This is my favorite personal story. Shortly after graduating from University within three weeks I quit my job, ended the relationship with the man I believed at the time I was going to marry, obtained a work visa, found an apartment (flat) abroad online to share with local occupants, and bought a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland. Some may say that having a child would be the biggest life-changing event but no, not for me. At that time moving abroad, on a whim, with no job, no savings, never having left the country, knowing nobody abroad, and making it on my own was my biggest life-changing event. What’s your biggest life changing event?
My Biggest Life-Changing Event
This change led to other changes, which also opened the door to me meeting my German husband which has led me to motherhood and beyond. Moving and living abroad changed the path of my life and the person I am today.
Not Dreamy or Quaint but More of a Nightmare
Many may think it dreamy or quaint to move to Ireland, but for me, it was not easy– more of a nightmare, at first, and one of the greatest challenges I have ever had to face. It took me weeks to find a job, which entailed 8+ hours a day hiking around Dublin, dropping off resumes, and begging for interviews.
My measly $350 savings evaporated quickly. My Speech Pathology and Audiology degree was not an advantage to getting a job but, rather, a disadvantage. Everyone wanted British speakers for my specific degree not American speakers and/or an actual degree made me too overqualified to be hired.
Barkeeper & Bouncer
With $30 to my name, and facing possibly begging for food, I finally convinced a bar owner to hire me as a part-time barkeeper/bouncer. The bouncer part of checking ID’s was not too hard, and I was also a coaster girl.
I still can’t believe that I once had a job as a coaster girl. This meant going through the club and making sure everyone always had a coaster for their drink. Great job descriptions to add to a resume, right?
Barmaid at a Pub
The next barkeeper job that I found was at a pub. My title was barmaid. This job had me making drinks very special order for Irish. Not the same drinks I was used to making from my days of bartending through college for Americans. Understanding the drink orders with thick Irish accents and making the drinks was quite a challenge.
Even after working really hard at a shift, to not get tipped (aka paid) like you would get in America was a rude awakening. In addition to working the 1st-floor pub, I also worked the crazy Chinese Karaoke room upstairs and the sketchy Gothic room in the basement. After bartending until 4 am because drinking goes past the 2 am curfew which I was used to in America, I had to clean and walk home.
My Reality of Life in Ireland
Bartending until 4 or 5 am usually meant walking in the cold, rainy, and dark streets of Dublin. Always by myself, walking to my flat, “my home.” My flat was usually unoccupied because my Irish roommates were almost never home.
Often, I was verbally accosted by drunk Irish guys walking the streets and would pass drug users openly injecting themselves. Once, I even had a drug user walk with me while injecting himself and singing to me.
It didn’t help that my flat was in one of the worst neighborhoods of all of Dublin. Being a foreigner, how should I have known that beforehand? No proper Southern Irish usually ventured into this part of Dublin. Also, taxi drivers would not drop off or pickup in this area at certain times.
I lived near Summerhill, Sheriff Street, and Gardiner Ln. Streets, Dublin’s most dangerous streets. And I do have stories!! This was back before the DART system went into Dublin. I’m not sure if any of these areas have gotten worse or better?
Walking home was my only option no matter how cold, windy, rainy, time of the night (early morning) or sketchy.
After bartending 9pm-4am, I would sleep a couple of hours then get up to once again spend 5-8+ hours walking Dublin looking for a proper job.
I stayed tired, broke, felt alone, in a constant state of culture shock, and wanted to go home.
Mental Strength and Determination
No matter what, though, I had refused to give up and go home. I knew I would find my way. I knew the experience and mattering of successfully making it on my own in another country would be a challenge, affecting me in ways incomparable to anything else.
Best Job EVER
Within three weeks, I started getting some great job offers and accepted a job which to this day has been the greatest paying job I have ever had. It was just a great fun job! I ended up staying and living in Ireland and then Scotland and eventually Germany.
In Ireland, I found a French girl to room with, helping me to save more money for travel. And I ended up becoming best friends with her. Even after Ireland, we spent years traveling some parts of Europe together. One of my greatest birthday presents was a trip to Paris via her, and she was even a bridesmaid in my wedding to a German man in Germany.
Unexpected Expat Challenges
Working and traveling Europe as a young woman, by myself, had me face challenges that strengthened me unspeakably. Overcoming the all-inclusive change of leaving home, moving abroad, never giving up, and rooting myself in another country, completely on my own, was the greatest change of my life!
What’s your biggest life changing event?
What event in your life has changed you? Have you ever picked up and moved? How did that change you? Have you ever wanted to move abroad?
25 thoughts on “What’s your biggest life changing event?”
I would love to hear more. What made you make the tough decision to go so impulsively rather than more planned-out with greater savings or a job in place? Had you always dreamed of living in Ireland or just living abroad in general? I still dream of doing something similar, but it seems so fraught with difficulty. Getting a visa without a job seems especially tough now. I would love to just pack up and move to a different part of the U.S. even just for an adventure.
Hi Alisa, thanks for your feedback.
I wasn’t happy with my job, finance, and just knew that the timing was right to take a leap of faith and go abroad at that time or I would never. Luckily, I was only 4 months graduated with a college degree so I could easily get a student visa. I wish I had of saved more money so I could have traveled even more, but when the idea to move abroad came over me, I knew I had to do it quickly before getting scared and changing my mind. It was also a rush to do something so impulsive and challenging.
Yes, I had always wanted to go abroad: Australia, Europe, Russia, Asia. I chose Ireland because I thought it would be an English speaking country and easy introduction into culture shock….
Where do you live now Alisa? Or where are some places in the US or abroad that you would like to move to?
One thing that was of great help was getting on lots of travel boards for expats in Ireland. I was able to ask a lot of questions so to have at least a feel for Dublin and the process of finding a job beforehand. If you ever decided to do the same, this would be a suggestion of mine; connecting to others via local meetup groups, expats and such.
Actually, one of the other wisemommies’ bloggers, that is our story of becoming friends; when she moved from Germany to Texas. We met through a meetup group and ended up becoming best of friends. I helped her family find a place to live, involved in some community groups and get to know the layout of Dallas….
I love this! I am so happy you stopped by my blog. I feel like there are 2 types of fun: fun that is belly laughing and in the moment, and the other is looking back later and being unable to believe how cool and crazy something is. So far moving abroad is more of the latter- but still amazing!
Thanks Nicole, I completely agree. Moving abroad was amazing and looking back now to appreciate my crazy cool expact experience.
This post contains all the things that are making me nervous.
I’ve decided that, after my BA degree, I want to spend a year in Madrid, Spain.
I’m currently trying to write proper presentation letters and resumes to send in the next weeks, but I’m so scared I won’t find anything that will actually enrich both my experience and my studies. I guess everyone wish they had all their life worked out, but I’m just used to have everything more or less ready for whatever situation. Maybe that’s the point of going?
The happy ending is for sure a relief… But do you have any suggestion for me?
I can speak Spanish, I will soon hold a degree in Foreign Languages (Linguistics), but I would like to try different jobs out…
For sure, I will say that I would not have gotten the amazing job that I ended up finally landing in Ireland if I had not gone over and just searched. If I had applied via the US I would not have gotten the job. My husband and I both have gone back and forth now from Europe to the US and always it’s best to be in the country when looking for a job not abroad and applying.
If I could go back and do something different, it would have been to have saved more money before moving over. More money would have helped me sleep better at night when I didn’t have a job, as well as travel even more….Are you writing resumes or CVs? In Europe, a CV is better!
I CAN guarantee you that whatever job you end up getting you will be enriched by both experience and your studies….especially as a foreign language linguistic! Don’t let fear hold you back! I can see already in your post that your heart is pushing you to go…go…do it….and please connect with me via Instagram, facebook….if you start a blog….would love to know what you do, follow and support you!! Keep me updated! Beth
Whoa, what an adventure! I’d say my biggest life-changing event had to be moving to Germany for a few months while in college. I learned more about myself than I ever thought possible, traveled places I’d only dreamed about, and met some of my best friends.
Like you said, it’s sometimes hard for foreigners to know the “good” neighborhoods to live in. I remember staying at a hostel in Frankfurt, only to find out that the red light district was literally around the corner. Oops!
Yes, my husband and I lived in Mainz for 3 years. He’s Bavarian. I was surprised to stumble upon some seedy red light districts in Germany. The one in Hannover is crazy! I can only imagine the shock of staying in a Frankfurt hostel to then discover how close it is to shadyville. Yikes! Love your first paragraph…sounds just like me. Love that you can relate! Beth
Great to hear a personal story, thank you for sharing 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting! I love sharing my personal travel stories!! Beth
Wow, you are one STRONG lady! You followed your heart and you knew it would eventually work out. Kudos! We have visited Dublin and it is crazy as a tourist, but loved it! I love your last picture, in Wales, had no idea how gorgeous it is?!
Thanks!! So true, right, Dublin can be crazy!! It was my friend’s idea to go to Wales. I had had no idea it was so beautiful and wonderful until visiting! Thanks for commenting. Beth
I love this and I absolutely needed to read this post today. I am currently in the process of moving abroad and have been hesitant and worried that what if I am making a wrong decision. This is such an inspiration and provides me with a lot of hope for my future. Thank you!
Ahhhh, I LOVE LOVE to hear that!! If you have an Instagram or start a blog, would love to support you with follows and likes….Thank you for commenting and leaving your sweet words which is just honey for me! I’d love to know if you do go abroad, where, and how it goes….please keep me posted. It is NOT an easy decision I know but for me….truly the greatest choice ever made!!! All the best, Beth
I don’t really have any big life changing events, but choosing to start travelling more and writing a travel blog has certainly changed my perspective! I admire that you didn’t give up, that’s awesome!
Oh I soooooooooooo wish blogging had been bigger when I had gone to Ireland. It started probably right after I had lived there for a few years. Bummer…oh the stories I could have been sharing…videos alone, omg!!! I’m just now trying to catch up with past stories, lol!! All the best with your travel blog!! Beth
It’s great you did this while you were young! I have moved often, just moved across the US again, but have not lived overseas yet…that is still on my bucket list!
Thanks for commenting! I wasn’t as young as I would have liked but yes still pretty young….Probably my biggest regret in life will always be that I didn’t travel more, abroad, while in college, or? Moving around the US can also be challenging in its own ways. Where abroad would you want to move to if you did? Beth
I’ve moved a couple of times, and it’s always a struggle to get established. Fortunately I had jobs lined up both times, but fitting into new cities when you’re as shy as I am is never easy. It sounds like your leap of faith worked out for the best in the end!
So true, always a struggle to get established after moving! I’m an introvert but Ireland really pushed me out of my shell!!! BIG time! In the end, it did work out for me. Thanks for reading and commenting. That means so much to me!! All the best, Beth
Wow, that took some serious guts!! I always talk about moving away but I don’t think I’ll ever have the balls to actually pack up and go.
What was it about Dublin that made you choose that?
I am so glad to hear that it all worked out, you found a best friend and met your guy 🙂 It makes so much difference to have a support network
It’s never too late to move…to anywhere. Two yrs ago, I packed up and traveled Europe by myself with my three young boys for nearly 4 months. No plans or itinerary just got lost every day. It was crazy but SOOO amazing! Having a support group REALLY does help! In Ireland, I found my French girlfriend towards the end. So I never really had that while living in Ireland. However, she has been my support since in Europe and I made other great friends in Scotland. Then of course my husband in Germany!!