lifestyle, travel

Expat Guide: Confessions of an Expat

Expat life definitely isn’t something I could explain to someone easily. It’s frustrating, exciting, confusing and very interesting to say the least. Here is where I tell all!


Some of my relationships are a million times better because I live far away.

Because I’m not there for the little fights and the everyday drama (whether it’s with friends or family members), my relationships are more solid and based around catching up on exciting things instead of fighting over trivial things. It’s also helped me to realize which relationships are important in my life.

I am still not fluent the native language of my new country (after 3 years), and at this point, I’m beyond unmotivated to learn it.

My Dutch is embarrassingly mediocre for how long I’ve lived here, and I do try (sometimes), but other times I really, really don’t try. I will become fluent (someday…), but to be honest, for me – learning a language is one of the least fun parts of moving abroad. There are a ton of bonuses to learning a language, and if you’re someone who picks up languages easily – then I applaud and seriously envy you. Because I do NOT have an ear for languages and that makes learning new ones really difficult and frustrating.

Sometimes (even though I live with my boyfriend), I do get really lonely and second guess my travel choices.

I’m not going to tell you that moving abroad is the best thing you could ever do because it’s also really difficult and not meant for everyone. It does get lonely, and difficult, and it does drain your bank account. Sometimes I seriously wonder if I’ve made the right choice in some of my travel choices because those choices mean missing things in the lives of people I care about.

Moving abroad was the best choice I ever made.

I said I wasn’t going to tell YOU that moving abroad is best for you…but it actually was the best for me. I was in a long distance relationship that was straining more and more because we hardly ever saw each other. Moving abroad not only gave me new life experiences, but it saved my relationship and it ended up being the best choice I made in my early 20s.

Moving abroad made me realize that my career was absolutely wrong for me.

I’ve been interested in social work since I was 15, working in drug counseling centers and rehabs for years BEFORE I even went to college for a mental health and addictions program. Although mental health and addictions is still really interesting to me, when I moved abroad I realized just how much I hated being a social worker as a job. It’s just not the right fit for me, and the only reason I realized that was because I was relieved to be leaving it behind when I moved to Europe.

Moving abroad made me realize that any CAREER might not be for me.

There are two types of people in the world; those who need careers and those who need jobs. Essentially, there are those that “work to live” and those that “live to work.” There isn’t really a better or worse one, and I seriously applaud people who are career people because it’s really admirable. But, in my case, moving abroad and having my career basically taken from me (because my education wasn’t valid here in Belgium) – it not only made me realize that I didn’t like the career I had chosen, but that maybe I wasn’t one for CAREERS in general. I like to have a job, to have money, to do the other things in life I want – but that job doesn’t have to fulfill me in any other way.

I’m a travel blogger, have been traveling frequently for years and still don’t know how to find the best flight deals.

The art of travel hacking and flight searching is serious, in fact, an art-form – and it takes a while to master. I’m slowly getting better and better at finding those cheap flights, but I am also guilty of spending way too much sometimes because I’m impatient.

I would be completely lost without the internet.

I’m not ashamed to say that I would be a mess without the internet. Staying in touch with family and friends is so important when you move to a new place and the internet is seriously my lifeline. I’m on Facebook and Skype every single day.

I took the first job I could find, and I don’t care that it’s not an amazing job.

I am a housekeeper, and while I am currently in the process of searching for other work, I am not at all ashamed to say I took the first job I could find and I was perfectly okay with that. Sometimes you need to settle in one aspect of your life in order to finance the other aspects. I am okay with working a mediocre job if it means living in a new country. Pick your battles, I guess.

Moving to another country is very financially draining, and sometimes that lack of money might mean you have to leave.
This is sort of what happened to me in 2013, after 10 months of living in Belgium on a 12-month visa. I moved back to Canada a few months before my visa expired simply because my bank account was empty and I couldn’t afford to stay. I went back, worked in Canada for a while, figured out another visa situation and tried again.

Belgium didn’t feel like my home until I moved my cat here.

Even with a cute apartment and my loving boyfriend asleep next to me every night, the first time I moved to Belgium without my cat (due to our apartment not being pet-friendly) – it almost ruined my whole expat experience that year. She’s so important to me, and the day I arrived at the airport with my cat in tow (the second time I moved to Belgium) was the day I realized Belgium could be/was my home. (Read our How to Move Your Pet Abroad post!)

Moving abroad will confuse you because you might start to both love and hate your native country.

Naturally, visiting other places lets you see how they differ from your own country – and the euphoric effect of moving to a new place may have you finding reasons to hate your old place (especially if you’re forced to move back to said old place before you’re ready due to immigration issues). The 9 months I spent in Canada between the first and second moves I made to Belgium was some of the worst months of my life. I was so unhappy, and I was slowly realizing that Canada wasn’t where I felt at home anymore.

I claimed I wanted to “pack light” but ended up moving FIVE suitcases full of stuff to Belgium.

I am really, really bad at throwing things away. I have donated some clothes and sold some furniture but I also have paid WAY too much in baggage fees to bring things to the new Belgian home that I really didn’t need…

I have only been to Brussels twice in the 3 years I’ve lived here.

Basically, I’m have the tendency of being a terrible “local”, because any chance I get to travel, I usually go outside Belgium.
I KNOW, same on me, right?! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve traveled within Belgium, just not nearly as much as I should have by this point!  Bruges, Dinant, Antwerp, and Doel are some of my favorite spots – but Brussels and the further regions of Belgium have been seriously neglected in my years here. Brussels is known to be the heart of Europe and I honestly know nothing about the city.


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Expat motherhood, travel lifestyle blog.
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13 thoughts on “Expat Guide: Confessions of an Expat

  1. It is never easy being away from family and friends but sounds like the move has mostly worked out for you. I wonder how we would all cope without the internet now, it is a lifeline when travelling and keeping in touch. Thanks for sharing and being so open and honest.

  2. Some very candid insights there. I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m pretty rubbish at learning languages, so can identify with you and it makes me wonder if I could move abroad. And yeah, I felt weird about my home country after a couple of months away from it, so it must be magnified for you! Ultimately, I can tell that on balance you’re enjoying it, and that’s because you’ve still got wanderlust flowing through your veins. Long may it continue!

  3. I never thought about the careers vs. job differences but it’s valid. And I think that moving abroad helped clarify it for you and now you’ve clarified it for me. The cycle of life!

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