After 3 years of long-term traveling the world, we are trying something new! Usually, we visit a place on a tourist visa and leave as soon as it is up. This could be anywhere from 1 month to 3 months in one place. Now, after applying for a 1-year Visa for France and then moving to France, I want to explain a few of the reasons why we came to this decision!
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1. Three years of constant travel can be exhausting
Although traveling long-term is an incredible lifestyle that I think everyone should try at least once in their life (it doesn’t have to be a long amount of time, it could be a few months or a year!) it is very draining.
We started traveling full-time on January 3rd, 2017. We worked (and still do) for VIPKID as online English teachers and made enough money while traveling that we were even able to save quite a bit of money!
We lived in Mexico (twice), Turkey, Vietnam (twice), Thailand (twice), and Bali during that time and visited over 30 countries while traveling slowly. We would stay in a place for a few months and then visit a few countries before settling down again in another country.
Although we made sure to have plenty of time to rest in between trips, it started to wear us down. Every few months we needed to figure out everything from scratch: where to grocery shop, how to get around, what local food to eat, etc.
It was tiring, emotionally and physically. Although there are parts about this type of lifestyle that I’ll miss (I admit that Jake & I thrive when things aren’t super easy, we like to figure stuff out!) overall, I think that it’s time we found a place to “settle down” a little.
2. Looking to find a future home
We started to miss having a “home.” Truthfully, during those 3 years, we were searching for a new place to call home. Every place we visited we would imagine what life would be like if we stayed permanently. We started to figure out what we needed and what we could live without.
Now that we’ve lived in France for a while, here’s our list of what we like and don’t like about living in France.
By 2019, I didn’t want to just hop on a plane to the next destination. I wanted a home that we could travel from.
I wanted a place in the world that would feel “ours.” From there, I spent all of 2019 researching countries, visas, and making lists of our criteria.
Our criteria for a new home was built on every experience we had had in the last 3 years. We looked at what places had made us the happiest, what things we missed when we didn’t have them, etc.
We had experimented a lot with what “life” should look like.
We lived in Turkey, where we met the kindest people in the world but had a difficult time making friends and feeling connected to the community without a church to go to.
We lived in Hanoi, Vietnam where we absolutely loved the culture and lifestyle but struggled with a strong language barrier and pollution and traffic that made it hard to go outside.
In Mexico, we ate our favorite food in the world, but had to get up at 3 am to work VIPKID and often lived in very small and old apartments in bad areas.
In Thailand, visa issues were a huge problem. In Indonesia, we were too far from the USA, and trips home cost too much.
So our criteria started to look something like this:
- Easy Visa Process for Long Periods of Time
- Somewhat Cheap Flights to LAX
- Close to an International Airport
- Near the Beach
- Affordable (spend less than about $1500-$2000 per month)
- Desire to Learn the Local Language
- Near Mountains for Jake’s Trail Running & Race Training
When we put all of those things together, we decided that France was our best option!
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3. we have spent a lot of time in Southeast asia
Another big reason we decided on France was that we have spent most of the last 3 years living in Southeast Asia. Although so much of my heart is still there, I wanted to try something else.
Like I said before, we like a challenge. We had figured out how to live in a lot of the countries in Southeast Asia and if we went back, we knew that we would choose a city that we had already lived in.
Southeast Asia is, by far, the best place to start living abroad and I highly recommend trying it out. It’s super affordable, relatively easy to figure out and just absolutely beautiful.
However, it is far from the USA and we started to realize that if we wanted to visit our families once or twice a year, it was going to get pretty expensive.
Plus, looking far into the future, we asked ourselves if we wanted to raise a family (whenever we decide to do that) in Southeast Asia. I think that we definitely could do it, but there were certain things that held me back.
Would I be okay watching my kids drive around on motorbikes? Would the schooling be good enough or would I have to pay for an expensive International school?
Could we afford to fly to the USA when it’s not just the two of us? Would our child be raised partly in a culture so different from ours that we would struggle with cultural differences?
Although in the end, I don’t think any of these things would be too tough of a hurdle to overcome, it was important to think some of these things through before making a decision.
I know that raising a child abroad (often called a third culture child) would be difficult, but maybe if we did it in a country more similar to our own it would be a little easier.
4. Live in a country that speaks a language I want to learn
If I’m being totally honest, a lot of this decision boiled down to this. Although I was interested in learning Bahasa Indonesia or Vietnamese, it takes a lot more than interest to actually learn a language.
During the past 3 years, I’ve spent quite a bit of my free time learning 3 languages that I am ABSOLUTELY in love with: Spanish, Italian, and French.
I learned Spanish when I lived in Chile for 18 months and then majored in Spanish Education in college.
From there, I knew I wanted to learn French. I actually had started learning French years before I ever learned Spanish.
My grandparents took me to Paris and London when I graduated high school and I fell in love with French. I made it a goal to learn it when I was only 17.
After living in Chile, I realized how difficult French still was. While traveling, I became obsessed with Italy and decided to learn Italian first (it’s so much easier!!).
Although I’m not completely fluent, I can have conversations with people that I meet while I’m traveling and it makes me SO FREAKING HAPPY.
Something about learning languages and just having conversations with strangers in THEIR language is one of the best feelings in this world to me. So I wanted to chase that feeling, where better than in Europe?!
And where better than in a country surrounded by countries that speak the languages I love. Do you see what I mean?
Basically, this part of the world is LITERALLY heaven on Earth for me. In America, I almost never have opportunities to practice my languages outside of Spanish every now and then.
In Europe, in just the 3 days that we’ve been here, I’ve used all three in daily conversation.
Also, as a side note, learning languages is purely a hobby for me. I don’t ever plan to make money from it. But when something makes you happy, you just make sure it’s a part of your life!
5. Europe is way cheaper to travel than America
To fly from my hometown in Phoenix, Arizona to Jake’s hometown in San Diego, it almost always costs over $150 per person each way. It only takes us 5.5 hours to get there by car.
Here in Nice, we live about 7 hours by car from Barcelona and it only costs $19 to get there IN A PLANE.
We literally have all of Europe at our disposal at any time here in Nice, France. Travel is super accessible and very affordable.
Whereas if we lived in the USA, we would have a higher cost of living as well as having to travel a lot less since flights and hotels cost so much more.
Living in Europe is obviously going to be more expensive than living in Southeast Asia, but if we can buy cheap plane tickets than it makes our lives so much cheaper and easier!
Overall, France was the best option for us and we can’t wait to see what life looks like here!
Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.