Last updated on August 7th, 2017 at 11:59 am
Living Abroad: The Dual Life
Since the moment we got married, in July of 2015, my husband and I have split our time between our home in Los Angeles and living abroad in Switzerland for 3 months at a time because of his work. We had our wedding, flew two days later to London for our honeymoon, then arrived in Switzerland. So much beautiful change in one moment.
After those three months we’ve flown home to Los Angeles for 2-3 months at a time then back to Zurich 2-3 months at a time. Sadly, living abroad will end this year but we’re going back to Switzerland for EIGHT whole months this time! I’m beyond excited but also nervous.
We’ve found wonderful friends in Zurich and enjoy experiencing a great new culture. I’ve been learning German which has been surprisingly fun. Switzerland is a beautiful, clean, safe place with so many wonderful characteristics. I want to make sure no second is wasted for the next 8 months!
Time Limits Are the Best
It’s kind of amazing what a time limit does to your productivity and drive. Knowing I only have 8 months living abroad has made me determined to get as much as I can out of each moment.
To be present, involved and curious is my ultimate goal.
I want to jump into the experience so much that at the end of it I say “Wait. What? We have to go somewhere else now?” as if awoken from a deep dream.
We often don’t treat time with care, attention, and urgency. Shouldn’t we though? Most of us don’t know when our time is up. But I have a feeling, even if we live until we’re 102, we still won’t feel like we’ve had enough time. Start now. Feel the urgency to fulfill your life’s purpose. Engage in every second you’re alive and do what sets your soul on fire. Living abroad is an easy way to slip into an inspired and passionate life so I feel lucky. But I still have to make an effort to be a focused, positive thinking person. I don’t all of a sudden enjoy life because I’m in another country.
Living between two places has taught me the value and preciousness of time. Think about how fast life really does fly and then get that fire going to make every second count. Don’t be like those elderly people who realize too late how little they actually lived.
Make tangible time limits on your goals and really commit to it. If your goals are based around what you can control then it’s easier to keep them.
For example, having a goal to work out every morning at 9:00 am is not as controllable as saying you’ll work out 5 days a week. In the latter goal, you have flexibility on what time you work out. In the former, if something comes up and you can’t work out at 9:00 am then you may not work out at all.
Bloom Where You Are Planted
But, to be honest, there were some months when I felt really depressed, lonely, and unmotivated even though I was living in Switzerland. Which taught me that running away from issues will never be the solution. Moving to a new place won’t erase problems. The real you is still there and won’t change just because your surroundings do. What matters most is your inner condition and choosing to thrive no matter where you are.
You don’t need to wait for a certain event to happen or some sign to do what you love and live with full purpose. If you look outwardly you’ll never arrive. Living with purpose and urgency comes from within. It comes from gratitude, awe, and connection to yourself and others. These characteristics are beautiful things we can cultivate where we stand NOW. Life is beautiful. Souls are beautiful. I hope to better connect with those around me and shine. To be the person God intends me to be. Hopefully at the end of 8 months I will accomplish that.
It’s a way of being and thinking which makes the positive difference in your life. This is kinda awesome because our happiness isn’t tied to external factors we can’t control. You are such a powerful, magnificent being that, no matter where you are, you decide how to experience your life. This is ultimate freedom if you ask me.
For those of you reading this who may be moving to a new country with a foreign culture (possibly language) and starting completely over: it’s tough. There will be moments of loneliness, questioning of your identity, and many moments of getting to know the real you. But I promise this is going to be a wonderful learning and growth experience for you. Keep reading for ideas on how to immerse into your new home:
Ideas for New Expats
Here’s a short list of things which helped me feel more comfortable, knowledgeable and less lonely living abroad. Hopefully they can inspire you too!
Find a place to volunteer
I found this idea on another expat blog and decided to reach out to an animal shelter to be a dog walker. They ended up not needing a walker but asked me to help them finish renovating their new facilities. I helped build the shelter’s cat room with the cat expert they flew in who has studied wild cats for over 15 years. His adventures in Costa Rica and other places were amazing!
Ride aimlessly on public transit and explore the city
This was scary to me because I’ve never used extensive public transit before much less in a language I didn’t speak. Once I figured out how to get to important places (like the grocery store or my husband’s work) I was able to begin building my bearings. It made me more at ease.
Find other expats
There are A LOT of people in your exact same position! My first stay in Switzerland was extremely lonely because I didn’t know how to find people. Also, I was scared to do anything because of how overwhelming life felt! Everything changed when I looked up other expat blogs and went to an English speaking church. Now I have two great friends in Zurich who are also in the same situation I am. We laugh, explore, and totally understand each other! Seriously. You have good friends waiting for you too. Put yourself out there to be found!
Take a language intensive course
For the last couple of trips to Switzerland I’ve taken month long German intensive courses with Flying Teachers. For three hours a day, five days a week I learn German in a classroom with people from all over the world who typically have recently moved to Zurich. It’s been fun and a great way to pick up German quickly. You can also learn French or Italian.
Make the city your own
I now have a favorite reading spot, restaurant, outdoor hike and cafe. My own special places. Discover your favorite spots and build your world again.
Follow bloggers, photographers, and others from your city
I love following Swiss bloggers, photographers, and chefs. They usually post about popular spots around the city which give me great ideas of new things to try.
Learn and grow
With the free time you have take it as a gift to read, write, draw, paint, or whatever you’re passionate about. If you’re staying permanently there may come a time you’ll work in your new city but until then give yourself the opportunity to enjoy.
Life’s What You Make It
This year, my goal is to focus on being more positive and intention filled. I’ll be posting videos on Instagram (add me), Snapchatting (@fphillips44), and creating content for my online shop @LottandHudson. Hopefully it’ll be enjoyable for you to follow along. It’s an online journal where I can remember special moments for years to come. The next 8 months living abroad will begin tomorrow but I already miss it. Time flies faster and faster these days.
Francesca Phillips is a writer who recently moved back to States after living in Switzerland. In her previous life, she worked in the music industry for six years in Los Angeles. As an avid reader and holder of a degree in Psychology, she covers topics related to self-improvement, finding your purpose, and energy alignment. She’s a contributor for her own blog, Thought Catalog, and Medium. When she’s not inspiring creatives to be a light in the world you’ll find her traveling, hanging with her husband, and obsessing over dogs on Instagram.