Finding ‘home’ – #ExpatWisdom – Stephanie

Expat Wisdom

March 21, 2021

Hello! This week I’m excited to share another post in the Expat Wisdom series with you. Incase you’re new here, the Expat Wisdom project is something I do each month where I share the story of one of you guys and ask you to share some of your expat advice with this community! I always have a lot of fun reading your posts and this week is no different! This month’s Expat Wisdom post is from Stephanie who moved from Cape Town to Naxos, you can find her Instagram here. Stephanie’s story is really moving, and she definitely has some really great advice to share!

Growing up in beautiful Cape Town, I have always enjoyed travelling and often dreamed of living abroad. Every time I was on a vacation, I would think “this is it, I want to live here” whether it was Hong Kong, Thailand, Holland, Italy etc, it didn’t matter because I loved something about each of those places. But whenever I returned home and the aeroplane would bank over the ocean to come into land at Cape Town International, I would get teary and question why I would possibly want to leave. Cape Town was home and home in my heart too. That was until 2017 and the first time I travelled to Greece.

I’d never been to Greece before and jumped at the opportunity when my mom invited me to meet her in Naxos for a two-week vacation. I hopped on the plane and flew into Athens International, spending one night at the airport hotel before my flight to Naxos the following day. The next morning I caught my flight to Naxos, excited to see my mom but also excited to have a little island vacation. As soon as the plane landed I burst into tears. When my mom saw me she asked if I was crying because I was happy to see her. I was but it was the deep innate feeling that I was finally “home” that brought me to tears. I had never been to Naxos, let alone Greece, but something just clicked for me. I enjoyed my two weeks and thought to myself, I will be back next year. I even booked a flight for the following year to return for a longer vacation. I flew back to Cape Town and for the first time in 33 years, it didn’t feel like home.

January of 2018 started with me losing my stepfather to suicide and my grandfather a few months later. I was broken, grieving and lost. They were my foundation and one of the biggest reasons for staying in Cape Town. I still had my upcoming trip to Naxos booked and I decided that I was going to use it to recoup, adjust and work through my grief. So I extended my trip to be 3 months, quit my job and flew to Greece. The trip was amazing and just what I needed. I also got a taste for what living here was really like. And that’s when I decided, “this is it, I AM going to live here”. I went back to Cape Town, found a remote work job, sold my apartment and packed up my things. I moved to Naxos that December.

I love my new home and am over the moon that I dared to take the plunge. I met my now-husband, made friends, found a remote working lifestyle that works for me and I get to enjoy beautiful Greek summers. It was worth every sacrifice I made to be able to move here.

My biggest advice to anyone wanting to embrace the expat lifestyle is, spend at least 2 months in the country you plan to move to before you pack everything up to move. Stay in an Airbnb or short term rental and not a hotel, hotels always give you a false sense of amazingness. Spend time getting to know the locals, where do they eat, what are the local customs, local beliefs etc. Getting to know the local lifestyle will help you determine if this is the place for you. Get out of your comfort zone and try to make friends, having a small group of friends before you move somewhere makes the move that much easier. Finding a local coffee shop hangout helped me find a little community, a place to go when I was missing friends and family, a place to meet new friends and a super social place to do some work and feel like a local. But most importantly, remember no decision is irreversible. If your heart is pulling you to try living somewhere new, DO IT. You can always go back knowing it didn’t work rather than spending your life wishing you had tried!

Seeing Stephanie’s photos kind of makes me want to pack everything up and go visit a Greek Island myself – I hope you found her post interesting and useful! As always, if you’re interested in being featured as part of the Expat Wisdom project, reach out to me on Instagram @Little.Miss.Expat!

See you next week!

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