My Expat Story

I am a born and bred Boston girl with a wanderer’s heart. I went on my first solo trip at the tender age of three, when I snuck out of the house in my PJs with the family dog by my side. Since then I haven’t stopped exploring!

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Always equipped for travel, even at a tender age. Thanks, mom! 

I was fortunate enough to spend semesters travelling and studying abroad in both college and grad school, but no matter how much time I spent living overseas, it was never enough. I was hungry to get under the skin of a foreign country and really understand what makes other cultures tick.

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Yep, that’s me as a Baby-Backpacker in college, rocking some seriously unfortunate early 2000s fashion and apparently discovering an affinity for plant life in Interlaken? Little did I know when this photo was snapped that later in life I’d end up living not too far away in Zürich!

I was born, raised and educated in the Boston area. Besides my travels, I’d never lived anywhere else. I’d always planned on trying my luck someplace new someday, but life kept getting in the way. To be fair, it was a pretty awesome life full of amazing and supportive friends and family, yoga, fringe theater, and an apartment full of cool old vintage junk. I was even engaged to The Boy Next Door and had the perfect, pouffy 1950s wedding dress hanging in my closet, ready to go. On paper, my happy ending was written. I had everything a girl was “supposed” to want. So why wasn’t I happy?

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Wearing crazy costumes and dancing in parades was a part of my everyday life in Boston. Who would give that up?

I had always dreamed of a life of travel. But I thought those dreams weren’t for “grown ups”. Grown ups settled down, got married and bought property! In the summer of 2013 I went on a yoga teacher training deep in the woods of Western Massachusetts. It was an incredible growing experience for me, one that involved a lot of slowing down, listening to my heart mind, and meditating by myself in the woods. Every time I slowed my thoughts down and started to listen I’d begin to cry, because my heart always told me the same thing… end your relationship, quit your job, move away. I didn’t want it to be the truth, but it was.

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Let’s blame yoga. My moment of Zen turned my life upside down…

In the fall of 2013 I arrived home from yoga school and my relationship with my partner and best friend, the person I had planned to spend the rest of my life with, finally imploded. I wish I could say that I promptly picked myself up, brushed myself off and kept going with a smile on my face. The reality was far more brutal, and I’d be sugar coating it to say I did anything other than hit rock bottom. In those first few months on my own, even dragging myself out of bed in the morning was a heroic feat. The job I used to love morphed into a misery. Between classes I’d lock my classroom door, cry it all out, wipe the tears from my face, plaster on a smile and welcome my next batch of students in. Even my yoga practice didn’t completely offer me a refuge from the pain. All I could do in class was curl up in child’s pose on my mat and breathe through the waves of emotional anguish coursing through my body. My life was in an absolute free fall, with no net in sight, and it felt as if nothing an no-one I reached out to could possibly save me.

Back in Yoga school, myself and some of the other young women there said a lot of chants to Shiva, the Hindu Goddess of destruction. Our teachers smiled knowingly at us and told us to be careful about the kind of energy we invited into our lives. That fall, looking out over the wreckage of a life I used to love and had spent decades building, it was easy to picture Goddess Shiva and the turbine blades of her many arms whirling through my life like a cyclone and leveling everything in her path. Yet I had invited this destruction into my world, hadn’t I?

The night I broke up with my ex, I stepped out onto the back porch of the apartment we shared together, a home that I loved, looked up into the sky and slipped the engagement ring with stones from both his grandmother and my own off of my finger. In that moment I had no idea how I was going to rescue myself from my grim situation, but I looked up at the stars and made a promise to myself: Your story doesn’t end here. 

Why am I telling you all of this painful stuff? Because often when I tell people about moving abroad, they compliment me for how “brave” I am. Moving to Switzerland was a risk, for sure, but it was also a one way ticket out of the all consuming misery I was feeling. People called me brave to move 3,000 miles from home, but to me, nothing could have possibly been scarier than staying where I was. I was not brave or superhuman for moving abroad. I was simply a girl with a dream and a broken heart, who needed a way to rescue herself. If I could do it in that moment of my life when I was most unsure of myself, you can too.

Fortunately… This Story Has A Happy Ending

Deep in my heart I knew I’d never be satisfied until I followed my dream. As luck would have it, my life implosion coincided with the beginning of recruitment season for international teaching jobs. Teaching abroad was something I had always wanted to do, and there was nothing left holding me in Boston. So I took the plunge, signed up for a recruiting agency and landed a job teaching in Switzerland. I sold or gave away most of my vintage junk (Including most of my wigs and costumes. I gotta admit, that still stings!), packed everything I owned in two suitcases, hugged my friends and family goodbye and moved to a country where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know a soul.

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Everything you really want in your life truly does lie just beyond your comfort zone! Conquering my fears AND some gnarly limestone cliffs in Yorkshire, England. 

This risk turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. Expat life has not been without it’s challenges, but living abroad has pushed me to grow immesurably and expand myself in ways I never thought possible. I absolutely love my job, I have made incredible friends and I have experienced things I only used to imagine back home. I thought my life was “over” on that cold September night back in Boston, but the truth was, it was just beginning. I am here to tell you that the ending to your story is never truly written, and it is never too late to take control of your life and push it in a completely new direction. After four years of expat life, I feel that my journey is only just beginning and there are absolutely no limits to what I can explore.

If you’re still here, thanks for listening to my story. I hope you know that inside you too is an immesurably brave human who is capable of rescuing herself. I hope this blog will keep the fires of fearlessness burning in me, and help to kindle that fire in others.

What about you? Have you ever made a big life change? How did you do it? I’d love to get to know a little more about you and your story. Please introduce yourself in the comments!

 

 

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