Expat, Packing

Unpacking Memories

June 26, 2017

Unpacking Memories

My jet lag fog is lifting and the stomach bug that hit me a few days after landing is finally over, which meant that I needed to tackle the six suitcases I brought home. The big issue with this is that I really don’t have a place of my own to put all the stuff I brought back. Unlike many expats and nomads, I don’t have a storage unit. My few possessions live in a building on my parent’s property, in what we call “The Office.”

Before coming home, I had asked my Mom to clear some room in the closet and a drawer for me so I wouldn’t have to live out of suitcase for the month I would be home. She hadn’t gotten around to it by the time I arrived. Which ended up being good as yesterday she and I went through what used to be my old closet and unpacked some memories together.

The closet is now a mash-up of her off-season clothes, my nieces hand me downs, and clothes that have sentimental value. My prom dress is there. My Mom’s first formal is in there. All my sister and my oldest niece cheerleading jackets are in there. So with each handful, my Mom pulled out, we would say, “Remember this!” or she would say “You never saw this costume.” We had a great time looking at things we hadn’t seen in awhile.

Then there were the things my Mom hadn’t seen from my travels and Qatar. While I am not a big souvenir buyer, I do occasionally buy things. I have also been gifted many things over the years. We oooh’d and aahh’d over these things as they were unpacked only for most of the to be packed again. I am mostly sad that all my lovely things will not be on display again.

Memories continued when I took some things down to the office for long term storage. I found some knee high heeled boots from my New York days. They promptly went in the trash as the leather had dried out. I returned Christmas decorations that had been taken to Qatar to their box and admired the ones I hadn’t seen in awhile. I went through a few boxes and decided it was time to let go of a few things in them as well.

So many people have commented on the fact that I have gotten rid of so much stuff when I left Qatar, but that is just it. It is just stuff. I am sure that when I return home again, I will have forgotten half the things I have packed away on this trip. Just like those boots I had forgotten about!

What memories would you like to unpack?

Expat, Qatar

Things I Will Miss About Qatar

June 19, 2017

Things I Will Miss About Qatar

As this post goes live, I will be on a plane leaving Qatar for good probably crying a little. I have lived in Qatar for almost four years and have grown to love the land, the people and the culture. Despite it being a sometimes difficult place to live for a single person, I will miss it terribly. Here are some of the things I will miss the most about Qatar.

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

Living in a foreign country is nothing like visiting a country on a trip. My patience was tested on a daily basis. On any given day, I would also complain about something that had irritated the American in me. However, I have learned more patience and understanding from this. Not only this, but I have learned about new things this way. I have tried new foods and traditions because of this.

The People

I will miss my friends and coworkers. In Qatar, being an expat means that your first friends are likely to be your coworkers. We get together outside of work and celebrate holidays together. I have made some great friends here as well that are planning on meeting up with me on the road, and I can’t wait. My students are also a part of this. I work in a school with less than 500 students, so I know many of them personally. I will miss seeing them grow and graduate.

But it isn’t just people I am close with that I will miss. I will miss meeting new people from new places. Many times I go to dinner with people, and there are five or more nationalities at the table. At my going away party there were people from eight different countries! Learning about other people’s cultures while being here has been the best thing about living here.

The Culture

Qatari culture is traditional and modern at the same time. They still participate in cultural traditions, such as falconry, souqs and shisha. However, they also love malls, cars and five-star restaurants. This has been the best of both worlds. I have learned about their traditions and their values. The family is huge here, and I appreciate that. Everyone will ask after your family even though they have never met them.

I haven’t just learned about Qatari culture, but all the expats I have met have shared with me their culture and traditions. I have learned about Indian festivals, Aussie footy, Thai food, and I can now understand an Irish person speaking English!

The Food

Ah, the food. Food plays a central role of social activity here. This is due in some part to the restrictions on alcohol as people don’t gather at their neighborhood bars but at their favorite brunch places or holes in the wall.

You can also try food from all over the world with ease. The world is truly represented in food in Qatar. Not only that, but people bring food from their home countries for you to try. My last week of work, my Indian coworker brought me some of the food she had made for her family the night before. Homemade Indian food is so much better than restaurant Indian food. Last night, I went to a party, and there was Turkish food, and I will miss homemade hummus!

The Desert

Living in a country without much green has been a bit hard, but it has made me love the desert. I have driven all over the desert here to explore the country. I have loved off-roading in my Jeep. The desert holds secrets that would have never have revealed themselves to me if I had gotten out and explored. I have seen camels on the beach and desert flowers. The desert also gets green when it rains! Who knew!

Ramadan and Eid

Yes, I know Ramadan will continue no matter where I am, but experiencing it in a Muslim-majority country has been something I have enjoyed. By nature, I enjoy learning. Learning about the Qatari Ramadan traditions, the meanings behind things and the spirit of giving has been one of the highlights of living here. I truly believe this has made me a more accepting person.

I will miss the Eid holiday as it always signified a vacation for me. Yes, less of a meaning than Ramadan and definitely not what they celebrate during this time. Although many Muslims go on vacation during this time as well to be with family. Best of all there were two of these a year I was given vacation time around! Double the fun.

My Jeep

I loved my Jeep, and it got lots of use driving around the country from the desert to the beach. The fact that it was red meant people noticed me coming down the road and I hope it helped me avoid accidents. In a sea of white cars, it was easy to find in the car parking lots. I actually cried when I sold it. Now a nice Lebanese guy owns it and is taking his new dog on adventures in it.

My apartment

Now that I am going to be traveling full-time, I won’t have a permanent place of my own. While the apartment had its weird quirks, I have enjoyed it. It is the largest place I have lived in by myself, and I slowly grew into being able to stand on the balcony without fear. It took awhile, but it became home.

There are probably things about Qatar that I will miss that I have failed to mention here, but something somewhere will remind me of it, and I will think of Qatar. As we say here, I love Qatar!

Mexico, North America, Travel

Guest Post: 48 Hours in La Paz, Mexico

June 12, 2017
48 hours in La Paz, Mexico

Photo courtesy of charlieontravel.com

La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  La Paz is a destination which has tons to offer in terms of local delicacies, outdoor activities and of course, beaches!  However, no matter how long you would like to spend in La Paz, you may have a limited time frame in the Mexican town of 48 hours.  How exactly do you maximize your 2 days in La Paz to ensure you savor every last moment.

Well, luckily for you, I have devised a ’48 hours in La Paz itinerary’, so you don’t have to worry about how you will make the most of your time.

Day 1

Go for a Traditional Mexican Breakfast

Is there any other way to start the day? Of course not.  You’re in Mexico after all, am I right?  Why not start your first day in La Paz by tucking into a delicious Mexican breakfast.

My recommendation for breakfast is ‘El Rincon Chilango.’  This quaint and traditional Mexican restaurant is located a short walk out of the center.  It’s well worth the 10 minute walk from the center. The majority of restaurants in the center of La Paz are geared towards tourists.  If you really want to get a taste of a true Mexican breakfast, get yourself to ‘El Rincon Chilango.’  There are many Mexican breakfast favorites on offer, and their Chilaquiles is to die for!!

48 Hours in La Paz, Mexico

Head to Mexico’s Best Beach – Playa Balandra

Mexico’s best beach? That’s certainly a bold statement.  However, once you arrive at Playa Balandra, you will understand why I’ve made this statement.  The beach is set in a bay surrounded by barren mountains, occupied by the odd cactus.  The water at Playa Balandra is as clear as the finest bottled mineral water.  The beach is flawless.  The most unique thing about Playa Balandra is that you can walk from one side of the bay to another deserted beach on the other side, the water rarely gets deeper than knee height.

 48 Hours in La Paz, Mexico

Enjoy an Evening of Mexican Food and Margaritas

After a long hard day of relaxing on the beach, what could be better than topping yourself up with delicious Mexican food and Margaritas??

For some traditional Mexican tacos, I would recommend heading to one of the food stands on Revolucion De 1910.  The food stands on this road really know how to serve up tacos that will leave you longing for more.  With fillings on offer from Chorizo to fried fish, it will be hard to narrow it down to just one.  However, La Paz is famous for its fish tacos, so go for the Pescado (fish) or Camaron (shrimp) tacos.

Following your fill of tacos, get yourself down to one of the bars along the Malecon and drink Margaritas to your heart’s content.

48 Hours in La Paz, Mexico

Day 2

Go for a Morning Coffee

La Paz is a town with its fair share of cafes, perfect for those coffee guzzlers.  It seems that these coffee shops are dotted all around the center of La Paz.  You won’t be wandering around for long before you come across a quiet little cafe serving up everything from your traditional Americano all the way to a new-age Cold Brew Coffee.

If you want to visit somewhere tried and tested then get yourself to ‘Big Sur Cafe Organico.’

48 Hours in La Paz, Mexico

Explore the Street Art in La Paz

When you think of La Paz, Mexico, I’m sure the mind will conjure up images of beautiful beaches with bright blue waters and pristine sands (I’m basically describing Balandra Beach there).  What I’m sure you wouldn’t associate with Baja California’s capital is street art.

I can assure you, La Paz has a vibrant street art scene.  Spend your freshly gained energy from your morning coffee wandering around La Paz, checking out all the street art dotted around.  I couldn’t quite believe it, but creative bits of artwork popped up every time I walked around La Paz.  There are some talented artists who have made their mark in this town.

48 Hours in La Paz, Mexico

Spend the Afternoon at Playa Tecolote

That’s right, another day, another beach.  La Paz is famous for its beaches and there’s a reason why.  5 minutes down the road from Playa Balandra, you will find Playa Tecolote.

Playa Tecolote has a livelier vibe and more of a people presence than Playa Balandra, but it works.  Whereas Playa Balandra has literally one stand selling a few drinks and crisps, Tecolote does have the usual beach restaurants and bars lining the sand.  Tecolote is more ‘built up’, but I do use that phrase lightly.  It’s hardly built up Cancun style and the beach still holds much of its charm which beautiful beaches often lose as they begin to build in popularity.

48 hours in La Paz, Mexico

Relax, You’ve Earnt it!

You’ve had an action packed 48 hours.  Well, I suppose you can count laying around on beaches, eating Mexican food, drinking great coffee and sipping margaritas action packed, can’t you?

Spend your last few hours in this wonderful town relaxing and reflecting on your 48 hours of experiencing the best of La Paz.

This is a guest post from Nathan over at The TRVL Blog. Check out his beautiful posts on South America. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thanks, Nathan!
Expat, Prep, Qatar

Packing is Tedious!

June 5, 2017

Packing is tedious

Packing to go on a trip is stressful, at least for me. I make lists and usually pack a few days before just in case I have forgotten anything. So imagine packing your entire life up to move back to your home country! The packing is not only stressful, but it is tedious.

Every item that is in your house has to have a decision made about it. Every pen, every piece of paper, every book and magazine has to be touched and a decision made. Do I keep it, toss it, donate it or sell it? Obviously, storing anything is not an option.

Then you realize whatever you decide to keep has to fit into your suitcases since I am not using a shipping company to send my stuff back. This means you really have to get brutal with the keep, toss or donate decision. I am only taking my favorite clothes, shoes, books and the few souvenirs I have collected. I am hoping to go in four or five checked suitcases.

Why so little? Well, I technically don’t have a place to live in the US. All my things will go into storage at my parent’s house along with all the stuff that is in storage there already. I am very lucky they have enough space to keep my stuff, and I don’t have to pay for storage while I am on my long trip.

I know some people would have a hard time purging so much of their stuff because we all become so attached to the things we own. However, I did this when I moved to Qatar, and except for some furniture and one pair of shoes, I don’t remember a single thing I got rid of. Honestly, individual items of clothes and knickknacks, I have no idea what I owned now. So, I don’t miss those things at all.

After this move, I will write a whole post on how I have done this. Have you ever given away or sold most of your things when moving? Do you find packing tedious?

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