July 21, 2015

The Struggles & Joys of Living Abroad ~ Guest Post by Julie of Alone with my tea

Today we're heading for the oceans and mountains of Brazil as seen through the eyes of my friend Julie of Alone with my tea! I've been following Julie's travel and lifestyle adventures for over a year, through her final months living in Brazil to her current settlement in southern Alabama. Since I have never lived abroad, Julie volunteered to share some of the highs and lows of being an ex-pat, and I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did!


Awkward selfie at the Christ the Redeemer Statue!
Hello there! I'm Julie, and I blog over at Alone with my tea. I started my blog as a way to document my "creative" attempts, but it has since morphed into a travel and lifestyle blog. Thanks to Katrina, I now get to share on Thrifty Gypsy's Travels a little bit of my experiences living abroad!

Exactly eight days after saying "I do," my new husband and I started the long trek from Los Angeles, California, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My husband actually grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, and is fluent in Portuguese, so I thought that living there would be a breeze. I was wrong...

First of all, the struggles. Living in a foreign country means learning a foreign language. At one point in my life I was almost fluent in Spanish, and that definitely gave me a leg-up when it came to learning Portuguese; however, the Carioca accent confused me to no end! Luckily, my husband gave me some important tips, and I was able to pick up the language quickly! Learning the language is an important part of living abroad. Your time will be so much more enjoyable if you try to connect with the locals!

The second struggle we had was adapting to the high cost of living in Brazil. One Brazilian real doesn't go far! We were able to live on our small salary, but we weren't able to save, and we didn't buy anything that wasn't completely necessary all year. Make sure you research the cost of living where you are moving. Take into consideration exchange rates and the price of every-day items, such as food!

The biggest struggle we had was our job and living situation. Our employer "provided" (we had to pay rent) a "furnished" apartment that looked like this:

And then we found out that our rent was actually $300 more than what they originally told us. Also, the employer refused to help me get my work visa, which in Brazil is a huge hassle. Many other things happened that made us extremely disappointed in our work situation, and even though we were hoping to stay in Brazil indefinitely, we ended up leaving after one year.

My number one piece of advice to someone looking to move abroad - make sure you thoroughly research your prospective employer! Ask for references of past employees - talk to as many people as possible to find out exactly what kind of situation you're getting in to!

Ok, now the fun part. The joys of living abroad!

First of all, this view, which was only a 10-minute walk from our apartment:

Secondly, the people. One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting new people. Brazilian people are so friendly and nice! Whenever I told them I was trying to learn Portuguese, they would chat away. Even the taxi drivers had some interesting stories to share!

Thirdly, the food! My other favorite part of traveling is experiencing new food. I loved Brazilian cheese bread (pão de queijo), all-you-can-eat steakhouses, tropical suco, and feijoada.

Pão de Queijo
Last but not least, the adventures. We got to visit a beautiful town in the mountains of Brazil, the historic village of Paraty (famous for their cobblestone roads made by hand and their historic distillery of cachaça), all the wonders of Rio, including the Christ the Redeemer Statue, Sugar Loaf, Parque Lage, and much much more.

Overlooking the roofs of São Paulo

Brazil's mountain range
In conclusion, there will always be struggles and joys when traveling anywhere. Do I regret my time in Rio? Not at all! Would I live there again? YES... but with a different employer!!!

Thanks for letting me share some of my experiences living abroad!


You can read more about Julie's adventures at Alone with my tea or can follow her on social media!


  1. Oh man - that apartment is sooo unacceptable! But what an amazing opportunity to live in Brazil. I personally have a love affair with Brazil and can't wait to return someday (I really love Paraty too!). Thanks for sharing the highs and lows of your time there.

    1. Thanks for reading, Dana! We had a great time and can't wait to go back. My husband's family is still there so hopefully we'll get to go soon!

  2. Oh gosh, that apartment looks like a nightmare! I would have panicked and wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I'm glad you were able to to move past it and enjoy Brazil for all of it's great offerings!

  3. That apartment is horrible - how depressing but what a location!! As long as the weather's good, I bet you spent a lot of time on that beach!

    1. We did spend a lot of time on the beach! Except in the summer (Jan-March) when it was really too hot to be out there!

  4. This is so true - on both the positive and negative sides! I think often people think moving abroad is easy peasy and super dreamy - until you have to deal with all the problems yourself and realise that it can be a nightmare! Obviously it also has it's perks, my gosh those views are to die for - and weekends are often not boring since it's often up and away to a new discovery :)

  5. Wow, I can totally relate! I'm currently living abroad and it was so overwhelming getting everything figured out when we first got here!

    I was about to say that you're lucky that you had an apartment figured out for you because that was probably the hardest thing to do after moving here, but after seeing those photos I retract my statement!

  6. Oh - your apartment did not look the best on arrival. How disappointing. However - how awesome being able to learn a new language and be so close to the beach. And food!! One of the reasons I love travelling are the different foods I get to try :)
    Claire xx

  7. Must have been quite the hassle at the beginning, good thing your husband speaks Portuguese, that should of helped a little! and I wouldn't mind living so close to the beach!


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