Welcoming guests, abroad.
Welcoming guest while living abroad is a very tricky balancing act. Especially when a huge goal in our year abroad is to learn the language.
We had a feeling this would be one of the most difficult subjects and therefore we had many discussions about it. And when I say we, I mean Erik and I did. It’s not easy.
But in the end we decided that it would be better to ask family and friends to wait until Christmas to visit. We had heard that it takes about three months to feel at home in a new place. We wanted that time so that we would be forced to speak the language, learn the area and really get some quality time with just the four of us.
I remember talking to my friends about this decision before we left and they completely understood…family did, as well. There was no hesitation with their reply of, “That is so smart to do that.” And, truly, I think it was one of our best decisions. I also think it helped our families and friends because there is this strange feeling of, “Oh I want to visit, but should I?” I never wanted my friends to feel any angst over a visit. I wanted to be very upfront and I think that helped everyone.
Just some buddies
Hanging out in Spain.
We had a few visits in the beginning from our friends who were also spending some time in Spain. The Dittmer family walked 200 miles of the Camino de Santiago…SO PROUD OF THEM. They popped into Santander in September to drop off some bags and we played for a few days. This was such a blessing as the Dittmer boys were the perfect support system for Spider on his first day of school. I don’t even think they realize how important they’re being here helped him tackle the scariest day of his life. And that was a part of the “year abroad” equation I couldn’t plan for, cause I didn’t know. So very grateful it just worked out that way because I know it made such a huge difference in Spider’s life. Seriously, it was that huge!
Erik’s parents had planned a trip to Spain and popped in and out on their way through for two short visits at the end of September and the beginning of October. It was fun to get to see family even for just a short amount of time. Funny thing was that each time we said goodbye, we weren’t sad cause we knew we would see them in a few weeks or a couple of months.
Are the absolute best! A holiday wouldn’t be complete without some cousin fun!
December brought in our biggest crew. My mom and aunt came from Palm Desert, CA on the 18th and Erik’s parents, sister and brother-in-law and nieces arrived on Christmas Eve. This visit was one that the kids were busting with excitement about for over a month. There was this wonderful countdown to Christmas but I think even more exciting to them was the countdown to when grandma gets here and when Jordan and Jada get here. And when you don’t get to see people all the time, or maybe it’s just when you are so far away and you don’t get to see them all the time, you are so emotional with that first hug. It’s beautiful actually. In a weird way, I am grateful for that feeling. Those are true and raw emotions of someone you love so very much that flows so spontaneously and effortlessly through a simple hug. That’s a gift. But then, there is the goodbye, and I have never been good with goodbyes.
I blame this on my youth. My parents divorced when I was 7 and my awesome brother and I would live 6 months with my mom and 6 months with my dad. Now, although they lived only a mile and a half apart, we had to move our entire lives every half year…that’s not why I cried. I cried with my whole heart because I was so worried about the parent we were leaving. I was so worried they would be sad and lonely. I would literally cry so hard that first night that my heart hurt. Real heartache. And so, I suck at goodbyes. That’s the end of that story.
To our sweet grandma and aunt.
So, saying goodbye while abroad is a whole other set of emotions. I get emotional because I will miss them. I get emotional because I think of how much I had looked forward to this visit and that it is already done. I get emotional because I know they will miss us too. My mom and aunt left two days after Christmas and the kids and I cried all the way back to our apartment. And we talked about how good it is to feel this kind of love for our family and from our family. *Another life lesson in living abroad.
So, here is my two cents worth of advice when arranging visits from friends while living abroad.
-Wait at least 3 months before you open your doors to family and friends.
-Try to get friends and family to overlap a bit, or maybe combine a trip with them to see a new part of your new home country.
-Don’t be afraid to say that a visit won’t work. You will only get this opportunity once and you have to get out of it what you want.
-It’s ok to keep your schedule and maintain your goals while you have visitors.
-Create a week or two week period where friends from the same group can come to visit together. A wide-open calendar can be daunting on both sides of the equation. Narrowing down the time frame can help you feel more in control of the calendar and may help your friends.
-In the end, everyone will understand and appreciate your honesty, which will, in turn, lead to a better visit.
And, yes, we want everyone to come but when you really look at a calendar year, like looking back on 2018…it goes by fast. Damn fast. And so, eight months from now, we will be on our way back home. Only 8 more months. I can’t believe Christmas has already come and gone. We are in Austria as I am typing this, a trip I had planned so many months ago. I am looking out of my window at the snow storm that has taken over this quaint, beautiful town of Zell am See and I feel so lucky. Our world is amazing and gorgeous and my brain is swirling with Spanish, English and now German….oh my.
Thank you for reading.
Summer from Austria