Along with working as coach for global nomads living around the world, I also post an Interview Series on this website where I share the stories of global nomads who have moved abroad, are traveling the globe, or are transitioning to life back at home.
This week’s interview features Minna and is certain to speak to you if you’re looking for inspiration to move abroad! Originally from The Midlands in England, Minna left her hometown back in 2014 and hasn’t looked back. Despite having to move back to the UK to save for her upcoming trip to Australia and Asia, she chose to try out city life rather that returning back to her childhood home. An avid reader and animal lover, she spends much of her time reading, walking dogs and hiking. Most recently, she has taken up meditation and regular exercise as a way to help manage her depression and anxiety. You can read about her adventures HERE.
Hi Minna! Can you tell us about the first time you left your home country and a little about what was your life like before that?
I first left the UK back in April 2014. In the 6 months before leaving, I’d split up with my ex, moved back in with my parents, had problems at work and was so depressed my family didn’t dare leave me unsupervised. I lost two stone through exercising excessively and barely eating. I was unhappy in myself and with all aspects of my life.
What motivated you to make the decision to leave your home country?
On the one occasion that my family forced me to socialize with friends, I went to a gathering at an old friend’s house; she happened to be moving to New Zealand, where another of our friends was currently. I’d always wanted to travel (my mum found an old report book recently and at 5 I stated I wanted to be a traveler). On that night though I masked my anxiety at being out of the house with alcohol and didn’t dare entertain the idea. I got talking to a guy there who was also leaving for NZ and over the next month we carried on talking. He was en route, flying over America, when I decided ‘To Hell with it’, applied for my 12 month working holiday visa and booked my flight. I just couldn’t carry on living my life the way I had been and I couldn’t let a good guy pass me by. Even if we’d have never spoken again when he landed, I’d still have gone. He inspired me to start living the life I wanted.
What’s the most difficult part about travel or living outside of your home country? How do you overcome these difficulties?
The most difficult thing about living on the other side of the world, for me, is missing out on quality time with my loved ones. I’m not at home to be bridesmaid in my older sister’s wedding, or see her baby be born, or for my younger sister’s graduation. I wasn’t there when my best friend had surgery and couldn’t fulfill by best friend duties of bringing her junk food and magazines in the hospital. I wasn’t around to help care for my Grandad when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or make memories before he got too ill. The food is another big one- nothing beats my mum’s home cooking!
And what’s the best part about travel or living outside of your home country?
Everything else. Seriously.
I cannot stand the UK weather as it’s so grey and miserable. I can deal with the cold if there’s gorgeous sunny skies- we don’t see sun for 80% of the year in England, I swear.
I love England for its history and how multi-cultural it is but nothing beats the feeling of getting to a new town/city/island and figuring out what it’s all about. I love learning how the local people live and what their customs are. If a place has mountains and beaches then I’m sold.
What experience have you had abroad that you want everyone to know about?
I have been so fortunate to meet some truly amazingly generous people during my time away. One of the main things that sticks with me is from when I decided to try my hand at Kiwi fruit picking in NZ. One day, our landlord and work supervisor pulled up after a hard day picking and told me and my partner we were both not needed anymore and therefore needed to vacate the room we’d rented too. We had no transport. There was no public transport through this town. We had no money. As it turned out, she’d hired two new people who she was charging more for our room.
Anyway, a guy I’d spoken to maybe 4 times who ran the orchard where we were currently picking at came to the rescue! He offered to let us stay at his home with his family, rent free, whilst he found us another place to live and another picking company to work for. He said that he didn’t want anybody leaving his hometown with a bad impression of the people there. I don’t know what we’d have done without him as there was literally nowhere for us to go. A true gentleman in every way!
What has living outside of your home country taught you about life, romantic relationships, family and/or professional ambitions?
I barely knew my partner when he left England and had two weeks with him in NZ before we moved in together. It was a learning curve! When you’re abroad with no family, your partner and friends become the family you choose. You want to choose wisely to avoid wasting time with people not suited to you and how you live. I do that by rushing in to everything and then getting out just as quick if it’s not for me! Before leaving, I was a meticulous planner and had to have every outcome figured out before I made a decision. Now I just tend to go on my gut instincts and work it out after if it goes wrong! I think you also learn how strong you are away from everyone at home. I was so reliant on my family to give me emotional strength that I didn’t think I’d cope without them. I did, I still can. Emotionally now I’m a lot better at working through things without having to call my mum every time I have a panic attack.
What are 3 things on your bucket list?
- Work to help Orangutans in Borneo/Sumatra
- Stay in a log cabin in Canada where I can watch the Northern Lights
- Move somewhere with sunshine permanently!
What advice do you have for people who are considering traveling or relocating to a new country, but are feeling doubtful?
What is the worst that can happen? I moved abroad for 18 months, ran out of money, came home and started over in a new city in England. I could have stayed and worked my way up through the company, got a mortgage and been happy. I chose instead to leave again. The point is, it’s not that hard to start over at home if you find that living abroad isn’t for you. Or, you could fall in love with a country that feels more like home than yours ever did.
Any advice for people who are already abroad?
I think people should know that living abroad isn’t always this fantastic adventure. There are times when all you’ll want is a hug from a loved one, or to fly home just for Christmas day without experiencing any jetlag. Some days you’ll miss that restaurant you absolutely love, or you might just want a decent cup of tea (so British). It’ll be worth it though. When you get back you’ll always wish you’d made more of your experience. You’ll regret that weekend you spent inside watching Netflix instead of going on that road trip to the waterfall. Say yes to as much as you can whilst you’re able!
Do you have a favorite quote, book, movie, TED Talk, etc?
My Grandad always said ‘Never refuse money or food’ which has become a family favourite. My mum always tells me to ‘Listen to your gut’ as I can be a bit of a romantic and trust quite easily.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before starting this journey?
Everything in life happens for a reason and therefore don’t worry too much when life’s going pear shaped. Just ride the wave and know it’s all part of life’s adventures.
And the last question, what do you hope people say about you on your 70th birthday?
I’d love for them to ask ‘Where did she end up in the end? She was always meant for more than here.’
Thank you so much Minna for giving us a glimpse of the adventures abroad. I’m sure your story will provide many readers with inspiration to move abroad themselves! If you’d like to learn more about Minna and her adventures, you can check out her website, Facebook or Instagram. I know I’ll be following along to see what adventures are in store for you next!
ABOUT MELISSA PARKS, THE FOUNDER OF INTENTIONAL EXPAT:
I moved from Seattle (USA) to Madrid, Spain in 2009 in order to work as an English teacher for a year. I soon discovered that when you accept the invitation to become a global nomad, life may take you in unexpected directions! This one year abroad turned into ten, and during that time I earned my master’s degree and PhD in Clinical & Health Psychology, lived in both Spain and the Netherlands, became fluent in Spanish, transitioned from an accidental to an intentional expat, and met my future husband, a fellow global nomad. I recently relocated back to Seattle and provide online coaching for global nomads, If you’re a global nomad yourself and want to be featured in a future interview, please get in touch!
Would you like to learn more about my coaching services for expats and global nomads? I offer a free 30-minute consultation for potential clients so that you can see if my coaching services are a good fit for you: