Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Eternal Expat (Series 2, part 4) - The Expat on holiday

For the previous parts of this series, click on these links: part 1part 2apart 2b and part 3.

Here we go on the fourth part of my series The Eternal Expat, now that we have covered what it is like to grow-up as an Expat, study as one and work as one. Finally I wanted to touch on what it is like to travel as an Expat. Doesn't sound obvious, does it? Many of you may be thinking 'Why would an Expat travel any differently from anyone else?' Let me explain, at least from my point of view. 

First of all, one thing that I had to learn to factor in to my and, in time, we into our holiday plans were home visits. Obviously, if your family lives in the same town, then I suppose home visits are not something you think about in holiday terms, rather than in terms of day or evening visits. Living several days car ride or a flight away from your parents, weekly visits become, well if not theoretically impossible, then certainly impractical. 

When studying in England, for the first time for me, after being torn between the USA and Austria before, I really looked forward to coming home, and did so in most of my breaks. Quite possibly because I was now truly living somewhere else and 'distance makes the heart grow fonder', leaving me to finally discover how lovely Vienna was. So, for most of my Masters, I spent at least the Winter and Easter holidays there, and my summer breaks working in France. My breaks in Vienna were mostly spent with family and friends, making sure I did not miss anyone out. Another thing I learned over time: rushing from one visit to the next can be pretty exhausting for a holiday. 

Interestingly, while I liked spending time in Toulouse, I never really felt at home there, something I most definitely did over time in Bristol, particularly when I stayed for my PhD and was effectively there the whole year round. 

During this time, I also met my then-future Hubby, also a great contributing factor pulling me towards Bristol. After seven years, I had finally settled there. 

What about other holidays, you are probably thinking? She couldn't have possibly spent her whole time while studying going home and working? And you would be right. Particularly during my PhD, once I was financially more independent, Hubby and I started travelling beyond the UK and Austria, an adventure in and of itself, as it broke with several years worth of a fixed pattern. 

One of the first trips we went to was to Barcelona, Hubby's first trip there and my second. It was a great holiday. We found a lovely, very reasonable hotel right off the Ramblas, kind of off the red-light district too, but hey, we didn't bug the ladies doing their business, so they did not bug us. On the flight over I read an article about people commuting between Bristol and Barcelona and got instantly jealous. Why couldn't we do that? Why did our jobs not lend themselves to living in this amazing city?

And so the holiday yearnings started up again since my youthful dreams of living in the US. Since then, whenever we have gone to visit a place both of us fell in love with, such as New York, I end up wondering 'Couldn't we live here? Wouldn't it be amazing to be in this cool place?' and Hubby ends up having to bring me back down to earth. 

We fell for New York so hard that we went there twice in the year before Baby arrived. It was so different from all the cliche ideas we had been told about: dirty, stressful, unfriendly, rushed. We lived in Brooklyn and loved discovering it and Manhattan. Mind you, we didn't go to see everything; maybe that was part of what made the holidays so good, that we weren't rushing around from one site to the next, barely noticing our surroundings. I have never been paid so many compliments by random strangers either in shops or just walking down the side walk. It was lovely. Would we live there, if our jobs would exist there? Definitely! 

London is another city both of us get yearnings for regularly. If we haven't been there for a couple years, the craving must be satiated! Both of us can't wait for Baby to be old enough to go see the Natural History Museum together, or watch him when he has his first taste of real fish and chips or a proper curry. London is amazing. Hubby lived there and I have been going to visit it for over 10 years now and we still feel we have plenty more to discover. If only it was not so expensive to live there...... 

This is the crux with being an Expat and knowing that you have and can pick up your life and set it up again somewhere else. Sometimes it is hard - in the pull of a wonderful holiday, and shutting out the realities of money needed to finance your life style in your new found love - to remember that maybe where you live is not so bad after all. And so we return gladly to Hamburg, after having reminded ourselves of what we have here, and knowing that we can return to any of our 'alternative homes' whenever we like. 

PS: Der dritte Teil meiner The Eternal Expat Serie, in dem es um das Reisen als Expat geht. 

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