Coming Home: Returning from Life as an Expat

by Alex Schnee
( May 11th, 2015 )


Home Expat Life

I’m headed back to the States in a few days, and my expat journey in Italy will officially be over. I’ve lived here for a quite a while now, and it would be accurate to say that I’ve had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I’m saying goodbye to an experience that has shaped me and who I am, but I am also ready to start some new adventures, as well.

I wrote a post about reverse culture shock about a year ago, and how in some ways that can also be harder for expats than the initial shock you experience moving abroad. You’re usually aware that heading overseas will be a huge adjustment culturally and emotionally, but you can be less aware that moving back can be equally as hard. Every time I have returned, I’m always surprised to find out what I’ve missed in the news and trends that I am not aware of because I’ve been away for so long (and that I’m a little isolated in Lucca).

For me, this experience also means the end of living abroad for a while. I’m ready to make up a home base from where I can travel from, to come home for the holidays, and to meet up with some of my friends rather than just to have a Skype date. Living abroad has taught me more about myself than any experience I ever could have had, but now it’s time for something new. I’m going to have to learn to be patient with myself and not expect myself to assimilate seamlessly. That there are going to be times I desperately miss the constant adventure of being on the road or sitting at a cafe with a steaming espresso. That I am going to miss certain sights and smells that I won’t be able to find anywhere else and that’s okay.

Everything ends, and my time in Italy has come to a close—but that just means that there is room for more and different kinds of adventures. I have trips planned over the next few months to keep me busy and working, so it should be easier to adjust. I’m also taking back a few little trinkets to remind me of my home here. Needless to say, the coffee is definitely one of them.

Have you ever moved back after an experience abroad? Any suggestions for former expats?

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Mamma Mia! Tips and Tricks for Palermo

by Alex Schnee
( May 8th, 2015 )

Tips Tricks Palermo

I’ve lived in Italy for quite a while now, and regrettably I’ve seen a very limited amount of it. I decided to change this by heading south to some warmer weather (it’s been rainy and foggy here in Lucca—an atypical Tuscan spring). Taking the approach that the best trips are usually the least planned, I chose to head to Palermo. It’s a city where you will find very few American accents, and some traditions and food that come to mind when you think about Italy.

Here are some tips for Palermo that I found helpful the days that I was there.

Know the two main roads.

Three streets stretch out from the train station, where you will usually arrive by bus from the airport or by, of course, train. Via Roma is the main street where you will find most the shops and ATMs in case you need to get cash. Tucked into some side streets are plenty of restaurants serving fresh seafood and pasta. The second main drag is Via Maqueda. Most of the hotels, hostels, and life of the city is located here. The good news? Both are easy to find and stay on, so you should have no problem getting from one end of the city to the other.

Watch your money and stay safe.

Unfortunately, Palermo is not the safest of cities, which is why you will find few Americans there. Shockingly, the Mafia is still a large presence, and you should watch your wallet and try to use an ATM indoors so you are less likely to have your cash swiped after taking it out. As a woman, you want to be especially careful. Try to avoid going out at night alone and reconsider a night at the club—you won’t be able to walk home with the assurance of safety like you can in other cities in Italy like Florence or Venice.

Mondello Beach Palermo

Day trip.

Palermo is a great city with a lot of character, but you can see most everything in a day or two. If you are planning on seeing some more sights, consider taking a day trip to one of the nearby locations like Agrigento where you can see Grecian, Roman, and early Christian ruins. The absolutely stunning Mondello beach is only a twenty-minute bus ride from the city center, and it’s worth spending an entire day there relaxing in the sun. Just don’t forget your sunscreen—the sun is stronger in Sicily than many locations.

Have any tips for Palermo? Any ideas for day trips?

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Dealing with Restlessness: Trying to Fight a Constant Travel Bug

by Alex Schnee
( April 28th, 2015 )

Dealing Restlessness Travel

It’s inevitable that as a Generation-Y wanderer that you’ll have a crippling bout of wanderlust every now and then. It’s a terrible feeling—I used to get it about once every three months but now find myself dealing with it more often than not. Sorry to inform you, but it’s not something that goes away or that you get used to. In fact, I think it just gets worse.

Traveling is like a drug. You go on one trip (no pun intended) and you find yourself craving the next one before it’s even ended. Recently after coming back from Budapest, it took me a total of two days back at my apartment in Lucca to realize I needed to book another trip—fast. I’m headed to Palermo next week because the novelty of being home usually lasts about a week for me, and then I’m ready for my next adventure and ready for time to speed up.

The issue is not so much whether or not you have the travel bug, but how you deal with it when you it’s impossible for you to go anywhere. As someone who is a certifiable addict, learning to deal with restlessness has been an ongoing struggle for me. It has not been easy. I’ve been traveling and living abroad pretty much since my graduation from college (almost two years!) and learning how to slow down and settle into a daily schedule has not been a simple task.

I’ll have a few weeks when I return to the States for the summer where I will be working and planning my next move, and I know they are going to be difficult because I will be in the same spot (except for a quick jaunt to Peru). It’s going to be a challenge to kind of just be for a while, but I am going to do my best. Unless you have unlimited time and money, it’s impossible to constantly be on the road, which is not a reality for most of us—especially members of Generation-Y. So learning ways to come off a trip high (this time, pun intended) and to settle into a daily routine can be a good way to get used to a few weeks or months when you won’t be traveling.

We’re lucky, wanderlusters! Although the feeling of restlessness is never easy, it’s something we can learn to deal with and in a way use for our benefit. We’re always learning and growing and changing because we’re forced to. I like to see time off from travel as a way to reflect on how much I’ve changed and how and in what ways I can change in the future.

Do you have any tips on how to deal with restlessness? Have you had a particularly bad bout?

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