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    A Post Abroad

    03.28.2014 / TRAVEL


    The itch began innocently enough with a series of gut pings – the precise way my biggest decisions often do. A trip overseas (ping), an e-friend and former expat’s book release (ping), an invite to Singapore and Amsterdam this year (ping, ping), a slow trickle of friends shifting across the pond for work and play and adventure (ping, ping, ping). With community scattered all over the world, the corners began to close in and my map began to feel smaller – almost as if latitude and longitude’s strings were tying a knot in my soul.

    The flexibility of my work is not lost on me. Over the years, I’ve logged hours from the beaches of Los Angeles to the hills of Ireland, from hotel rooms in New York to studio apartments in Portland. I have worked on the San Francisco pier and the Chicago shore, have sipped countless cups of coffee with my laptop in Oakland then Philly then Atlanta then Omaha then Salt Lake City then San Diego then West Palm Beach then New Orleans. My computer and I, my family and I – we are mobile.


    And I sometimes wonder if perhaps I was blessed with this job for a reason. If I was meant to let my quest for adventure override my love for the comforts of home – if only for a bit. If perhaps my greatest goal in life – to love my figurative neighbors – can be achieved by purchasing a few plane tickets and switching zip codes for a bit. Because wasn’t it Mark Twain that wrote these words of truth?: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

    Ken and I have chatted on and off about what expat living would look like for our family and there are many variables to consider. And yet. It’s sitting well with me right now, this possibility. We’re a long (looooong) way away from packing our suitcases, but Ken and I have always operated with action plans and visual cues, surrounding ourselves with enough flotation devices of information and strategy and prayer before jumping into a sea of change.


    So, this weekend, we created a flotation device. We crafted a Post-it Note map (ironically enough, using Post-it Brand Colors of the World collection) based on research created to determine which countries are more or less expat-friendly. I’m not one to accept sweeping generalizations, so this map is a very loose translation of abstract overviews – bright pinks representing countries that can perhaps offer a more seamless transition of living, bright oranges representing the opposite with yellows and corals posting neutrality to some degree. (Here’s looking at you, Australia!) All provide a nice dose of happiness on our kitchen wall, and all are part of the Bangkok Color Collection (here!).


    [Sidenote: If you happen to be curious or crafty enough to tackle the project at home, might I suggest a healthy stock pile of patience? This wall is a dry erase wall – perfect for outlining countries and colors and also impromptu Hangman breaks – but the beauty of the Post-it Note, as we all know, is the fun of positioning and repositioning, sticking and resticking. Have fun with it, you know?]

    Anyway, there is much to be considered amongst the pinks: language barriers and finances and housing arrangements, but the idea certainly holds appeal. And as we inch close and closer to deciding what our tiny family’s future holds, we’ll be consulting the map – and life – we’ve crafted with love.


    So tell me, where would you move, friends? Any expats reading? I’d love tips and insights!

    Image Credits: Ken Loechner in partnership with Post-it Brand Colors of the World.

    p.s. See more inspired projects on Post-it Brand’s Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest networks!

    • Do it! Go. Move. Live overseas. You will never regret it.

      I’ve always been a huge lover of travel as is my husband. We travelled a lot before we met (I even lived in Cape Town for two years), after we got together and now that we have a family (our daughter is 8).

      I picked Cape Town because I wanted a challenge – I knew that if I was in Oz or London, I’d end up hanging out with other expats and I wanted to get to know people who really lived there. I wanted to be immersed. And I’d always wanted to travel around southern Africa so that was a huge bonus.

      The two years zoomed by so quickly. I’d go for at least a year – four seasons and time to settle in. But a year is short – by the time you get your “sea legs”, it’s time to start planning to return.

      With Bea being little, it’ll be easier and she’ll be an entré to meeting other parents/families. But even school-aged kids are fine too. The only tricky time is teenage years.

      So if you have the chance, do it. It’ll change you forever and you’ll have an experience that you can never get just by visiting a place.

      • OMG you are so, so, so wise – this is great advice! And you know, I’d never considered Cape Town but I have a feeling I/we would LOVE it. You’re right – she’s young, we’ve all got wings. We should do it. ;)

        Thanks for the encouragement, friend! And if Cape Town is on the short list, I’ll be emailing. ;)

    • OH MAN! I could chat about this for days. I’m something of a serial-expat at this point, I spent three years in Kyrgyzstan (what does the light pink mean on your map?) from 2010-2013, but just moved to Ghent, Belgium last October. Although I am quite happy that my family (husband and a 15-month-old son) and I have settled here, I think if I had the choice to move anywhere, no obstacles, I would choose South Korea, because I love the food and I’m fascinated by the culture and language.

      I agree with Sandra, a year goes by SO fast. It’s tough to live abroad for a year, but so rewarding! It takes a lot longer to fall into a routine then you might expect (at least, it was always like that for me) and man, new languages are hard! But the experiences, the newness of everything, the people you meet (locals and other expats) is priceless. And from having a young kid with me, I can tell you that it’s quite a different experience from before I had him. Babies/toddlers are an invitation for a whole new set of interactions with people, like play groups and kid-centric cultural activities that instantly allow you to bond with other parents. A golden ticket to new friends! And, you know, toddlers can make sure that you won’t spend all day moping around your house, they’ll get you out and about exploring your new town because they’re just too bored otherwise.

      I’m assuming that Bishkek is not on your short list, but get in touch if you’re considering Belgium! and yes, there is never a more perfect time than right now to make a huge decision like this!

    • Gah! This is just so exciting! I know we’ve talked about it before, but I say go for it. Being truly mobile on the work front seems like an expat opportunity waiting to happen. Also, I love the approach you’re taking to try and figure out your next move. You can’t go wrong with data + bold visuals, right? :)

      • Ha, I know. My husband’s the researcher in the family, but I have to admit, this was fun!

    • The rewards so totally outweigh the challenges (says a single, childless expat in Paris).

      Excited about this possibility for you! And again, absolutely love the Post-It map project.

      • Ahhhh love your encouragement; thank you, Danielle!

    • Stasha

      When making decisions…always go with what makes a better story! We did a 10 month home exchange in France with our 4 kids, who were then 9, 6, 5 and 18 months old. We avoided English expats, we watched French TV, we made friends with the French people at the school. We decided we should stay a bit longer … That was over 6 years ago. I think we delved as deeply as one possibly can into a different language and culture – we bought and renovated a house, started a business, have had illnesses and car troubles. I wouldn’t be able to do it again…if I ever move it will be back to the US. We have discovered so many wonderful and annoying things here, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the thing that makes or break living anywhere is FRIENDS!

      • Ha – genius motto! And wow, I love this perspective! :)

    • Sheila

      In a heartbeat, I would do it all over again! :)

    • When I was sixteen, my parents decided to move us from Los Angeles to our beach home in Baja California full time. Though it was a little rough going at first, we all eventually adjusted and were very happy. I never would have learned a second language, experienced a different culture or bonded with my mom in that special daughter/mom way had we not moved to Mexico. If you have the opportunity, you should do it. Do it! The benefits of experiencing something different from the way of life as you know it will completely change you, in a positive and fullfilling way.

      • Ahhh, I LOVE this story, Maggie! Your parents (and you!) were brave folks indeed. :)

      • p.s. I love your shop!

    • I love this map project! My husband and I recently enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle for two years — we learned so much about ourselves and the world during that time. One thing we noticed while living abroad was that time seemed to move slower. By escaping the routine of our lives in NY, and having to learn new ways of going about daily life, it’s as if we were living more in the moment. When we start a family, we plan on raising them abroad, at least for a bit… Paris and Berlin seem to be the frontrunners for now, but like you, we are keeping our minds wide open!

      • Oh I love this, Dorothy! One of my favorite parenting mantras is that kids need both roots AND wings – I think living abroad might offer both!

    • Hey Erin,
      Your post made me smile. I was having the exact same niggle a couple of years ago. In 2013 my partner and I quite our jobs and left for Amsterdam- we couldn’t ignore the need for a sea change any longer.

      One year in, we keep saying to one another how comfortable we feel here. Granted, there are a tonne of expats, but the Dutchies are lovely.

      Here are my reasons to consider the Dam.

      1. Mobility. You travel everywhere on bike (kids included) and it means you feel a bit like you’re living in a global village where everything feels accessible.. Plus, if you ever need to ponder or just move your body you only need to get your bike and hit the canals. Smile guaranteed.

      2. Family and work life. Lots of Dutchies work 4 days. Shops are often shut on Sundays. There is definitely more time carved out for friends and family.

      3. Language isn’t a problem. The Dutch speak superb English ( although I’m learning how to speak Dutch.). So if you’re not wanting Oz or London, then here feels sufficiently ‘new’ without getting so so far out of our comfort zone

      4. Design and dogs. I put them together only to keep this from turning into an essay. Both things the Dutchies adore and are plentiful over here.

      Happy travels,


      • OMG you have single-handedly put Amsterdam VERY high on my list. Thank you, Steph!!! :)

        • I agree! I live in France, but if I could live anywhere, Amsterdam would probably be at the top of my list. The Dutch are so tolerant and they are always ahead of the curve on social issues.
          Plus Amsterdam really is not very far from Paris.

        • Ahhh, Amsterdam keeps creeping up higher and higher on our list. Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh, that sounds amazing Erin! I’ve been dreaming of doing something like that for years, but the timing has never been quite right. I’ll really excited though if I ever feel called to an adventure like that.

      If I could expat anywhere, I think it would be one of the Nordic countries, like Sweden, Norway, Finland or Denmark. They seem at once energetic and peaceful.

      • Oh, those are high on my list, too. I hear they’re quite cold, but I’m definitely up for a visit in the warmer months! :)

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