EXPAT YEARS: Our First Year Abroad (Year 1 Part 1)
‘You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again.’ — Azar Nafasi
4 checked bags, 2 carry ons, and 2 people boarded a 5 a.m. flight leaving 2 sets of parents behind at the airport in the U.S.A. Excitement, nervousness, and surrealness flooded our thoughts as we traveled to Spain where our other 4 packages were waiting for us at our cousin’s home. Our original destination was Izmir, Turkey, the place that we hoped would be our home for the next 3 years. But with the coup taking place just 2 short weeks before, we detoured to Spain for a month.
Instead of spending one more month in the states we stuck to our original departure date – determined to move overseas. We felt that delaying our move would make it harder to leave, and believe me, it was sad enough leaving family and friends behind. So 20 hours later with a very lengthy layover in the Chicago airport, we found our (very tired) selves on the sunny beaches of Rota, Spain.
Since then, these 2 people have….
- Moved 8 bags via south Spain (listen here and here) to Madrid to fly one way to Turkey
- Sailed down the coast of Turkey celebrating Jason’s 30th birthday (oh and went paragliding!)
- Lived in a Airbnb private room for a month out of 2 suitcases
- Found and rented an apartment (listen here)
- Furnished an apartment – slowly but surely… (listen here and here)
- Spent a month without hot water (listen here, here, here and here)
- Cooked with a picnic gas tank on our (not-yet working) gas stove
- Learned our oven was electric and not gas and therefore could have been using it
- Repaired a leaking ceiling
- Pulled a very large couch with a rope and 3 strong men up 6 floors from the outside of our apartment building
- Took a Second Language Acquisition Course (listen here)
- Applied and received our 1 year visas
- Spent time with friends in Ephesus that traveled to Turkey via a Mediterranean cruise
- Bought bicycles
- Spent Thanksgiving in Istanbul with old friends
- Traveled to 12 countries
- Spent Christmas in Germany (listen here and here) and New Years in Prague
- Spent Catie’s birthday at the INFLOW Summit in Istanbul (or listen here)
- Explored the Turkish cities of Izmir, Adana, Eski Foca, Cappadocia, Istanbul, and Bodrum(or listen here)
- Spent our 3rd Anniversary in Cyprus (or listen here)
- Reviewed a hotel in Cappadocia (or listen here)
- Took a hot air balloon ride in the freezing cold weather of January!
- Found an international church
- Share how your daily lives look quite normal
- Found community in local Turks and expats
- Attended a Turkish wedding (listen here or read here)
- Found a good coffee shop Jason can work at in the afternoons
- Joined the International Women’s Association of Izmir
- Started my travel writing career
- Continued our podcast and newsletters
- Had surgery in a foreign country
- Spent hours of Turkish language learning (1 school and 4 different private teachers) – (listen here)
- Created a new app, Foreign Numbers (all Jason’s work!)
- Met friends in Romania for a mini reunion
- Travel SE Asia for a month
- Spent time back in America
And the truth? There have been MANY times I have regretted moving those first few months, especially while we were settling in.
BUT the great reality?
REGRETS and ‘second guessing’ are COMPLETELY NORMAL. And in all honesty, part of the deal. The disagreements between Jason and I about what and how much to buy, having to research and learn what to do here before you can make 5,000 decisions, deciding to budget high for travel although we had just moved, investing money into our language learning when it could be easier not to learn it at all, having to deal with having surgery in another country, the days where you don’t want to deal with culture or think about how every way you act.REGRETS and 'second guessing' are COMPLETELY NORMAL. And in all honesty, part of the deal. Click To Tweet
And when those thoughts of regret happened?
Tears, sadness, loneliness, reflection, prayers (lots and lots of prayers), and choosing joy and happiness. I remember it is WORTH it. I remember how long we planned and dreamed for something like this. I remember the list of gratitudes I started in my prayer journal. I remember how sweet our neighbors, church, and friends are. I remember how far I have come for the ‘not so easy learner.’I remember it is WORTH it. I remember how long we planned and dreamed for something like this Click To Tweet
And even now? ONE year later?
I am SO VERY THANKFUL we made the move. The decisions, awkward start of friendships, and transitioning from one life to another have had even more happy moments to accompany them. We have walked through our Turkish friends’ wedding, sang songs in another language, loved on Turkish and expat kids that are not our nieces and nephews, and celebrated life with those around us!The decisions, awkward start of friendships, and transitioning from one life to another have had even more happy moments to accompany them. Click To Tweet
And you know what?
Year 2 is already starting off to be an even better year!
Questions for you!
Do you live in another country other than your native one? If so, where?
What emotions did you feel your first year abroad? Was it easier or harder than you expected?
Do you have a funny story to share? I would love to hear it!
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P.S. – Stick around for part 2 and 3! I can’t wait to share even more about our first year abroad and what it taught us!
EXPAT YEARS: Year 1 Roundup Series – Our First Year Abroad (Part 2)
EXPAT YEARS: Year 1 Roundup – The truth about living Abroad