The Intentional Expat

Living Your Best Life Abroad


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The Intentional Expat Interview Series: An English Teacher in Western Mongolia

The past few weeks of interviews have been a huge success! The first week we heard from J Russell Mikkelsen, an avid traveler and blogger and last week got a glimpse at life abroad for a Spaniard living in the USA. Today’s interview comes from fellow blogger Tina, who got in touch with me a few weeks ago to be part of the interview series. I took one look at her blog, Kulturschock! and sent the questions her way. While we haven’t met personally, Tina has the Intentional Expat spirit written all over here. An American who got an MA in Germany and is now teaching English in none other than Western Mongolia, this is a woman who is taking life by the horns and living her best life abroad. Like she says in her “About Me” section of her blog:  Continue reading


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Me and Madrid: an Enduring Love Affair

My opinion of Spain, and Madrid in particular, has changed a lot since I visited for the first time back in spring 2005. In March 2010, after having lived in Spain for a total of six months, I wrote the following to describe just how my relationship with the country had changed since transitioning from being a tourist to a local:

I fell in love with Spain during the spring of 2005 while enjoying café con leches in Madrid’s Plaza Santa Ana and while bonding with friends over picnics in Madrid’s oasis–Retiro Park. Since that time my feelings towards Spain, and Madrid in particular, have changed. The thrill and awe I experienced at visiting Europe for the first time have faded and I’ve been introduced to the realities of day to day life half a world away from home. It turns out Spain is not a land of lazy siesta filled afternoons, that I can’t stay up until 6am dancing every night and just because there are things that bother me about the American culture and way of life, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Spaniards are superb in all of these areas. I have to set my alarm most days of the week and although I fantasize about siestas, they are rarely a reality. I’m constantly aware of my budget, I frequently wait in long lines and have to accept the often sad reality that although my relationships back home are important, I can’t stay constantly abreast with what is happening with each and every one important to me in Seattle. All that being said, I feel like my feelings for Spain have not diminished, only that the relationship has matured from uninformed infatuation into an enduring and honest romance. 

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Madrid’s Retiro Park

As a soon-to-be thirty year old, my ideas about romantic love, and my love for Spain and Madrid,  have matured a great deal over the past decade. In fall 2013 I ended a two year break from living in Madrid (during which I’d lived in the suburbs of the nearby town Alcala de Henares, an interesting experience in of itself), by moving smack dab into Madrid’s city center. You could not be more centrally located than my apartment, which is only steps away from Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor.

With this move and new centrally located space from which to explore, started my journey of getting reacquainted with the city.  I´ve had the chance to remember all of the things I loved about life in Madrid: The endless art and cultural opportunities, the sidewalk cafes, the ease with which I can walk from one side of the city to the other. However, I´ve also been surprised to find that things I missed, like going out all the time, are really just things I miss when I can´t have them. Now I often spend Saturday nights at home instead of going out to fight the crowds milling about the streets surrounding my house.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to discover that Madrid has actually changed quite a bit since I left. Smoking is no longer allowed indoors, which is a huge sigh of relief for those of us non-smokers. Tracking down free wifi in bars and cafes is a painless experience, with Starbucks and McDonalds no longer monopolizing this market. The free whatsapp messenger for cell phones has revolutionized apartment hunting. No need to challenge your listening skills in Spanish as the landlord hurriedly tells you the address of the apartment, and you don’t waste money on a phone call to see an apartment that you probably won’t like.

And there are so many things I love about the “new” Madrid. Like the quirky cafes in Malasaña, the Humana thrift stores popping up all over the city, the ever increasing diversity of the people calling this place their home (and fighting to make Spain a place they´re proud to call home) and my latest favorite-Madrid Rio.

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Madrid Rio, great for strolling along anytime of the year. End your walk with a visit to El Matadero, one of Madrid’s many cultural hubs.

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Orange Tree Lined Avenues and Flamenco Dresses on Every Corner: My First Taste of Sevilla

I’ve decided to bring the #tbt trend that’s flooding social media sites each and every Thursday right here to my blog to post some of my old e-mails and blog posts from the past. I hope these give you a glimpse of how I fell in love with travel, made my dream of living in Spain a reality and figured out how to navigate the experience of living abroad. This particular e-mail is from Spring 2005 on my first trip abroad. Visiting Sevilla during their annual April Fair gave me and my fellow travelers a once in a lifetime experience that felt like something out of a movie. Continue reading


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Travel Loves

The experience of traveling is not always as glamorous and envy-inspiring as you might be led to believe based on your friends´ blog posts and pictures in exotic destinations that they´ve posted on Facebook.

BUT if you´ve fallen in love with travel you know firsthand that the good always outweighs the bad.

The stories you go home with are worth any awkward cultural misunderstandings, stolen wallets or bouts of food poisoning that you might encounter along the way to collecting these memories that will last a lifetime. To me, travel is incredibly attractive despite its inevitable flaws, and it´s stolen my heart. Here´s the shortlist of why I love it so much. 

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