Expat advice: When you’re not home for the holidays

expat holidays away from home

I’m not gonna lie. In some respects, living abroad during the holidays is great. Here in Madrid, lights and trees and decorations are already up all over the city. Thanks to Amazon Prime, my U.S. gift shopping stress doesn’t even register. I may not get to spend all the special days with my besties or family, but if needed, I can distract myself with a 35€ flight to Toulouse or quick train to Sevilla.

But then, I start thinking about this Thursday. It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. but just a regular day here in Spain. Regular to the point that I’ll be getting a cavity filled at 10:50 am. Regular to the point that I’ll be smooshed in the metro with the other regular-day commuters, thinking of all the roasting turkeys and toasts happening in the U.S.

When you live abroad, there’s a good chance you’ll celebrate solo a time or two. It’s not always possible or practical to get home. But celebrating holidays away from family can wear on even the steadiest heart. There’s a unique loneliness that slinks in no matter how accustomed you are to being away from home. So, what’s an expat to do?

Since we’re looking the holiday season in the face, I say it’s time to get proactive. I’m a girl that loves a plan. I swear, seven out of ten things that plague my inner being can be solved with a decent list. If you know you won’t be with family this year and already feel the tickle of bleak desolation on the fringes of your heart, it’s time to get going! Don’t wait until you’re in the depths of despair with a bottle of tequila on Christmas Eve.

Keep reading for five ways I avoid the lonely that can creep in around the holiday season.
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An insider’s guide for long distance BFFs

long distance BFFs

When I was growing up my step-dad always told me that when I was all old and grey and looking back on my life, I’d be able to count my true friends on one hand. When I was younger I took this a quantity thing. Now that I’m older—and see he’s right—I realize that he was talking about quality. Many friendships have a natural ebb and flow. However, when the stars align and give you that person who practically shares your DNA, you hold on for dear life.

During my last visit to San Diego, I was talking with one of my two besties about how similar lifelong friendships are to a marriage. Like marriage, friendships require forgiveness and compassion. Like marriage, over time you learn both the beautiful and not-so-beautiful parts of someone’s heart. And like with any close relationship, distance makes things hard.

But just because you’re living on the other side of the globe as your BFF doesn’t mean you’ll lose that closeness. It takes more work, sure, but there’s also a special pride that comes from persevering against the difficulties of distance. Keep reading for a few ways to work around the struggles unique to expats and their long distance BFFs.

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Keep your glass half full: Why expats should be cultivating positivity

expat positivity

Positivity gets a bad rap, but isn’t it kind of justified? Because I don’t think I’m alone when I say that unrealistic optimism isn’t exactly useful. When you’re stressed out of your mind or down in the dumps, the words “cheer up” are about as helpful as telling someone without a coat to keep warm. Unfortunately, a positive attitude is easily the irritating Pollyanna goody-two-shoes of the emotional crew.

While do I favor the black heart emoji and think pessimism sets us up for pleasant surprises, I found an article that made me rethink all the eye-rolling I do at positive attitudes. Especially when it comes to expat life, it looks like positivity is the arrow you want in your quiver.

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A brb message from No Longer Native

Hello there! Just a quick note to say I’ll be taking a little break during the month of October because of some very exciting happenings.

First of all, I have a much-anticipated visit to the U.S. to spend time with friends and family. Once I get back it’ll be a mad dash to finish a freelance project due by the end of the month. That said, I’ll be back here the first week of November.

It won’t be total radio-silence, though. Instead of new content in the month of October, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite articles from the archives. Since many expats make their transitions in the summer, fall means you’re smack in the middle of the three-month-slump part of the transition. Even seasoned expats can use a reminder about dealing with things like culture shock, changes to your marriage, shifting friendships back home, and hosting long-term visitors.

All of these will be shared through our Facebook page. So if you haven’t already, make sure to like and follow No Longer Native on Facebook so you can see what all the articles and blogs (as well as the archived posts) that I’m loving right now. Can’t wait to see you soon!

Seven reasons the Spanish stay slim (even while eating all that ham)

My first few glances at Madrid’s restaurant menus gave me major anxiety. Yes, part of it was that I had a whole new list of food words to learn. But after that, I started worrying how I was going to live here for the next few years and not have to buy new jeans every six months.

Because Spanish food is the delicious cliche you think it is: all varieties of ham, creamy cheese, peppery wine, and olives stuffed with everything you can imagine. There’s really no way to avoid these foods and besides, I didn’t want to! Unfortunately, unless I was going to develop insane self-control (not likely), I was going to have to develop some new eating habits.

Thank goodness the Spaniards are already pros at this and all I had to do was follow their example. Keep reading for seven habits I copied from the locals so I could have my ham and eat it too.

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Free Colombia expat guide

free colombia expat guide

I’ve been a part of the expat.com community for a couple of years now. Their blog directory helped me find all kinds of perspectives from people already living in Bogotá (and then in Madrid!). Then when I started blogging, No Longer Native was featured as a blog of the month.

Over the past few weeks, they’ve been revamping the Destination Guide section of their website and I jumped at the chance to partner with them and update their guide for Colombia.

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The importance of being a good traveler and 5 ways to do it

importance good traveler

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of being a good traveler. It’s been hard to miss the news about the plague of over tourism striking Europe this year, to the point that several cities (Barcelona, Venice, Dubrovnik) staged protests against the number of visitors they received this summer.

Governments have been scrambling during the past couple of years to cope with the influx of travelers during peak seasons. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Budget airlines are so cheap, even more so if you’re already living in Europe. Technology makes it so easy to navigate and communicate that booking a trip is less intimidating than ever. Social media is doing its job by inspiring wanderlust galore. Of course, tourism isn’t going anywhere. It’s a necessary evil for many cities.

Of course, local governments have a role to play. So do the visitors. Just because a place needs your tourist dollars doesn’t give you license to have a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” type attitude. If travelers want to keep visiting the most beautiful places in the world, we need to adopt a “leave it better than you found it” travel philosophy.

Here are five ways to do it.

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Where to do happy hour from Naked Madrid

Naked Madrid

It’s no secret that I love a good cocktail. When we landed in Madrid, I made it a personal mission to find a spot that made a manhattan just the way I liked it. Not knowing any locals to point me in the right direction, Naked Madrid helped me get my bearings and discover some of Madrid’s best cocktail bars.

Now that I’m settled, I’ve been venturing out on my own. Recently I discovered another place to add to the happy hour list and was able to share my thoughts in a guest post!

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Life lessons and a kind of love letter to Colombia

love letter to Colombia
One of the oldest streets in Bogotá, in the Candelaria neighborhood

I’ve been reading about place attachment on the interwebs. It’s a fancy term for falling in love with places like one does with people. In case you’re curious as to why it’s because I really miss Colombia and can’t seem to process emotions without a Google search to tell me I’m not alone in my feelings. I’m sure I have some interesting cookies.

But for real, I left Colombia over a year ago and it’s not fading into the background the same way as some of my former “homes”. Let’s not read this sentence as I’m unhappy in Madrid or will never go back to San Diego. I love Madrid (see here: proof in blog form) and have cried many a tear over San Diego (just reference the entire archive of 2015).

Still, each time someone asks where we’d like to settle more permanently, Cody and I respond in unison, with a little too much enthusiasm, Bogotá!

When they ask us why it’s not so easy to respond.

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