At Global Living Magazine we want to connect with our readers — know what you’re all about, what you love, where you’ve been and where you’re going. The best way to do this? Hear it straight from YOU!
We received an email from American expat Melinda Gallo, who lives in Florence and Paris. As a double-expat, she writes two blogs: Living in Florence about her life in Florence and My Heart in Two Places about being an expat in two cities and how she juggles two cultures, two languages, and two lifestyles.
I definitely believe that I was born to become an expat because I actually like every part of expat life: the ups and downs, the diving into the unknown, and the challenge of creating a new life in a foreign land. I enjoy finding my own way in a new place, meeting new people, and discovering how things work so that I can integrate myself and become a part of my new home.
My favorite part is that I must remain open. I can’t believe that I know everything there is to know about my new homeland. While my knowledge of the language, culture, customs and even the actual place may have increased since my arrival, there is always so much more to discover. My expat life, even after many years, is still exciting, challenging, and rewarding.
What’s been the hardest part?
The hardest part about being an expat is letting go of who you think you are. We all have an image that we believe is our true self, but it is actually just a mask. We discover who we are when we are faced with challenges that we have to resolve on our own. It is a difficult, yet empowering, choice to define who you want to be in your new home and in the world, but it is one you must make when you become an expat.
Where have you lived around the world? Favorite places?
After living in Lyon, France for my junior year abroad, I had a great desire to create a life for myself overseas. Just a couple of months after graduating from university, I moved to Paris for work. Unexpectedly, love whisked me away to Hampton Court, England six years later. My desire to find my inspiration to write eventually brought me to Florence, Italy for a couple of years. I returned to the U.S. for five years for family reasons, but then moved back to Florence where I have been living for the past 10 years. Four years ago, however, a job in Paris and a new love led me back to Paris where I now live part-time.
I have many favorite places to visit, but Florence is definitely my favorite place to live. I find it to be a provincial Italian city with an international flair. Besides its abundance of artwork and influential history, Florence is bursting with a dynamic energy that continually inspires me.
Where do you want to move to eventually?
I don’t see myself moving anywhere else. I enjoy living in both Florence and Paris and I feel that both cities have so much more to teach me. Life, however, is full of wonderful surprises so one can never know what the future will hold.
What’s your sense of ‘home’?
Before I became an expat, I never questioned what home meant to me. I thought of it as the place where I was brought up. After being an expat in France, England, and Italy, my sense of home had changed. Home is no longer a specific place for me, but rather a sense of belonging that I feel wherever I decide to live and settle down. I definitely adhere to the old adage, “home is where the heart is.” When I call a place my home, it is because I feel supported and nurtured there. This sense of home is what allows me to then venture out into the world and be a part of it.
Share anything else you’d like us to hear!
The expat life is certainly challenging on many levels, but it is definitely rewarding. Whether you spend a lifetime living abroad or just a short time, you will reap the benefits of the experience. To get the most out of it, you have to keep your heart and mind open, to let go of any preconceived ideas or beliefs, to not judge too quickly, to be patient, and to go with the flow. For me, the true reward of the expat life has been my getting to know myself better. Being exposed to other ways of life, I am able to make a conscious decision of how I want to live my life whether it is overseas or in my native country.
If you’d like to be featured on our ‘My Expat Story’ section, send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your experience as an expatriate by answering the above questions. Don’t forget to include a picture of yourself, your website/blog, and/or Twitter handle so we can help you connect with other expats from around the world!