The European Dream: Chelsea in London!

Blog of the month
Published 2019-07-19 11:52

Chelsea has been living in London for just over a year now but she has been dreaming about this life since she was a little girl. Europe has always been Chelsea's place to be. Our American girl documents her life abroad on her blog The Portable Wife.

You've been living abroad for a year now, what motivated your decision?

There were so many factors that inspired me to move abroad. But mainly, I wanted to experience a slower-paced life filled with travel. In the U.S., it felt like work and productivity were valued above all else. People--including myself--would talk about working 60+ hours a week and never taking a sick day like it was an achievement. As time went on, my husband and I realized the American lifestyle just didn't fit our values and priorities in life. So when we had the opportunity to move somewhere that did, we seized it.

Why did you choose London?

As a child, I relished the idea of moving to Europe. I grew up watching Samantha Brown's Passport to Europe on The Travel Channel, and fell in love with the charming architecture and outdoor cafes. That dream about a life of relaxed coffee-drinking and easy train travel across the continent never went away.

I didn't have my heart set on London specifically, but it was the first solid chance we had to move to Europe. My husband works for an international company, and he was offered a transfer to their London office. It was a great opportunity professionally, and we knew it would bring us closer to the kind of lifestyle we envisioned. 

You talk a lot about wanting to live in Europe. Has it been all that your 14 year old self expected?

I definitely had a romanticized vision of European life! While I don't spend all day wandering cobblestone streets and eating gelato, I do enjoy my al fresco lunches and affordable weekend trips to new countries. It's a remarkable feeling to live in a place I'd only experienced through television and books.

That being said, there are drawbacks to being an American abroad. There's a common misconception that expat life is one big vacation. We get caught up in the fantasy, and forget about the reality of things like taxes, cultural barriers, and the separation from our loved ones. Although I love our European adventure, it's come with plenty of challenges that a 14-year-old could't have predicted.

How has it been living in London for the past year?

I've lived in a few major cities, but none of them compare to London. There are infinite ways to fill your free time, from West End shows to street markets to leisurely strolls through Hyde Park. I love the sense of endless possibility, that you can eat a different cuisine every night of the week, or hop on the tube to a neighborhood you've never explored.

We've also taken advantage of the train links and budget flights to Europe. In the past year, we traveled to seven different countries, as well as a dozen cities within the UK. Living in London feels like the world is at your fingertips.

What is your favorite and your least favorite thing about the city?

The best thing about London is the amount of high-quality, free things to do. There are over 20 free museums in London, and they include everything from modern art to ancient mummies. Being able to see Van Gogh's famous paintings and reconstructed dinosaur skeletons without paying £20 for a ticket is wonderful. When you live in one of the world's most expensive cities, it's nice to offset your spending with free activities.

For me, the hardest thing about living in London is dealing with the tourist crowds. During the busy summer months, I rarely go into central London because the sidewalks and tube are packed with people. I definitely breathe a sigh of relief once September arrives!

Why did you start The Portable Wife?

When I started telling friends and colleagues that we were moving abroad, I was surprised to get a similar reaction again and again. Most people said they wished they could live in another country, but there was always something holding them back. They couldn't imagine how they'd be able to move abroad because of their career, kids, finances, housing, etc.

I started The Portable Wife to show people that, with the right planning, preparation, and motivation, seeing the world and moving abroad can become more than passing fantasies. I firmly believe that life is short, the world is large, and you will be a better person for experiencing its beautiful diversity.

How can readers make the most of what you publish on your blog?

I channel my detail-oriented personality into all of my blog posts. So if you're thinking of moving abroad, I have a series of articles that will walk you through the process step by step, from making the decision to downsizing and packing your stuff. My goal is to take the stress and uncertainty out of the experience so that you can make your expat dream a reality.

And I use that same detail-oriented approach on my travel content. If you want to see the best of a city as efficiently and authentically as possible, you'll like my itineraries. They include everything from public transit tips to sightseeing maps.

Do you have any plans to move back home or to another country? 

Great question! My husband and I talk about this every few months. Right now, we don't know what the future holds for us.Our motto is to be prepared for anything, whether that's returning to the U.S. or moving to a new country.

How about your blog- any developments we should be expecting?

When I was preparing to relocate, it was extremely helpful to read stories from other expats who made a similar move. There's a comfort in knowing the challenges, fears, and joys you might also experience throughout the process. So you can expect to see more blog posts about my personal expat life, and how I've dealt with things like staying in touch with family and celebrating holidays abroad.