10 years of living abroad: Reflections on leaving the US

October 22, 2014

in An American in Europe,Living abroad

Stockholm Along Strandvägen, on the Baltic Sea.


In the midst of looking for a place to live, buying and then moving in, I passed the anniversary without even noticing it. In September, I reached the  10-year-mark. Ten years, that is, of living abroad. It’s hard to believe I’ve lived here in Stockholm so long.

On the the day we signed the final papers for our apartment, we met with the woman whose place we were buying. Funnily enough, she and her partner were moving to the states. She was leaving in three days, her man was already there and she had just finished clearing out the last of her things from the apartment. She was done in every way. Just talking about it to me, a stranger, made her cry. I gave her a tissue and a hug.

Because just like that, I was transported back to my leave taking from the US 10 years ago. I knew EXACTLY how she felt. I worked at my job right up until the end while managing itemizing everything in my home for the movers, attending going-away-parties, saying goodbye to  family and friends, leaving a company I’d worked at for 16 years, finding out that our dog would not be on the same flight as us as the vet had made a mistake, having a yard sale, donating furniture and clothes to charity, painting the house, cleaning, organizing, and trying to figure out how to pack all the things I would need for the next eight weeks into two big suitcases before the rest of our stuff that was being packed into a shipping container finally arrived via cargo ship.

I was exhausted both mentally and physically, overwhelmed at what still had to be done and not sure how I was going to be able to leave.

Three nights before leaving, I broke down. I sat on the cool blue tile floor of my bathroom and sobbed, big fat gulping for air sobs, inconsolable, not sure how we could get everything done before we boarded the plane.  Somehow, of course, we did manage, got to the airport, got on the plane.  And then when we got to Chicago for our connecting flight to Stockholm, we were not listed on the flight. There was a screw up. At the airport counter, I broke down and sobbed. Again. Probably to get rid of me, the crew got us on the flight and finally, we arrived in Stockholm at last.

Besides my husband, I knew no one. I had only been to the city once for a long weekend. I had no job, no friends, no relatives. I did not know the language or the culture or what I was going to do. Three days after we arrived, Robert had a business trip. I was alone, in our new home. And I wondered what the hell I had done to myself, to my life.

Of course, since I am writing about 10 years of living abroad, you know that I have survived the highs and the lows of moving to a new land. The journey has often been a difficult one. I’ve been the loneliest I’ve ever been. And I’ve also been the happiest. And while it’s never easy to live so far from both of our families, I am still so very glad that I decided to make the leap to living abroad.


Stockholm Looking toward Djurgården.


Stockholm More boats on the Baltic.


1 Roger October 22, 2014 at 21:27

We Are glad u did rake the leap as well to the land of lagom 😉

2 Sandra October 22, 2014 at 22:34

Thanks Roger. Me too.

3 Mary heil October 22, 2014 at 23:14

What a beautiful post. I can’t believe you have been gone for 10 years. I am feeling like I need another visit to help you celebrate. Miss you loads.

4 Maggie October 23, 2014 at 00:15

And the both of u are so very welcome for a visit further up north whenever you want!!!

5 Sandra October 23, 2014 at 08:57

Thanks Maggie. I was just thinking that it has been a while since we were up north, so I just may take you up on that offer!

6 Barbro Selin October 24, 2014 at 14:12

Thank you Sandra for sharing… Leaaving, feeling abandoned I know the feeling. Almost everytime I come back from a visit to the US. I like you am so glad I did make this move..(I came 1952 to study)..Most of all Sandra I
am so happy you are here. Looking so forward to coming to your apt for book club. Have missed you Barbro

7 Eva October 24, 2014 at 22:00

What a sweet post about your expataversary. I remember crying lots of tears when I left NYC as well. Leaving the US is so hard, why do we do it?! Well, it’s worth it in the end! 🙂

8 Sandra October 27, 2014 at 21:22

Barbro, Thanks so much. It helps to know that others go through the same thing. I look forward to seeing you soon as well.

9 Sandra October 27, 2014 at 21:23

Eva, Thanks for saying that. You are very kind. It’s just not easy to move across the ocean, is it?

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