4 Things to Consider When Moving Overseas

moving_overseasMy journey overseas began exactly two years ago for me and my family. Living overseas in a brand new country is one of the few life experiences that changes you completely. You are never going to be the same person you were back at home. So much of what we do is taken for granted, and living overseas changes your perspective on life and how you live it – mainly because you start paying close attention to what would normally seem like mundane moments and strangers. Here are four things to consider if you and your family are considering moving overseas.

#1. FOMO. Suffering from fear of missing out.
As depressed as it sounds, FOMO is a real thing, especially with Facebook and Instagram. I mean, you are reminded how you are missing out on your family and friends lives and vice versa. You will want to be there for important moments like weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, and even funerals, but you can’t. Some of your friends will get annoyed with your absence, but it’s beyond your control because you’re on the other side of the world. The distance makes you appreciate your friends and family sooo much more. I’ve learned that if there’s anything in the world that brings family and friends closer, it’s distance – that’s also the true test of relationships.

#2. You become more aware.
Being transplanted to unknown places definitely heighten your senses in every way. As a result, you just become more aware of your surroundings – the people, the places and what is happening in your area. This starts to play out in your everyday life and in work. Awareness and attention to detail is never a bad thing. 😉 It is also true that you gain a better understanding on how the world looks at America. It is crazy how eye-opening some of U.S. weaknesses or challenges seem amplified when you live overseas. Maybe it is because the local people ask you a lot about why things happen in America, or they may ask you if you have the same view, as let’s say the president or people on the international news.

#3. You start to find yourself.
As cheesy as it sounds, it’s so true. You are never going to spend as much time alone as you do when living overseas. I am thankful that I can say with Romans 8:28 that God uses all things for the good of those who love him, even my times alone, actually because of these times alone, it has reminded me of my deepest spiritual need, who is Jesus Christ. You have to get over the stigma of doing things alone, like navigating an unknown territory with people not understanding you. You are going to face the most difficult times of your life, but you also come out stronger and develop an incredible sense of self identity and renewed purpose in life.

#4. I always knew I wanted to live overseas.
Whether it was through study abroad or employment, I just wanted to live overseas. I mean, I found my husband overseas, so I was bound to live here with family, right?! I don’t regret it a single day. I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. If you’re even thinking about living overseas, I’d encourage you to GO. Run. Don’t walk.

Did I miss anything? Have you lived overseas? Please share you advice and experiences below!

8 Lessons From My First Year Overseas

Today, I hit my anniversary since my family packed everything that we owned and moved overseas and boy, did it fly by. The list seems endless, as I sit here and reflect on what I’ve accomplished and learnt in the last year, but there are certainly a few lessons to note. The best part is that you can take most of them with you no matter if you have moved overseas or not.8LessonsOverseas #1 – Pay Attention to Your Surroundings.
Keep your eyes opened and ears perked at all times because safety and security is important. Before you sign a year lease, rent for a week or a month in a neighborhood, and see if it fits your lifestyle. Does it have a good school for your kids? How close is it to public transportation? Does it have petty crime? Don’t be afraid to ask the locals. I have found them to be the more helpful than the real estate agents.

#2 – Relationships Relationships.
This is becoming such a cliché, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of whom you know in your city. People want to know who you are and why you live in their country. Get out there and meet people. They will soon be like family. When you have an emergency, it is good to know that you have friends who will be there for you.

#3 – You’re in Control.
No one is going to push you forward, but yourself and that really applies to all aspects of life. You won’t be confident all the time, especially in the beginning, but you should never take a conservative approach by waiting in silence for your neighbors to invite you over for coffee or for dinner. You dictate where you want to be and where you can go – knock on their door and ask someone over to your house.

#4 – Be Open-minded and Willing to Learn.
Yes, you are knowledgeable, but your way isn’t the only way nor is it the right way. Be humble, flexible and adaptable because you are the foreigner. By observing and learning from those around you, you may begin to act more like a local.

#5 – Know Your Currency.
Learning currency conversion is very important. Before you go on a shopping spree, make sure that you have the conversion rate ready, and your calculator on your phone open. You don’t want to bankrupt the first month or two of moving overseas.

#6 – Be Willing to Put in The Hours of Language.
Learning a new language is not easy. Just accept the fact that you will not be fluent in an year. Ok, well, there are some of you that will be, but I just want people to be realistic. There is so much to learn and absorb. Although it’s not always fun, you will need to put in the hours, especially in the beginning when you’re learning and trying to communicate with locals. Be prepared for super high and low moments. I have some great stories about things I said that were COMPLETELY wrong, but the people are so gracious because you are trying. Just remember that. 🙂

#7 – Don’t Be a Whiner.
No one likes to be around the pessimist, who complains about everything. That’s the kind of attitude that doesn’t get you friends. Conditions won’t always be ideal, so strive to have a “what’s the best way to approach this problem” attitude. This way, you’ll become more tactical and strategic in how you handle any obstacles that come your way.

#8 – 100% All the Time.
You won’t like living overseas all the time. There will tasks you’ll need to do that seem insignificant, inconvenient and just flat out senseless. You may even realize that living overseas is not as romantic as you thought, and you’re just not into the gig anymore. Focus on the positive. Take sometime to stop what you are doing, and go outside. Go to your favorite restaurant. Hike your favorite mountain. Sit on your favorite beach.larrybirdquote

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Travel

 

Truly understanding and appreciating a new culture can take months or even years. When traveling, most of us don’t have that luxury. Those for whom a few days to a week is about the best that can be hoped for have to figure out how to get the most out of limited time. A checklist of museums and attractions is a common instinct, but it won’t give you the deep connection that makes travel rewarding. After years of planning events around the world I have learned that taking a few simple steps allows travelers to better connect to new places, make amazing memories, truly feel at home in a strange land, and always have the best travel stories to tell.


Beijing1. LEARN THE LANGUAGE
. I know that this is obvious, and the obvious response is that it’s difficult and time-consuming. But you don’t have to be fluent to get the benefits of putting in a little effort, and it will make you much more comfortable. Learn the most important phrases: “Hello,” “Where is the bathroom?” and the most important in any language: “Thank you.”  I also like to learn to ask for the check and how to say the equivalent of “Cheers!” every place I go. Ask a native speaker to check your pronunciation; with those basics you may even convince passerby you are a local. And on that note…

2. DRESS THE PART. The more different you look the more different and isolated you will feel. People in obvious Paying respects to Shakespeare in Budapesttourist garb always look so awkward, and are easy targets for scams. Do some quick research – Pinterest is a fabulous resource – on what the locals wear and pack your suitcase accordingly. Are they more casual or more dressy than you are used to? Are they having fun with colors and prints or are they in muted earth tones? Do they all have scarves or head coverings? Most importantly check out the shoes, because they will tell you what the most fashionable and practical choices are. Are most of the women wearing cute ballet flats? Low heeled boots? Wedges? They probably know that it’s the best way to be comfortable in the lifestyle and climate and look fashionable at the same time. Nobody in New York City is wearing white or super high heels; follow their lead because they know something you don’t. Dress like a local and you may even find other tourists asking you for directions.

Love In the Time of Cholera at the home of the author in Cartagena, Colombia3. READ LOCAL LITERATURE. You may not be able to pick up the language in a week, but pick up a translated novel that takes place in the city or region you will be exploring and start it before you leave, giving your mind a head start on adapting. In Paris read Émile Zola, J. M. Coetzee in South Africa,  Haruki Murakami in Tokyo, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar in Istanbul, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Colombia. Walking the streets of Cartagena reading Love in the Time of Cholera imagining Florentino Ariza spying on his beloved Fermina Daza from his park bench gave me a stronger connection to the city, as if we shared a secret. And during the afternoons when it was too hot to do anything but lay by the hotel pool, my mind was still exploring as I turned the pages.

4. CATCH A LIVE PERFORMANCE or festival, outside of the tourist zone. While I’m sure the hotel’s dinner buffet hula dance extravaganza is lovely (and you should learn the history of the hula in Hawaii), find out where the locals go for a good show. One of my favorite traditions is finding a great jazz club no matter where we are, from Shanghai to Krakow. Sitting in a small club, surrounded by locals and visitors from around the world with a shared love for jazz, introducing ourselves to the band members (from Poland, playing New Orleans jazz, in Istanbul) after the set and drinking with them and their friends until 4am is still one of my favorite memories. In New York or London, skip the long-running big spectacle shows that everyone has seen, and pick instead an avante garde performance. Go downtown to see an Off-Off-Broadway play. You are much more likely to be surrounded by locals and to feel as if you are one.

Krakow, Poland5. HANG OUT IN A CENTRAL SQUARE. There are the classics like Washington Square Park in New York and Trafalgar Square in London, but try hanging out in Krakow’s Rynek Glowny and Prague’s Old Town Square too. Learn the history. See the commerce. Listen to the conversations and the protesters. Take pictures, but also eat the street food, tip the musicians, feed the birds and read your book on a park bench. Don’t rush on to the next attraction; just sit, rest your feet, take it all in and fall in love with your surroundings.

6. And while you’re at it? TALK TO PEOPLE. As always in a big city anywhere in the world be cautious and streetwise, but often the locals are as genuinely curious about you as you are about them. Ask them questions. If they’re interested, buy them a pint and get their life story. Some of my favorite travel stories are just repeating someone else’s. In a tiny restaurant in a hillside German town we ended up spending hours with a chef from Ibiza, his Russian winemaker friend, an American GI (who was initially just looking for an ATM), and a dog named Snob, all of whom remain seared into my memory years later. It all started because we asked questions.

7. JOIN A TOUR LED BY AN EXPERT DOCENT. There are plenty of big group options that teach you less than a common guidebook, but with a little research you can find engaging, unique, and highly intellectual tours. A 6am bicycle tour through Montmarte, while the shops are just opening up and the empty wine bottles still litter the streets of Paris, will give you a unique perspective of the city. An artist-led graffiti tour of Bogota will teach you more about the culture, politics, and history of Colombia than any other. A historian who has hiked the entire length of the Great Wall of China can point out things nobody else would notice.

Early morning bike tour through Paris
We were guided around London a few weeks ago by a docent from Context Travel, a network of scholars and specialist in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, environmental science, and classics who lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups (6 or less). With her we not only got a personalized tour helping us to understand the city’s history and major landmarks, we discussed the upcoming election, the conflicted feelings on currency and immigration, and the true purpose of Her Majesty the Queen, and were surprised with a visit to what once was The Texas Legation in London. The company’s website makes it easy to pick a city (they currently operate in 25), pick an interest, and reserve a guide. It is well worth it.

8. FOLLOW CURRENT EVENTS. Watch or read their news (BBC World is a great resource when traveling). Even if you can’t IMG_7971take a tour, do a little online digging to understand the struggles of the people. What are they concerned about? What have they been through? No matter how pretty and peaceful a place can seem, there is always a group of people who are unhappy. Understand them and you come closer to understanding the whole culture. If you are in a place where your country’s policies are not appreciated, find out why and try to see yourself and your politicians from their perspective. People around the world want to be heard; offer them an ear.

9. MEET UP WITH A FRIEND. If you know someone who lives there, even if only casually or from years ago, reach out and ask them to meet up. If you don’t know somebody, chances are there’s a friend of a friend somewhere. Maybe a coworker once studied abroad and maintained some connections. In this global village, you can find people with similar interests via Twitter or Instagram in advance of your trip and meet up when you get there. You will let down your guard and forget you are in a strange land for an hour or two. Locals anywhere rarely get to experience their own tourist attractions, and usually love to show off their neighborhoods when someone visits. Give them that chance.

Off-Broadway Play in NYC10. Most importantly, BE YOURSELF. What do you like to do at home? If you’re into sports, arrange to see a game while traveling or find out where there’s a pub showing a match. Soccer isn’t my favorite sport, but watching a big match with a rowdy crowd in a European pub is an experience everyone should have at least once. Do you enjoy live music? Hiking? Theater? Exploring new restaurants? People do those things around the world. Find your passions and experience them in a new place, because it will make you feel at ease, it will ignite your spirit, and it will show you how alike we all really are on this planet. And that is the very purpose of travel, isn’t it? That and the stories.

Tea in Beijing

 

 

For more information about CONTEXT TRAVEL: https://www.contexttravel.com

 

Follow my travel adventures on Instagram at @SeeJayneGo

What is International Women’s Day?

Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day! When I lived in the US, I had heard only of this holiday maybe 5 years ago. Out of curiosity, I did some research to see if this was new holiday or something that I had never heard about until I started using social media. Wow! How could I have missed such an important day…but let me slow down, and start from the beginning.

International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time on March 18, 1911, a year after the International Women’s Conference adopted a proposal by Clara Zetkin to establish an annual event promoting equal rights for both sexes. At the time, women were marching in around the world, demanding the right to vote and to hold public office. After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Lenin agreed to a proposal of the woman Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai to have International Women’s Day celebrated on March 8 as an official holiday in the Soviet Union. After World War II, other countries made International Women’s Day a popular holiday. International Women’s Day began regaining its importance in the West in the late 1970s, after the UN urged member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace in 1977. This year’s UN theme is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”UN-Women
In the Balkans, International Women’s Day (8th of March) is less celebrated about its political significance and more a blend of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. See, in the Balkans, there is no Mother’s Day. I know, I know. This is quite devastating to me (just kidding…really, I am.) Valentine’s Day has recently begun to be recognized by fancy restaurant and posh hotels, but it is nothing like it is in the States. You see flower sellers on almost every street corner as March 8th approaches. Carnations, orchids and roses are popular along with chocolates. Although most people are vaguely aware of its social and political background, they usually see it as just a day to express appreciation for the women in their lives. My kids are bringing chocolate to their teachers, along with special postcards they drew in schools. Almost every man on the street is carrying a bouquet in his hands on his way back home from work. Everywhere you go, women are reminded that the day is dedicated to them.

This year, there is even a #DearMe youtube campaign with advice that you would tell your younger self. I absolutely love this because this is a perfect blend of how people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day – empower girls to be the most that God designed them to be by the women who have the greatest influence on them – their moms, grandmothers and teachers. 🙂

4 Tricks to Learning a New Language

NewLanguageTricksOne of the reasons that my husband and I wanted to move abroad was learning new languages. Learning a new language, you learn a lot about another culture. You leave your comfort bubble and open your mind to new people and ways around life. By learning, you exercise your brain, and like exercise, the trick to learning a new language is consistency.

Today, I just turned my first language journal for a graduate class that I am taking. Yes, I am back in school. I am a lifelong learner, and classes keep me accountable to stay focused and disciplined in my education and learning. I have a habit of starting projects and not finishing because I can get easily distracted on something just as exciting. 😉 I write this not only for others, but for myself as a reminder of what I need to do while I am learning Montenegrin.

USE technology!
In today’s modern world, it is now easier than ever to learn a new language with software and websites available. RPM’s Jayne loves using Rosetta Stone as she is learning Mandarin. I have used Rocket Language in teaching my daughter Spanish. And, Google Translate is another resource, BUT I would not trust it completely, as it speaks like a robot not a person. 😉 As I have learned the language and grammar, it has been more useful when I cannot figure out the correct word when writing a paper or talking to professional. Lastly, watch TV and movies in the language or with subtitles. You’ll be amazed at how much you will learn in pronunciation and vocabulary.

Work on it DAILY!
Make learning a new language a priority, by making it a daily habit. I don’t have language class everyday, BUT I take time to work on it at least for 30 minutes. Whether its minutes or hours, be sure to set aside a small amount of time each day to study your new language.

Don’t be afraid to SPEAK!
This is my biggest obstacle: FEAR. I allow fear of what others may think of me or saying the wrong thing hinder my language development. Fortunately, daily I remind myself that I learn from mistakes and so can you! Having someone correct you doesn’t make you dumb, not allowing yourself to be helped does. Locals will appreciate the effort, even if they don’t quite understand you at first! Some of the greatest times of laughter have been when I have stumbled over the language. 🙂

PRACTICE, practice, practice!
Consistency requires practice…everywhere! Like earlier mentioned, watching TV and movies is practice. Greeting the people in the new language, reading foreign websites or finding people in your community that speak the language are great ways to practice. Take every chance you can to practice speaking, reading and writing!

Any tricks that helped you in learning a new language?

Marriott Comes to the Balkans – Rewards Card is Worth it!

RISarajevoBefore leaving the Unites States, some wise friends of ours recommended us to apply for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. We were already Marriott Rewards members, but the credit card takes it to the next level. Initially, we experienced a bit of sticker shock, but trust us: The $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $85 annual fee is well worth it.

The Marriott Rewards Premier card has quite a few perks to recommend it. First off, the signup bonus. Earn 50,000 Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. It has a great rewards rate of 5 points per $1 spent at the Marriott; 2 per $1 spent on airlines, car rentals and restaurants; and 1 per $1 spent elsewhere. And then come the perks. Oh, the perks. Yes, there’s an $85 annual fee (waived the first year).

Since we received a free nights stay in a Category 1-4, we of course wanted to stay the at the best, but the only problems is that we lived in Southeast Europe, AND Marriott had all its hotels in Western Europe. Wait…did I just see a “coming soon.” Yes, Marriott was opening its first hotel in the Balkans in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. WooHoo! That’s not too far from us, and we have never been to Bosnia…yet. 🙂RISarajevoBedResidence Inn Sarajevo is amazing as soon as you walk in from the brisk, cold winter day. The staff, speaking both English and Bosnia, great you with a smile and a wealth of information about the area. As soon as you turn the door knob to come into your suite, you see the fully-equipped kitchen and separate areas for eating, working and relaxing. The well-designed rooms promote productivity with large, well-lit work desks, ergonomic chairs and complimentary high-speed Internet. A welcoming and restorative feel is created throughout with warm, earthy colours and light wood fixtures and fittings. Natural light floods the rooms through floor to ceiling windows and each suite has its own private terrace.RISarajevoLobbySince the Real Geek Dad is in graduate school, the public spaces on the ground floor were inviting, feature flexible seating for working or relaxing and a 24-hour Market selling drinks, snacks and meals. He also squeeze in some time to release some the tension in the fitness center. The Residence InnSarajevo also provided a delicious continental breakfast.RIColdFood RIHotFoodIdeally located near Old Town, the Residence Inn Sarajevo provided convenient access to the city’s historical and cultural attractions as well as restaurants, cafes and shops.

Here some other benefits that offset the fee, you’ll get:

  • One free night’s stay after your account approval, plus one night a year on your account anniversary
  • 15-night credit towards Elite status
  • No foreign transaction fees (key for international travelers – these usually set you back 3% of everything you spend abroad)

The anniversary free night’s stay, by itself, wipes out the annual fee with room to spare. The Marriott Premier gives you quite a bit in terms of rewards and bonuses – the signup bonus alone is better than the industry standard of $200-$300. I cannot wait to use this reward in a year!

How My Life Changed in a Year

2015This year has gone by in the quickest of flashes. Each successive day seems to differ just slightly from the last. When a year’s worth of those days has passed, I find myself in an entirely new place from when I began. While the past must stay in the past – as dwelling will do no good – I think that reflection is an important component of personal growth. Looking back at a period of time all at once, like a snapshot, allows me to see what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown – spiritually, physically, emotionally and more.

Reflection can be done at any time – and can focus on any amount of time – but when the end of a year comes around, reflection always seems to join it naturally. With the final days of 2014 making their appearance, I’m looking back on the past few hundred of them – and urging you to do the same.

January
My family was preparing to move to Morocco. In our preparation, we were visiting ALL the doctors (event the ones we put off seeing) we needed to make sure we are healthy, have all our prescribed medicine and correct prescription for glasses. My son was just wrapping up his eye therapy (with a patch).

February
Wait, plans have changed. Montenegro job opportunity became available. Really?! Pinch me. My husband is fluent in Serbo-Croatian, and I have some elementary knowledge of the language AND absolutely love the people of Southeast Europe. This journey to expat life had its hurdle (time of reconciliation), BUT I think we really may be moving to Europe. Pinch me again.

March
We started purging, selling, donating and packing our life for our big move. We actually started doing this months ago, BUT this month I feel like this is all I did. Although, we did make time to celebrate my and my son’s birthday. Side note: The Game Truck is an awesome party concept, especially when your house is all in boxes…or actually empty with just suitcases. 😉

April
‪I was humbled by my dermatologist about the importance of getting your skin checked annually. At 37, I had my first visit to a dermatologist, thinking you only go if you have acne (when younger) or sunspots (when older.) Well, I had three spots that were biopsied. People, put sunscreen on (even if you are not pale skin), don’t tan in beds, wear wide brim hats and don’t neglect the largest organ on the human body – your skin. I am so thankful for my planning in January to reveal these spots months later.

May
Saying good-bye is never easy, especially since I have been so blessed with amazing friends. These people are like family – wait, they are my family. One of these friends also became my first contributor of this site, Jayne. I think one of the hardest part of moving to Europe is not being close to these friends, BUT I am fortunate to be able to have seen each one of these special ladies before I left the country.bridesmaids
June
Our final month in Texas, and we decided to go out with a bang. The kids camped at Pine Cove for a week without mommy or daddy, watch a dear friend get married on the beach and travel one last time to hang out with friends at SeaWorld San Antonio and Aquatica. And, my oldest FINALLY had her dream birthday party at the American Girl Cafe.AGBirthday
July
When moving away, good-byes are not only for you, but for the people that you leave behind. Actually, I would say it is more for those you leave like your family, so it is important to take time to just be with family. This month, we spent quality time with my husband’s family in Arizona and mine in Texas. Of course, we took the kids to wonderful places in US along the way. Even though Europe has much to offer, so does the amazing country of the United States of America.GrandCanyon
August
The transition period is real. This month was a time of reflection. A time where I looked back at all that I had and looked forward to the unknown. During this time, I discovered something about myself; how insecure I am. During all this time of transition, the fear of the unknown also made me feel that people are just being nice to me, but are not truly my friends. The power of fear is amazing – what a waste of time. Taking a leap of faith is powerful and like Dorothy, I packed my ruby red slippers. Because when I miss home, I could put them on and click them together and be transported back home (via Skype or Facetime). 😉

September
We moved to Montenegro! The kids started school…in Montenegrin! It is only a short walk from our house, which is a cozy place on a hill with a nice large terrace to see the Rumija Mountains and the Adriatic Sea.Back2School

October
Our first month reflections in Montenegro: ‪The people are friendly, relaxed and the cuisine is fresh & flavorful. Unfortunately, the struggle is real for cross-cultural living for my kids, especially for my girl who keeps begging me to go back to America. My son was frustrated that his head hurt so much because of the language. I don’t only expect bright, sunny days here, but I am praying that the transition becomes easier for my kids because when they hurt, I hurt. We truly love it here and love the work we are doing, but this month we transitioned past the “honeymoon” phase.

November
We are thankful for so much. We are thankful to have a new contributor, Jacqueline. We are thankful to have this job that we have worked for six years to get. We are thankful for our health. We are thankful for the new friends and the old friends who have been there for us this year. We are thankful for our new neighbors, with whom we ate Thanksgiving. But most of all, we are thankful for the loving God who abundantly gives to us, even when we forget Him.

December
Living abroad is not all beaches and bungalows. Here’s a glimpse into my life of a typical day. As an expat, you have to expect the unexpected daily. Fortunately, there is lots of coffee and laughter that help you get through it.

2014, thank you for all you’ve given me. 2015, let’s do this.

What to Send in Expat’s Care Package

ExpatI’m an American, who loves living in the Europe! I have embraced the Montenegrin lifestyle and to confirm this I now frequently start working at 10AM after having sipped a cup of coffee at cafe for a couple of hours. I find myself looking at “Westerners” as rushing through things and focused too much on tasks. But…I also still love a plan, and I confess to having taco seasoning stashed in the back of my cupboard for those nights that I need to make some tacos for comfort. After all, it’s only been 2 months!

To be honest, I don’t miss that much about the US because I’m having a bundle of fun discovering Europe – however, a strange sensation came over me just the other day when I suddenly thought of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – you know, a perfect balance between peanut butter flavor and chocolate that just melts in your mouth. And, even though I wasn’t one to partake in sweets much back home, oooh, I tell you I could have eaten a whole bag and then some!

And this got me thinking, what are the things that Americans really, really miss when they are abroad?

Food, it appears, is very often at the top of the list. So, what do they crave; what do they get their relatives and friends to stash in their suitcases; what do they utterly long for and research online to find if it’s available in various American online stores over here, no matter what the shipping cost?

Expat Care Package List

  • Tollhouse Chocolate Chips
  • Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
  • Good & Plenty
  • Hot Tamales
  • Jelly Belly’s Jelly Beans
  • Junior Mints
  • Lemonheads
  • Lucky Charms
  • Mike & Ike
  • Pop Tarts
  • Red Vines
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Reese’s Pieces
  • Sour Patch Kids

***You can always throw in LEGO for the kids and coffee beans for the parents. 😉LEGOCoffeeNow feel free to send me any of the items listed above. Just kidding…not kidding. 😉 Oh, and am I missing anything else from the list? Comment below, and I will update it. Again, it has only been 2 months, and there is bound to be something else that I will crave as the year moves on.

5 Things to Remember When Becoming An Expat

BecomingAnExpatAt some point or another, almost everyone has fantasized about packing up and spending some time in another country. Maybe you’ve got the itch to live in a different climate, to try different foods or to become bilingual. Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided you’re ready to give things a try in another country, here’s some things you should remember.

1. Remember to keep your expectations realistic. If you need help in finding “reality” in your new situation, ask your boss or other associates who have been lived here for a while.

2. Everyone is different in how they deal with jet-lag and in how long it takes them to get over jet-lag. This can cause extra problems for families with children as every family member can be on a different schedule for a while. Some people want to stay up as long as possible the first day, and some people need to sleep a bit to begin getting over jet lag and to begin getting back on a normal schedule. Do what you need to do for you.

3. Even after you get over jet-lag, you will likely feel more tired day-to-day than you ever did in the U.S. Living in another country and culture and constantly dealing with another language that you don’t understand is exhausting. You may find that you need more sleep each night or that you need to take afternoon naps to get through the early days even if you never did that in the U.S.

4. It is possible that you might spend your first weeks feeling “sort of off-balance.” For many people this has lasted just a few weeks; for a few, it went on for much of their first year—everyone is different. Culture shock, stress of adjustment, and sensory and information overload combine to help create this weird feeling. If you experience this, it will eventually pass, but can feel difficult to get through.

5. No matter how hard it is, be open and honest about your struggles. We all have struggles from time to time—especially in the beginning of our adjustment to the move. It is gross, but it is normal. If you share your struggles, then others have the opportunity to encourage and love. They will probably even share some of their own struggles from their initial adjustment. If you are having difficulties, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. However, if you don’t get help with your struggles early on, then you could eventually become the “failure” you fear.

A Day in the Life of an Expat Mom

ExpatMomMy family recently moved overseas for work after six years of interviewing, searching and researching more about where in the world that would be best for my family. I have been writing for seven years, and this move is exposing me to new things and also learning how to write in a foreign setting. I have a 9-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, who attend the local national school because homeschooling is illegal in Montenegro. I have been married to my husband, Real Geek Dad, for 14 years, and we are learning life as he works from home. Pray for me! 😉

6:45AM My kids wake up. I usually hear laughter in the other room, or they come into mine. Oh, where’s my coffee? They come into the big room whining that they are still tired and don’t want to go to school. I pick up my iPhone to see what pictures have been posted on Instagram, what is happening on the other side of the world on Facebook and if there are any news that I may be missing on Twitter.

7AM My husband starts making eggs for them, but everyone wants something different, so sometimes it is just cereal or peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Mental note: We need bread. When they’re done, I clean up the floor, the table and the dishes. Wash my face and brush my hair. Throw on a pair of jeans and clean shirt. Check outside to see if there will be rain – if so, wear my wellies – and if not, then wear a pair of my flats.

7:20AM Kids get dressed. I take my first sip of coffee. Yes, I can conquer the day. Wait, is that the kids playing in their room instead of getting ready?

7:30AM Kids begin to pack their bags and get their uniform jacket and shoes on.

7:50AM Walk to school. Pray with the kids about their day. Give hugs and money for snack at Veliki Odmor (break a.k.a. recess).

8AM Pray by myself. Take a deep breath. Kids are in school. Hmmmm, should I start checking e-mails, study my language books before lesson or go sit down for a coffee at a cafe?

8:30AM Sitting in a cafe with my husband sipping a Veliko Macchiato (large macchiato a.k.a. average US-sized cup of coffee).

9:15AM Begin my language homework. Usually writing sentences about my life or filling in blanks for conjugated verbs or declined nouns.

10AM Language tutor prepares me tea. My language lesson begin.

11:15AM Walk to local prodavnica (local market) to pick up some fresh fruits, vegetables and bread. Treat myself to a Schweppes Bitter Lemon.

11:30AM Pick up kids from school. “Talk” with a few moms as we wait. I try my best to speak in the language, but some of the moms know English and will complete my sentences in English.

11:40AM We get home, and the kids go to the their room to play while I figure out lunch.

12:30PM Sit down at my laptop and start to work. Attend to various e-mails first.

1PM Work on creating this month’s e-newsletter. Also, jot down some future articles to write about life, food, fashion and travel. I really love doing this work.

1:50pm Realize that I am hungry. I tear off a piece of bread and make me another Nescafe instant coffee (strong, of course, with two scoops of sugar). I grab some kikiriki (peanuts) and head back to my laptop.

2PM Husband takes kids to their language lesson while I skype with my company mentor or people from the states.

3:15PM Start to read the local news online. Ugh! Maybe I should be studying my language books some more. Wait, there is Google Translate. 😉 Now, it is time to see where we should travel this weekend.

4PM Motivate the kids to begin their homework. This usually means that I will be sitting along beside them helping them out with their math or their language assignment. Oh, how my head is starting to hurt.

5PM Time to get dinner started. Remind my son to go in his backpack to look for a notebook that might have his homework inside of it. Strongly encourage him to get his homework done before dinner if he wants to eat.

6PM We set the table and get drinks ready. Then, we sit down to eat. *sigh* Oh, this is nice.

6:30PM The kids use some of their “screen time” and watch TV.

7:30PM Kids start taking showers. Then begins the question, “Who goes first?”

8:15PM PJs are on, hair brushed, teeth brushed, hugs given, books read and lights out, take one. I finally go to sit down when my daughter comes into the living room whining because she can’t go to sleep. I give her a drink and send her back to bed – lights out, take two. I sit with my husband and talk about our day, and then he heads to bed.

9PM Pick up books and papers that the kids left lying around and throw a load of laundry in the washer. Clean up the kitchen by loading the dishwasher, setting the time for 2 hours (since electricity is cheaper after 11PM) and wiping down counters. Check e-mail one last time.

10PM Collapse on the couch and place my laptop on my stomach to watch something on Netflix. Oh, how I am grateful for VPN. Fall asleep half way through a show. Shutdown my laptop and stumble into bed.