30 April 2012

Travel-Inspired Series {Part 2}: Rachael from Let's Be Adventurers

Next up in my travel-inspired series is Rachael from Let's Be Adventurers!

I came across Rachael's blog a few months ago and was instantly smitten.  She's fun, quirky, has literally traveled all over the world, and has also found herself living the ex-pat life due to the fact that she met and fell in love with a Dutchman while studying abroad in Finland {doesn't get much more multicultural than that!}.  Over the months she has become someone I consider to be a very close friend and we are already thinking of ways that we could meet up in real life {layover in Amsterdam on my next visit to California? - I think so!}.  Oh, and we also recently decided that one day we're both going to work together at Lonely Planet in San Francisco - so you see, we're basically soul mates :)

Today Rachael is here talking about how she became an ex-pat, and how you can become one too!

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Hello A Home Away From Home readers!

I'm Rachael from the blog Let's Be Adventurers and I'm so happy to be writing a guest post for Jenna while she's off exploring magical places.

Jenna and I basically live parallel lives after having both studied abroad (her in South Africa, me in Finland...we even left the same year) and meeting our handsome significant others while doing so (her meeting a South African, me meeting a Dutchman) AND we both come from beautiful California. And lastly, we both loved this international life so much, we became expats, foreigners living far from our home countries. If we met on the beach in California, we would most definitely become great friends. I'd love to visit South Africa one day just to meet her!

Like Jenna, I have been living the expat life for a few years (I moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, almost 4 years ago!), and by far the most asked question I get is how'd you do it? Many nationalities have access to visa programs that allow them to live and work in foreign countries around the world--unfortunately Americans aren't that lucky. But becoming an expat is still possible for anyone!

Ever wanted to move overseas? To teach English, learn a language, build your career or be an expat or just LIVE? I've come up with a few steps that will help you on your way to the wonderful world of expat life. I was just an average college student who mosied into the Study Abroad office, but when I returned from an unforgettable semester in Finland, I yearned for more...here's how I became an expat in Amsterdam:

{Home Sweet Holland!}

1. Decide how and where (and remember to step out of your comfort zone!)

Want to teach English in South Korea? Work on a monkey farm in Ecuador? Be a ski-instructor in the Alps? Attend Graduate school (which is often cheaper than the US) overseas while simultaneously satisfying that travel bug within and building an international profile (this is what I did!)? There are endless options. Maybe you’re already diving into your career, well other countries need your skills too! Work transfers to other overseas offices are not only possible, but probable. The world is more connected than ever before. Scope out the situation with other colleagues. Americans don’t get too many options for just getting a work visa and then flying to another country but fortunately, Australia for example needs young people (all of their youth are off working in Europe during their 20’s) so they work off a points-system and if you qualify (plenty of needed skills do!) you could be eligible for a year-long working visa in Australia (mate!)...yes even if you're American. I’m serious.

(Disclaimer: I’m not pulling these examples out of left field, I personally know people who have done ALL of these things!)


Before I boarded a one-way plane to Finland to be an exchange student in college, I was accepted and nearly on my way for a year abroad in Australia. Christmas in the summer? Beautiful beaches? 4 hours from Fiji? YES PLEASE! But then I realized I wanted a totally difference experience from my life in California and I knew I probably would never go to Finland if I didn’t go then…so I opted to leave California on a warm day in January bound for Finland (yep right in the middle of a Finnish winter!) which turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Why? Well I became great friends with the coolest people from all over the world (who I still see today!) especially the Dutch students, who then told me it was possible for me (a foreigner!) to attend Business school in Amsterdam (my favorite city!) and now I’m in love and engaged to one of those pesky Dutch boys…:)

{From California to Finland}
winter-5515_thumb[4]Finland 150_thumb[15]

2. Google it!

We’re lucky to have the world at our fingertips where people are constantly sharing information. And your bridge to expat life can simply start with a Google search…type anything you want and there are resources out there that will steer you in the right direction. Finding my Graduate program at the University of Amsterdam after I was an exchange student in Finland started with a Google search like this: ‘International Graduate School Amsterdam’. I was led to the University of Amsterdam website, clicked on ‘International Students’ and started my application from there. Eventually my search led me to a scholarship for international students in Holland; fast forward a few months after I applied for this scholarship and I was given a FULL scholarship to my program.

{Canals + tulips + boats}

3. Get the logistics out of the way

Here’s the overwhelmingly tricky part, filling out the forms, renewing your passport, getting a visa, saving every penny, buying the ticket and saying buh-bye to your friends and family. It’s stressful but take it step-by-step and you will be on your way. And rest assured knowing that there have been countless instances where people just like YOU have done the same thing to get there.

4. Keep an open mind, accept change and enjoy this new phase you’re about to experience

You’ve arrived in your destination! Pat yourself on the back and be so proud that you were able to leave your familiar world behind for another one you know nothing about. Accept that this experience will open you up to unfamiliar situations, new ways of thinking and totally unexpected fun that you never knew existed. You will become a better person during and after this experience, I repeat, you WILL become a better person during and after this experience.

5. Meet the locals and get to know the culture

Take part in everything that comes your way! Step out of your comfort zone and do things you would have never done before (keep safety in mind though) – dance until the morning hours at a HUGE party in the French countryside (this was my eye-opening moment), dress in orange and cheer on the national team at the World Cup (thanks to the Dutch in the World Cup final AND Queen’s Day, I have lots of orange clothing items…TONS! And I sport them proudly!), celebrate Carnival in a small village, and the list goes on.

{Dutch Road Trip to Kinderdijk}
{Celebrating Carnival in Maastricht}
chef smit-1723_thumb[3]BeFunky_B&w_5_thumb[7]
{Meeting new friends!}
{Going to local festivals}
{Cheering on the Dutch for the World Cup!}

6. Power through the tough times and homesickness, it always gets better

At some point the honeymoon phase of living overseas ends and it transitions into a ‘is this my home now? But what about my real home? Omg I’m never gonna be able to go home again!’ Anticipate that this WILL happen at some point, but just as you went down, you always go back up and it gets even better. You should be proud that you were able to conquer the difficult task of moving away from everything you’ve ever known to a place you know nothing about. You’re friends and family will be proud of you and will always be there welcoming you back with open arms. So power through it! And know that there are expats living in every country, just as you should make friends with the locals, also be sure to have a few expat friends nearby in case you need a little boost of home to keep ya goin’. Expats are there to support each other!

7. Enjoy every second

Living overseas and traveling have been the best things that have ever happened to me. It’s given me strength, explosive laughter and tears of joy. It’s led me to do some OUTSTANDING things that I never knew was possible, to give me a Master’s degree (for free!) at a young age, let me experience my favorite city and opened me up to career opportunities that I had no idea I could achieve. Most importantly, it’s given me the opportunity to explore some beautiful places, befriend amazing people and, especially, brought me love and a fancy-shmancy Dutch fiancé.

Travel has given me the world and you can have the world too! All you need to do is take the first step.


Thanks for having me Jenna! Happy travels!

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Such an inspiring lady, am I right!?  And a walking travel / ex-pat / study abroad encyclopedia :)

Thanks so much for guest posting for me Rachael!

Do yourselves a favor and head on over to her lovely blog, Let's Be Adventurers.


  1. Wonderful post and super informative to people wanting to be expats... As an expat myself, I find the hardest part is all the paperwork and getting the visas...choices are so limited. I've been experiencing homesickness for a month or so now and that's hard but I can feel that slowly lifting as the weather gets warmer. It was nice to meet you through this post!

  2. What an awesome post and the pics were gorgeous. Checking out her site now!!!

  3. Yay! Layover in Amsterdam for sure :)...or a rendezvous in Cali when we're both visiting! Lets just do both..haha. Thanks for having me Jenna! Hope your holiday was amazin'...

  4. Amsterdam.....!!!! So beautiful!! I've been there many-many years ago, before even considering grabbing the camera. Pity, though, that I don't have any shots of it, apart from the ones from the family camera, the ultimate cheesy thing. But I'm willing to return for sure! :-)


Thanks for the love!