From meeting the royal family in the Netherlands to shootings in Mexico, Yasmina’s life abroad has been anything, but dull. With a positive determination, she has made the last 18 years of her life abroad, a journey filled with incredible memories and valuable life lessons. Seeking the best for herself and her family, her hunger to see the world isn’t about to end anytime soon. Learn more about Yasmina’s adventures in our recent interview with her.
Wow, 18 years abroad! Can you tell us how it all started and why you wanted to move abroad?
Yes! I’ve lived abroad for almost 18 years, plus three years in Madrid (I’m originally from Galicia, northwest Spain). My journey started with an Erasmus Grant in Sweden in 2004 and hasn’t stopped since then. I have always wanted to travel and live in different countries.
I think that living abroad starts in three different ways: with your parent’s jobs, therefore, you follow them; when a job opportunity comes up, so you leave your actual job and move abroad for a certain amount of time (usually the duration of the job contract); and when you seek new opportunities and then you do what you have to do to get them.
The last one is the story of my life.
Can you share any stories of your journey and any challenges you faced (and how you overcame them?)
I could write a book, lol. But, as I always say, I have my own plans, but God’s plans are sometimes different from my plans.
I’d say that in my case, my journey wasn’t always a straight line. There were many ups and downs, letdowns, sadness, defeats, fears, doubts, and lots of achievements, happiness, knowledge, rewards, personal growth, career building, cultural awareness, and great friends. Because I do have the best friends all over the world!
I don’t regret any decision I made along my journey.
In my case, I always liked the cities where I lived, so that helps. I never stop believing in myself. And I always keep in mind what the objective is in every situation/country I’m in.
You lived abroad for 18 years, and mostly without kids. Now, as a mother of two, has your life abroad changed?
Absolutely. During all these past years, I was the queen of all the parties, lol. I used to host dinners, birthdays, farewell parties, etc. I always enjoyed making plans, inviting friends, organizing trips, etc.
Since I became a mum in December 2018, my priorities are different. Our life has completely changed. Now we do pajama parties all day instead of fancy parties, lol. We don’t party anymore. Instead, we make many plans during the day and spend most of our weekends in parks, farms, and playgrounds.
I believe everything has a timing in life, and I wouldn’t change our family lifestyle at the moment.
Being away from family when you have kids is more challenging. So how do you deal with the distance?
Having kids abroad means that we don’t have family support.
It’s just my husband and me looking after the kids (Hamza is almost three and Amal is six months), and it definitely made me stronger.
I’m a planner and an achiever. However, one of the most frustrating things for me is not getting things done or changing plans constantly. Well, at the moment, I don’t have weekly expectations or big plans. So my motto now is just ¨keep going¨.
Looking after a toddler and a baby 24/7, living in a flat in a city where it rains 90% of the time, makes simple things such as going for a walk while pushing a double pram a big challenge! So those days when I manage to do something for myself and with the kids, and we get home safe and healthy, well, I feel that I’m the strongest woman in the world. And able to do anything I want in life!!
Are there any specific things you do to create a sense of home?
Always. From my room at Uni to my actual house. I love to create our home by decorating it with photos, candles, decor items from our trips, and flowers. There are always flowers (I got used to buying flowers for myself since I lived in The Netherlands, I love it!). And nowadays, our living room walls are decorated with my son’s crafts and paintings from the nursery.
In every single room/flat/house I lived, I called it home because of this.
Having moved to several countries, what are your tips for visas, money, and other things that you prepare for each move?
The only time I had to deal with visas was when I moved to Mexico. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very lucky as all the migration rules had changed by the time I arrived. As a result, it took me more time than expected and lots of money to get my working visa done. I still remember when I was told at the Migration Office in Mexico City that I had to fly to Madrid for an interview at the Mexican Consulate in two days; otherwise, I’d lose my rights to work there.
Before moving somewhere, I like to plan in advance, watch many documentaries about the country, do my research online, follow people on social media who live in that city, and touch base with a friend of a friend who already lives there.
Obviously, money is important. You need savings in case you don’t have a job before moving. However, I don’t think not-having-enough-money should stop anyone from wanting to move abroad.
What are the craziest or most awkward situations that you experienced while living abroad?
First of all, I’d say that every awkward situation I faced in a foreign country has made me stronger, faster, more independent, more empathetic, and a better person.
A few of my amazing/awkward situations living abroad are:
- The language barrier when I first moved to France
- Meeting the Dutch royal family in The Hague
- Attending parties in London with very awkward people
- Getting on the wrong bus in Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro and arrive at extremely dangerous areas of both cities
- Bizarre culinary experiences such as eating ¨chapulines and gusanos¨ (insects and worms) in Mexico
- Attending very expensive and luxury parties in Cancun and Miami
- Commuting by helicopter in Sao Paulo
- Balaceras (shootings) in Veracruz, Mexico, almost every day for weeks
- Earthquake in Mexico City
Do you often feel homesick? And if yes, how do you deal with it? What are your tips for others out there?
Of course, I feel homesick sometimes. Years ago, when I was living in Europe, I used to organize trips to visit my family or meet friends in other countries.
But when I was living in Mexico and Brazil, that was harder! I really could feel the Atlantic sea distance. The thing that worries me the most about living abroad is not being able to arrive/be back home if something wrong happens.
I didn’t have framed photos of my parents or grandma for years because they made me feel very sad. But I have to say that over the years, you get used to it.
How has living abroad changed you?
I’m the person I’m today thanks to all the places I visited, the people I met, the situations I experienced, the circumstances I went through, the challenges I overcame, the good and the bad things.
When you live abroad, there is this very strange feeling that I always have, and this quote explains it perfectly… ¨I will never be completely at home again because part of my heart will always be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place¨.
Also, back home, life goes on. People celebrate birthdays, get engaged, get married, it’s sad, but you get used to missing all those events.
Can you name three things why moving abroad has been a good decision for you?
I’m much more empathetic and flexible than 20 years ago (the unexpected can feel good). I became a more grateful person, too, as I appreciate the little things and random things that make me feel good.
And I’m definitely more demanding. I want the best for my family and me. In the sense of wanting to know more, learn more, travel more, and experience new things. Sometimes it feels a bit of an addiction, to be honest.
My lifestyle has changed so much, my sense of humor and how I take things from others. I care about what really matters, and I learned to let people go.
After all these years living abroad, I agree with a Mexican taxi driver who once told me ¨having a friend abroad is more important than having money¨. I couldn’t agree more.
Last but certainly not least, what is your advice for people out there who are thinking of moving abroad?
I strongly think that everyone should live abroad for at least one year of their lives. Actually, I believe that it should be compulsory and part of the study program of any degree/college!
Inspired by Yasmina’s story but unsure where to start? Take your dream and turn it into a reality with the Let’s Move Abroad book.
Make sure to follow Yasmina’s journey via her Instagram account: Strong Connection