The Intentional Expat

Living Your Best Life Abroad


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Crazy Little Thing Called…Love? Destroying the ¨Love¨ Myth

I´ve officially dubbed this the season of breakups. What is it is about the end of summer that makes people´s relationships start to waver. Maybe all those care free days spent at the beach and poolside gazing at other half naked people prance about makes people´s minds wander to ¨what if¨ sort of scenarios? Or perhaps here in Europe it´s because autumn signals a big transition following the obligatory vacation in August, and just like the start of a new school year, it brings with it a host of new obligations and stressors which means that these relationships that pre-summer seemed like a breeze are now seen for what they truly are: work.

Working as a couple’s therapist, I find that time and time again my job seems to consist of ¨being the bearer of bad news,¨ or rather the ¨bearer of realistic news¨ as I dispell myths and lower expectations about what true love and relationships are all about. This week I shared two great articles on Facebook that spoke about this: ¨The 9 Most Overlooked Threats to a Marriage¨ and ¨Love is Not Enough¨ that were a big hit, so along these same lines, as part of a new #TBT series on love and relationships, I´m sharing with you today a post I wrote as 2013 was coming to a close and I was on my own quest to redefine ¨love.¨ 

It’s late, and I’m really tired. I got up at 8am to have a productive day and spent the morning fighting the hordes of tourists in Madrid´s Puerta del Sol in an attempt to get all of my errands done. I stared at books and a computer screen until I felt like my eyes were crossing and I really wasn’t sure if my vision would be less blurry with our without my glasses. And tomorrow I’ve got a busy day with a NYE party at my house and oh yeah…I’m running a 10K. My first. Who plans a New Year´s Eve party on the day they’re going to run a race?

Anyways, thankfully I got a break from all of my studying today when a friend surprised me by stopping by to drop stuff off for tomorrow’s party. This turned into an impromptu dinner date and eventually got us chatting about the topic of love.

I’ve really been enjoying the conversations I’ve been having with friends lately about love, because they’re so distinct from the conversations I had in my early and mid-20’s. We all actually have a little bit of experience under our belts, and we understand that our ideas concerning the magic of falling in love are most likely due to the unrealistic expectations instilled in us by movies, music and television. Love is supposed to come riding in on a white horse or in a short mini skirt and change your life forever, inspiring you to do things you never believed were possible. Bullshit. If you’re feeling confused, lost, empty, unmotivated, etc. already, love is not going to do a damned thing to change that. A close friend of mine recently sent me this excerpt from ¨The Orphaned Anythings¨ by Stephen Christian, which so eloquently explains this:

 “the way love is conjured up is not by concentrating on living life to find love, but simply living and loving life itself. It seems to strike when one stops trying to find Mrs. Right and starts being Mr. Right….people are continuously pursuing relationships thinking that the other person is going to make them happy. When they realize their partner cannot make them happy they end it. You have to be satisfied with yourself, and have the ability to find happiness on your own life before you can go and share your life with someone else.” 

At 29, I feel like what is “romantic” is not at all how I defined romance ten years ago (or even last year perhaps!). Romance is not about buying flowers, or writing poetry or posting on Facebook about how you have the best boy/girlfriend ever. For someone to be romantic, they don’t need to be creative or do something out of the ordinary. I’m not saying that those things AREN’T romantic, but if a relationship doesn’t have those things, that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking romance. And I think that the true hallmark of romance is actually in the smaller things. It’s found in the continuing on with the other person despite being at a bumpy point in the road. It’s waking up next to them day after day and allowing this person who you feel like you know so well to surprise you, for better or for worse. It’s letting yourself be vulnerable and intimate with another person in order to grow closer to them, to share your life with them. And this is the hard part about relationships, especially the relationships that really last. I feel like this concept is really embodied in one of my favorite movie quotes regarding the definition of love and how it differs from being ¨in love¨:

 “Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body…That is just being “in love,” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.” (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin). 

 Five years ago, most of my conversations with girlfriends about love seemed to have to do with finding “the ONE,” your soulmate. And it’s refreshing that now I find myself surrounded by women who realize that there are many men (or women) who can walk into our lives and with whom we can connect and be compatible with. There isn’t just one person who is right for each one of us. It’s a matter of chemistry, circumstances, timing. And most importantly it’s a matter of choice. You choose to share your life with someone. Not because you can’t live without that person. Because you absolutely can. No, you choose to share your life with them because you enjoy spending time with them, because you like spending time apart from them and coming back together and sharing what you’ve learned and experienced. Because you have common goals. Whether it be to start a family, travel the world together or see what sort of adventures you can share together on this crazy road of life. But it’s a choice. And it’s a choice you continually make.

Tonight I read a fantastic article entitled “How to Know When You’re In Love,” in which the author compares relationships to being on an airplane. Sometimes you’re sitting back and enjoying the flight, staring out the window at the puffy clouds that look like cotton candy…other times there is turbulence and you find yourself wondering, “what the hell have I gotten myself into?” And you’ve got a choice in front of you which is: do you continue on in this flight or do you jump?

The person who chooses to jump often gets a bad rap for being a coward, and yes, often that jump is a way of running away. A way of saying “I don’t think I can handle sitting this close to you on the airplane anymore!” Maybe because you want to sit next to lots of different people on lots of different airplanes, or because you feel incredibly uncomfortable after sitting for such a long flight, or maybe because you see that the person sitting next to you on the plane looks pretty miserable too. But just know, that there is a free fall awaiting you when you jump out of that plane. You might realize you’ve made a huge mistake. You might be depressed, especially if that choice was a cowardly one. However, as the author goes on to explain, that choice could also help you to grow.

The article concludes with the author pointing out that the question isn’t “How do I know I’m in Love,” but rather “Do you CHOOSE to love this person or not?” And as he concludes in the article:

If the answer is yes, love as hard as you can. Love with everything you’ve got…If the answer is no, promise me one thing: 

Let the fall make you stronger.” 

I don’t feel jaded about love. I think love is often the only thing that makes sense in this world. I just don’t think that “true love” is what we’ve been raised to think it is. I think it’s less glamorous. I think it’s much more genuine. It’s not something that falls into your lap, it’s something that’s consciously created between you and another person. And the things that we put energy and dedication towards are always the things we treasure the most. 

Check back next Thursday to find out how a love story that unfolded in ITALY may have been a deciding factor in convincing me to move to SPAIN. And if you´re looking for more articles on love and relationships, check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the topic.


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How To Survive Being An Expat

Insightful and humorous, this article written by an American expat living in Italy offers great tips for surviving life abroad. Enjoy!

Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

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1. Appreciate Your Life

Be thankful that you wake up alive each morning. Don’t take your situation for granted, most people never get the chance to live abroad and experience what you’re experiencing. Don’t sweat the small stuff like the fact that in Italy people have no concept of sidewalk space and they would rather throw you in front of a bus instead of stepping aside. So what! You stepped in dog shit and getting your residency is difficult, at least you’re not dying from terminal cancer.

2. Make Friends (It’s way better than sitting in front of FB all day crying)

Having good friends can make or break any experience. What do you love to do? Find a group of people who like the same thing and get to know them. Join a writer’s group, a painters group, a knitting circle. Friends will not come to your door magically…

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Walking the Walk: Getting Set for the Camino de Santiago

Welcome to my latest #tbt Blogger style post. This time I’m trying something new by featuring a series of blogs from the past. For the next few Thursdays you can read about my experience walking the last 100km of the Camino de Santiago, a popular experience among those seeking an alternative tourism experience, a chance to reflect and meditate, or the opportunity to get some great exercise and see the beautiful countryside of NW Spain. While I knew I wanted to do the Camino, I never expected the ultimately life changing experience it would turn out to be.  Continue reading


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Jet Lag. The Ugly Side of Traveling Abroad

I would say that I’m a good traveler in a lot of ways. I can be flexible, see the bright side when things don’t go my way, I’ll try new foods, use gross bathrooms and chat it up with strangers. I even seek out ways to enjoy flying despite the fact that deep down I really hate it. But there’s one part about traveling halfway around the world that I just can’t stand, and that’s jet lag. Continue reading


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Introducing “The Intentional Expat Hits the Streets” Interview Series

Thanks to my 30/30 Birthday Challenge, which has been opening me up to trying new things and meeting new people, I decided last week that I’d be launching a new series on this blog called “The Intentional Expat Hits the Streets.”  I’ll be interviewing people I meet during my travels, day-to-day life and other expats I come into contact with.

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My first interview is with Skyler Johnstone, a 23 year old currently living in Seattle, WA (USA) and the founder of Be the Change Clothing co. I ran into him while walking on Seattle’s Alki beach last week and I did a double take because he was sitting on a bench across from the beach…typing on a typewriter. That’s right, not a cell phone, or a tablet, or even a journal, but a typewriter. I couldn’t resist approaching him and introducing myself. And he graciously agreed to be part of the interview series, here’s what he had to say:   Continue reading


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When I Get Homesick, I Stop Being Homesick and Be Awesome Instead

As part of my #tbt blogs, I´m posting a story I wrote back in May 2010. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)was created in order to help individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, many of the techniques used by this discipline can be helpful for people dealing with other psychological problems, or even emotional distress that can happen to any of us on any given day. One of the techniques DBT uses to deal with distressing emotions is ¨Opposite to Emotion Action.¨ In short, it means doing the opposite of what you feel like doing by carrying out an action that is going to have positive effects rather than negative ones. For example, if you wake up feeling sad and don´t want to get out of bed, you get out of bed. If you´re angry and feel like hurting someone, you walk away. It doesn´t mean you suppress your emotions, it means you put your energy towards doing something that may ultimately help to decrease the distressing feelings. And it can be a great trick to use to fight homesickness.  Continue reading


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10 Tips for Staying Sane Overseas

Last night I was asked on Twitter by fellow global citizen Longing to Travel, for my tips on keeping a positive attitude abroad. What a great question and one I’ve got a lot of answers to that I’ll be writing about more in detail here in the future. But in the meantime, I’ve come up with a summarized version of my top ten tips to keep a “glass half full” mentality Continue reading