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From long-term traveler to expat – My story

I have left Germany and my old life two years ago. Since then, I started out on my own professionally. I travelled to new countries. And I settled down in Mexico.

When I thought of writing this post I was not sure where to start. Where did my travel bug really started. I was always traveling. My family and I went on a summer holiday and occasional city trips each year. Thanks to my parents I got to know a lot of Spain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and other locations within Europe. Thanks to them I was raised with an open mind which in the end taught me my way in life. But I’ve never been away from home for longer than two weeks.

During my degree course I was obliged to do two internships – in Germany or abroad. As I’ve never did a year abroad, I decided to do the first short internship in Europe and the long one outside of Europe.

Spain

As my mom is a Spanish teacher, we went on holidays to Spain a lot. I loved the country, the people and the food, so the choice was quite easy for the first internship. I just didn’t speak the language.

Luckily I got an internship at a hotel reception on the Canary Island in Fuerteventura. I never planned to work at a hotel reception but it was a great start to learn a language I soon became very passionate about.

Then it was time for the big internship. After getting back from Spain, I taught myself some more Spanish. I studied vocabulary and grammar as it was sure that I want to do my second internship in Latin America.

But where? I was scared as I had never been out of Europe before. So I researched for countries where culture shock wouldn’t be that much of a problem. My decision was made, I was either going to Argentina or Chile.

Argentina

Finding an internship is quite a hassle. The first one I got by pure coincidence and writing a lot of applications. But it was more difficult in Latin America, so I decided to go with an agency who intermediates internships.

I hopped on the plane on the first possible date and came back on the latest one to make the most of my time. I thought this might be the only time I have so much time available to go abroad. Little did I know about my future.

I did a 4 weeks language course which was one-by-one with the best Spanish teacher I could have imagined. I learned so much and Romina made me increase my passion for the Spanish language even more.

Argentina

Who wouldn’t fell in love with traveling in a country like this?

My host family was also the best thing that could have happened to me. I stayed with them the whole three months and have still contact even now 6 years later. They didn’t speak any English which was perfect to learn Spanish very quickly. If you want to learn a foreign language, you should do exactly that.

Again the internship wasn’t the best one from a professional side but going to Argentina showed me that I want to travel. That I want to get to know other cultures, different food and see all the stunning places this world has to offer. Without Argentina I don’t know where I’d be today.

England

In 2010 I spend most of the year outside of Germany. After coming back from Argentina I didn’t want my Spanish to go away. So I went on a one-month trip to Spain with a very good friend from home. In September it was time to go back to uni. My last year. And this meant two semesters in England.

During classes and writing assignments, a student group organized a lot of excursions on the weekends as we were mainly international students. Apart from that I was able to visit London, Oxford, Scotland, York, and Dublin among others.

England

Studying in England

It was a year of learning, partying, traveling and enjoying life. I wouldn’t want to miss that time. Living with 5 other girls meant regular kitchen sing alongs, watching series and X Factor, overcoming occasional freak outs before exams together. Strangers have become lifelong friends.

One of my friends started talking about how she doesn’t want to start working right away but planned on going to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. Sounded like a good plan to me but after studying in England I had made some debt and no money left. We decided to go to Australia anyway half a year after England so we can earn enough money.

Internship in Germany

Back in Germany I wanted to do something that suits my profession rather than working in a supermarket or restaurant. I applied to different positions and asked around where this could be possible.

Thanks to my parents I found a company where I could work in Business Administration and Marketing and got paid for it even though it was an internship. Perfect. Australia was possible!

Australia

December 2011 has come and we said goodbye to our loved-ones and the three of us made our way to Sydney. It was just before Christmas and that’s about the time when prices are ridiculous in Sydney. So we soon left for Melbourne to settle down there.

Melbourne

Good times in Melbourne & on the Great Ocean Road

We stayed two months and worked at different festivals. Apart from that, the company I worked for at home gave me some remote jobs to do which made me money on the side. My first digital nomad job. Kind of.

Living in the middle of nowhere

Sophie and I were soon ready to leave and looked for other job opportunities. Western Australia is an area where not that many people go. There were jobs paying you good money and giving you food and accommodation as well. Sounded perfect.

We found a job in a country pub and hotel through a friend in a small town called Coorow. It was four hours away from Perth in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. There were 200 people living in this town and their everyday activity was heading to the country pub at night.

Coorow

The “busy” main street of Coorow

We lived in that crazy world for six weeks. That was enough as we needed some civilization again. Back in Perth we were in a culture shock at first with so many cars and people around us.

Traveling on my own

Sophie and I split up after Perth as she started a job in Sydney. I traveled a bit along the west coast, to Darwin, Alice Springs and flew for a month to New Zealand from Cairns. This job in Coorow really was good money and in combination with the money I made from home, I could afford to travel for a while.

Australia, New Zealand & Fiji

Traveling in Australia, New Zealand & Fiji

But soon I got burned out from traveling. I was in a dilemma between wanting to see everything in Australia and wanting to have a routine again in Germany.

I calculated the time I’d need to see the places at the east coast I wanted to see and scheduled my return flight. I was ready to leave but had to see the Whitsunday Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island etc before obviously.

Before going home, I spent a week in paradise. Fiji was the country I feel in love with the underwater world. Seeing all these exotic fish, sharks, manta rays and the reef around me, made me feel like I’m in a different world.

Starting my grown-up life?

Nonetheless, I was very happy to be back in Germany with my friends and family. I enjoyed the quietness and some good nights out. I enjoyed doing nothing because I always felt guilty doing nothing on the road. I always thought I have to do something, I might never be here again. This probably led to the burn out.

I found a flat, started working in the same company again, bought a kitchen and other furniture and started my “grown-up life”. The life I thought I was ready for now.

About half a year later I started thinking “this cannot be it. This cannot be the life I’m leading for the rest of my life.” I discovered travel blogs and became obsessed with reading them all the time. That obviously just increased my wanderlust and frustration.

Food & Photos RTW & growing wanderlust

Partly because I wanted to keep my memories and because I wanted to help other people with the experience I made during my past long-term travels, I started this blog. And it helped me to overcome my wanderlust to some extent.

I started to use all my days off to travel. During the two years I worked for the company, I traveled to Amsterdam, Istanbul, Portugal, Switzerland, Argentina, Chile, Prague and Morocco and made some short trips within Germany. I couldn’t stop my travel bug.

Portugal

Portugal

Time for change

I knew I had to change something and looked more and more into opportunities how I can combine work and travel on a long-term basis.

I thought about working in hotels abroad, teaching English or freelancing. After overthinking it for months, I decided to start to give freelancing a try. This way I could do the jobs I like and am good at. And of course I’d be flexible to be wherever I want in this world.

Freelance & Work Exchange

I quit my job in August 2014. As I started out without any clients, I first did a work exchange on the Galapagos Islands to save accommodation costs and start small. It was not the usual way to go but it worked out. I do not want to miss any of the days, neither the good nor the bad ones. It was my way and I made it work for me.

Galapagos Islands

2.5 months on the Galapagos Islands

And I was able to live 2.5 months on the Galapagos Islands as a local. A once in a lifetime experience, I’ll never forget.

Arriving in Mexico

After spending three months in Ecuador, I made my way to Mexico and planned on heading south slowly. I met my now fiancé the first day I arrived in Mexico. My new life has just started. I didn’t want to screw up my plan. I always did as planned and I didn’t want anything to change. And I guess I was scared to fail or get hurt.

I lived in Merida for a while, traveled to Belize and around Yucatan until a friend from Germany came to visit me and I got back to Cancun for a couple of days.

Yucatan Peninsula

Yucatan Peninsula

In the meantime I had changed. I’d become more spontaneous and changes of plans didn’t scare me as much anymore. After spending two weeks with my friend in Playa del Carmen and around, I decided to give us a chance.

Staying in Mexico or not?

But first, I had two weeks of Cuba planned. So right after we started our relationship, I was off the radar with almost no internet. But we made it work. The plan was to stay one month longer in Cancun and then head down south to Costa Rica as my parents have already booked a flight to see me there.

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

It soon turned out to be more than expected and I postponed my departure over and over again. I calculated how much time I would need from Mexico to Costa Rica and departed in the beginning of June.

Change of plans

After having spent the last three months 24 hours a day with my boyfriend, the first days were horrible. I experienced something, I’ve never experienced before. I didn’t enjoy traveling.

I walked through the streets of San Cristobal without curiosity and interest. I didn’t want to eat (one of my favorite parts of traveling) and I knew it the moment I set foot in the bus. I couldn’t make it four months without seeing him.

About 5 days in my trip, I booked a plane ticket from Guatemala City back to Cancun and another one from Cancun to Costa Rica in August. Again, my plans changed.

Guatemala

Guatemala

I spent about a week in San Cristobal de las Casas and two weeks in Guatemala which I could finally enjoy more because I knew I would see him again soon. This way I had a break within my travels to have a routine and of course to be with him.

Today

All this was about one year ago. Since then I spent 6 weeks in Costa Rica, 4 weeks in Germany, 4 weeks in Peru and did a few smaller trips away from him. And we made it work every time.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica

I started working for a travel service in Germany apart from some smaller freelance gigs and this blog. I help out in the hostel and we just moved into a small studio. Life found its way.

Nothing went as I planned it in the beginning. But it also kind of went as planned. I wanted to travel slowly and see the world properly. I thought of staying in places longer than the usual holiday.

However, somehow in the back of my head I always knew that when I’m going to find my place in this world, I am going to stay and travel from there. And Mexico fits just right.

My place on earth

Not only because of him. Spanish has been my passion for more than 6 years now. I can speak it on a daily basis and have made it to a fluency where I can argue with police officers (more on that probably later). Mexican food is just delicious (even though I miss German food every now and then). I can avoid winter. And even though I do not go to the beach that often, just knowing it is there if I want to is the best thing on earth. I made good friends and people in the kiosks, shops and taco stalls around me know me. I found my place.

I’m very happy here and have no intention to leave anytime soon. On the contrary my boyfriend and I are going to marry soon which will make this place even more home than it already is.

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico

Of course Germany will always be my true home. My family and my best friends are there and German punctuality just fits better to me than the regular “ahorita” (in a bit) I’m hearing here will ever do.

What about you?

What I want to show you is that it is worth to give your dreams a try. You might fail. You might win. You most probably will change plans.

But however it turns out, it is always worth to try. Because in the end, we always end up where we are meant to be.

For me it’s not being a true long-term traveler anymore. I consider myself an expat now. I guess after two years I can say so.

I will never give up traveling and I hope to continue growing my success with freelancing and work on my own ideas. Life always gives you opportunities, you only have to take them!

What are you dreaming about?

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From long-term traveler to expat- My story

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