Four reasons to visit Europe in winter

They say the best time to visit Europe is May through September, which were the exact months we lived in Spain this year. In the past, we’ve always found ourselves on European vacations in those quiet weeks between Christmas and March, so I was thrilled at the chance to sightsee in gorgeous weather.

Long days and sunshine can’t be beat, but we quickly realized the best time to go somewhere also means the busiest. Everywhere we went, we were shoulder to shoulder with a million other tourists, waiting in lines and being charged premium prices.

If you’re not heading to a specifically summertime-only destination, consider bumping your itinerary to the off season. Along with cheaper prices and smaller crowds, here are a few things that I think make winter the best bet for your European getaway.

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Three tips to get the most out of long term visits

how to deal with long term visitors

Given enough time, a feast or famine pattern will develop in an expat’s life.

For instance, while outside of the U.S. I dream about my favorite sushi restaurant. And without fail, as soon as I set foot on San Diego soil I promptly gorge myself on enough spicy tuna rolls and ahi poke to get at least a mild level of mercury poisoning. Maybe you can’t keep out of Target or miss your favorite TV show or love to drive on big, open highways where people use signals and respect lanes. Whatever it is, as soon as it’s available you try to soak up as much as possible.

With the holidays upon us, chances are you’ll be soaking up a lot of family moments too. But how is it that you long for your parents and siblings and Grannie Fran all year long, only to feel like you’re going crazy after two days? No matter how much you love someone, I think it’s pretty likely that if you spend a couple of weeks with them you’re bound to have at least a tickle of the grumps.

While out there combing through the copious articles, blogs, and advice about extended family visits, I found some very good suggestions about how to make sure you maximize your family ‘feasting’ this holiday season.

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Recommended Read: The Curated Closet

The Curated Closet
Your life isn’t static, and neither is your personal style.    —Anuschka Rees, The Curated Closet

Living in the shadow of a weight limit on your shipped goods gives you a natural aversion to accumulating, which is how I’ve found myself incorporating principles of the whole minimalist philosophy into my life.

The Curated Closet will help you apply the “less is more” idea to your wardrobe, but it also speaks to struggles unique to us trailing spouses.

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The perks of downsizing: Why I loved our micro-kitchen

perks of downsizing

Those of us from the U.S. have a certain culture when it comes to size. Growing up with a hundred cereal options and 64 oz. sodas and dually pickup trucks will basically ingrain a bigger is better mantra into your psyche.

I have no problem laughing off my obnoxious love of big American dryers and multiple bathrooms. But—and especially after living abroad—I can also acknowledge the perks of downsizing.

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When your own culture catches you off guard

reverse culture shock

When you face a cultural quirk in your adopted home it’s easy to chock it up to the fact that it’s a funny (or irritating or charming) part of life abroad. However, it’s bewildering when those shocks are coming from things that used to be second nature. Robin Pascoe, writer and expert in all things expat, likens repatriation to wearing your contacts in the wrong eyes: everything looks almost right.

I’m no stranger to reverse culture shock. This blog has been an important place where I can talk about my changing ideas of home, of adopting aspects of a new culture or having a hard time going back to the U.S. 

But, like regular culture shock, no matter how easily you move between worlds you still experience it to some degree. I’ve learned to stop expecting things to be the same when I return to San Diego. The thing that always gets me though are the unexpected ways I’ve changed.

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Expat advice for the short-term assignment

short term expat assignment

When I heard about the three month time frame on Cody’s assignment in Madrid, I knew there would be a completely different set of challenges. But when searching for advice, I found zero blogs or articles discussing this particular type of experience and the accompanying spouse.  With assignments like these, it makes sense for the working partner to go it alone because people have families, homes, and all the other things that go along with roots. However, I had no home and an expiring Colombian visa, so I packed my bags and got ready for adventure.

Heading into our summer in Madrid, most of my worry centered on finding a balance between playing tourist, having some semblance of routine and maybe an acquaintance or two. If you read my post last week about emotional jet lag, then you know I didn’t find my feet as gracefully as expected.

Read on for my thoughts about where I did well and where I fell flat.

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The emotional lag of leaving

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As far as the whole expat lifestyle goes, I can deal with the regular change in scenery. Packing up and settling down in a new place is easy because all the logistics and planning propel you forward. One thing I’m not so sure of is how expats deal with the emotional turnover that comes with consistently changing places.

I’m proud of myself for never looking at Bogotá as just the place I’d be living the next two years. I made it my home because I didn’t see how being happy was possible if I continued to look over my shoulder at the U.S. But when we left Bogotá this past June and it was time to open my heart to the next place, it wasn’t so easy to stop looking back.

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Hello again from No Longer Native!

adventure-scooter

Last we spoke Cody and I were headed to Madrid for a few months while he was working on a short-term assignment. The past few months had been so busy and our scheduled time in Spain was so short that I decided to take a break from blogging.

If you thought I spent this summer in Cervecería Alemana, sitting under a picture of Ernest Hemingway and drinking sangria, you wouldn’t exactly be wrong. But I did other things too, including a lot of thinking about where I’m going with No Longer Native.

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A Summer Siesta

Today marks two weeks I’ve been in Madrid and I’m still pinching myself at the gorgeous weather, scenery, food and museums this city has to offer. After catching my breath and settling in, I realized how frantic things have been the past three months!

That said, No Longer Native will be taking a little break over the summer so I can take full advantage of this lovely city. I’ll be back to blogging again in the fall, once we’ve settled somewhere more long term.

Even though I won’t be active on the blog, I’ll never be far from email. So to those of you with questions about Bogotá or expat life in general, don’t hesitate to use the contact form to drop me a line!

Happy summer and see you soon!