Tagged: struggle

Embracing the Everyday Expat Struggle

Its been a really long time since I wrote here. For some reason I have it in my head that my posts need to be always uplifting, or about fun or exciting activities – but surely that’s more what Facebook and twitter are for, amirite? (Queue canned laughter).

If I’m being honest I haven”t written because I’ve been struggling the last few weeks. Not in a massive OH DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE dramatic way, just in an everyday, average adjustment period way.

The thing is, I haven”t lived a normal life for 2 years. I haven’t worked an office job for a long time, and when I did, I certainly didn’t love it. I’m also facing up to the reality that I maaaayy not have considered that there are sacrifices for the decision I made to stay here and be with S. 

Firstly, the job. It is, for what I need in Vienna now, great. Lovely people, great company, decent pay and (once I learn German) opportunity to develop I’m sure. Its just not THE job. The job that gets your brain zinging and your inspiration flowing and energy levels up. Its a desk job, and while each day has its own challenges it essentially comprises the same thing. Get email, research flights, meet criteria, book flights, repeat. I feel like i’ve seen the possibility beyond boring jobs. I know how good it is to work a job that means something, that invigorates you, that you enjoy doing every damn day even when its exhausting to the point of delirium. And now, having less than that feels twice as empty. Maybe this is just a natural dip in career progression, or maybe this time in my life is when my job has to take back seat to say, learning German, travelling on weekends and putting my energy into building my own life here. But still, it niggles at me every day. Until I nut out what work I can do that I will love as much as trip leading, that will get me up and active and excited, and that won”t drag me away from S and a happy home to come to at the end of the day then I’m going to feel conflicted.

Secondly, sacrifice. I haven’t touched on my trip home here because it threw up a lot of emotional reactions. I’m sure any homecoming after 2 years will do that. What has stuck with me most of all though, is the feeling that I’ve betrayed some people back home by choosing to stay here. ‘Choosing’ to fall in love with a foreigner and ‘choosing’ to live here for the next year or so at least. At the time, it didn’t seem like a choice, it felt like an inevitability – call it fate, call it blind stubbornness, naivety or youthful hope but whatever drove S and I together was something I never had any doubt over. Explaining that to the people and family members you’ve ‘left behind’ at home is a little harder.

Logic tells me there’s a natural growing apart that happens to all families when the kids get to their mid-twenties and ‘real life’ creeps up. Careers, serious relationships and the process of becoming an adult all drive us out into our own worlds to create an independant existence. The trouble is, in creating that existence on the other side of the world, there’s a hard line drawn under just how far apart I am.

Recently, I’ve been beating myself up a bit, feeling guilty at ‘betraying’ some of my friends & family by being here. Like i’m being a shit friend or sibling by choosing to stay away. But would I be just as unhappy in betraying myself by going back to Australia for their sake? Damn right. When I was just here working for Topdeck, it was, for them, all very up in the air and temporary. For me, I was just getting started. Now, the reality that I have an apartment, a job, a residency and my own life over here is looking a lot more permanent. I think that was a huge shock for them, where for me it was an almost natural progression.

So is this guilt about those at home just the price I pay in choosing my expat life? Can you ever really be sure that you’re living in the ‘right’ country if its the one that takes you away from your family? Will time make it better or worse??

These are the thoughts I drive myself mad with. Not all the time, and not loudly, but they spring up. And with the weather of Spring being so very delightful (there is STILL SNOW ON CARS!!)  they sometimes get the better of my mood.

So apologies folks, my own madness made me unable to write. But to shake off this attitude and to keep me honest I’m going to make Sunday my blog post day from here on out! Thanks to all the other blogs I follow for keeping me inspired to do so.




Real Life

With my impending trip home I’m anticipating the many many conversations about ‘what I’ve been up to’. Given the impossibility of describing two years of travel, growth, adventure, terror and joy i’m thinking in snazzy screen-grab terms. Summing everything up in a few short sentances. Because, on paper, my life sounds amazing (don’t get me wrong I know it is). Paid to see Europe with Topdeck, met amazing fellow travellers and lifelong friends, worked a ski season and met an amazing man on a bar crawl, travelled a little more and now establishing my life in Vienna. Rosy, right?

The gap between the snazzy summary you tell people and the mundanity of everyday existence is huge. I’m sure everyone does it – Facebook and social media were basically invented to advertise how awesome your life is to everyone you know. The thing is, in my instance, how do you possibly explain to someone the excruciating stress of waiting for Visa approval for months? How do you express the daily feeling of being a failed feminist because of your current dependancy and lack of employment? I ‘have it all’ on paper but no career or gainful employment to speak of. Which, for this modern 20 something woman is a huge huge issue. Unavoidable but grating just the same. (More on that in another post). How do you tell people that the life of the eternal traveller is as exhausting as it is rewarding? You can’t avoid people reducing the responsibilities and work of the job down to flippant comments and misunderstanding. 

Expat life is hard. There’s reams of blogs, books, stories and writings dedicated to it. What’s harder is trying to explain why this is so to those who only see your life through the rosy shades of Facebook, or occasional conversations. For the most part, and for my own sanity I like to play up the positives, tell people i’m keeping busy, trying to get fit, writing and reading lots and engaging with the expat community. Which I am. What I don’t tell them is the reality –  that not speaking the language is a constant struggle, that lacking a job burns my sense of self and independance daily and that ‘expat life’ isn’t as glamourous as it sounds.

The main point though, is that I don’t regret any of this struggle. I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t move back to Australia, and I don’t feel lonely (yet). I’m lacking in some things but the gut sense that I’m doing the right thing by being here, that my European adventure isn’t done yet is what drives me though these endless, mindless, repetitive days of nothingness in the apartment.

There is a job interview on Friday. If the Universe sees fit to grant me gainful employment before we leave for Oz I think I may weep with the relief of it. I can’t face January treading water (snow?) day after day. Vienna is enchanting, I’m genuinely happy with my life right now but I fear if this stagnation continues it might just drive me bonkers. So, fingers crossed. I have a fabulous new pair of boots to get me through (courtesy early 6th December present from S) so surely the odds will be in my favour! Here’s hoping!