Six Hours in One of the World's Oldest Cities

Friday 31 May 2013

While there are several flights a day from Athens to Santorini, the connection with our carrier left us with a lengthy layover.  We had talked about heading into the city but with our 3:40 am wake up call, I wasn't sure we'd be up for much so we decided to play it by ear.  Upon arrival in Athens and one quick look around the airport, we knew 6 hours was going to be far too long to do nothing so we picked up the pace and put the plan to action.

At the end of the Arrivals hall, we checked our carry-on bag for 3€ with Pacific Baggage Services and then followed the signs to the Metro where we bought 2 tickets to Central Athens (Syntagma Square) for 14€.  The train departs every 30 minutes and it takes about 40 minutes to the centre.

Originally, we talked about immediately walking to the Acropolis in hopes of taking in one of Athens most famous sites but by the time we got everything sorted and into town, we knew we'd be too rushed for time.  Instead, we perused the streets and stopped in awe every time the Parthenon & Acropolis came into view, perched high above the city.  We stumbled upon other Ancient ruins scattered throughout the city centre and after a late lunch, we returned to the airport to catch our final flight.

A few hours definitely wasn't enough to take in one of the world's oldest cities and the birthplace of democracy.

Santorini Island

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Greece is one of those places where there seems to be several names for everything and it can be a little confusing.  Santorini is generally how the tourism industry refers to the island however officially, it's actually called Thira.  (Sometimes we see the classical name of Thera as well.)  The actual island is the product of an enormous volcanic eruption which created the Caldera that we see today.  The volcano rests under water in the centre (Nea Kameni above) and theories suggest that it's eruption was the source of Plato's Atlantis.  

The island itself is bigger than I had expected with quite a few little towns dotted all over the place.  The Caldera view (the interior) tends to be the most popular sites for tourists to visit because, let's face it, it is pretty stunning.  

Fira is the landing spot for the majority of cruise tourists and it's a busy little town full of your typical tourist shops and restaurants.  There are plenty of hotels and plenty of tiny alleyways to explore and spend your money.  It was probably our least favourite site on the island - just a bit too crowded and a bit too touristy for us.

Imerovigli was where we stayed at Absolute Bliss.  My masseuse explained to me that because it's the tallest point on the caldera, the guards used to keep watch for pirates approaching the bay.  The village is tiny and much, much quieter than it's counterparts, Fira & Oia but it's also home to a handful of hotels & restaurants.  It was our favourite spot to take in the sunset.
Imerovigli just after sunset with Oia in the distance
Oia, known as Ia (Ee-ya) to the locals, is most famous for it's gorgeous sunsets.  Literally, hordes and hordes of people line the streets of Oia every night to watch the sun dip into the Aegean sea.  The town itself almost felt like a bit of a cross between Fira and Imerovigli with quite a few hotels, restaurants and  shops but we felt it to be a bit more charming than Fira.
Looking at Oia from Imerovigli

A couple of days into our stay, rain was in the forecast and it gave us the perfect excuse to rent a car and explore the other side of the island.  The terrain plateaus behind the steep hills of the caldera to make way for wineries, fields & beaches and it's beautiful in a completely different way.

We stopped by Kamari, known for it's black beach.  There were several restaurants and hotels lining the shoreline and we were told on hot days, it's packed full of people who rent sun loungers and swim in the sea.

We also visited the Red Beach near Akrotiri which was quite stunning to see the deep, red juxtaposed against the bright, blue sea.  We stopped for a beer nearby and sat right along the water and watched the waves crash over the seawall, splattering the tables.

Touring the majority of the island can easily be done in one day and while we chose to rent a car, many others decided to rent Quads or scooters to zip around.  There are quite a few wineries to visit as well as the site of Ancient Akrotiri, which we returned to the following morning.  Both evenings, we took advantage of the car and had dinner and viewed the sunset in Oia, which was a bit too far to walk to at night from Imerovigli.

In the end, I was quite happy to have the time to explore Santorini further - had it been hot and sunny, I'm not sure Joe could have convinced me to leave the terrace.

+Car/Quad/Scooter rentals are a dime a dozen on the island.  Our hotel arranged for our car - it cost 30€/day (certainly much cheaper than a taxi) and it was dropped off and picked up directly from our accommodation.
+Parking lots are found all over the island and the majority are free of charge.
+While the island is small, traffic can be a bit slow due to extremely large tourist buses navigating narrow roads and corners.
+After touring the majority of the island, we were so happy to have chosen a hotel in Imerovigli and if we returned, we'd stay there again!

Summer Travel

Monday 27 May 2013

Instagram Lately (@cjstjohn)

The summer always seems to bring on a flurry of activity.  The weather warms, the leaves turn green and people are ecstatic to leave their houses and enjoy the season.  It also tends to be the peak travel season for much of the Northern hemisphere - everyone hoping to take advantage of the long, warm days and summer holidays.  The same rings true for us.

The winter seemed to drag on and on - not that it was particularly cold but it just took ages to warm up and turn green. Joe was busy at work and aside from our inner Norway trips (Oslo, Bergen & Flåm) we stayed put until our recent travels to London & Santorini but now, things are getting busy.

Just a couple of weeks after our return from Greece, I'm due to turn 30 and we'll be off to France to celebrate.  We've booked a super, swanky hotel and I plan on sipping champagne and strolling palace grounds.  (If anything takes the edge off another decade come & gone, it must be that!)

Afterwards, Joe and I part ways.  He to Texas for a business trip and me to Canada where I'll spend almost the entire month of June.  Most of my time will be spent in Saskatchewan with a couple of trips to Alberta.  After Joe's week in the US, he'll jump back on a plane for Stavanger for one week before traversing the Atlantic again.  We'll meet up in Northern British Columbia, attend a wedding and then fly back to Norway together.

From there, we'll both have a week to recover before we welcome my parents to our Norwegian home. We'll spend their 2 weeks here exploring Rogaland but I'll also be taking them up to Bergen & on the Norway in a Nutshell tour.

August slows down a bit with a quick, weekend trip to Stockholm and a potential meet up somewhere in Europe with a couple of my Gabon girlfriends.

How are your summer plans shaping up?

Absolute Bliss - Imerovigli, Santorini

Friday 24 May 2013

I'm known to be quite particular when it comes to hotels.  Some people will choose to save money in accommodation because 'they only sleep there' but I'm not one of them.  I like to surround myself with nice things and having a well-designed, comfortable room to return to after a busy day exploring is important to me.  Good design also inspires me and fantastic service can most definitely enhance a trip.

When planning a holiday, as opposed to a short stay in a city hotel, I think a great hotel is even more important because you will certainly do more than sleep there.  While there is always the option of spending your days out and about, there will be days where you'll want to stay put and the better the hotel, the more enjoyable the day.

When it came to planning our stay in Santorini, I immediately thought back to Liz's posts about her trip last year.  I remember her raving about the entire vacation and particularly, her hotel.  I did my due diligence and researched further, pricing other options but after a few emails and the glowing review increasing, I knew we had to heed Liz's advice and book Absolute Bliss.

It did not disappoint.

Located in Imerovigli, Absolute Bliss is found away from the crowds in Fira & Oia in it's own picturesque caldera setting.  I loved how quiet and peaceful it was and it was perfect to return to after visiting the more popular towns on the island.  The hotel itself is small - just over a dozen rooms - and personal.  Guests are made to feel special and welcomed without any sort of pretentious undertones making a very comfortable stay.

Our room was simple with white washed walls, crisp, white linens and great windows to take advantage of the gorgeous views.  The terrace was the selling point.  It was massive and where we spent the majority of our waking hours.  A small table for breakfast, 2 sun loungers for midday reading and sunbathing and a hot tub for sunset viewing kept us occupied throughout the day.

What set Absolute Bliss apart from an average holiday was by far the staff.  The manager, Sofia, was seriously amazing.  She had the taxi driver phone her ahead of time as we made our way from the airport to the hotel to make sure she was waiting at the door to our suite when we arrived.  Upon hearing that we didn't have bags, she offered to bring a few clothes with her in the morning just in case I needed something and she left us with her mobile number directing us to call, even at 3 am, if we needed anything at all despite the reception being open 24 hours a day.

Every morning, our pre-ordered breakfast arrived on the dot, the housekeeping staff kept our room immaculate and 2 gentlemen climbed those steep stairs every day delivering food and drinks to us as we soaked up the sun on the terrace.  We were practically forbidden to lift a finger.  When the weather looked less pleasant one day, Sofia hired us a car and had it delivered within half an hour but while we waited, she drew out a map for us directing us to the best sites on the island.  At every little stop, she'd jot down a few recommended restaurants (very much appreciated and resulted in not one single episode of hanger) and both Sofia and her assistant handled making dinner reservations for us whenever we requested it.  Not once did we feel like we weren't being taken care of and everything was always done with a smile.

Staying at Absolute Bliss completely reinforced why we love to stay in small, boutique hotels.  The service is so personal, never having to use a room number or even our name and feeling genuinely well taken care of the entire stay.  As we reluctantly prepared to depart, Sofia asked Joe how he enjoyed the local, craft beer they just began carrying at the hotel and before we knew it, she'd slipped to the back and brought out 1 litre of his favourite brew to take with us telling us she'd even arrange to ship it to us if we wanted.

While the island itself is gorgeous no matter where you stay, Absolute Bliss most definitely contributed to this dreamy vacation.

{Last week, while on vacation, I was featured on Diane's new Expat Chitchat series.  You can check it out here.}

A First Glimpse of Santorini

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Our alarm was set for 3:40am, taxi ordered for 4:30 in order to catch our 6 am flight.  We flew from Stavanger to Copenhagen to Athens to Santorini which spanned just over 13 hours - the same amount of time and nearly the same cost as it is for us to fly to Canada.

We were due to land around 8 pm, just before the famed Santorini sunset and I had hopes of grabbing our bags quickly and jumping in our pre-arranged taxi to take in the last moments of daylight from our terrace but as we stood around the luggage belt, the other travellers slowly dispersing with their bags until the belt stopped, it was apparent that our bags were not arriving and I knew we'd miss that sunset. By the time the report was filed and we wearily climbed into our taxi, there wasn't a shred of light left in the sky as we drove through the darkness to our hotel.

We were welcomed by our lovely host who was waiting with a bottle of wine in our candlelit room and while we were certainly happy to have finally arrived, we were exhausted and a little deflated after the luggage debacle.  We poured a glass of wine, ordered a bit of food and gazed out into the darkness before finally collapsing into bed.

The following morning we woke to this...
Within an hour, our bags were delivered to our room with our breakfast and the pain of yesterdays travel quickly faded as we prepared to drink in Santorini.
(Joe just pointed out the double entendre that I apparently missed when I wrote this post but we literally did both!)
Our days were filled with long, slow walks, leisurely lunches, and stops along the way for local beer and wine.  The island was at its best in late afternoon when the cruise ship passengers would head back to their boats slowing everything down to it's quiet and easy charm.  The sun would be warm, the wind calmed and we'd make our way to our terrace to watch them sail off into the Aegean sea, happy to have the Santorini back to ourselves.  We read books, revelled in the warm sun and reconnected over gorgeous scenery.  We dined on delicious Greek food every night and would end the days in our jacuzzi on our terrace.  I'm certain that Santorini must be one of the most romantic places on earth.

It was 8 days of bliss - pure bliss.

{Tonight, May 22,  I'm co-hosting the #SeeTheWorld twitter chat with the lovely @thecultureur & @rovingaltruist as we talk about my homeland - Canada!  Join us at 3 pm EST / 9 pm CET!}

A Look at Bergen

Friday 17 May 2013

Bergen is Norway's second largest city with a population of 268 900 which puts it behind Oslo but ahead of Stavanger.  It's also known as the 'Gateway to the Fjords' which is precisely why we visited as we started and finished our Norway in a Nutshell tour from Bergen.

Bergen is located on the Western coast of Norway and while it's only about 210 kilometres from Stavanger, the journey via car takes close to 5 hours and requires 2 ferries.  The city itself is reminiscent of Stavanger - located right on the water with the same coloured, wooden buildings dotting the central harbour and it exudes that small town charm but is indeed bigger and seemingly more mountainous.

Founded in 1070, Bergen was Norway's largest town until the 1830s.  Today, tourism, fishing and oil & gas are the major industries but it's also home to a leading University.  Visitors have a wide range of museums to peruse (I'm particularly interested to get back and explore the Leprosy Museum,) endless outdoor activities to try and of course, can explore the surrounding fjords.

Our visit was short as it was really only a starting off and ending point for our Norwegian excursion and as we arrived over Easter long weekend, much of the city remained closed.  We made the most of our time though and explored what we could of the area.

A highlight was the trip up the Fløibanen funicular, a cable railway that takes visitors up the side of the mountain with fantastic views of the city.  We lucked out with beautiful weather and clear skies and because we weren't in the thick of high season, it was relatively calm at the top.

May 17 just happens to be Norway's Constitution Day.  Back in 1814 Norway signed its constitution declaring it an independent state.  The celebration is a big deal all over the country and unfortunately, we're missing out on it this year but we will certainly raise a glass to our adopted home while abroad!

It's also my dear Dad's birthday - Happy Birthday Dad!  Joe and I will have a drink in your honour - now that I think about it, we'll be having a lot of drinks today, all in the name of celebration :)

Down Memory Lane

Monday 13 May 2013

I get a lot of emails from people inquiring about Gabon.  Most of the time, they're potential expats who are wondering about life in that little, equatorial nation.  You see, there isn't much about Gabon on the internet.  No one goes there and out of the couple thousand expats who call it home every year, very few of us blog.  When we found out we were moving to Port Gentil, I literally scoured the internet for information.  It turned up practically nothing (especially in terms of real life in the country.)  However, there was one blog by an American woman, her French husband and their 3 children and I read it from post #1 multiple times just to try and get a sense of what my life might be like there.  While the majority of the posts were about her children, it helped me realize that I could make a life in Port Gentil.  (Side note: Less than a year into my stay, I met her and felt so weird that I knew all of her children's names.  I never told her that I read her blog out of embarrassment but in hindsight, I should have let her know how helpful it was to me.)

Last week, a young, American teenager reached out to me via my first blog.  He had been assigned a project on Gabon and had also been scouring the internet for information.  He wrote that he was looking for pictures to match certain topics in his project and in his words, "Google images surprisingly doesn't have these things (that was sarcasm), I'm wondering if you could help?"

The teacher in me LOVED this.  First of all, here's a kid actually doing his homework.  Secondly, he took the time to write me to ask for help and third, he didn't just steal everything off my page and call it a day.

I spent an hour the next morning sorting through some photos trying to find a few that would help him which led me to think about our time there.  It's funny - I feel like our time in Gabon was ages ago yet I remember it so vividly.  I remember that wall of humidity that hit me every time I stepped out the door.  I remember the taxis incessantly honking outside my window.  I remember the smells so clearly that my nose recoils mid-thought.  I can drive myself down the streets to certain stores and picture my friend's guards from memory.  The nostalgia surprises me.
The tiny village of Omboué
An Easter walk to the Catholic Church behind our house
Offshore Platforms stacked off the coast of Port Gentil

While I know that time will fade these memories, I hope I don't forget the little things.

{And for those of you who stumble across this blog while scouring for information on Gabon, I'm happy to help.  I've been there and I know that your search has turned up practically nothing and all you want to know is if you'll be able to live there.}

A Year

Friday 10 May 2013

Sverd i Fjell at sunset
Exactly one year ago today, From There To Here went live.  Those of you that have been around for awhile know that I'd been blogging 2 years prior on a little WordPress blog but in anticipation of moving out of Africa and the choice to make this space more of a dedicated hobby, this blog was born.

In 2010, I started blogging as we prepared to embark on this life overseas and like many expat bloggers, I didn't actually expect anyone other than our immediate friends and family to read it.  Every once in awhile, generally after explaining it to non-bloggers or after having been sucked into the black hole of giveaways and followers, I wonder why I do this --- that is, blog.  It's such a weird thing this blogging - writing, photo taking and sharing our life online.  It takes a lot of time and effort and there are times where it feels like more of a chore than anything but I persevere through those difficult patches in hopes that one day in the future when we're settled into an average Canadian home, I'll look back through this space and think, "Wow, I can't believe we did all of that!"

And of course, there's you.  Those who keep coming back, reading, commenting, sending emails and connecting over our common love for travel, books and life abroad.  I don't say it enough but, Thank You.  Thank you for keeping me inspired to write and thank you for the community you've helped to create here.

If you're up to it, I'd love to hear a bit more about you - who are you, where are you, how'd you find your way here &  where would you travel to if you could pack your bags tonight?

{It also seemed fitting that the week of my one year blog anniversary, I hit 100 000 page visits.  That baffles me!}

Working Culture in Norway

Wednesday 8 May 2013

I think when people move overseas they expect there to be cultural differences - different foods, languages, holidays & customs - but they don't always anticipate those cultural differences spilling over into the working environment.  Work seems like it would just be 'work' everywhere when in fact, it can be vastly different from what you are used to.

It's fairly evident in Norwegian society that family is of the utmost priority in practically all aspects of life.  We see this in the year long, fully paid maternity/paternity leave.  We see it in the cafes with nursing rooms and/or stroller parking.  It's obvious in the free education scheme and on the streets in daily life.  It's also pretty blatant in the working environment.

In short, Norwegians often work short days - 7:30-3:30 is common.  In fact, rush hour here is usually between 3 and 4 pm.  They take a half hour lunch break where food is often provided at an in house cafeteria subsidized for employees.  They are privy to 5 weeks of vacation every year and are encouraged to take several weeks together over summer for a break.  The working week for office jobs is Monday through Friday and it's generally frowned upon to work on evenings and weekends.  This includes answering emails or telephone calls unless of course, you are on call.  They leave work at work.  If you are sick, you stay home and you are not expected to work while recovering.  If your child has a special event, you're expected to leave work to attend.

Much of Norway is highly unionized meaning workers have a union advocating for their rights.  It's quite difficult to lose your job once you have it (or to fire someone if they aren't performing like you'd expect.)  The working responsibilities are generally quite specific and there are usually several people working in one area where there might only be one employee covering it all in North America.  It's not uncommon for an employee to say "No" if they're asked to do something they feel is outside of their duties and that is accepted.  People often dress down for work wearing jeans and a collared shirt or blouse throughout the week.  You'll also notice employees shifting their working hours on Fridays (particularly in the summer) to enable them to duck out early for the weekend.  CEO's in Norway tend to be the lowest paid in the world whereas the average employee tends to have higher salaries than their counterparts in other countries.

Foreigners often hear of these conditions and immediately express that they'd love to work in Norway however, they'll notice some drawbacks.  It can often feel like it will take ages to get something done simply because the working hours are short.  At 3:30 everyone stops what they are doing and heads home even if right in the middle of something.  There's a lack of urgency.  Those in managerial positions find the adjustment more difficult having to work their way through the heavy union protocol.  There can often be 'too many cooks in the kitchen' so to speak making decisions drawn out and if you happen to need something outside of normal business hours, you're generally out of luck.  The summer can feel particularly difficult too as more than half of all employees will be on vacation and they will definitely not be checking emails so your file may well sit on their desk for a month with nothing happening.

Now, Norway sits in a pretty special position allowing them such generous working benefits.  Before they uncovered the massive amounts of oil in the North Sea in the 60's, the country itself was actually quite poor relying on farming and fishing as their main sources of survival.  Of course all of that has since changed with the mounds of money that came with their oil discovery.  Currently, Norway comes second only to Luxembourg as the highest GDP per capita and their government pension fund is sitting at a cool $654 billion dollars.  This obviously puts them in a pretty comfortable position financially and allows it's citizens many benefits and security.

The working culture can be a massive adjustment for those who come from North America where work and career are often at the forefront of our lives.  We feel so much pressure to work well past normal office hours and can be expected to do the work of several people because we know that if we don't do it, someone else will and we'll be out of a job.  Many people will look at Norway's working culture and wish they had a similar environment yet when they arrive feel the pendulum swings a bit too far the other way for them.

It's easy for me to say, as I'm not working in Norway, but I find it refreshing.  Norwegians clearly have their priorities set and it's obvious that work is not at the forefront.  Family and life come first and they are not willing to jeopardize that in any way.  I admire that they are uncompromising in their beliefs and find much more to life than work and career.  As foreigners arrive and step into the working culture of Norway, it'll be easy to feel frustrated while learning the ropes but they must remember the working culture of Norway has been made by and for Norwegians, not the expatriates.

Will their economy be able to keep up with the arrangement they've set for themselves?  No one can say for sure but they have made it work for them under the current conditions and they appear to be content with the choices they've made.

[And before you comment as to how lucky Joe is to be reaping the benefits of the Norwegian working climate... he's here on an expat contract out of Dubai as opposed to a local contract which puts him in a grey area.  Technically, he's supposed to follow the rules in the country he's living in however, he works for an American company and the expectations for an American company abroad are the same as an American company in the USA.  That coupled with the fact that all of his superiors are expats generally means that he picks up the slack when everyone else leaves at half three.  It sucks for him and it sucks for me but that's the way things tend to happen on these expat contracts.]

*Obviously, I'm making some generalizations here and different industries and positions will show different characteristics.

{EXPATRIATED] Bethany from Rinse Repeat

Monday 6 May 2013

Sometimes I get the impression that people think we are crazy for leaving all that we are familiar with behind for a life overseas but we aren't the only ones that have chosen this lifestyle.  In fact, there are a lot of us and many of us blog about it.  Expatriated is a series to introduce you to other expat bloggers.

I am so honoured to have Bethany from Rinse Repeat on the blog today.  I had been silently following along Bethany's journey in the Middle East for awhile, but not long ago she posted a lovely, heartfelt and honest post about her expat life which urged me to connect with her.  I love that she's honest about her experiences on her blog in a world of blogs that sugarcoat life yet she doesn't come across negative or ungrateful.  It's refreshing.

So, without further ado... 

Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up and lived my entire life in Eau Claire, Wisconsin... but now I live in Kuwait City, Kuwait.

How did you end up in Kuwait and what inspired you to make the move?
Shortly after getting married, my husband was offered a position in Kuwait.  Although Kuwait wasn't our ideal location, we thought moving abroad would give us the opportunity to travel and see another culture!

What is the best part of living overseas?
I love the diversity in a place like Kuwait.  I grew up in a smaller town in America and for 20+ years was surrounded by people exactly like me.  I love that right now while peeking out my window, I can see Indian women in saris, Arab women in hijabs or abayas and Western women in jeans and J. Crew sweaters.  We dress differently; we pray to different gods; we each carry a unique culture and traditions that are so special to us.  And yet for the most part, we all peacefully exist here.

What do you miss most about home?
It's hard to sum up in one word, but it would have to be equality.  That's strange for me to say in Kuwait, because as a Westerner I'm usually treated quite well.  But, people of other races and ethnicities don't receive the same fair treatment.  I miss the general understanding that we're all equal regardless of race, income or sex...I miss the way people band together when someone acts contrary to this.

And for the small stuff: I miss people forming orderly lines.  I miss wine... it's prohibited here.  And I really, really, really miss Target.

What was the most difficult thing to adjust to in Kuwait?
The heat.  In the summer, it can get up to 130 degrees... and it is not a dry heat.  As a woman, you must keep your shoulders and legs covered.  It's horrifyingly uncomfortable, and after just a few minutes outside, I need a shower + change of clothes.  The hottest season also coincides with Ramadan, a 1 month period of daytime fasting.  All restaurants are closed from sun up to sundown, and even drinking water in public (in any visible place including your car) can result in jail time or heavy fines.  Last year, I became a hermit during Ramadan, because I just couldn't handle it.

Any funny 'whoopsies' while adjusting to your new life?
Absolutely!  When we moved in, our apartment had the ugliest mural on the living room wall.  My husband bribed the landlord to get it painted.  When the painter showed up, my husband was at work but I welcomed the painter inside.  He left the front door open behind him.  Because our kitty likes to escape, I quickly closed the door.  He opened it, I closed it.  He opened it again, I closed it.  We played this game for a while, neither of us speaking the other's language.  Then he left, returned with a friend and finally closed the door.  The friend just sat on a bucket while he painted for three hours.

I was SO confused.

Later, I learned that it's frowned upon for a man to be with a married woman behind closed doors...lest others think that something, um, inappropriate is happening.  Since I had insisted that the front door remain closed, he was likely so uncomfortable that he recruited a friend to sit in my living room...simply to serve as a witness that nothing shady happened between us.

Cue 37 shades of blushing over my lack of cultural awareness.

Saving graces?
In Kuwait, expats make up more than half the population.  So, one of the biggest saving graces is knowing that the lady ringing up my groceries, the man driving my taxi to the mall and the guy delivering my dinner are likely all missing their family and country... just like me.  There's a bit of camaraderie to be found with anyone who is homesick, and I love the way others light up when they talk about home.

Everyone has a story.  Often those stories remind me that although I desperately miss the Target $1 bin, I don't have it that bad after all.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned from your time in Kuwait?
I used to stress about having a "perfect" life, and spent my first few months in Kuwait trying to rebuild the life I left behind.  I beat myself up for not having an adorable home, a perfect wardrobe, and beautiful parties in my new life overseas.  But finally, I realized that it's simply not possible to recreate one's old life 7 000 miles away from where that lifestyle ended.

And while I ache for the pretty things that I used to have, I also know they don't matter.  Life isn't about being perfect.  It's about having experiences, and holding on tight to the people you love.

If you had the chance to move elsewhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Italy, France or the Czech Republic would be high on the list.  I've loved traveling in Europe, and find each country so inspiring.  The social culture in Europe is closer to my own, so when I leave Kuwait and visit Europe, it's a bit like breathing again.  But it also offers the awe of experience new sights, food and people.  Plus I've got a thing for old buildings, outdoor cafes and cobblestone streets.  Check, check and check.  :)

Any advice for the newly expatriated?
Leaving home behind is such a multi-faceted emotional kind to yourself in the process.  Also, it's okay if you're not head-over-heels with your new home.  (I'll be brave and say that I'm not.)  In time you'll cry a little less, and you'll find things that you really do love.  You'll make a few friends and life will begin to feel normal.

I promise.  Cross my heart.


I LOVE this interview.  

Bethany has such a way with words that is honest and thought provoking yet makes you feel at ease.  You can read more from her on Rinse Repeat.

And, thank you Bethany!

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