Expat Story: How travelling helped me get settled…
Expat Nest welcomes culture/travel blogger Tea Gudek Šnajdar, who talks about the special role that travel has played in her expat experience. Exploring her new country and taking advantage of the many opportunities available to travel outside of it has led Tea to find new purpose and perspective – and to a career that fascinates and fulfils her…
Beginnings are always hard…
And they are especially hard when you have to start your whole life from scratch.
Two years ago my husband and I moved to the Netherlands after he got a job here. In the beginning, it felt like a free holiday. Everything was novel and interesting; we were discovering a new city… But when I realized I should start making my life here and that it wasn’t exactly easy to find a job in a country whose language I didn’t speak, that lovely, spacious apartments with a canal view are crazy expensive, and that I had no friends, reality hit me. It hit even harder when, a month later, I discovered I was pregnant.
The mix of loneliness and homesickness – and the unanswered questions about the meaning of you as a person and of your life in general – are familiar to many expats.
Stepping out and making memories
Things started to improve slowly when I began volunteering for an organisation that was collecting and preserving expat stories. Being surrounded by different life stories showed me that I’m not alone in this experience.
I also started to explore my new country more. By visiting museums, historical sites and restaurants and by hanging out with my new fellow citizens, I learned a lot about the place. And in understanding the culture, it became easier for me to accept it and feel more comfortable in it. We already had a few of ‘our’ places and I was beginning to feel more like a local.
Explore your world and get to know yourself too…
Because I love to travel, I started to explore more outside the country. When I saw a list of destinations you can travel to from Schiphol airport, that you can be in Paris in only three hours by train and that a return ticket to any Belgian city costs only 50 euros, I was hooked. Travelling became my favourite free-time activity. I enjoyed the whole process: planning, researching the destination and finally being in the new city, walking its streets and feeling its spirit.
Travelling gave me the opportunity to see the bigger picture of my life. I started to wonder: what stories will I have when I’m 60? Will I have had an interesting, fulfilled life? Or will I have lived it in fear of change?
It’s all worth it
Somewhere along the way, I realized that travel is what I want do for a living – so I started to work in tourism and also launched a travel blog. Two years later, I can say that I know my purpose. Being an expat is still difficult sometimes, but I have found myself. I’ve found my goal. And of course, now there are three of us travelling together!
So, yes, a relocation is tough at the beginning… but it’s definitely worth it. If you’re feeling lost, take a trip and lose yourself in your new home country. It’s a good start.
Tea Gudek Šnajdar is a culture/travel blogger, living in Amsterdam. She writes about art, culture, travelling and expatriate experiences. You can read her articles at www.culturetourist.com.
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6 commentsWrite a comment
It looks like it is a kind of similar story for everyone who moves to a new country. Always the first month looks like a holiday that you enjoy before the shock comes towards you. Then you just adapt by doing what is possible for you to pass those shocks and starts getting use to it. Then you realise it is worth it.
Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your experiences with all of us in the Expat Nest community.
“In the beginning, it felt like a free holiday.”
I believe that a big difference between traveling and moving is your mindset. I’ve travelled for months without feeling homesick, because in the back of my mind I knew this was temporary, and eventually I would be back in my known environment. Relocating however, brings a whole new aspect of “This is my life now” with it, even if it’s just for a year. Not speaking the language might be fine (even interesting) when traveling, but (at first) can seems unbearable in a long-term view.
I appreciate how you combined these two aspects of being abroad!
Thank you so much for your feedback! You raise a very important point about “travelling” versus “moving”. Mindfully making that mental shift – in time and when you are ready – as well as developing/maintaining habits that really work for you, are key to feeling settled and at peace in your new more “permanent” life. This does take some effort, especially as the initial (very exciting) honeymoon period wears off, but it also leads to a beautiful deepening of your relationship with yourself, and yourself in your new location.