Living Abroad Journey: With $1000 adventurous Luana moved to Amsterdam.

Living Abroad Journey: With $1000 adventurous Luana moved to Amsterdam.

Every month we share living abroad stories from all over the world. This time we share the story of Luana, who growing up in Sao Paolo, dreamed of going to Disneyland. Little did she know that after visiting the United States with an exchange program, it wasn’t Disneyland that impressed her. It was seeing a new culture and living in a different country. It was the beginning of her inspiring living abroad journey. 

Living Abroad journey: Luana's story

Luana, tell us a little bit about how your living abroad journey started:

It’s a long story, but basically, it started with my dream to go to Disneyland. In the nineties, everyone in Brazil wanted to go to Disneyland, and so did I. My parents weren’t rich, but at twelve years old, my dad made a deal with me; I could go to Disneyland if I learned English by the time I reached my fifteenth birthday. So I did!

Together with a friend (no parents!), we joined a group called “The Friendship Force,” a sort of exchange program, where I would stay with a family in North Carolina and Atlanta for two weeks, followed by a trip to Disneyland. Disneyland was nothing compared to living with other people, seeing their lives, and experiencing a total sense of freedom. I would say that this was the beginning of my “living abroad fever.” It was magical to see the world, and it inspired me to go on a student exchange program the year after. 

After that, you decided to move to the Netherlands. How did you plan this big move?

Honestly, I never really planned it. I wanted to live abroad after University, and my boyfriend at the time already lived in Amsterdam. So I decided to join him. Having lived abroad via the exchange programs taught me a thing or two. I knew what to expect. I worked hard to save for my ticket and had an extra thousand dollars for emergencies. With my Spanish passport, I could easily move to the Netherlands.

How did you experience the first months in the Netherlands?

I found a  job as a waitress quite quickly, but the language was tough for me. I felt out of place. The culture and habits were so different from what I was used to, which was difficult for me initially. But soon, I flourished and felt a sense of independence that made me very proud of myself. It is an extraordinary feeling when you start belonging to a place that is so different from home. I love that feeling. It makes me feel special. 


 Some people change jobs and homes; I change countries.



Even though you enjoyed your life in Amsterdam, you moved back to Brazil. Can you tell me a little bit about this experience? 

Yes, after six years in Amsterdam, I felt it was time for me to either settle down in the Netherlands or move back home. I chose to move to Sao Paolo to be with my family. 

Moving back home felt like an adventure. It wasn’t going to be easy. It was difficult; no jobs and little pay. The first three months were terrible. Luckily after four months, I found my dream job, and my life was better than I could have imagined. 

But after six years, it was time to go again. Staying in one place was never in my blood. Some people change jobs and homes; I change countries. 

You experienced ups and downs during your many moves, but what would you say are some of the best things about living abroad?

For me, the best thing is to be able to choose a better life. I was able to live in a safer place, with more justice and opportunities. I feel like I’m living a rich life, and I never take it for granted. Not one day. 

I also feel fortunate to live in a country that doesn’t judge me for being different. Although I am an immigrant, I have never personally encountered any prejudice against me. 

It is a great feeling to feel at home in the Netherlands, but sometimes I miss my true identity. Living abroad has made me realize how Brazilian I am. I miss being “normal,” just to be me without a label. But it’s a give and take. Luckily, my mother, sister, and nephew now also live in the Netherlands. And I married a Brazilian guy (that wasn’t on purpose, he just happened to be Brazilian ;-)). Having them here really helps with the homesickness.


Be brave, it will not be easy, but it will be the most interesting, fun, and challenging thing you do.


What did you learn from moving abroad?

The best part for me is observing cultures and habits and how that influences the choices we make. Culture is a massive part of who we are, and it is in everything you do. I am fascinated to observe that about myself and others. That was only possible because I lived abroad. 

The science of traveling for me is a deeper understanding of human beings and how much our environment influences us all. Plus, it feels like you lived hundreds of years when you travel. So many stories, so many people, so many experiences.

What is your advice to anyone who wants to move abroad?

I always say, if you are young, just go. It will not be easy, but it will be the time of your life. Wanting to go with a safety net is dangerous because a “safety” feeling might never come. 

Just go! It is impossible to imagine what it will be like. Everything you planned will change completely the minute you enter the plane. Be brave, it will not be easy, but it will be the most interesting, fun, and challenging thing you do. 

Inspired by Luana’s story and keen to get your living abroad journey started? Get a copy of the Let’s Move Abroad book today and go! For more living abroad stories of people from all over the world, continue browsing.

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