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.
Today’s interview is with a woman whose story will give you a glimpse of what moving overseas with your family might be like. Tanya is a pilot’s wife and mother of two boys who relocated her family from Kentucky (USA) to Croatia when her husband took a job there. She’s a writer and video producer who works remotely for a children’s hospital in the states. She’s also a journalist and travel writer. Follow her family’s adventures abroad on her blog, tanyatravels.com
When did you first get bit by the travel bug?
I got the travel bug when I was in my 20s. I was a newspaper reporter in Ohio, and I saw an opening in my company at a paper in Honolulu, so I applied and got the job. It was as far away as I’d ever been, and it felt like a foreign country even though it’s part of America. I met my husband there. He promised me when we got married that he would show me the world. He’s making good on that promise.
When did you move from the U.S.A? What was your life like before that?
It was not all glamorous when we decided to move. A year ago, my husband quit his corporate job because he didn’t like it anymore. I was devastated at first. I wondered how we were going to pay our bills on my salary. But it opened doors I never expected. My husband decided to go back to his passion: flying. It took him across the country at first, and then it gave our family an opportunity to travel the world. His new job allowed us all to move to Croatia, and I was able to keep my job and work remotely. We’re happier now than we were a year ago. It has added adventure to our lives and brought us closer as a family. Quitting his job ended up being a wise decision.
What prepared you for traveling overseas?
I had a pretty sheltered childhood. Some of my first jobs as an adult were as newspaper reporter. That gave me a chance to go to new places and see other sides of life. It taught me to ask questions and reflect on the answers. I still think like a journalist and like the idea of gaining stories from my travels.
How did your children respond when you told them you were moving to Croatia?
Our boys are 10 and 11, and they didn’t want to leave their school or their friends. It was tough for them at first. They switched from everything familiar to everything foreign. We put them in an international school a month before school was out for the summer. I was surprised how quickly they adapted, started making friends and began to learn the language. It’s not always easy for them, and they get homesick. But kids do adapt, sometimes easier than adults.
What are some of the challenges of living outside of your home country?
The time difference is sometimes a challenge. I still have meetings on Eastern Standard Time. But the biggest challenge here is not understanding the language. Whether I’m talking to my landlord, the postman or the cashier at the market, I’ve had to use a mix of charades and my toddler-like Croatian to get by.
What are some of the challenges you face as a mom outside of your home country?
As a mom here, one of my challenges has been the same as my kids: having to learn how to make friends. I hit it off with one of the other moms at the boys’ school. A friend can make all the difference in feeling welcome in a new place. But it is easy to feel like a foreigner when you are one. When the school moms get together, they speak in Croatian and don’t translate everything for me. Times like that are when I feel the most awkward and wish I knew the language better.
What things help you to overcome these difficulties?
The local expats’ group I found on Facebook has been a big help for everything from recommending a place to buy used bicycles to just having people to meet up with for a drink or to celebrate an American holiday. Groups like that are an easy way to find people who have been through similar challenges speak your language.
What is your favorite part about living outside of your home country?
I love waking up in the morning and wondering what kind of adventure I’m going to have today. I love seeing new places, discovering things about the culture here and meeting people who have been here their whole lives.
What do you hope your kids get out of living in a new country?
I hope my kids embrace the world around them and gain a spirit of adventure here. I want them to have the confidence to go places they’ve never been and try new things. I’m not the kind of mom who tells my kids not to talk to strangers. Strangers have shown us a lot of kindness here.
What experience have you had abroad that you want everyone to know about?
One of my favorite moments here so far was meeting an old woman in a Croatian/Italian neighborhood. She was out having a smoke, and she saw me and linked her arm in mine and began singing to me. Then she walked me to her house and invited me to sit at her kitchen table. Something made me accept her offer. Even though we couldn’t communicate in English, Croatian or Italian, we sang together. She made me laugh, and I kind of want to find her again.
What are some of the places you really hope to visit while living in Croatia?
I’ve already seen things here that are better than I ever expected. The waterfalls and landscape at some of the national parks are incredible. We just went to Pula over the weekend and saw a Roman colosseum that rivals the one in Rome. I want to meet more locals who can show me their favorite spots here. I want to meet more old ladies who will sing to me.
What advice do you have for people who are considering relocating their family to a new country, but are feeling doubtful?
It can feel overwhelming when you think about all the things you have to do before a move. There are so many uncertainties. But you tackle a little bit each day, and the mountain gets smaller. After a while, it doesn’t seem so impossible. For me, a positive attitude helped me get over those feelings of doubt.
Do you have a favorite quote, book, movie, TED Talk, etc that you’d recommend to other travelers or moms living abroad?
I don’t know who said it first, but I like the quote that says something like: “You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Being happy in life probably has a lot to do with adjusting your attitude when things don’t go as you planned. That’s good travel advice, but it’s also good life advice.
Thanks so much Tanya for giving us a glimpse of all the adventures you’ve had so far. I’m sure many readers will appreciate reading about your experience of moving overseas with your family. If you want to connect with Tanya and learn more about her travels, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest or at her website.
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: