Petite Adventures is a space for me to share my life abroad – whether that’s navigating the expat life, or exploring and experiencing a different place while travelling.
Every so often I like to hand the mic over to someone else who’s chosen a life abroad, to share their perspective, their experiences, their likes and dislikes of living in a different land. Today, I’m passing the mic over to Lisa Krüger-Franke, a German who spent time calling Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada home.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m Lisa, 26 years old and originally from Munich. When I was 16 I went on my first adventure: I moved to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Canada. Ever since I’ve been hooked on travelling the world and I’ve been to 30 countries so far, with my longest stays in Australia for four months, Canada (Nanaimo) for five months and Ireland (Dublin) for one year.
Besides travelling I love taking photographs, doing yoga and going to the gym.
Interestingly enough, I am very scared of flying, which just evolved over the last few years. It doesn’t really stop me from going places though, I just try to take transportation by land as much as possible 🙂
Tell me about your living abroad experience(s).
I lived in Nanaimo, Canada for five months when I was 16 (turning 17 over there). It was part of Grade 11 in high school and it is a common thing to do in Germany.
My stay in Nanaimo was amazing even though I didn’t really want to go in the beginning. The reason why I’ve “only” been for five months instead of a year (which is normally the case) is that I was super scared to do it so I backed out at first and when I found the courage to do it, it was too late to go for a year. I originally wanted to go to the US and my mum just took the brochure about Canada home after they said it was too late for a year in the US. So I chose Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and I am very glad I did.
I lived with a family over there, which consisted of a married couple and their two kids, one boy who was two years younger than me and one girl that was one year older.
What attracted you to the idea of living abroad?
It is a very common thing in Germany to go abroad for a while. Why I chose to do it? I guess it was a mixture of everyone doing it, wanting to improve my English and loving the idea of living with a family on the other side of the world, making friends at a real American/Canadian high school and just living a life away from home for a bit.
What is the best part of living there?
Nanaimo is very, very small. I remember when we were picking up a brochure about “What to do in Nanaimo” 80% of the content were tips about going to other places along the island. But I still loved it there. The life in a small town is a lot different than in a bigger one like Munich. I enjoyed having short distances between places, having (almost) all my friends live in walking distance, spending time in nature and being a bit more independent than at home. But probably the very best part was meeting people from all around the world!
What is one thing you’d change?
I guess the fact that I was too scared in the beginning so I could do it again for a whole year. But then again, I probably would chicken out again if I went back in time 🙂 Other than that, I think Nanaimo was a great place. At 16 it’s probably good not to be alone, away from your family, with all the temptations of a big city. Now I would love to go to the Gulf Islands (also an option I could have chosen) for all the nature, but I think at 16 I wouldn’t have even appreciated it as much as I do now. So yeah, probably wouldn’t change a lot.
Best food and where can we find it?
I can’t really tell you much about the food since it’s been 10 years now. Downtown Nanaimo has a lot of cute restaurants and cafés though, so definitely check that out if you are going!
What do you wish you’d known before you moved abroad?
I wish I’d know how many ups and downs you will have when you are away from home (at that age in particular but also at every age really). Living with another family can be hard. They were the loveliest people ever, they took me in, treated me like their daughter. But still, they were a family and you could feel that. And when you are 16 and homesick one day and you see a mum hugging her daughter, it can be tough.
Is there anything you missed from home?
I missed brown bread. I think I will always miss brown bread. I missed that in Australia and I also missed it in Ireland. There’s no brown bread like the German one, I guess 🙂 And obviously my family. But thanks to modern technology, it is getting easier to stay in touch (it was definitely harder back in 2007).
What is the one piece of advice you’d share with someone interested in moving/living abroad?
Talking about the homesickness part again: Being homesick is normal, no matter if you are away for a long time, a short time, very far away or just a country down, but embrace the opportunity you have, to live in another country on this beautiful planet and make sure the homesickness doesn’t replace that feeling of happiness and gratefulness completely!
Anything else to add?
I guess not a lot of people who read this are still at that age to go away in high school. But maybe this can be an appeal to all the (future) parents of a high school kid: It might sound scary to send your kid so far away for such a long time (I’m sure my mum didn’t sleep properly for the whole five months) but for me it was the best things, because I learned to be a bit more independent, to be alone, to overcome situation that seem impossible to overcome AND I learned about different cultures and countries, which made me more open-minded. So if you ever consider it (for your child), maybe this will be a push in the right direction.
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