Over the past several months, I’ve shared a lot with you about my experience as an expat and trailing spouse, so I thought this week it would be fun to turn the mic over to four fabulous ladies who are also living the expat life.
From Thailand to Mexico, these intrepid women are navigating, surviving and thriving in new lands. So, today, let’s sit back and live vicariously through the life and times of Tracey Pictor, author of Journal of a City Girl.
Tell me about yourself.
I am a city girl born in Johannesburg, South Africa and raised on sunshine and barbeques. I now live a semi-nomadic life with my husband (and cat), moving country every 2-3 years – to wherever the opportunities take us.
After having a colourful career in marketing and event planning I know choose to photograph every step of the journey and write about our adventures. And I have recently made it my life’s mission to taste chocolate from every country in the world.
Tell me about your living abroad experience(s).
Our first move was to Windhoek, Namibia. Just a stone’s throw north of the South African border, thus making the transition into expat life easier as they have a similar lifestyle, culture and take many of their cues from South Africa. Husband was transferred on a 2-year contract, whilst I was unable to work in Namibia due to their rather strict work permit regulations. I was not alone and found an organisation of trailing wives that had all found themselves in Namibia, unable to work and through that learnt a job does not define us and spent my time volunteering, developing my photography skills and discovering my new found love for writing.
After 2 years in Namibia, we got the opportunity to move Toronto, Canada (which is where you can find us at the moment). This was a much – much – larger leap of faith to move across the pond, on a 3 year contract, to a city and country we knew very little about, a continent we had barely stepped foot on and for goodness sake we hadn’t even experienced snow in our lives but here we were packed up, cat in carrier and going. We now absolutely love life in the big city, have survived a Canadian winter – I found it quite novel actually – and although it has taken us almost a year to completely settle, find our feet and meet people it is always a huge help moving to a place that speaks your native language.
What attracted you to the idea of living abroad?
We considered doing a few years abroad to shake things up, but it was never a long-term plan. An opportunity came along for us to move to Namibia and the plan was to only ever do 2 years abroad (have like an intermission in life). But once there we were introduced to many expats that moved every few years and our world was opened to an alternative way of living. And so the decision was made to work, live and travel for as long possible.
Why did you decide on that city/country?
We don’t really have a say in the matter. It all depends on the job opportunities available to my husband.
What is the best part of living there?
Living in downtown Toronto is a completely different lifestyle to what we are used to. The biggest difference is having access to public transport, being able to walk everywhere and it is a really pretty city to walk around.
I also love the city’s diversity, energy, how there are always festivals, events, markets, exhibitions or something happening (most of the time for free) and everyone is really friendly and helpful.
What is one thing you’d change?
The chocolate selection. As a self-confessed chocoholic, the selection is rather abysmal it basically comes down to Hershey’s or a Snickers bar.
Best food and where can we find it?
With Toronto being the most culturally diverse city in the world, there is cuisine from absolutely everywhere for every kind of budget. It is nearly impossible to sample even a fraction of it all. But here are a few favourites:
- For my fellow chocoholics, ensure you try a chocolate Hedgehog from the Canadian chocolatier, Purdy’s.
- Macho Radio Bar serves up amazing dishes that put a fresh twist on Tex-Mex.
- Brunch is like a national pastime in Toronto (locals take it seriously, and it’s not uncommon to queue for a few hours to get into the best places). Le Neuf café is our favourite; it is a tiny hidden gem of a Parisian-style cafe that you would easily never know is there.
- Then there is the little indie neighborhood, which is packed with great eateries – Kensington Market.
What do you wish you’d known before you moved?
That Canada does not recognize our South African driver’s license and we have to redo them! One can only drive with an international license for 3 months thereafter you need to get a Canadian license (with a few countries that are exceptions who can just convert their license)
It would not have changed our decision to move, but we could have mentally prepared and it would have been much easier to sort out the required paperwork to fast track getting our Canadian license when we were still on the African continent.
Is there anything you miss from home?
Besides friends, family and the chocolate selection, not really. South Africa has a unique energy and vibrancy that I miss sometimes but I know it will always have that and we can and will go back someday.
What is the one piece of advice you’d share with someone interested in moving/living abroad?
This is not always an easy lifestyle, you have to learn to be patient, flexible and embrace spontaneity (and paperwork). You will have those exceptionally hard days when you just wish life was ‘normal’ and you were surrounded by the familiar. But stepping out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself into other cultures is the best experience you can give yourself. You will never regret having a lifetime of unforgettable and unique experiences to reminisce on.
A huge thank you to Tracey for sharing her experiences as an expat currently living in Toronto. You can follow Tracey’s adventures at http://www.journalofacitygirl.com/, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
All photos courtesy of Tracey Pictor, Journal of a City Girl.
Other Posts in This Series:
SAVE THIS POST FOR LATER