August 22, 2014

EXPAT LIFE: THINGS I LEARNED FROM MOVING ABROAD

IT'S BEEN MORE THAN A YEAR...

Last month (yes, I totally missed my moment there) officially marked the day I left Belgium and embarked on this international adventure. I actually arrived back on Belgian soil exactly one year after I left (July 10), I really do know how to create dramatic moments. Most of all I cannot believe how fast time has gone by and looking back on my year in the Golden State I can safely say it has changed me (how could it not?). It was a year of continuously stepping outside of my comfort zone: I moved abroad, got married, started working full time, rented an apartment with Nick, tried to make friends and understand every day life and even blogging was a stepping outside of my comfort zone a bit. So there are a few things that I picked up along the way and some previous habits (like uh... eating with knife and fork, sorry mom) that are slowly disappearing, but most of all this crazy thing called life has taught me some valuable lessons...

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Trust your gut and go for it

One of the most annoying things people can say to you when you've had some bad luck and don't see how your life will ever be right again is probably how everything will eventually work out (right?). I'm with you on this one, but if there's anything I learned this year it's that as long as you follow your gut (and aim for happiness) good things will come your way. I left my home country with no hope of getting a good job and a few months after arriving here I was offered one. You can call that sheer coincidence, but being able to work in journalism with a journalism degree is kind of a big deal nowadays. I'm not saying it won't be hard (trust me it was), but taking the risks in life you've always wanted to take (in my case: living abroad) are usually worth it!

The future is now so live a little

Ok, maybe not when it comes to life savings and planning big purchases but when it comes to living in a foreign country the most important thing is now. I had a hard time accepting I was going to be really far away from my family for an indefinite amount of time and thinking about it like that it is just depressing. The thing is, no one knows what will happen tomorrow and yes, I might someday move back to Belgium because I miss my family and friends too much but right now I'm living next to the beach in the never ending summer with so many states and even more countries I've never visited at my fingertip. I would be crazy not to take advantage of that and consider myself one lucky girl.


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Being an expat isn't glamorous

There will be are times of crying, sobbing and being overly depressed and seeing a Kinder Bueno at World Market is the only thing that can lift your spirits (cote d'or or Leonidas would be even better but like that's ever going to happen!). My first few months as an expat were overwhelming and I felt like a hormonal teenager who just got dumped by her first boyfriend (the boyfriend being Belgium and me actually doing the dumping). Everything and anything could set off my tears. It might have been a tough decision leaving everyone behind and heck, at times you might have even thought they'd be the only ones crying because you were the one who got to discover a new country. But you quickly learn that being an expat isn't all that glamorous. After that first shock and moments of wonder, you realize that life on the other side of the world involves work, bills and finding a good hairdresser too. Making friends is hard and overcoming that feeling of complete helplessness when you can't find something in the supermarket can be even worse. Making a new place your home is hard work and I didn't fully understand that until I got here even though it is really rewarding in the end...

You'll be stuck in the middle forever

I experienced this feeling when I visited my family in Belgium again last month and had the same feeling when I left London almost four years ago now... That new city or country you are calling home, whether it's indefinite or for a year is quickly going to take up a special place in your heart. I anticipated this with London but I had never thought of living in the US until I met Nick so life took me by surprise on that one. Going back home last month made me realize how used to the life I am here by now and how I sort of cherish that part of me living here. Funnily, I also feel more attached than ever to Belgium BECAUSE I live so far away. Isn't that strange? Whether it's the friends you make overseas or the fact that you're married to someone from a different country... I guess the serial traveler is bound to be forever divided between the places they left pieces of their heart in. 


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How about you? Where did you leave your heart and what did travelling teach you?

8 comments :

  1. Yes yes yes to your point that being an expat isn't all glamorous even though some peoples blogs would have you think otherwise. It's like as an expat you can't really talk about that other side - the guilt, the homesickness, the what ifs and all the emotions good and bad.

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    1. Hi Rachael, thanks for stopping by! You're absolutely right, it's easier for some people to just write about the good parts and I do feel more at ease with blogging now since some of that homesickness has gone... Because you also don't want to complain all the time and sometimes I just thought I was being overly emotional about my move... because I felt really guilty for leaving everyone. And then I felt guilty about feeling like that because everyone in the US was going out of their way to make me feel at home... It's a very interesting experience to say the least!

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  2. I can definitely relate to what you said about leaving your heart in different places. I don't really know if I'm good at being an expat. I only live in Norway for 2 weeks and already miss Sweden and the UK so I better start looking at way to earn money travelling constantly :D

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    1. I can totally relate :D I've lived here for a year now and sometimes I think to myself 'let's move to Seattle or Nashville'... Because I want to see so many places and I haven't even properly discovered San Diego! I guess that's what they call eternal wanderlust ;)

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  3. I can totally relate to every point you listed in this post and I specially like the second one. Expat or not, the future is now, so let's live a little. And yes, being an expat is not always easy but hopefully the good moments will outweighs the bad ones making the experience worthwhile.
    I still have to find a good hairdresser's, I usually leave my hair untamed for months until I go back to Tenerife on holidays :)

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    1. I firmly believe in having the good moments outweigh the bad ones! Life is too short to second guess your decisions constantly and staying in touch with home really helps for me. I actually had never had a hair cut outside of Belgium before I came to the US either! When I lived in the UK I just waited until I was home again, but now that wait would be too long haha... Thank god I found a really good one from the start. Hope it works out the same way for you ;)

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  4. I totally agree with you on everything. Being an expat is hard! And I've barely done it a week! I really like that you added in that final quote. The reason I became an expat is because I didn't want to regret my early twenties. I wanted to have something that I'd be proud of, and already I know that I'm proud of what I've done so far.
    I'm not sure where I left my heart really... when I left the states I was staying with my mom and had recently broken up with a boyfriend. My mom's house didn't really feel like "home" anymore, but living with the ex didn't either... :/

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    1. Especially the first few weeks were really hard for me... I guess you're on that roller coaster ride of feelings now and you have the added difficulty of the language! It does get better really quickly though and it's like you said... I just knew I had to do this in my twenties, because I would've never done it in ten years from now and then you'll possibly forever live with the 'what ifs' and I hate those...

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