four books for travelling girls

I’m not really the kind of person who discusses what books i read with other people, i don’t know what that is, but thats how it it is. I don’t like to share them all that much because they’re so special to me and it feels like i’m telling someone a dark secret. That being said, there are a few books that made me feel less alone when i moved far away from my family and those are always worth sharing, if they can help someone else.
These books became the friends i needed, the inspiration i craved and gave me the boost to carry on when everything seemed too hard.
And thus i’ve decided to share them with you, whether you’re an expat or just looking for something new to read — these books are golden.

I’m lucky to come from a family who have read enough books to fill most of the libraries the earth can hold.
My mother gave me these books that i now give to you — they’d spent 18 years in our library waiting for me to grow up.
She saved them for me till i was old enough to appreciate the hardships, understand the power i had to do anything i wanted and even to believe in love.
Yep — that beautiful old fashioned cliché, but i didn’t move to America for the supersized fast food portions or the tan lines after all.

Mrs. Mike and Shaman’s Daughter, they are the two that really impacted me most.
They are my sisters.
My soul.
So much so that i think of both Kathy and Supaya when the days become tiresome.
They were read during times when i was truly struggling.
Not “i’ve lost my bag along with my patience” struggling but “i want to give up because i can’t breathe” struggling.
I read Mrs.Mike when i was separated from Jack for almost 8 months — a very difficult time. It was like sitting alone in limbo. Most of the women in my family have been given a copy of “Mrs.Mike” because the book is so incredible. I also specifically buy any copy of the book i see. Just incase.

Shamans Daughter i read when i wasn’t able to work legally in the USA yet, so i was volunteering at a state park as much as i could. I’m the kind of person who likes to make my own way, i don’t like to be paid for or “kept.” So the not working and having no life outside of my house was pretty tough. The state park was a release — even though all i did was drive around and pick up litter. I quite enjoyed it. I got to sit in a gator and be social with a 7ft ex-police officer, all the while doing a little to help the environment. As i said being an expat isn’t glamourous. You have to do what you to do, and a lot of the times you get some great memories to look back on, even through the hardships.
As i was reading Shamans Daughter i just felt so inspired to find the new version of me and it gave me a push to believe in whatever was coming my way. What would be — would be as it should be.
The earth looks after her own.

I’d lived in America for a few years before i received Tisha and Brooklyn as birthday presents.
I read Tisha recently. It is such a wonderful story. It’ll make you feel everything so deeply. Theres so much in this little book about clashing cultures, settling in in a harsh place and trying to find solstice in hard decisions.
Tisha is one determined bad-ass girl with a heart as beautiful as a wildflower in the spring.

In all honesty, Brooklyn wasn’t as great a read for me as the other three — but it still deserves to be in this group, because i know a lot of people would love this book. I can guarantee its better than the film — the film was pretty spot on however.
I think this one is important because it deals with distance, grief and the mind of a very mixed up young girl who doesn’t know the right decision — even when it slaps her wide across the chops. Its beautiful in its own right and i think this one would appeal to the younger readers.


Anyway, these books are wonderful stories of young women who got up and left.
They packed their bags, kissed their mothers goodbye and left everything comfortable & familiar.
All that with just a suitcase of their most precious belongings.
Just like i did.
Just like so many other expats have done and will do again.
Just like you might do too — one day.
And these books would help get you there and keep you grounded.
I promise.
And — you’re welcome.


If you end up giving any of these books a read — i’d love to know what you think!
How did they make you feel?

(side note — this is not an ad or a paid review, no nothing like that. Just something for those literary expats out there and just general bibliophiles.) 

The 411 Of Being An Expat

“I’ve been homesick for countries I’ve never been, and longed to be where I couldn’t be.” —John Cheever

When i first started out my blog i wanted to talk about integrating into another culture, being an expat and living away from your home country; the struggles and the joys.
This will be my first official post about being an expat.
So here are ten frequently asked questions i get daily.

1. What are you doing here? 

This is the biggest question i get asked, and quite frankly the rudest.
I always immediately lock up and become utterly defensive — wanting to respond with something witty and probably seeded with expletives.
But regardless of that — the simple answer to that question is that i’m living.

2. What made you want to come to America? 

When you’re foreigner or expat, unfortunately it automatically makes your life a public spectacle. People become nosey, and want to know everything about you. This can be incredible frustrating and i’m still finding my feet on how to handle questions that i don’t entirely want to answer. As i’ve said i’m a private person and my business is my business. In short i never wanted to come to America – i didn’t plan on it. I didn’t even want to go to America on holiday. I wanted to move back to Denmark and die there, but my plans clearly changed. I met a man i couldn’t even have dreamed of and i moved to be with him. Yes, long distance relationships are hard, but not impossible if they’re worth it and mine absolutely was. People are always quick to cast something aside when it gets tough, but thats not what life is about. Its about taking that bull by the horns and riding him out.

3. Don’t you miss you family?

Yes. Everyday. I think about them everyday. I wonder what they’re doing and if they’re happy. If they ever think of me and what i’m doing. I wonder what i’m missing out on. I picture what life could have been like if i’d moved to Denmark and been there with them 24 -7. And thats when i realise it never could have been me. Realistically i was born to discover and wander. And my family let me go like a free bird looking for warmer suns. I miss out on so many wonderful gatherings, and when i hear others around me talking about not wanting to visit grandma, how their mother was being a pain or their father wont buy them a car … i think to myself. How lucky you are to have your family down the road. Never forget how lucky you are, because there are days when it is torture and a very lonely way to live if you are 4000 miles away from them.

4. What was immigration like? 

Well, first off it cost more than a liver, set of kidneys and a prosthetic leg on the black market. But i will say, considering the cost, we had a relatively painless experience regarding immigration. The worst part was probably having to go to do medical things, which i hated but it wasn’t as terrible as i’d thought it was going to be. I thought i was going to have to drop my clothes and get man handled. I do not appreciate being at all trifled with so this was my worst nightmare. It was not as bad as all that. I just had my measurements, bio metrics and some injections done. Pretty painless, but i’d actually looked up a list of the medical things i needed before i left home and got my own doctor to give me most of the jabs i needed.

5. Do you get to go home very often?

Sadly not as often as i would wish. Its expensive and a very long trip. Its a night and a day. Its really enjoyable when theres two of us but thats even more expensive especially with an animal the needs constant attention at home. So no. Sometimes i’ll go alone for a few weeks which is nice but its hard to be away from one life to go to another. Theres also people who want to see you but don’t understand that you just don’t have time to see everyone inside of a short holiday — this can cause a lot of agro so i pretty much stick to just seeing family.
But i always miss Jack terribly. We’re two peas in a pod. And i don’t like being alone in a pod.

6. Weren’t you scared?

Nope. I wasn’t. I honestly never thought it was as big a deal as everyone made out to me. I was excited, but i wasn’t ever scared or in any doubt. I’d made my mind up to go and so i did. I looked back but only to see how far i’d come. Never in regret. I knew there would be things i would lose and be giving up, but life comes at you — you get up and you go.

7. What was it like to move such a long way?

It wasn’t until i’d been gone a year or so that i started to realise how hard the move was getting to be on me. My life ended up having to stop while i waited for immigration to be done. I couldn’t legally work, i couldn’t drive and it was Texas… there was nowhere to go that was in walking distance. Even if there had been — the heat would have killed me 20 steps in.
However, having been home all that time gave me months of working on interests and projects. I learned to knit, crochet, practice my photography, created art, learned to sew, exercised and practiced Shakespeare. I read as many books as physically possible and taught myself to cook. You have to make the best of the situations that suck. And it really wasn’t plain sailing. It was hard work. Nothing, and i mean nothing worth having is ever easy. Why would it be? You’d never appreciate it if it was. I suffered pretty severely from cabin fever but i got through it. Its a huge struggle that honestly cant truly be expressed in all its horrific-ness. You’ll know when you hit that wall, but remember. Just pursue the interests you’ve never had time for. Get excited about new bird species, sunrises and hailstones the size of your fists. Life is not all about 9 to 5 and paychecks. 

8. Was it hard to start working in another country?

It was nerve wracking, and sometimes it still is. Even after a few years i don’t entirely understand the American culture or the way people act with each other here. And obviously, with me it goes slower because i am a notorious recluse.  I don’t understand the rules, paperwork or the taxes. I’ve been lucky that i’ve had Jack to help me every step of the way, if i was alone it would have been a very arduous up hill battle. Working in another country never phased me till i tried it in the USA, the language is ever so slightly similar to English but don’t be fooled. Thats where the similarities end.
At least i’m still funny, witty and entertaining in every language. So i can always bring the laughs.

9. Does the magic of being an expat ever wear off?

Only if you let it. I don’t. I enjoy every car ride, every walk and every rain fall. Its another case of making the best of the opportunity you’ve been given. Yes, i just made myself sound like a Labrador but truly, if any animal treasures every day — its a dog. So there are worse things.
I will say that not every day is a bed of roses and full of unicorns, sometimes those unicorns leave giant turds and those roses have thorns. But you cannot expect everyday to be a holiday. Visiting a place for a holiday is VERY different to moving there and creating an entirely new life.  You still have to wake up to yourself every morning. This is something i CANNOT stress enough. I was lucky enough to know this from a very young age so i knew this when i moved to the USA. But those of you who don’t — think about it. I’ve met a few people who say things such as “I want to move to London, i had the best vacation for like a week,” or “I love Sweden is looks like so much fun in the snow!”
Stop. Right. There. 
London can be a rough area — like any/every capital city. A week with a friend is fun and all, but a lifetime and you could be letting yourself in to some serious problems not to mention dangerous situations if you think its all Mary Poppins and Bridget Jones’ high waisted underpants. Mr.Darcy isn’t that good looking or charming in real life.
Swedish winters are beautiful but you could also turn into an icicle if you don’t know the ropes or you could go insane due to the 6 months of constant sunlight/darkness.
I’m not saying don’t go, but i am saying be smart and remember that life is life — it will have downs just like it has ups. Can you survive Monday to Friday living where-ever you want to go? You be completely starting over and it can be very lonesome.

10. Its easy to integrate if you want to, isn it?

Sure it is for some, but others not. I think a lot of that depends on culture and the country someone is  moving to/from.
I don’t know that i’ve ever integrated anywhere, or ever wanted to. In England i was always the funny foreign kid but i still had a pretty great childhood, but i wouldn’t say i “integrated”. I’ve never changed, i’ve been the same person for a good while — i’m worldly, and though antisocial, i do mix pretty well with a lot of cultures and people. For the most part I believe in respecting a country for what it is and not asking it to fit YOU. Its you who must assimilate. The country does not owe you a damn thing. Remember that.
However, I quite enjoy being an outsider looking in. You experience more and get a better understanding of differences.
Your mind broadens.
That is a huge gift.

the secret kept by mountains

Do you have anything you want to ask or want to know about being an expat?
You can write a comment on this post, and i’ll try to answer as many as i can !

Eliza Lee and a mast to match

Eliza Lee is one of my favourite shantys or “sea songs.”
It could also be considered a rolling railway song, but thats not entirely my point.
On the 26th i had my “golden year” birthday, a term i only learned about 23 minutes ago. That’s right. I’m getting on — like everyone else on the planet i grow older as the years roll by, and it sucks.
Sad really, but there it is.
Well i guess its not sad when its inevitable.

Anyway, for my birthday we drove to Boston to see the USS Constitution — something thats been on my bucket list for years and something Pat and i discussed once — ‘ how cool would it be to see Old Ironsides after having seen Victory!?” It’s something i frankly never expected to be able to do. How wrong i was. Damn, sometimes being wrong is the bee knees.
Believe you me! Everyone needs to be wrong — its ever so pleasant to be happily surprised!

Hyggjaa
In my minds eye there is nothing more freeing or beautiful than a tall ship, warship or anything with a sail or two. The history behind these old vessels is incredible and i feel ridiculously lucky to have seen the Constitution as well as the HMS Victory, one of the great loves of my life. In another life i would have been a big sea captain with a mighty brass coloured beard, a great crew and a bass voice that could shiver the timbers n’ panties off all the girls on shore.
Think on par with a redhead Captain Aubrey with a dash of Nelson, and a sliver of Cochrane.

Hyggjaa
Yep, in a dream of adventuring, hot suns and rough seas — this is where i would have spent every moment of everyday. Fixing ropes, giving the powder monkeys a hard time — they’re tough as old boots– those boys can take it and aching over charts like a mad scientist.

Hyggjaa
She may not be the HMS Victory, but she is a magnificent ship with a history of brilliance in tow; and the most beautiful ship i’ve seen in America to date. And having the pleasure of walking her deck, running my fingers over her lines and feeling the heave of her bosom over the small surge in tide, as i’ve done with so many others — it was magic. True magic.
One of the few things in this world that make me feel like a woman is the feel of a big ol’ship, because she breathes, yearns and sometimes creaks in her planking just the way a woman grows in life. She’s tough, keeps her crew and will rarely ever falter. She is the safe place a million miles from shore, and tugs at her anchor ready for the next adventure on the horizon. After all ships are not meant to sit out a storm in a harbour.
There is a reason a ship is a she.

Hyggjaa
I know i’m a giant contradiction of a person. I want to be the sailor i know i am, but i want to ride the desert with a good horse and have my farm one day. Its near impossible to do both, but so far i’ve somehow managed to keep them alive. The lights of possibility will never go out.
I will always wish to dive in deeper but for now i’ll do what i can to keep my head above the water.

Hyggjaa
Ultimately, I had an amazing start to a new year at a new age. New beginnings are around the corner, which i wont divulge until they are more concrete and new ideas are brewing on the stove as they always are.
I’m ticking things off my bucket list every year and i’m so many experiences richer than i could have ever been, had i stayed in England.
So i thank my nineteen year old self for making a hard decision in the space of a mili-second, and not really thinking it through — because it was the best darn choice ever made.

Hyggjaa

crystal beaches & one hundred pelicans

I can’t begin to describe how amazing it was to be back in Texas for a week.
A well needed holiday for sure. Its been a difficult start to the year with work and the lack there of due to some dick nose giving me the flaccid shaft.
We flew out of Manchester NH, had a layover in Nashville. We were in Tennessee longer than expected. A bird splattered all over the wind screen and so we had to wait for a new plane. Terminology does wonders. We arrived in Houston around 11.00pm having left home around 02.00pm

As i watched the city lights roll  by flourish by flourish in the night on our way through Galveston, i see those memories i lived once upon a time flash in snippets as we drove. Of riding on some moody mare wrongly named “Angel,” drinking with friends in a place that also had a sign reading “Dirt Sold here,” and eating burgers in a black out whilst a woman, wielding half a fried spatular, tells some hick not to miss when he pisses in the dark. The craziest of my stories were born in Texas. And i mean the kind of thing you see in a film like the Big Lebowski or The Hangover. Now i’ve never woken up with a tiger in my hotel room and i don’t hate the Eagles, but i have been in some pretty insane situations since my time in the USA.

Now i was pumped to be back in Texas. By god, pumped like a teenage boy getting his first nudie magazine.
Our first day was spent sizzling in the sun, counting pelicans, socialising with family and wading around in the sea trying not to stand on fish heads. Our second day was about as adventurous as we got.
Back to Huntsville to visit friends, past old Sam Houston and all the old haunts.
We hit whataburger like a tonne of bricks and i wept eating my bacon burger, it was the best thing i’ve eaten in months.
Call me a soppy old boot — i dare you. But you haven’t tasted Texas till you’ve had Whataburger or Jerky from Buc-ees.
…so we got mesquite beef jerky from bucees.

Being in Texas and seeing friends from years ago was amazing, but it was hard. I realised how much i loved having these guys in my life and how they gave me something i’d never had before.
The will to live, laugh and make jokes at Jacks expense. You always come to terms with what you had when its gone.
I can’t stress this enough, but its also part of the growing pains. Learning the value of loving a friend, getting drunk as a skunk on Fridays and laughing at my attempt at ordering water at a Mexican food restaurant. That shit always goes wrong.
From now on i will forever order water with an American accent — to make life easier.
I’m also a little ashamed of the fact that i had two drinks and i was happy as a fat big in shit (not water by the by), but i had my best guys with me. A rare blessing if ever there was one.
Pretty sure the guy waiting on us poured double the alcohol in my second drink after i mentioned that the first didn’t taste like alcohol whatsoever.
So maybe i was a little high on happiness and a little too happy to be drinking with the four most handsomest(?) men in Texas, but i lived a dream that day. A dream that i needed fulfilled after all this time.
Good Old Texas.
Forever winning my heart over and over again.

The rest of the holiday was beaching. Alcohol, meat, partying and beach. Hot sun.
Laughing a lot and trying to get pictures of dolphins, but they really are elusive little bastards.

Ultimately — we had a great time with family and friends.
We want to move back more than ever.
But for now, here are a few shots from the trip.