[This is a guest post from Shawn Wall, my errant climbing partner. Shawn left Colorado to do some travel after graduating university at the end of 2015, and he never came home. He now lives in Budapest, Hungary, with his girlfriend. I spent a month visiting them in October 2016. I asked him to write a little bit on his experiences living as an expat in a foreign country.
You can find his personal travel blog, The WanderinGinger, at http://wanderingingertravels.blogspot.com/]
February 22, 2017.
Today marks three years since when I first ran away from home to a magical place called New Zealand. I wanted to escape the troubles of day to day life and just be free from everything. So I left. I was running away from death, pain, sadness, confusion and everything that I knew and called home. At least, that is what I thought I was doing. Parts of that may be true, I was running away, but whenever you run away you run towards something else. I was running straight towards a whole new path of life.
Here I am, three years later, sitting at my house in Budapest, going through old pictures and just reminiscing about my adventures in Kiwi land. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so very true as just a glimpse of something you can bring you back there, even if just for a moment. It’s crazy to think of where all I have been, what all I have done and all that I have seen and learned in just three short years. Overall I have visited 12 countries (USA, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic) lived in three of them (USA, New Zealand, Hungary), and passed through another four (Fiji, Taiwan, Qatar, and Austria). I have come a long way in three years and it all started with taking the risk, taking the chance and leaving my home.
It has been exactly 317 days since I left home.
I’m writing this in late February, and I haven’t seen home since April. It’s almost a full year. This is something that I did not expect when I first left home. I was planning on traveling through Asia and staying after for some time to teach English in Thailand. I’d be back around January, and just get back to life, right? Wrong. Travel does that to you. One day you have this big plan in your head and then life throws something at you and everything changes. For me that something was a beautiful Hungarian girl who stole my heart and took it back to Hungary with her.
I had no choice but to follow.
And that brings us to where we are now. As I said plans change. I currently have residency in Hungary and it seems like I will be living as an expat for quite some time. It was quite surprising when this happened to me and my first weekend here I had to get out of “our” home and go get some beers and calm down as reality was sinking in, I thought: I live in Europe with a girl that I’m falling in love with.
That was a very scary thought.
It’s no longer traveling, it’s actually just living. It has been fun though, and my worries were for naught. I have been meeting new people, hearing and trying to learn new languages, trying new foods, learning new cultures, seeing new sights and always learning more and more about myself and the world. It has been one hell of an adventure, but there have been times when it is hard mentally, physically and emotionally to live the life I do.
Being an expat, there are many challenges you must face. The first and most important is to find a way to support your life abroad. As I mentioned before the original plan was to teach English to live abroad for some time. It can be quite easy to get a job when you are in the largest area of the word that is working on learning English (Southeast Asia), but when you decide to leave that area of the world for another, it becomes quite a bit harder.
Teaching Online as an Expat
Online teaching is very possible but it is difficult to get started. I spent months and months looking for a good teaching job online. I found one company that sounded great yet it was too good to be true. After getting hired and waiting around for two months with no students, I had to get back on the job search again.
I interviewed with over seven schools during a four month period and finally found two companies that were very promising. Research showed that they were trustworthy (you must do a lot of it when searching for online teaching schools, some try to screw you and some just suck) and I finally signed contracts with both of them. Now the students are coming and I am able to feel comfortable and unconcerned about money for the first time in a long time. It is a great feeling to have after learning and experiencing how much work it takes to fully support yourself and truly be able to live as an English teaching expat.
The other big challenge one will face as an expat is dealing with emotions of home. Sometimes it can be very hard to be away from certain people, certain foods, certain customs, and everything that makes home, well, home. I cannot tell you how many times I have craved a smothered burrito from Bocaza or drinking an O’Dells IPA after getting down from a nice climb on some real Rocky Mountain rock. Life doesn’t stop back home and you are left to watch it pass by unseen except for the small glimpses you get from conversations, video chats, social media, and headlines. Holidays come and go and you are still watching from the distance wondering how it is at home. Times like these are when it can be hard. You may miss someone a lot, you might be worried about friends, family and your country as a whole because of some crazy bigot man in power and you know that there is nothing you can do except for watch and wait from all the way across the world.
But know this: the sadness won’t last. How can it?
You’re living an amazing life where you are and you learn that you cannot let things like this bring you down. Do not forget about home but do not let home stop you. You will be able to eat that food again, you will be able to see your friends and family. Remember for now that they are just another message, phone call or video chat away. There is always another holiday and another birthday to come and your loved ones back home will always welcome you back with open arms. In the meantime, you become the reason for them to travel and see the world as well. They can come visit you and you can share your new amazing life with the ones you love. Now is time to live in the moment. Now is the time to make new friends all across the world. The connections you make are amazing. You will find yourself hosting people from all over and having the ability to stay with a friend in almost every area of the world. It’s such an awesome feeling!
Overall, life as an expat can be crazy. Life in general can be crazy. It will surprise you if you let it. Take it as it comes, take chances, take opportunities and do not let things of the past hold you back.
Take the jump. You won’t regret it.
Have any questions for Shawn? Feel free to ask ’em here! He’ll be keeping an eye on the comments, and happy to chat about his experiences living in Hungary or teaching abroad.You can also find more of his writing on his own blog, The WanderinGinger.