Being an expat freelancer in Austria amid the crisis

Expat interviews
  • Sarah
Published on 2021-08-20 at 10:00 by Veedushi
For Sarah, an American expat, being a trailing spouse is far from being a boring life. She is an art director, designer, illustrator, photographer and all-around creative guru based in Austria, where she relocated in October 2020. She talks to us about her new life in her host country amid the pandemic.

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

My name is Sarah Hollis. I am an Austria-based art director, designer, illustrator, photographer and all-around creative guru. I combine my love of animals, travel and design to create The Pack Mama, our travel blog and online shop for other travel-loving, animal-obsessed people. 

What brought you to Austria? For how long have you been there?

My husband, Eric, is the reason we moved to Austria! His job asked if we wanted to relocate for three years, and we said yes without any hesitation. So, on 19th October 2020, we moved to Gmunden, Austria, from West Chicago, IL, USA.

Was it easy to relocate to Austria amid the crisis? 

The pandemic caused two problems - constantly pushing back our move date, which made us cancel our trip to find an apartment in Austria. So, we had to sign a lease without seeing it in person first. It also made meeting new people almost impossible since everyone had to stay in their homes. However, ten months later, we are happy to say we have a handful of people we can hang out with. 

Is this your first time abroad?

No, we have been abroad a few other times in our lives but never longer than ten days. 

Did you find it hard to adapt to Austria? What were the major challenges, and how did you overcome them?

No, we immediately felt at home in Austria. Luckily the majority of people here speak some English, so if we really needed help, we felt comfortable enough to ask for it. The biggest challenge has been trying to learn German, but we have been taking a German language class since December 2020. 

Have you been able to make new friends since you arrived?

We were blessed with the best neighbours. We hang out from time to time, eat together, celebrate birthdays, and they help us so much with our pets when we want to go out and explore another country nearby. I also have a handful of wonderful coworkers to go out with. 

Did the COVID-19 pandemic have an impact on your social and professional life?

The pandemic actually opened up more work opportunities for me. Since moving abroad, I am now a freelancer and work for several advertising/design agencies throughout Austria and America. 

What are your views on the way Austria dealt with the crisis?

I think Austria is continuing to handle the crisis well. It seemed very strict the first few months here, but because of that discipline, we are able to get out and explore now. 

What do you miss the most from your home country?

We miss seeing our friends and family. However, I think because of the pandemic, communicating virtually has brought us closer together. A lot of our friends are getting engaged and having babies, so missing out on those huge life moments is hard to deal with. 

Is there any advice that you wish you had got before moving to Austria and that you'd like to give to anyone who would like to relocate there?

No advice I wish I had received, but some I will be happy to share– 

  1. Plan and do your research, so you know what to expect.
  2. Realize you're about to embark on a huge move, and things won't always go according to plan, and that's okay.
  3. Learn some basic German so you can get around without feeling completely lost.
  4. If you have pets, bring them with you. Side-by-side adventures with your pets will lead to a much more fulfilling experience for all.

If you had to make your move to Austria all over again, is there anything that you would have done differently?

No, we were extremely prepared and thorough in our moving plans, and our move went as smoothly as it could go. 

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

We will most likely be back in America five years from now. A piece of our hearts will always be here in Austria, though. 

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