England, Europe, Travel

London from the River: A Photo Essay

May 1, 2017

London from the RiverThis last weekend in London, I spent much of my time on or near the Thames River. Viewing London from the river gives you a different perspective of the city, especially at night. Many of these photos were taken on a river cruise from the Thames barrier to Westminster, but you can also enjoy walking along the Thames to enjoy the same views by walking on the Thames Path.

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

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?

Travel, Travel Tips

Summer Travel Tips

April 17, 2017

Summer Travel TipsSummer is fast approaching, and many people are planning their summer trips. Here are some tips to help you make the best of your summer trip!

Beating the Heat

Summer usually means it’s hot unless you are going far north or far south and keeping cool is on everyone’s minds.

  • Stay hydrated – This may be obvious, but even I forget to drink enough water sometimes. The heat makes us loose water even faster. Staying hydrated will help keep you cool too!
  • Wear light colored clothing Dark clothes absorb light and heat. Light colors reflect them.
  • Place a cold cloth around your neck –  Usually, this means wetting the cloth, so this is best used at bedtime and will help you fall asleep even if it is roasting. This helped me a lot when I spent a few days in Italy during a summer heat wave and had no air conditioning.
  • Wear a hat – Another obvious one, but not something I see a lot while traveling. It will also help protect you from the sun.

Picking a Hotel

Since lots of people are on vacation during the summer, choosing a hotel can be difficult. You have to find a room and find one at the right price for you.

  • Near public transportation – This might help you save money. You should weigh the benefits of being far away from the sites and the cost of the hotel. It also depends on how long you have to visit. If you are staying longer than being a bit further might be okay.
  • Close to the sites – If you have limited time or prefer to spend a bit more to be closer, then pick a hotel closer to the sites.
  • Choose a hotel with air conditioning – Many hotels in Europe don’t have air conditioning. Which for some is fine, but other prefer to be cool when they arrive back from the heat. Most booking sites will have this as a filter option. Airbnb places might not have it, particularly in Europe and the ones that do might be more expensive.
  • Check the meal options – If breakfast being offered at the hotel is important, check to make sure your rate includes it. It may be better to pay for it when you book the room as the cost on the day can be outrageous.

Avoiding Crowds

I am not a fan of crowds, but in the summer they may be hard to avoid. This is how I keep my crowd exposure to a minimum.

  • Go early – Going to the popular sites early in the morning will help you avoid crowds. Most people don’t want to get up early on their vacations and will sleep in a bit. I try to be at those sites when they open to avoid the crowds. It will also mean the lines will be shorter.
  • Book in advance – Many popular sites will have advance ticketing options. Buy them in advance to avoid waiting in line. Just remember to print them out before you arrive.
  • Go to lesser known sites in the afternoon – While everyone is hitting the big sites during the day, you can go to less popular locations in the afternoon.
  • Find out when the cruise ships arrive – I was warned that the cruise ship passengers arrive at the Acropolis in Athens around 10 AM, so I made sure I was at the top by 10 AM so that I could avoid the big crowds going in. I also managed to get many pictures will no people in them this way! Your hotel might be able to tell you the schedule.
  • Don’t enter from the main entrance – Some places have multiple entrances and will have longer lines and more crowds. At the Acropolis, you can enter from the south side, and only about ten people were waiting to buy tickets, and I had most of the walk up to myself.
  • Walk I love public transport, but walking is the best way to avoid large overcrowded subways in the summer. You can also pick a less popular route if you walk and it will be less crowded. This may not always be true in cities, like Florence, that are walking cities and have little public transport.

What are your summer travel tips? Tell us in the comments.

Expat, Qatar, Travel

I Quit My Job!

April 10, 2017

I quit my jobHow do you know when it is time to leave your expat job? Expats around the world ask this over and over and most expats will tell you that you will just know. And it’s true. I knew a little while back it was time to leave Qatar and so about two weeks ago, I quit my job. At the end of June, I will leave Qatar.

Why

This was not an easy decision for me to make. The weekend before I gave noticed, I called my parents in a panic saying “This is a dumb decision, right?!” They assured me it wasn’t. My parents have been extremely supportive of this decision, as they have been with most of the decision I have made in my life. I know that if I don’t do it now, I may never get up the nerve to do this.

There isn’t a specific reason for leaving, it was definitely a feeling of it was time to go. I have had the feeling before now several times and the feeling just wasn’t going away. Qatar has been a great place to live for almost four years. My job is great and so are my coworkers. Trust me this decision would have been much easier if I hated my job or my coworkers were terrible. I like them so much, that I had huge anxiety about telling them. I have been at this job longer than any job I have ever had and that is saying a lot for me.

I will miss Qatar and everyone I have gotten to know. One of the hardest things is knowing that I may never see some of these people again.

What’s Next

You may be wondering where my next job is or if I am moving home. But I will tell you there is no next job or repatriation for me. In my typical, not do anything normal way, I have decided to travel for a while. Yes, I am going to be one of those crazy people who quits their job to travel!

This isn’t my first quit my job without another job venture and everything ended up fine with those too. I have an idea of what I want to do for work, but it may not work out or something else may come along. I want to give the blog more focus and see what if I can make it pay some bills. It may never be my full-time job, but I will never know if I don’t give this crazy thing a chance.

So, Where To

That is the next question everyone has asked after hearing my plans. Nailing down a plan for long-term travel is hard and I want to not have a plan, but the planner in me is having a hard time with that!

First, I will go home for a month because I have to dump all my stuff somewhere. Thanks, Mom and Dad, again! Then I head to London for a month. It has been over 20 years since I have been there and I am dying to go back. As you can see, I am planning on spending longer stretches of time in places. There are several reasons for this. One is that it is cheaper to stay somewhere long term than it is to stay somewhere short term. The other is that I really want to get to know the place and see it more as a local would.

There are other things planned, but I want to keep my plans to myself for the moment. Don’t worry, I will tell you eventually! You will just have to keep reading to find out what those plans are.

 

 

 

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