• Leon de Leeuw

This post applies to both expats and anyone else who feels called by the title.

Most expats settle down or return to their home countries. There's always doubt whether to settle down or not, as your folks are back home and you'll want to get back to see them every now and then. You might be hesitant to buy any property or even get a car in the new country you work. Especially in the first few years when you don't yet feel this is your new home. But eventually you'll start feeling like you're at home, depending on the place, your job and the people you hang around with. Once you're acclimatized, you might even meet someone and fall in love. Perhaps now is the time to settle down? If you think so, sure. And you can always stay flexible even then. But you might want to get a place to live together as opposed to renting. Which is totally fine. I don't know what percentage of expats generally decides to stay and what part returns home - or at what point these decisions are generally made. It will all depend on the individual situation. So in this post, I'll just discuss the expat who hasn't met a significant other and wants to stay flexible.

There are these people, like myself, who always want to experience freedom. No matter in what shape or form - a free afternoon with nothing to do, a flexible working schedule, a trip without any planning beforehand. These are things that independent people love. Now most expats would be quite independent - as long as they go to the country alone and not counting in the ones leaving with their family. The ones going at it alone are most likely adventurous and have an open mind. They are willing to meet new people, face at least some risk and throw themselves at this new life challenge. And many will want to keep this freedom. Because who knows when they get a new job offer and want to hop to another country? It's all so easy nowadays - as long as you keep in mind that you want to be willing to pick up and leave.

If this sounds like you, I can tell you the following out of experience and having lived in five countries. First of all, do not close yourself off to people. Could be that you don't have a relationship or don't even want any - totally fine. But do accept invitations to go for drinks and hang around with some folks. Blend in with your environment, even if you're not planning to stay long or don't want roots in this current town. Who knows what other soul you meet, and who's to say he or she is not as flexible as you are?

If you truly take your freedom and flexibility seriously - this is a matter of life for you - then keep the following in mind: No commitment. No cohabitation. No children. No matter how wonderful these might all be to some people - I'm not talking about these people now. I'm talking to the exceptions, you as a person wanting to remain as a bird hovering over the world. These three things all make you commit to the place or the person you're with or decide to bring onto this planet. And if you do it right - of course you commit to these goals. But it does tie you down more than you might want - that's why you should keep this guideline in mind.

Rent a property. Never buy. Many people will tell you you're throwing out money if you rent as opposed to buying. Not true at all - as most people don't know and are not understanding of your wish to remain independent. Make a calculation of what your rent costs per day. For me, I spend 10 EUR a day on accommodation all-in. It's a good apartment, modern and with low utility costs. It's perfect for me. You might spend a bit more and depending on your income, that's totally fine. I'd say don't have it be more than 25% of your income or if you're willing to live luxuriously, don't spend more than half your income on rent. Keep in mind that you have no other costs than just the rent and utilities. Yes, prices might go up, but if you live minimalistically you pick up and move to another apartment or if it's an unbearable inflation - to another country. Yes, it is as easy as that, as long as you keep in mind you never own more stuff than what can fit in one van. Live comfortably but don't overindulge in buying stuff. You'd be surprised how little of it you really need. And if you want to go, you'll be able to. You don't own a property - and the property doesn't own you. Feel the butterflies, get out of the place and off to a new destination.

People have themselves tied down so quickly, with consumer debt and car loans and all. There should be no need for you as a single person. Imagine the incredible liberty - you remaining as free as you were as a child but with more money and purchasing power than your peers who are settled down and save money for family expenses. Yes, it can get very hard and lonely, but you also get lonely with the wrong people around you. If you're a free man, just like I am (or woman), you'll know it from when you were a child. And don't settle down if the thought gives you goosebumps. You have more to do and to see. Don't be that guy standing on a balcony in thirty years and thinking where your life went. This is one chance and don't care what anyone says. As long as your actions don't impact anyone negatively, you are free and don't let anyone tell you you're not.

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  • Leon de Leeuw

It's never easy and it never will be. I'll be the first one to recommend anyone to go abroad for a while but I'll be the last one to say it's an easy thing to do. It can be really hard at times. And it's mostly the missing people part. Probably you'll tear up each time you say goodbye to your loved ones who just brought you to the airport. And even though that gets better, there's always this feeling that's a bit like a hangover each time you leave your family behind. And the work is probably fine, most expat jobs are well paid. Otherwise, what's even the point of leaving your country, having to miss what you're used to and above all, having to leave your family behind? The job will be the least of your concern once you're in the expat flow. You'll most likely try to make as much of the experience as possible. Finding new friends, going out, taking a rental car to the coast. Then living paycheck to paycheck. Perhaps some promotions. But as the months slip by, you'll start missing birthdays that continue back home, just without you. And it's terribly hard. You can connect through Facetime, an incredible technology. But, sorry to say, you'll never be part of the conversation as if you were around the table.

Besides, if you're single, you'll need to get comfortable with being alone. Or with going out to find company. But often, you'll find yourself alone. And there's nothing wrong with that. Because on the upside, no matter how hard it gets - the times you do speak with your loved ones back home and the times you get to embrace them when they pick you up from the airport again.. They feel so much better. Remember, like virtually every high school kid, you used to come back home, threw your bag in the corner of the living room and ran upstairs, just barely saying "hi" to your folks? This will now have completely changed. Their company, their presence, will become immeasurably more valuable to you. What is rare increases in value. Just remember that every downside has an upside, and the other way around. And do realize that what matters is your happiness. You live life for you and if you need to lose your wild hears, live out these adventures, your folks will certainly understand. And you're only ever as lonely as the next traveler or expat you meet. Life is good on the road so no matter how rough it gets, there are others on the same path. Just remember that and go live some adventure is what I would say.

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  • Leon de Leeuw

Found this fantastic Youtube channel. Spent whole evenings listening to music I never heard of, and otherwise would have never found. The channel is a gold mine. In this clip, I loved the song "Modo". It starts at 16:19. Music from the Soviet Union. Who would have thought it could be so pleasing to the ear. Of course, I had heard of and repeatedly listened to the big names such as Shostakovich and Profokiev, to name a pair. Yet artists such as in the video I just linked to.. They're probably forgotten in time. I've always been intrigued by Eastern Europe. The whole region, not just Bulgaria, where I live. This music from the Soviet Union got my interest not only because it's from a place long gone and I know relatively little about. Also because it's hauntingly beautiful. And I am well aware of the gruesome history, the many lost lives and prosecuted intellectuals, artists and singers. Yet there was so much talent, which never got to made it big. And the songs, the artists such as these are just not known outside the area.

I can only wonder what would have become of these people had they lived somewhere else, where their talent crossed borders and got praised by the masses. What if jazz artists such as in this video were able to have this unspeakable beauty reach the souls of those in other countries? It most likely hasn't happened. And it might never. It's hidden in the nooks vinyl collections and, thanks to few enthusiastic Youtube uploaders, it's there for those who really want to find it. But who goes around looking for Soviet jazz on a Saturday evening? I did, and am glad for it. I got an insight into what is otherwise never talked about. And I genuinely enjoy this music. I am anything but a connoisseur of music. Quite the contrary. But I can't fail to notice certain hints of oppression, or at least fear, in some of these songs. Music such as this is certainly a niche but I am fascinated by the dark undertones. It's in the ears of the beholder. It's haunting and makes me think long and hard of how these people must have lived during that time. Voicing their soul through their music, their art. Hopefully reaching those who could appreciate it, without being prosecuted for violating any rules, if at all being aware of doing so. It was an incredibly hard time of immense suffering for many. But when I hear these voices, get a feeling for these songs, I wish they were better known. Because who dares to imagine what influence the many unknown souls of the Soviet Union could have been on the world culture if they'd only had the chance to make their print on it.

On a side note, I love this album from Yugoslavia as well. Especially the album cover. Genuinely enjoyed the music.

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