The origins of my passion for being an expat was seeded in 1997. I had traveled to France during high school. We got to spend 8 days and 7 nights with a host family in southern France. Blanketed by nearby sea and mountains. Learning a language and then learning it firsthand was amazing. I loved that feeling and was delighted to use the French language again when I traveled to Belgium in 2019.
Desire to travel was always present in college. I took a role as an emergency travel counselor for Live Travel – Emergency Travel Center After Hours service. I took incoming calls to help stranded corporate travelers get new flights, hotels, cars or luxury cruise and sales calls for leisure travelers. I learned airport codes and computer reservation systems and had an IATA card. I was essentially classified as a travel agent. This helped me travel internationally with lower fees.
During these years, I remember looking at houses in the French Pyrenees and envisioning a move there. I filled my time taking trips with my other IATA friends to Montego Bay, Jamaica… Nassau, Bahamas… Smokey Mountains, Pennsylvania… New York City… Las Vegas. So many places for a Wisconsin-based traveler.
I shared this passion for travel with my husband as we planned our honeymoon cruise to the Carribean and celebrated our one-year anniversary with a trip to Malaysia, where we stayed in Kuala Lumpur and Penang — a touch of city and island life. Nine months later, we seized an unexpected opportunity to travel to Australia. In Sydney, we caught an impromptu parade and climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Venturing to Cairns, we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and white water rafted on the Tulley River.
What I love about all the locations is the memories and experiences – taking control of enjoying the moments of life.
As our family grew, we spent more time on domestic travel with our kids. But international travel continued to call. Because the kids were still young, we planned to start globetrotting again in 4 years. Little did we know we’d be 3 years ahead of schedule and 7 months into our life in Barbados.
What I appreciate is finding and taking opportunities. Not settling.
We are both very fortunate to share the desire to experience the world, make memories for our boys and live an experience. I have many great childhood memories of sledding down hills and playing with neighbors. But I also know that life happens WORLDWIDE. There are families, kids, couples everywhere.
Our expat journey was scheduled to begin in May 2020 with a move to the Netherlands. We took a trip there with our kids in August 2019 to see what it would be like to travel internationally with children. We hadn’t expected to fall in love with the Netherlands. The directness of the culture was refreshing with the point of view of children being the next generation. Shopkeepers folded paper airplanes for them and threw them around the store. Street vendors of fresh herring, onions, pickles, moist bread — the smiles of a food experience for our children. Grocery stores on every block for fresh nightly food, clean commutes on bicycles and trains, and plenty of parks for adventure play. The Dutch American Friendship Treaty(DAFT) I’ll touch base on another blog(s) on.
When our move to the Netherlands fell through due to travel restrictions to the EU, we began looking for a new opportunity. We found our adventure thanks to the Welcome Stamp visa in Barbados. So we swapped our winter rain gear for shorts, t-shirts, dresses, sandals… all things tropical. It took just 5 weeks from visa acceptance to relocation. We were welcomed into Barbados after following their safety protocols of two negative tests, which we appreciate since it keeps the island as safe as possible. By Day 6, we were exploring the island and eating our first meal out in a restaurant in seven months. Wearing masks, temperature checks and contact tracing were welcomed: They provide a layer of protection while getting back to life.
The coral island of Barbados is amazing. The culture is welcoming and diverse. There are so many ethnicities here, from local Bajans to immigrants from India, UK and Grenada. Vegetables locally grown, fish markets with the morning catch, macaroni pie, pickled breadfruit and rotis are some of our favorite things. There are views of the sea from many rolling hills on the island. Driving on the left side was an easy adjustment, but the narrow, bumpy roads still require some highly focused driving. One of the bigger challenges was having the turn signals and wiper blades on separate windows.
Our children are experiencing multiple cultures within their international school. We are working on living month-to-month in the moment. We are enjoying our latest experiences, like paddleboarding, which is a new pastime. Making memories within our #ExpatLife.