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Expat, Prep, Qatar, Travel

Pre-Repatriation Blues?

April 24, 2017

Pre-repatriation

Many expats talk about the repatriation blues after they return to their home country. It can be hard to adjust to life back in your own country since it is now not the normal or having the excitement of moving to a new country. I have what I am calling the pre-repatriation blues.

The What?

Since I am not technically repatriating, I am not even sure this is the right term! I am only returning to my home country to store my stuff and see my family. I am sad to be leaving Qatar. A few times right after I gave notice, I had the feeling I had made a mistake and that I shouldn’t go. It is hard to describe what I was feeling. It was a mix of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. What was I thinking quitting this well-paid exotic local job? Then reality set in that, for me, living to work isn’t how I want to live my life.

Then came the reaction to my post about quitting my job. I expected some sad reactions and a few supportive ones. I expected the people who disagreed with what I was doing would not say anything. Most of that happened, but I was overwhelmed by the statements of support not only from friends and family but total strangers. Then the sadness really set in as the more people you tell, the more disappointed friends, coworkers and students I encountered. They aren’t disappointed that I am traveling, but that I can’t stay and travel from Qatar. I have been on the verge of tears many times. One student insists on giving me a hug every time I see her. Who wouldn’t be sad to leave after all the outpouring of love!

Just like with everything else, time helps. Every week gets easier, and I get a few more things checked off the long list of to-dos before I go. That last day, though, I am trying not to think about it.

It Would Be Easier to Stay

Part of these “blues” are because it would be easier to just stay in Qatar. So many things have to be done to be able to leave Qatar. The biggest thing for me is selling my car, which I managed to do yesterday. Because people leave Qatar in cycles around the school year, selling your car in the Spring can be difficult, and you are most likely not going to get as much money for it as you wanted. The other part of this is fielding the calls from people who know that you have to sell the car and making ridiculous offers for the car. I had some people be very rude as well. Like somehow, I owed them the car since they were willing to make an offer! (We won’t talk about the fact that I was also emotionally attached to my car!)

The next hurdle to jump is closing your bank account. That sounds so simple in theory. Go in and close it, right? Not so fast. First, you have to cancel your credit card. Credit cards here are attached to your bank account, so I can’t close my account till the credit card has been cleared for 45 days. Since I never picked up the credit card or activated it should be reasonable that I shouldn’t have to wait the 45 days, but no! So now I won’t be able to close my bank account until some time in late May. It isn’t the end of the world, but something I could take care of now.

Qatar uses a sponsorship system for expats working in the country. Basically, my company sponsors me to be in the country. Part of that includes getting a residence permit. This also has to be canceled before I go. My company needs ten business days to do that. Then once it is canceled, I have seven days to leave Qatar. Not stressful at all! This means I will leave four days after my last day of work. Again, it isn’t bad as I have started to pack, but it adds some pressure.

And I wouldn’t have to say goodbye!

Packing and Purging

The other part of all this is that I am determined to return to the US in my suitcases and not have to ship anything home. I am ruthless when it comes to getting rid of my possessions. Five bags of clothes and shoes have gone out the door and countless bags of paper trash. The rest of it will be sold or given away before I leave.

Packing has already begun, so that is the least stressful part about this whole situation. It also means I should know if I will need to ship some stuff. The only hard part will be getting it all to the airport.

Have you moved back home after being an expat? Did you have pre-repatriation blues?

Blog, Prep, Travel

I Have a Secret to Tell You

March 27, 2017

Travel SecretI have been keeping a secret from you all! It is something I mentioned to my Mom the other day, and she says she tells her friends all the time about it, so it is about time I share it with you.

For the first three and a half years of my life, I was an only child, and for most of my childhood, my Mother worked from home. It meant I could depend on Mom to be there whenever I needed her. If I got ill at school, she would come. If I forgot my homework, she would come. I knew that many kids didn’t have this great mom benefit as both their parents worked! Dad played a part in this dependency too! One time I had to have minor surgery on an ingrown toenail and I wouldn’t let the doctor do it until my Dad arrived. Although this was mainly because my Mom can’t stand the sight of blood and I didn’t want her to pass out on me!

The Impact

At this point, I am sure you are thinking, what does this have to do with travel? Well, all the dependency led to me having anxiety about sleeping away from home and homesickness. It probably wasn’t the only cause, but it certainly contributed. I remember being at a sleepover in elementary school and making my parents get me in the middle of the night. I don’t remember sleeping over at friend’s houses much after that. The event that really made it an issue though was I was at church camp one summer a few hours away from my house, and I had so much anxiety I made myself sick. This also resulted in my parents driving several hours in the middle of the night to come get me (after much begging on my part!)

Fast forward a few years and I decide to go to college that was a six-hour drive away from my parents. Now that I am older, I can handle being away from my parents, but the phone bills in college were epic. This is pre-cell phone days, so I easily had a $100 or more phone bill a month. While I remember it differently, my parents said the first semester was really hard on me. I think I am blocking it out of my mind.

A few years later, I moved to New York City. The phone calls continued, but now I had a cell phone and nights and weekends were free! But by then I only saw my parents twice a year at most, and I seemed to be fine.

More years pass, and I moved to a small Caribbean island for three months. I didn’t have a cell phone, and the internet was spotty. I didn’t talk to my parents every day, and occasionally I would get emails asking me to check in with them.

Do you see a pattern here?

And Now

Obviously now this doesn’t bother me much at all as I live over 8000 miles away from my parents. The phone calls continue and thank goodness for the internet! I talk to one parent or both almost every day, though.

I travel all over the world without any issues, and I am rarely homesick. I have no plans to move back to the United States anytime soon, and I love living abroad. Of course, I still have the moments of wishing I could be home, but that is mainly because I feel like I am missing out on things back home.

Some would say my parents did me a disservice by coming and getting me when I want to come home. However, I would disagree. My parents and I are extremely close as a result. The phone calls home are not quick 5-minute talks but can be an hour or more. It also means my parents never have to worry about where I am and if I am okay. I call when I get to an airport or when I arrive at my hotel. Even while sailing Greece last year, I managed to call them every other day or so. It also gives me peace of mind as my parents, like all of us, are only getting older. It is reassuring to me to hear their voices and know they are doing okay.

Why

Why am I telling you this story, it’s embarrassing, right? I am telling you to encourage you to travel. Fears can be overcome even if they take time. I now manage to live far away from family and travel everywhere I want to go. It has been a lifelong process, but here I sit in my apartment in Qatar telling you this story and planning my next vacation. My advice is always to start with a small trip and gain your confidence, then go on a bigger trip. Not only will you feel better about travel, but you will also learn your limits. There is nothing wrong with having personal limits, but you never know what you can overcome till you try!

Prep, Travel

How to Prep Your House for Your Trip

June 3, 2016

How to Prep Your House for Your TripMaking sure your house is ready for you to travel is just as important as preparing yourself for your trip. Nothing is worse than coming home to a house that is messy or finding all your plants dead! Here are some of my tips for making sure your house is safe and will be ready for your return.

1. Have Your Mail Collected or Stopped – A pile of mail is a signal that you are not home and may not be home for a while. Have a trusted neighbor or friend collect your mail. If you are going to be away longer than a few days, usually the post office will hold your mail till you return.

2. Make Arrangements for Pets and Plants/Yard – If you have pets, have someone come over or take them to a pet hotel. Depending on your pet, they may do better in their home, or they may need more attention. Leave specific instructions on feeding schedules and if they need medicine. I recently took my plants to my office so that my coworkers could care for them as getting into my apartment is hard, and my plants need to be watered about once a week. It is less stressful for the plant if you can have someone come over to water them than taking it somewhere. This is true for your outdoor plants as well. Make sure you have someone mow your lawn if applicable.

3. Get Someone to Start Your Car – If you are gone longer than two weeks, have some start your car a few times. This will help ensure that your car starts when you return. If you really trust the person, have them drive the car around the block a few times.

4. Unplug Small Appliances – To help with electric bills and for safely, unplug your toaster, coffee maker, television and other non-essential appliances. This way if you have a power surge, then your small appliances will not get fried, especially true for your computers.

5. Throw Away Perishable Food – If you can’t eat it or give the food away, throw away perishable food. Not only will your fridge not smell, but you also won’t come home to a science experiment in the fridge!

6. Do Laundry – You are going to have laundry to do when you return, so do as much as you can before you go. This will make unpacking less stressful when you return.

7. Turn Up or Down Your Thermostat – Depending on the season, you can turn the AC up or the heat down. Don’t turn the system off unless you are living in a temperate climate that doesn’t change much. This will help you save on bills, but also keep the house somewhat comfortable for your return or your pets. It also helps to leave it on so that your books and art are protected from the environment.

8. Make the House Secure – Have inside and outside lights on a timer, have someone check on the house, don’t post on the internet that you are going away if your address is public, leave a radio on, ensure doors and windows are locked, hide valuables, and tell trusted neighbors you are going away so they can report any suspicious activity.

Now you can go away and enjoy your trip knowing that your house is being taken care of and will be ready for your return!

What do you do to your house when you leave? Tell us in the comments!

 

Hotel/Accommodation, Prep, Travel

The Year of Traveling Fearlessly: Picking your Accommodation on a Solo Trip

May 27, 2016

Picking Your Accommodation on a Solo Trip Picking where to stay on your trip is probably the most daunting task when booking travel outside of deciding where to go. This is not just a solo traveler issue either, but it becomes more pronounced when you are traveling alone. There are many things you may want to consider when picking a place. Hotels are not your only option! Here are my tips for picking the type of accommodation you want and what other factors you should consider when booking.

What Kind Of Accommodation?

What is most important to you when picking the kind of place you stay in? This sometimes varies depending on your location and the time of year you are traveling.

Hotels –  Good for shorter trips when you don’t have lots of time and need to be close to the attractions or public transportation. Hotels are also great since you can ask staff for advice or the maybe even the concierge to book things for you. Also, they are good if you have mobility issues as most will have an elevator and or have ground floor rooms. Don’t think you can’t book a hotel because it will be expensive! Not all hotels are expensive.

Hostels – Hostels are good if you are watching your budget, which doesn’t always mean they are cheap and uncomfortable! Hostels are slowly changing their image and many have private rooms at a fraction of what a hotel would be. It just may mean you have a communal bathroom or a small room, but who cares you aren’t living there forever right! Hostels are also great if you want to meet people as they usually have communal areas and sometimes free tours or happy hours. Several other travel bloggers I follow on Snapchat have been staying at hostels and I have been amazed at how nice they are and they have some amazing art on the walls! The Hostel Girl reviews hostels all over the world and is a great resource if you are looking for a hostel.

Apartment or Airbnb – If you want to live like a local, then I highly recommend that you stay in an apartment or Airbnb rental. The apartment gives you a feel for what living in that city is truly like. If you stay with someone in an Airbnb then they can give you the local’s insight into the city. In many cities, Airbnb is cheaper than a hotel. The other advantage is that you may have access to a kitchen allowing you to cook for yourself and save money. If you are traveling for a longer period of time then cooking for yourself is very helpful to the budget. Also, you may have access to laundry facilities in an apartment or Airbnb.

House sitting –   Another great option if you are staying longer in a location. If you are not familiar with house sitting, basically you look after someone’s home for an extended length of time. Usually, there are chores involved, such as taking care of pets or garden. The upside is that this is usually an exchange of services and you don’t pay any money to stay at their house. You will also get to experience living like a local and have access to a kitchen.

Couchsurfing – While Couchsurfing sounds similar to Airbnb, it differs in a huge way in that you are not paying to stay at the person’s apartment or house. However, you may actually be sleeping on a couch! This is definitely not for everyone and you need to check other’s reviews for safety factors.

How Do I Chose Where I Want to Be?

Once you have decided what kind of accommodation you want to stay in, then you can research where you want to stay. Here is what I look for in a place to lay my head.

Reviews! – My first stop is TripAdvisor for hotel reviews. I know lots of people discount them since some people have claimed that negative reviews have been deleted, but not all of them are and I have found it is a good place to start. I especially like that they tell you the most popular places in town and the map view. Keep in mind that one negative review does not outweigh all the positive reviews or vice versa. One person could be incredibly picky or have unrealistic expectations of a place. Pay attention to what negative things people are talking about because it could be about things that don’t bother you. I frequently see complaints about small rooms in Europe and I know that small hotel rooms in Europe are normal and I don’t care! Some people complain about outside noise, but I know that some people like outside noise as it helps them sleep. Airbnb and Couchsurfing also have reviews.

Location, Location, Location – Next to finding out the scoop on the places on reviews, is to look at their location. Do you want to be close to the attractions or do you want to be away from them? The convenience of being near them may mean higher prices and more noise. If I am only going somewhere for a short period of time then, I tend to stay near the sights so I don’t waste time getting there and that is worth paying more to me. You also want to consider safety along with the location. Reviews may have information regarding safety, but you may have to dig deeper into blog reviews or other sites to find this out. Also, is the hotel safe itself? Are there deadbolts and key cards? If after the first night, you don’t feel safe, change accommodation. This may cost you money, but your safety is worth more!

Amenities – Is there a pool? Do you want to have spa treatments? Think about what you want in a place. Some Airbnb places will rent you the room, but may not let you have access to the kitchen, which if you were planning on cooking then you’re in trouble. Last summer, I was looking for a place in Verona, Italy that had parking available for my rental car. Each type of accommodation will have different amenities available, so check out the place’s website and don’t rely on reviews for what is offered as they may be out of date. I have also emailed hotels and gotten great responses and most of them respond in less than 24 hours.

Comfort – Just because you are on vacation and not sleeping in your own bed does not mean you shouldn’t be comfortable. My biggest thing is to look for reviews stating that the bed was uncomfortable. I hate soft beds as they make my back hurt, but again you have to look at more than one review as each person has their own preferences. The next thing I look for is noise in my hotel. The worst experience I had in a hotel was because the walls were so thin and each night I could hear the people in them and each night was a new set of people, including a crying baby. I didn’t get much sleep that week and was attending a conference, not a good combination.

Most of this you may already know, but it can be hard to remember all these things when looking for a place to stay. Hopefully, you can use these tips will help you pick an excellent space on your next trip!

Need a place to stay in Venice, Verona, Bangkok, Doha or Goa. Click on the links to see my reviews of hotels I have stayed in. What do you look for in a hotel?

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