as a single and very active woman, I feel there are huge voids in my lifestyle that I just, at present, can’t live without. I overlooked this for so many years when I arrived as the beautiful positives of this country overwhelmed me, as time has gone by those certain missing home comforts have crept back into my thoughts and I can no longer ignore them. But all that said, I know for sure I’ll be back! This tranquil lifestyle and beautiful country will be without doubt just the ticket for 65+ me.

You mentioned English humor & banter. How would you explain it to someone who isn’t familiar?

The best way I can explain it is as a sign of affection. True banter is never about being offensive. It’s about noticing the little things a person does, a quirk, or an everyday thing they can’t do well (I can’t do basic math, or throw a football to save my life), then making an over the top playful remark about it. The more subtle the behavior the better, and the more dramatic the remark the funnier. Banter shows someone has taken the time to notice or discover something about you, that person’s really showing they “see you”! and, that they want to have fun with you. The idea is that you return it, it’s like a private joke between you… a fun and playful connection of people getting to know one another under the “self” you present to the world. 

After living in France, I saw how much pride people take in their language and how helpful it is to speak it to assimilate. How did your personal language journey unfold?

I was actually shocked when I arrived in the North of France, for some naive reason I believed they’d speak English there! This really makes me laugh now, as it’s not as if everyone on the South edge of England speaks French!

When I arrived I frequently felt frustrated, stupid, embarrassed, and isolated, depending on the situation. I tried reading, television, and various apps to learn French, but these really didn’t work for me. Unfortunately for the first three years I worked in a completely English speaking environment, so I never learned more than “supermarket French”. I genuinely felt embarrassed about not being able to speak, I would often lie about how long I’d been in France to prevent being judged; and I felt quite stupid with regards to my ability to learn. Fortunately, my second employment required spending one afternoon a week with a workman who only spoke French, within 3 months I could speak comfortably. This just goes to show how easy it is to pick up when you’re fully immersed into a language. After seven years I’d say I’ve become as fluent as a 5 year old!

I can understand and be understood, and I can speak without the need to rehearse in my head. Sadly not being in an environment where I’m living or working with the language (and being on the Riviera where English has frequently spoken) I’ve not advanced. Regardless of whether I stay in France or not I’ll always continue learning French. I intend at some point to spend a month volunteering in a French only environment, for me it’s the quickest way to learn, far easier than apps and classes.

How did you tap into a community or network of friends in Nice? Is it easy to do there?

Of all the places I’ve lived in France, Nice was the most beautiful but the hardest place to make meaningful connections.

I never developed a social life there outside of work colleges. Funnily enough my hairdresser, who was born there and spent 7 years in London, said she believes it’s the most difficult city to make friends in…which was a relief to hear, I thought perhaps I was becoming unpopular in my middle age! I think it’s probably just because it’s a large city, the smaller towns I’ve lived have been far more friendly.

What advice would you give your younger self before moving to France all those years ago?

I believed I was moving to a beautiful new country, to sunny days, and to be absorbed into a new culture. It’s only in hindsight I’ve realised the truth, that I just like a challenge! I like to take the most difficult path, to test myself, and see what I can achieve. It’s taken me five years to realise the true reasons I came here!… and while I undoubtedly adore France, I can’t honestly say I’d choose this lifestyle over my home country’s. It’s been a blessing in disguise, while believing I was leaving to embrace a whole new country and lifestyle, I in fact fell in love with my own country. 

So, I’d probably tell myself… prepare yourself for an emotional journey far bigger than the physical one that you’re embarking on. 

Do you have an expat story worth sharing or know someone who should be featured? Please reach out to me for more information.

FOR MORE #WANDERWOMEN STORIES, HEAD HERE.

#WanderWomen: An American Living the Parisian Dream

What does it take for someone to leave everything behind? To move to a new destination with a thousand unknowns, dive headfirst into starting over with a new culture, language, people, cuisine, novelty abound. It might look glamorous at times, but longterm life abroad isn’t without hardship or awkward adjustments; it’s also full of beautiful and surprising twists and turns.

This #WanderWomen series highlights diverse women every Wednesday around the globe who took a leap of faith to leave comfort and familiarity behind and embrace expat life. In some cases, it was to find love, work, to follow someone themselves or someone else entirely. I’ll share candid stories to inspire the inner adventurer in you, to remember that no matter where you start over, there’s a new home waiting for you if you’re up for it.



Meet Tamara Wilson, An American Who Now Lives in Paris, France

Nine years ago, I met Tamara in the City of Light. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long! At that time, we were both fresh out of college trying to live out so many American’s dream of making it in Paris. Those were amazing days of meeting new people, exploring the city, and carving out a space for ourselves in one of the most beautiful places in the world. After two and half years, many of our friends (including myself) said goodbye to the city,
As you can guess, Tamara stayed! Today, she’s almost a decade into thriving in her Parisian life where she works as a freelancer and is married to her French beau. She opens up about her journey to France, the allure of Paris, her ties to the US, and the thing that still gives her butterflies about living in a city as romanticized as Paris.

Let’s start with an obvious question: Why Paris?

My love affair with Paris began in college after I had the opportunity to backpack around Europe during the Christmas holiday in 2007. It was my first “long-distance” trip away from home, and I was very excited to experience a new culture. Paris was the first stop on my journey, and I immediately fell in love. Everything from the architecture to the culture, food, and language made me want to live here. I was completely sold. Once I finished college in 2011, I decided to apply for a one-year visa and make Paris home for awhile. The journey getting here wasn’t easy though – I didn’t speak a lick of French, there was a ton of paperwork and endless appointments at the French embassy, but in the end, my determination to live out my dreams conquered all. Once I arrived, I gave myself a year to immerse myself in the culture and live like a true Parisian. Of course, that wasn’t long enough, and one thing led to another, so year after year I decided to stay longer.

It’s been a little over nine years now, and I’m grateful to be still living in the city of my dreams. 

What are the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ parts of being in a city like Paris?

I’ll start with the worst part. For me, it is being far from my American friends and family. The distance has never been easy, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more difficult at times. Year after year, you miss out on special holidays and birthdays with loved ones, and at times it can start to wear on you. Luckily, though, I can travel back to the states at least once a year or my family comes and visits. That makes it easier. Of course, weekly FaceTime and Zoom calls help also. 

Now the best part. Not to sound too cliché, but the part about living in Paris is definitely the food, wine, and gastronomy culture. I never considered myself a foodie before moving here, but my love for those things has evolved in ways I never imagined over the years. Paris makes it so easy for you to fall in love with food.

Honestly, it’s a place where foodies and wine connoisseurs never get bored. 

Why do you think Americans romanticize about living in France, and specifically Paris?

Life in Paris is so much different from the typical American lifestyle, and I think that there are two reasons why Americans romanticize about living here. First, the gastronomy heritage and second the architecture is like no other. When you think of Paris, some of the first things that come to mind are baguettes, wine, the Eiffel Tower, and beautiful old architecture. It is like a real-life fairytale that you only see in the movies. 

What aspects of Parisian life still make you feel the butterflies like you just moved here?

Every year, in the spring and summertime, Paris makes me feel as if I just moved here. Outdoor terraces are already a big deal in Paris, but when the weather gets nice and starts to warm up, nothing can beat being outside on a terrace or having a picnic next to the Seine. One of the first things I did when I moved here was a picnic with a bottle of wine, baguette, and cheese on the bank of the Seine overlooking Notre Dame. Picnic life in Paris during the warmer months never gets old. Anytime I do this now, it takes me back to my early experiences here, and it’s a feeling that is truly unforgettable. 

What’s your favorite neighborhood/arrondissement to go out in Paris and why?

This is tough to narrow down to one neighborhood, so I would say the 2nd and 3rd arrondissements. Both of these neighborhoods have really evolved since I moved to Paris 9 years ago and have become like a one-stop-shop for a whole days worth of fun in Paris. You can literally start off with brunch in the 2nd, go vintage shopping in the 3rd, head back to the 2nd for an apéro and dinner in the evening, and then dance the night away in the 3rd. There are so many cool and upcoming places to check out in these neighborhoods that you literally never get bored.

We both know that Parisians have a reputation for being a bit…well, arrogant. Do you think they are?

I have thought about this idea many times over the years, and I don’t necessarily think that Parisians are arrogant, but I think they are just very proud of their heritage and culture. I would say they are generally a bit more distant or reserve at first than most Americans. They also tend to be more critical or direct in the way they express their opinions. 

Do you miss the US and think of going back ever?

I don’t miss the US in general, but I miss being close to family and friends. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more apparent to me that staying close to loved ones is important. I have thought about moving back on several occasions, but at the same time, I think about how I’ve built an enjoyable life here, and it’s not so easy to just walk away from that. There are quite a few important things that I would have to consider even before going back, such as which city I would even move to, healthcare options, job opportunities, etc. Of course, a move back home is doable, but weighing the pros and cons can be challenging at times. With the world being so uncertain now, this is not to say I’ll never move back, I just want to make sure that I am well prepared. 

When you visit the US, what sticks out to you as ultra-American if, anything?

I would have to say overly chatty servers in restaurants and constant water refills with copious amounts of ice. These are not necessarily bad things and I was used to this growing up but whenever I visit the states now I can’t help but laugh a little bit. 

You are married to a Frenchman, what surprised you most about love in intercultural dating and marriage?

Yes, I’ve been married to a Frenchman for 6 years now. There are a lot of cultural differences, but I think the one thing that has surprised me the most that we share a lot of the same practices and values. One example, we both value spending time and bonding as a family over food. As a couple, we make sure to sit down at the table every day and share a meal and have meaningful conversations. The same goes for the holidays. If I’m with my in-laws, we do the same, or if we are in the states with my family, we also do the same thing. 

Do you have any advice for anyone starting off in a relationship with a French person?

My advice would be to keep an open mind and be willing to understand that your cultures are going to be different or similar in some ways. 

It’s also important to not put down those differences but embrace them in a way that works for both of you. 

Do you have an expat story worth sharing or know someone who should be featured? Please reach out to me for more information.

FOR MORE #WANDERWOMEN STORIES, HEAD HERE.

Insta-Travel Perfection Isn’t What the Travel Industry Needs. Authenticity and Storytelling Are.

As a travel writer and photographer, last year was heaven for me. I embarked on twelve hotel press trips in seven countries around Europe and Asia. As fantastic as it was, numerous trips to-and-from brand collaborations opened my eyes up to the state of mass travel. This time last year, I was booking trips on a whim. Now, leaving my house for groceries is an exciting outing. The beginning of 2020 has forced me – and other travel content creators – to stop and take stock of what we recently took for granted.


If I’m honest, before the Covid lockdown I was already irked by the state of social media and mass travel in particular. Now, I have to be clear: I am a major lover of both travel and social media, but it’s the superficiality of content creation amongst influencers that annoyed me most.

With the global pause we’ve been on lately I’ve been thinking: I want to get back to exploring the world’s most beautiful, interesting, and beloved places in a more mindful and authentic way.

Before Covid-19, I would scroll through my Instagram feed, feeling queasy at how staged and superficial travel ‘photography’ had become. Perfect outfit, perfect hair. Millennials used the same preset filters to jazz up their snaps and everyone was posing in the same places. Blog posts would list the most Instagrammable photo-ops and travelers pounced. Not only were the photos shot in the same place, the aesthetic was identical, too.

What had happened?

What I saw online was the rat race of ‘fast travel’, influencers caring more about portraying the perfect trip rather than appreciating an opportunity to take in a unique place and fascinating people. A chance to tell stories, creatively. I kept asking myself, how had travel — an adventurous and often unpredictable experience — become about Insta-perfection and likes? Travel as it was portrayed online had turned into a neatly wrapped and well-polished commodity. Red bow and all.

If you look, you’ll find ubiquitously staged content on Instagram. It makes special destinations feel much less, well, special. What I saw last year put me off ‘Insta Travel Culture’ altogether. Experiences shouldn’t feel like a virtual checklist, yet observing people around me in places like Paris, Porto, and Bali made it clear many are running the same digital race minus the travel magic. It was cringeworthy to see people line up at famous spots and viewpoints, not taking it in, but grabbing their photo and leaving without looking around with genuine interest. I saw it over and over again, and it stuck out most especially when I traveled alone. In a nutshell, I guess I’m tired of the vapid-fast-travel that I saw.

I’ll admit I felt the pressure to conform to a degree. After all, engagement is the name of the game and micro-influencers like me are eager to grow and get noticed to work with bigger brands. When I started, I was new to the travel space and was trying my hardest to keep up. Then I realized that regardless of a large following, I could collaborate with great hotels, even 5* luxury ones. From the beginning, I was lucky to collaborate with top-notch properties and found that real interest in the places and great images prevailed at the end of the day. Hotels could sense authenticity. Most importantly, I felt happiest when I created content about the place and its people in my own style.

Now, it’s not to discount successful travel influencers who have hoards of followers and offer useful advice and travel insights. They’ve carved out a space for themselves and it’s well-deserved. But even some of the better known travel influencers are starting to reassess the future of travel. Aggie Lal, author of the book InstaTravel just posted a live video about her frustration with the state of social media travel today. Influencers like her are rising to the occasion and have turned to substance, getting open and real with their followers about health, love, wellness, and other deep topics, not from a Fiji-like paradise, but straight from their living rooms.

I believe wholeheartedly that’s what resonates and will resonate with people once they get the courage to start moving around and traveling again.

Stories and authenticity are key to encouraging people to get traveling again. It’s the key to promoting cities, hotels, restaurants, and small businesses that have been hit hardest. These places and people deserve storytelling and a respectful curiosity for their mission and their ‘why’. They’ve been the hardest hit during the pandemic, and we as content creators should do what we can to give back to these establishments that keep countries’ economies thriving When the time comes, let’s highlight and celebrate the people and places that make a city worth traveling to; let’s embrace the imperfection of travel and of ourselves while we’re at it.

Travel will never be the same and that’s a fact. I believe content creators should take this chance to re-examine the content they actually desire to make and this means shedding the veneer of sterile preset content for one. It means being more present in the places we’ll be lucky enough to visit. Let’s get back to the original adventure and spirit of travel — that’s what global tourism needs most.

Without a doubt, demand will bounce back and eventually travel will thrive again. The hotel owners and managers I worked with last year told me they’re eagerly waiting for their clientele to return and enjoy themselves; they’re especially eager for new people to discover them. Once they ramp up their marketing efforts to attract guests, that’s where influencers can make a difference for the better. As businesses look to collaborations to reassure the public they’re open for business and safe to visit, it’s up to us influencers — both big and small — to look for a refreshing narrative, a new angle. Not the same tired one that is easy to imitate and overlooks unseen gems.

That angle is the place and its people. This, I believe, is the answer to more enjoyable and fulfilling travel experiences for everyone in the future.

#WanderWomen: A Love & Divorce Coach Has Advice for Expat Couples

What does it take for someone to leave everything behind? To move to a new destination with a thousand unknowns, dive headfirst into starting over with a new culture, language, people, cuisine, novelty abound. It might look glamorous at times, but longterm life abroad isn’t without hardship or awkward adjustments; it’s also full of beautiful and surprising twists and turns.

This #WanderWomen series highlights diverse women every Wednesday around the globe who took a leap of faith to leave comfort and familiarity behind and embrace expat life. In some cases, it was to find love, work, to follow someone themselves or someone else entirely. I’ll share candid stories to inspire the inner adventurer in you, to remember that no matter where you start over, there’s a new home waiting for you if you’re up for it.



Meet Katrin Dürkoop, a Love and Divorce Coach Based in Brussels

Katrin grew up Sweden before moving to Germany with her parents. In her 20’s, she had an inkling she didn’t quite belong there and yearned to tap into her more adventurous and nomadic side. She eventually moved to Brussels, Belgium – a place she admits isn’t on most people’s tourist radars, but has been a great place to live and work. Belgium has allowed her to thrive for the past 16 years and as a Love & Divorce coach, she works with expat couples. Read on for tips to manage conflict in your expat relationship and more.

I used to live in Belgium for three years! What has your experience been like so far?

Once I decided to ‘quit’ my life in Germany, I made a fresh start in Brussels, Belgium. 

The best parts of Belgium: Cultural diversity, great restaurants, access to the sea-side, it’s acceptable to come 15 minutes late to a meeting in case of need, availability of rental eg apartments, the international community, a diverse range of activities to choose from eg cinema festivals, music festivals.

The most difficult: Inefficiency of public transport system, too much car traffic and thus pollution, food is expensive in supermarkets, daily life is more expensive than elsewhere,  if you have a problem, eg in your apartment or legal or administration, it takes a long time to get it fixed. There’s a lot of complexity – lack of clarity on certain procedures of daily life eg taxes, being an entrepreneur, rental law, etc, lack of a coherent and sustainable public transport and traffic management policy for example, hardly any bicycle infrastructure. 

My favourite thing to do in Brussels is going for a walk in Parc de Tervuren and then for a tea in Felix cafe in Tervuren centrum.

Katrin who used to live in Germany now calls Belgium home.

Germany isn’t far from Belgium, yet culture and way of life are very different. Can you tell us why you left?

I have been living in Brussels/Belgium for 16 years now. It has not always been that way. 

My parents were expats and I spent my childhood and youth abroad.  At the age of 20, I came to Germany to study Hotel and Tourism management. I felt a bit like an expat in my home country,  After graduating from university, I had a hard time finding a job. Potential employers seemed to see me or my CV as too exotic. Even though I had a representable and interesting curriculum to show for. I’ve always had an optimistic outlook on life yet this is when I started to doubt myself.  

Why did nobody want to even invite me for an interview and at least get to know me? In the UK you could work in a bank even though you studied geography – why was this not possible in Germany? I realized that I had a very different mindset which did not seem to match the reality of the environment and culture I was living in.  

Part of me felt squeezed into a way of life and being that did not resonate with my soul. Everything seemed so predictable, the adherence to rules,  the seemingly strict way of thinking inside the box. Life seemed rigid in some way. I was a nomad, adventurous, I needed to feel life-energy, be in touch with my instincts.  

Maybe life in Germany was not meant for me?

One day I decided to take the Thalys train from Cologne to Brussels. Belgium. Had never been. The blind spot on the map of Europe. I spent a day walking around Brussels and started to discover…this old town, the sandwich bars, the bohemian vibe, a bit of dirt on the streets, seeing Moroccans, Arabs, Africans being part of the cultural fabric, the incoherence of architecture. 

Since you’re a Love & Divorce coach, I’m curious on your thoughts regarding ‘Trailing Spouses’ and the relationship dynamic that creates?

If you’re a trailing spouse, you already gave A LOT: your professional identity (even if only temporarily), your energy (for moving, settling the whole family, kids included, re-creating a new life, finding new support networks) and your emotional capital (expat grief, culture shock). To support your stressed partner working long hours, you’ll be tempted to take even more onto your plate.

Beware: don’t give yourself until you’re spent and empty, because you’ll be so angry that it’ll just make things worse. It’s important to pay attention to YOUR needs. What are they? To feel loved, a woman needs to get a lot of little things done for her and PREFERABLY without asking. Her husband, on the other hand, needs a lot of appreciation for what he does. Of course, nobody ever wants to be taken for granted. Fair enough, right? What make things more complicated is that men need to be asked, at least initially. Women struggle to understand this fact: when they love someone, they spontaneously offer their help. This urge is almost irresistible.

Men view things differently. Men assume that if you don’t ask for help, you don’t need it and you’re happy to give more. This misunderstanding has tragic consequences because a man derives lots of fulfillment from giving and from being needed even if he’s not aware of it!

What would you say is the ‘kiss of death’ for expat couples based on the clients you’ve worked with?

One partner having the feeling of sacrificing too much.

Mostly women making way for their husbands career and thus giving away their financial power/ financial independence. And raising the kids as a ‘job.‘

Above you mentioned expat grief when it comes to moving to a new country. What are some ways to overcome that?

It’s about taking the time to grieve what one has left, but still keeping up contact with friends and people in the other country. Feeling all the feelings as they may show up.

Honouring them as path of the cycles of life. In the new country, as a first step, I would advise finding an expat group (eg on FB at first) and then try to get in touch with people there and ask if someone would like to meet up for a coffee. It’s better to meet people bilaterally first vs going to gatherings where everyone seems to know everyone. Maybe your new contact/friend will invite you along somewhere in the future.

Do you have advice for my expat readers in a relationship? Do’s and Dont’s?

Leave your partner some time off without resenting him. Men need some time off, alone, to cope with stress. They engage their mind in all kinds of distracting activities: watching TV, practicing sports….( = male cave time)

There’s another reason why men need to withdraw from time to time: they are uncomfortable when they’re getting too close in an intimate relationship. They’re afraid of losing themselves. This is why they need to take some distance to “touch base” with their own self and be available to engage again.

Being aware of this natural and healthy pattern makes a big difference: you can stop worrying! No need to feel sad, angry or resentful. No need to listen to this inner voice torturing you “What if he doesn’t care? What if I did something wrong? What if I wasn’t good enough? What if he doesn’t love me anymore?”

When things go wrong in a relationship, the most difficult step is to get out of the vicious circle of wound-argument, deeper wound- stronger argument, which automatically leads towards a downward spiral. In the end, finding the strength in yourself to communicate lovingly seems to me the only way up, even though it sounds difficult. You’ve got to get out of this negative and destructive downward spiral. Your future might as well depend on it.

What does life look like for you now?


It took me 6 weeks to find a job at the European Commission. Today I work as a Love & Divorce Coach, supporting expat women to heal their hearts after separation/divorce and eventually to open up to new love again. Here, in the capital of Europe I feel like a fish in fresh water. I continue to meet interesting people from all corners of Europe and the world.


Katrin’s website:

 www.transitiontime.net 

Do you have an expat story worth sharing or know someone who should be featured? Please reach out to gorgeousglobe AT gmail.com for more information.

FOR MORE #WANDERWOMEN STORIES, HEAD HERE.

This Day Last Year: Lebanon in Photos

What a beautiful country with kind people and fascinating history. I shot these photos with my Fujifilm XT-1 27mm & 18-55mm lens on our trip there last May.

CITY EXPLORING IN BEIRUT, LEBANON

BALOU BALAA NATURE RESERVE, NORTHERN LEBANON

THE ANCIENT CITY OF BYBLOS

Social Distancing Diaries, Part II

Eight weeks have passed and hunkering down in the house has proved frustrating, comforting, and monotonous at times. No more restaurants to discover, no more city trips to plan for. Life has been put on pause in many ways and it’s left me to re-evaluate old habits and long-standing goals. Productivity is measured by asking: Did I put on real clothes today? Makeup? Did I resist taking a nap? Did I go on my walk?

I feel a different wave of energy propelling my days forward lately.

The first few weeks were full of scattered energy, a nervous excitement at this strange new normal. My mental energy is more focused these days, but I’ve noticed I’m more prone to irritability and anxiety than in the weeks before. At first, I was eager to do everything I could get my hands on: audit classes online, chip away at the book I’ve always wanted to publish, play piano, exercise and lose that winter weight. Then I slowed down and structured my days to do less of a sprint and more of a lockdown a la marathon.

Spring is in full force here with its bright colors and lush foliage. This gorgeous city is waiting to be discovered but for now the forests are my refuge. The weather lifts my mood and my main objective is to stay positive and connected to the people I love. Oh somewhere in there I’ll try to find a job in this crumbling global economy.

This was the past month.

Saturday, March 28th I’m excited. The raclette machine I ordered online arrived (although it’s smaller than I expected) and Laurens and I had a feast of bacon, cheese, pork, veggies, and potatoes. It was so unhealthy but it was just the comfort food I was craving. God, I love cheese. Is this the start of hibernation feasting?

Sunday, March 29th Following the online shopping kick that I’ve been on, I finally bought a piano keyboard. Within 3 days it arrived in a tall box on our doorstep. Thanks Amazon. It’s a good piano for the price and I’m excited to have a musical outlet and relive my old piano playing days.

Monday, March 30th Laurens stayed home today so we could Skype in for our Swiss cultural training. Irene was a nice lady and covered everything from Swiss politics, intercultural dynamics, non-verbal body language and everything in between. Turns out the Swiss are modest, reserved, and appreciate punctuality and rules.

Tuesday, March 31st If I can’t find a job, I might as well throw my mental energy behind learning new skills! This time at home has me hungry for podcasts, books, and classes. I signed up for a few online Content and marketing courses, but these days I’m most into the Science of Wellbeing online course from Yale on Coursera.

Surprising learning/facts:

*Our mind’s strongest intuitions are usually totally wrong.
*Just because we know something doesn’t mean it will change our behavior.
*Impact Bias: we think things will be better than they actually will be and that the happiness will last longer.
*People who value time over money are better off.

Friday April 3rd So, stress baking is definitely a thing.

I woke up on edge and when my attempts to help my mom apply for temporary employment failed later in the day, I was officially nerve-racked. This is the beginning of massive unemployment for many people in the US and this hits really close to home. Making warm banana bread was just what I needed to get hands-on and distract myself.

Saturday, April 4th Laurens is trying his hand at playing piano and no surprise here…he’s good! He’s started with Für Elise. After breakfast, we went down into the city to an open bike shop. He inquired about mountain bikes to buy and it was impressive to hear him speak German so well, and without English! Four months into his new job I knew he’d be making progress but he surprises me with his gift for languages.

Sunday, April 5th We went on a hike that turned out to be two hours long. We took lunch and found a stump to sit on. These outdoor excursions are a welcome way to fill the time and a great way to stay away from hoards of people. My back hurts but I’m happy we got out!

Monday, April 6th On clear mornings like this you can see the Alps perfectly. I see helicopters hovering over the hospital down in the city. Tiga is bird watching. I’m baking more cookies, but this time with almond flour (my sweet tooth is out of control and almond is healthy, right?!)

It’s a lazy day. Perfect.

Tuesday, April 7th – Spent the entire day thinking it was Wednesday. In other news, we’re rewatching The Office from start to finish. That show makes me laugh like a hyena and it gives me something to look forward to at night. I’ll take these small wins thank you very much.

Saturday, April 11th – Woke up in a funky, grumpy mood. My back pain has been an annoying thorn in my side, literally. I re-aggravated a herniated disk from years ago and now have to nurse it back to normal. Some days I don’t notice it; other days I can barely go on a short walk. Once I got the energy to step outside, it remedied my sour vibe. These walks can literally save the day and I’m reminded of how important getting fresh air can be. I might leave the house in a bad mood but I always come back refreshed and happier.

Easter and the week after – It was the worst week of isolation so far. I felt strange, tired, and with symptoms similar to Covid. I wondered if it could be hay fever? I’ve always had asthma so maybe they’re just reacting to the pollen? I couldn’t ignore that my lungs burned and ached, my neck shoulders were sore for no reason. I didn’t have a fever, but was so tired I took 3 hour naps after sleeping a full night. When I called the telemedicine service, they said it sounds like Covid, but to stay home unless it gets really bad.

The week following Easter I tried get better and take care of my body with vitamins and rest. Who knows what it was but I’m curious to find out once tests are more readily available.

Wednesday, April 22nd I’m excited! Today was the launch of the #WanderWomen series on this blog. After joining a few expat groups on Facebook, I was blown away by the incredible stories I was reading. I asked women to reach out to be part of this project and the response was humbling. Dozens of women from literally every corner had a story to tell. I plan on posting every week to feature them.

Saturday, April 25th – I felt a powerful pang of homesickness today. It’s a weird reality to not be able to jump on a plane and join my family. I see tickets to Texas are cheap (500 euros roundtrip compared to 1,200+) so maybe it’s time to book. Who knows when air travel will go back to normal

Sunday, April 26th – I feel an over-pouring of affection for my hubs these days. Despite what I’ve been hearing about some couples in quarantine, we’re not fighting at all. He has his mountain biking excursions on most days and I’m staying busy, too. When he gets home in the evening I’m happy to see him and relax with a game, a movie, a cocktail. I’m just enjoying the abundance of quality time we have because it definitely wasn’t like this last year.

Monday, April 27th This Monday is a bit different than the rest!

Small stores like hairdressers, garden centers, and nail salons have opened up again. As I walked to get a bag of soil for our new balcony planters, I peered into these shops to see a few people resuming life as ‘normal’. Hairdressers and nail technicians used masks, the clients didn’t. I made eye contact with a woman doing her nails and she smiled as if to say, this is great. It was supposed to rain today, but aha, it’s another glorious day. I’m happy. Turns out I’m not the only one with the idea to buy soil and plants after weeks of not being able to.

Wednesday, April 29th My writer’s block has lifted!

It’s such a relief and gets me excited for the day. Obviously travel articles are off the table for now, and topics I had tried to dive into before but couldn’t are now begging to be written. Normally I can only write out at coffee shops but since that’s not possible anymore it took adjusting. I’ll get ideas while I’m doing the dishes, working out, all the time! Now I’m riding the wave and seizing the chance to get everything down on paper. On the screen at least 😉

Thursday, April 30th A year ago today I was in Ibiza with one of my good girlfriends, Vio. On this day, we were overlooking this stunning Spanish bay and basking in the sun. Wanderlust is starting to sneak its way into my soul again. I miss traveling and the explorations of last year and working with hotels. I miss Paris, too.

Friday, May 1st – At this point, getting a job in Zurich anytime soon seems unlikely. I realize the economic situation is precarious but I’m starting to lose hope. Many companies are looking for Native German and English speakers/writers which makes sense but is disheartening. I’m trying to get creative and think of ways I can rise to this challenge. I’m thinking wider than marketing and copywriting, so let’s see what gives.

7 QUARANTINE LESSONS I’LL TAKE FORWARD INTO THE COMING WEEKS

  • Listen to your body. Some days you’ll ache, some days you’ll feel great. Don’t over think it but just adapt. In my case, it’s been my back that dictates my activity for the day. Stretching and icing is honestly a life saver.
  • Food that is comforting and nourishing is so important right now. Meals are sacred for us – especially on the weekends – and there’s nothing better than sitting down to something that’s delicious and that was cathartic to make.
  • Normally, I’m a messy person around the house, but this lockdown has taught me to take better care of things, to aim for a space that encourages clarity and peace of mind. We’re adding more plants and that’s naturally helping to change the vibe.
  • Comedy is everything! Laughing is more important than ever. Especially these days when I feel heavy hearted or anxious, I love to listen to Conan O’Brien’s podcast. SNL. Standup on Netflix. The Office. Don’t forget to keep it light and laugh.
  • Video calling and WhatsApp are a Godsend. I remember when we lived in Indonesia and the internet wasn’t strong enough to support Skype calls. It was hard to not have them on dial at a moment’s notice. Now it’s different. This situation has pulled me closer to my family and friends and I’m so glad.
  • There’s nothing a 10-15 minute walk can’t fix. If you can get out, definitely do.
  • Structure is necessary for an unstructured person like me. I have loose time blocks in my day for things I want to do: working out, learning German, calling people, writing, etc. Without a semblance of schedule it becomes too chaotic to keep track of.

Stay safe, stay healthy,

#WanderWomen: Thriving in 10 Countries as a Serial Expat & Mom

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of expat-ness. What does it take for someone to leave everything behind? To move to a new destination with a thousand unknowns, dive headfirst into starting over with a new culture, language, people, cuisine, novelty abound. It might look glamorous at times, but longterm life abroad isn’t without hardship or awkward adjustments; it’s also full of beautiful and surprising twists and turns.

This #WanderWomen series highlights diverse women around the globe who took a leap of faith to leave comfort and familiarity behind. In some cases, it was to find love, work, to follow someone themselves or someone else. I’ll share candid stories with you every week to inspire the inner adventurer in you, to remember that no matter where you start over, there’s a new home waiting to be made if you’re willing.



MEET NINA HOBSON, A SELF-IDENTIFIED ‘SERIAL EXPAT’ CURRENTLY LIVING IN CHILE

Nina Hobson is a British lifestyle blogger and freelance journalist. She’s lived a remarkable life on the move and her expat journey spans 10 countries over the last 15 years. That’s an amazing feat considering she’s also a mother to three kids – all born in different countries along the way. Her husband and young children currently live in Santiago, Chile but plan on starting over in Ecuador after the dust settles from this pandemic. She talks about how she’s coping with this global pandemic, motherhood, her (surprising) favorite country so far and the most rewarding.

I read your blog post about expat spouses being able to relate to Covid stress. It may sound weird, but it’s really true.

We expat women have had a practise run at the coronavirus stress. I’m not suggesting that our struggles are on a par with the deadly disease that is Covid-19, but I reckon most expat women feel a weird déjà vu. 

We know first-hand what deep loneliness is like. We were hosting virtual coffee mornings back in 2000, albeit with slower software. Many of us already quit our jobs to live as an accompanying spouse, so we understand what it feels like to dial down our independence to look after the household. 

What events led your family to move to the other side of the world?

My husband was working in Nigeria and loving every minute of life there. However, I was in the UK as I was heavily pregnant and I didn’t feel comfortable giving birth in a brand new country, especially Nigeria where I’d been warned the healthcare system was lacking. My baby was born sick and struggling to cope with our first child alongside, I begged my husband to quit his job so we could be together. Then he found work in Chile and we jumped at the chance. 

What, in your opinion, makes your expat story unique?

When the coronavirus dust settles I’ll be moving to Ecuador. This will be my tenth country move. (I’ve lived in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Syria, India, France, Germany, Angola, Chile as well as a short spell in Lebanon.)

My life abroad has afforded me such incredible experiences. I’ve studied in a conservative madrassa in Syria, volunteered in India, worked in Angola… Sunbathing alongside Kalashnikov clad soldiers, visiting religious sites that have since been destroyed by Isis, learning how to make the perfect Tarte Tatin, harvesting my own wine…the roller-coaster never ends. 

Each of my three children were born in different countries, each were born into different languages in different health systems. 

When you reflect on your experience in Chile so far, what are the best and ‘worst’ aspects in your opinion?

People moan about the weather in Santiago, but as a sun-deprived Brit, I think it is wonderful here. I love the mountain views, my community of friends, and the fact I get to practise my Spanish. 

On the other hand, it’s tough being so far away from family. It’s an 18 hour flight to the UK and from there another four hours to get to my parents. I don’t like the thought of being so far away in case of an emergency. Like many expat mums, I always fear for my children in case something went wrong. With no family here, who would care for them? 

I’d been warned about the classism before I moved to Chile but I didn’t expect it to hit me personally as an outsider. You definitely get a sense of the ‘them’ and ‘us’ here, which is very unpleasant. There isn’t really a social security blanket for the poorest, poor education has left generations trapped in poverty and people are understandably angry. 

Last year the pot of discontent bubbled over and 1.3 million marched for social reform. Some protests turned very ugly, with shops looted, people robbed and so much violence. I do fear that the government’s planned changes won’t be enough and people will be left bitterly disappointed. I fear the violence will return when the lockdown is over. 

You’ve had 3 children during your time abroad. Do you have any advice for moms in your similar situation?

Firstly, I think it’s important to remember that every experience is unique. It’s very dangerous to compare ourselves to others. Whether our child is sick, has special needs or requires extra care, it’s all so different. Some of us have family close by, have partners who are able and willing to help round the home, have extra help… some of us have nothing. It doesn’t help to compare ourselves with others more or less fortunate than us. There is no suffering scale and we don’t get points accordingly. 

For me personally, it has helped making an effort to ensure the start and the end of the day go well. So, in the morning I’ll have extra cuddle time with my kids and enjoy a healthy breakfast. In the evening I’ll kick back with a glass of great wine over Netflix, or leave the housework to chat with friends. The bit in-between can be horribly stressful and chaotic but in my head I remember the day much more positively. 

I also check out before I reach my breaking point. Back in 2014, my child was born with some health issues and as my husband was abroad I was left to cope on my own. They were very dark times. I’ve learnt from that experience and now know when I’m reaching my breaking point. Here in Chile we’ve been under strict quarantine for many weeks. We have three children, no outdoor space and my husband works all day into the early hours and most weekends. When I feel it’s getting too much for me, I ask my husband to step in. If he can’t I’ll lock myself in another room and time five minutes on my watch until I’ve cooled down. 

For me, it’s also really beneficial to celebrate the good moments. To be really mindful of the wonderful times. This way when things get bad we can flashback to these happier times and envisage an exit.

Which country experience stands out in your mind so far, and why?

For me, every experience has afforded me invaluable skills. It’s not so much about the place, but the people. I loved living in Antwerp, Belgium, which surprises many people. Yes, the fashion scene is cool but it’s a grey, rainy city with a lot of ugly architecture. However, I had a very, very strong support network there. I had close friends to call on in times of need, I had people I could just pop by and see spontaneously without months of organisation. 

Angola, on the other hand, was tough. It wasn’t so much the personal safety issues, the electricity or water cuts. Rather, it was the way I couldn’t socialise. I met so many great, interesting, fun, and kind people, but too often than not it was tough to meet up because of practical constraints – traffic jams, security issues, and so on. Nevertheless my most rewarding memories nearly all spring from Angola. I am so glad I went.

What’s taking your family to Ecuador?

Basically, the cost of living in Chile sucks and my husband has a promotion to go to Ecuador. It’s expensive. Compared to other countries I’ve lived in, it has the worst cost of living I’ve ever experienced. My family grocery bill is just stupid. We also felt that Ecuador was a safe but exciting place for our young kids.


To follow Nina’s adventures and international musings, here’s her travel blog:

www.theexpater.com 

Do you have an expat story worth sharing or know someone who should be featured? Please reach out to me for more information.

For more #Wanderwomen stories, head here.

#WanderWomen Series: Leaving Home to Find It Abroad

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of expat-ness. What does it take for someone to leave everything behind? To move to a new destination with a thousand unknowns, dive headfirst into starting over with a new culture, language, people, cuisine, novelty abound. It might look glamorous at times, but longterm life abroad isn’t without hardship or awkward adjustments; it’s also full of beautiful and surprising twists and turns. After living in six different countries, I’ve met many interesting, inspiring, and strong women from every corner of the globe who took the challenge head-on and made something great of it. I’ve looked at them as an example of feminine resilience and strength.

This #WanderWomen series highlights diverse women around the globe who took a leap of faith to leave comfort and familiarity behind. In some cases, it was to find love, work, to follow someone themselves or someone else, I’ll share candid stories with you every week to inspire the inner adventurer in you, to remember that no matter where you start over, there’s a new home waiting to be made if you’re willing.

Today I’m highlighting some wandering American women who are scattered across the globe and living expat life every day.


EMBRACING IDENTITY IN MEXICO CITY, MEXICO

Growing up in Texas, Sarah Lewis always felt proud of her Mexican heritage but realized there was a lingering disconnect from her roots. When she traveled to Mexico a few years ago, she instantly became entranced by the people, the pace, and the culture. It was then that she indulged in her love and curiosity for Mexico and planned to return. Once she returned to Mexico City, Sarah and her best friend decided to launch ‘On The Table’, a series of exhibitions and workshops under the umbrella of their project, Index.

Why do you love being abroad? Why do you love Mexico?

For me, exploring new cultures, new cities, new countries, also deepens my ability to explore my own self, which in turn allows me to appreciate further and feel more deeply connected to my surroundings. A continuous cycle of curiosity, and Mexico City indulges it all. That is the ABSOLUTE best part. And perhaps I’m cheating because it encompasses so many things – but that’s also Mexico. It’s so utterly diverse. Every neighborhood gives you a different glimpse into the culture, and every person welcomes you in, literally, to look more closely at it, to experience it. The generosity that I have seen and been shown here is unlike anywhere else I have ever been. You learn from it. You carry it. 

What was the tipping point for you to finally make the move?

One of the weekends, my best friend Sara met me in Mexico City, and as we were walking around talking about the energy here, we started fantasizing about what it would be like to actually stay in the city for an extended period of time, to be at the SOURCE of that energy. Then we decided, why fantasize? Let’s do it. Our plan was to come for three months…When three months passed, Sara went back to LA. I stayed. It’s been 2 years and 8 months, and I still have no plans of leaving.

What has been your biggest struggle so far living in Mexico?

The biggest struggle for me is that I feel like I am a different person here. Not because my personality has changed, but my language has. While I am proficient in Spanish, I am not fluent. I don’t have the same elegance in Spanish as I do in English, or the ability to become incredibly passionate. If I’m discussing or arguing about something, the box for words to grab from is smaller than my trunk of English. As a writer, language and the ability to express is everything to me. And yet here, my personality is clipped. Every day that changes, though. (Growing pains!)

Any advice for people wanting to move like you did?

Be open. That’s it. Be open to people and possibilities, and yourself. 

Website: https://www.theindex.la

SELF-DISCOVERY IN MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA

For Mar Rosati, a four-night Groupon trip to Mexico turned into a month long excursion, then a year. Eventually she returned to the US and to her then-husband, only to leave a year later on a round-the-world solo trip to nearly 50 countries in over 9 months. When she returned, she didn’t feel like she belonged in the US anymore and realized it was time to end her ‘passionless’ marriage. In 2017 she left her life behind and started over in Colombia where she’s now formed a strong-knit community and has co-founded a foundation to empower young women.

What is it about the US you don’t quite align with anymore?

When I go back to the US, within minutes I see all the strip malls that sell little that’s actually necessary for life…the way everyone in suburban US pulls into the garage and goes straight into their safe house without engaging in their community. I’ve come to feel more at home with the poor, happy cultures than the places that are materially wealthy but feel spiritually empty. I realize that’s a generalization and ‘judgy’ but it’s what’s real for me. I engage far more locals when I travel alone than with company, and I get to do what I want when I want. But dining out or going dancing on a Saturday night while alone can be awkward at best in some places. I often stay at hostels to balance things out.

What surprised you most about solo travel during the 9 months you were exploring?

When I [solo] travel I get adopted by the loveliest people, from my taxi driver in Cairo who invited me to his brother’s wedding minutes after meeting me, to the Bedouin who showed me how to wrap my head in a scarf and put kohl in my eyes to the ladies shelling beans in a village market in Vietnam who wanted to give me free samples of everything. These people all had nothing and wanted to give it away to me for the sheer joy of giving.

What expat life lesson do you want to share with my readers?

[Living abroad] has given me the ability to create and find my favorite things and attract my “tribe.” This has given me the confidence to walk into any situation anywhere in the world with a confidence and grace I’ve never had before. Of all the lessons I’ve learned in this expat life, learning how to resource myself and vulnerably ask for help have been the most powerful and lasting.

Countries lived in: US, Mexico, Colombia
Websites: www.proyectoflorecer.org & www.testarossatravel.com

LIVING THE IDYLLIC LIFE IN LAKE COMO, ITALY

Celia Abernethy was a model from New York who walked the runways of Paris, Tokyo, and Milan. At the peak of her jetsetting and modeling, she was told that at 25 she was ”too old” to continue her career. Instead of giving up and packing up for NY, she decided to continue on living la dolce vita and became a student in Milan. She never returned to the US. Now her and her husband live in idyllic Lake Como and she’s at peace with her choice to stay.

What’s it like to live in such a gorgeous place?

I live in the town of Lecco on Lake Como, Italy. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived…18th century villas, long lakeside promenades and charming villages make it a very glamorous destination. What most people don’t realize is that Lake Como is far less expensive than many other areas of (northern) Italy.  My husband and I were living in Milan and decided to move here not only for its beauty but the cost of living was much more affordable. The natural landscape is so calming and uplifting. 

What’s the most difficult thing about being so far from home and for so long?

When you live far away from your family you live with mixed feelings of guilt and pride. Guilty that you are not there for holidays or important life events but proud that you are living independently in a different culture. 

I knew I had made the right choice when my parents came for our wedding. They had never been to Italy. After a walk around town on the day they arrived, my dad said “I completely understand now why you want to live here. You made the right choice.” Him saying that completely wiped away any guilt or doubt. 

Is there something you still struggle to adapt to in Italy?

The language is also a challenge. Even after more than 20 years, I am still learning the language and trying to improve!

Countries lived in: US, England, Spain, France, Germany, Japan
Websites: http://milanostyle.com / https://lakecomostyle.com

SHEDDING MISCONCEPTIONS IN SHANGHAI, CHINA

I met Megan Fuehrer when we were living in Makassar, Indonesia. Her bubbly personality is infectious and I was so happy to meet her and experience a sense of home if even for an afternoon over coffee. Although we hadn’t known each other long, I felt she could relate to me in a way I had been so missing. She currently lives in Curaçao and works as a wellness and yoga coach. Thinking back on her expat life, she had some really interesting insights on her time living in China.

What made Shanghai special to you?

The opportunities this city offers are incredible, it’s definitely a you can do anything here mentally. I was able to have my own yoga studio, something that would take months of set-up in the states, took no time at all here. Oh and the food scene is amazing: any cuisine you could ever want, from 5 star restaurants to the best hole-in-the-wall dumpling shops you could ever find.

What cultural misconceptions did you have, if any?

Chinese people don’t know what we know about certain topics due to government control and banning certain sites like Facebook, Instagram and Google, so it’s not judging them for this, but understanding it’s their way of life and what they know or do not know is not their fault but just how their culture and upbringing is. My closest friends would ask me questions about certain off-limit topics and I would be able to give insight to them. I learned so much about perception and cultural differences and how to navigate these conversations and develop friendships that respected these cultural differences.

Countries lived in: South Korea, Chile, Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Curacao
Websites: www.wordsfromatraveler.com / http://www.kiranawellness.com

MAKING THE MOVE FOR LOVE – GHENT, BELGIUM

I met Katie Boucher back when I lived in Belgium, and just like her, I know what it’s like to move to a foreign country for love. Many expat women might agree with what Katie says: “the hardest parts remain hard, but become manageable and accepted over time. There will always be difficulties no matter where you live!”

After being in Belgium for 3 years, what would you say are the main pros of living there?

The absolute best parts about living (in Belgium) are the security you feel with healthcare, food prices, cost of living is (more) manageable (compared to some places in the US), and how bikes are more a part of everyday life then I’ve ever been used to! I was drawn in by the European charm, the ease of travel through Europe, the novelty of everything. I think I can honestly say 3 years later that it still is charming and I still appreciate the good qualities.

What did you have to get used to when it came to dating a Belgian guy?

I would say getting used to the family visits and going ‘home’ to see them so often. In the US, I didn’t live close to my family so it was hard to, but here in Belgium I think since it’s such a small country it’s more common to every weekend.

What are the downsides to living in Belgium?

Flights cost so much money and time to go back and forth to go home to see your family, it’s no longer a few hour drive home for a weekend, so all in all the distance. The weather isn’t ideal for half of the year, and it’s more difficult, I think to make a deeper connection to make friends (outside of work and some clubs/activities.)

Countries lived in: US, Belgium

PINNING DOWN PURPOSE IN LEEDS, UK

Allison Whitaker and her husband moved to the UK when his company acquired new business there. They enjoyed living abroad together in Malaysia a few years ago and decided to take on the task of moving again. Allison now works as an entrepreneur as Video Marketing Strategist and is loving the entrepreneurial challenge.

What inspired you to go solo as an entrepreneur abroad?

Purpose is such a hard thing to pin down and with the added complexity of moving with Adam so frequently, it just made sense to do my own thing. I love it!

What makes living in the UK most enjoyable for you? Less enjoyable?

One of the first pleasures I discovered living in the UK was the ease of traveling within the country and to Europe. It’s really easy to find common ground and communicate with locals which has helped me feel at home quickly. Hearing (and trying to replicate) unique accents of each region and learning local sayings has been a lot of fun! The UK also has a vast array of conveniences that make life easier like Amazon Prime, Uber, online shopping, and grocery delivery.

I can’t complain about life in the UK, well except the weather; but then how would we start a conversation? 🙂

Countries lived in: US, Malaysia, England
Website: https://www.allison-whitaker.com

Do you have an expat story worth sharing or know someone who should be featured? Please reach out to gorgeousglobe AT gmail.com for more information.

FOR MORE #WANDERWOMEN STORIES, HEAD HERE.



 

 

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