I can’t believe it!! Currently sitting here at the airport, ready to fly back to Norway. 5 years has gone by as expats and now we are ending this incredible chapter in the book called life. We are feeling sad and excited at the same time. Sad to leave something wonderful, but excited for the future. Most of all, our hearts are SO full. Living abroad and exploring the world together with André has been an unforgettable experience, in some ways even life changing. I am extremely grateful!
I remember landing in Rio de Janeiro 5 years ago. My expectations were sky high and I had butterflies from head to toe. I couldn’t speak a word portuguese and I had zero network, and zero pre planned work/projects/studies. In other words it was exciting as f&$-@8=! and pretty challenging from day one.
Yes, I travelled with my husband and I was lucky enough to have a safe frame around my living situation, but I had no intention of setteling with just safe and fine. I wanted to build my own life abroad.
When the first excitement had calmed a bit it was quite challenging not understanding a word of what the locals said and having a hard time expressing myself when wanting to network and start building a life there. Google translate was a loyal friend of mine those days, and when my cellphone reception was bad you could see a norwegian girl in Ipanema miming and acting out like a crazy person as an attempt to communicate. Brazilians are great that way. If you just try to speak, they help you as best as they can, without getting irritated.
After several months of portuguese it got easier and after a while I felt “on top of things”. I contacted Tommy Nilsen, founder of Karanba, a social project that provides opportunity and education for children and youth from the slum areas of Rio de Janeiro and after a little while I took part in the project with the role of starting dance courses, to recruit more girls to the project that kreps youth of the street and provides opportunity for a brighter future.
Every week I travelled to Karanba’s home base in Sao Gonzalo, a couple of hours outside of Rio’s city center. The rural location was in between two of Rio’s more violent favelas. But when I came into the base I was always met by warm and friendly colleges, kids and youth.
I have tons of strong memories and stories from Karanba, but l’ll stop here for this to not be the longest blog post ever.
After months in Rio I also started to study fulltime and got engaged in work at an orphanage in Guaratiba, a village outside the city.
My experiences at that orphanage is hard to describe. Let’s just say, I’ll never ever forget the little angels I was lucky enough to take care of every week and the 4 superhero women running that place. Not having much themselves, but giving so much to the kids every single day. I came there to teach these kids, but I think they taught me more than I ever could give in return.
The Rio days were also shaped by SO much fun and exciting experiences. We had a large group of expats and Brazilians that became close friends and let’s just say we didn’t hate to party and having a good time. The cliche ‘you are only young once’ is actually true, and I want to sit back in a chair as an old lady and know that I lived life to the fullest.
Me and André discovered every corner of Rio and adored the daily life we shared. Constanly being exposed to the warm and vibrant culture of the ‘Cariocas’ (the people of Rio) gave me a new perspective.
As we travelled around in Brazil and the rest of South America, a place I could go back to again and again, we fell more and more in love with that continent. If you hesitate visiting that part of this amazing planet -stop it! Going there will make you richer!
Visit’s from friends and family are also precious memories from this time in life. Almost every other month we had guests. We like to think it’s because they missed us so much, but I have a feeling Rio in all it’s glory had something to do with it:) Quality time like that is something you remember for a lifetime.
Another highlight from my 2 years in Rio was to dance. Brazilians dance, anywhere and everywhere. Whatever level of tecnique- doesn’t matter, just shake your hips. Rich or poor, having a good day or a bad one- you dance.
As a lover of latio music since the age of 3 and as a professional dancer, this of course spoke to my heart. One of my most special moments was dancing trough Sambadromo on a top of a large vehicle during Rio Carnival.
Standing there 7 meters above ground, lit up by floodlights, with several 100.000 of people in the audience, fireworks going off and the locals going ballistic in true brazilian entusiasm – I felt like I was in the middle of a dream.
I cried the day we left Brazil and can’t even express my gratitude for getting the opportunity to know and love that country and the people there. Rio will always feel a bit like home and hold up a special place in my heart.
Spring 2014 we arrived in North America. We spent 6 weeks in a hotel before we moved into a studio apartment in the heart of Washington DC. With butterflies in my stomach and a hopeful spirit I once again started my journey of building a life from scratch.
At first I found it a bit ‘uphill’ to leave the life I built in Rio, since it wasn’t for Norway, but for another unfamiliar place.
But, I shared the choice to apply for another posting and I was ready to embrace life here. The language barrier was much less significant this time and I quickly started working at the Norwegian Embassy, while studying.
Living in the US again was super exciting (lived in Florida a year when I was 19). This part of the country is completely different but the American traditions stays the same, and we sure have embraced them. Everything from 4th of July to Halloween, Thanksgiving, football games, theme parties, American rooftop bbq’s, volunteering for charity, Oscar parties, American Christmas, camping and houseparties. It’s been tons of fun!
To live in a power city, surrounded by ambitious and interesting people from all over the world, inspired me from the start. DC has a special atmosphere. It’s kind of like feeling that you always are in the middle of something grand.
I tested out a lot of different things the first year in addition to working at the Embassy and studying, wich was part of the steep learning curve my time in DC contained. One of them was a half a year part time work with the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce. I functioned as a part of the team that arranged large events, and I learned a ton that came in handy when moving on after 6 months.
Unlike what one might think it’s not only politics going on here in DC, it also has a large creative scene as well whom I became a part of when deciding to start off as an influencer with Purpose & Pepper, after 1 year in the US.
I decided to move even more out of my comfort zone, so me and my friend Natasha did a little ‘try out project’ to broaden our network and see where it might lead us. We researched and picked out several events every week that we attended After work. Everything from standing in a circle talking about yourself, your goals, dreams etc in front of 50 strangers, to share how you could help them in different ways and in return how they could be of use for you, to connecting with people while voluteering for different organizations and non profits around DC.
It was a an interesting and evolving period of time that left me with valuable experience and a network of many acquaintances and great friends.
Purpose and Pepper has been and is a platform where I express myself and raise awareness around the things I care deeply about. It has led to so many fun collaborations, allowed me to be creative and step way out of my comfort zone, launch my own event series with ‘Bites With A Purpose’, and learn from incredible people.
These 3 years in the US has been a crazy, wonderful ride and like most roads we walk it’s more fun with great people around you. We sure have made some forever friendships here. Some international, some we will meet back in Norway and reminisce about DC-life. And some we will leave behind here, but soon see them again. Some of them we will mert already this summer. We are all adventures travelers and doer’s, and that way the world doesn’t seem so big.
I am so grateful for time spent with old friends and family that came to visit, as well. Real special and unique memories<3
Not only two legges friends enriched our lives in the US, some of them had 4 legs and led to me and André getting out hearts broken 3 times, during these 3years. They were the furry, good kind of heartbreaks. One, each time our foster dogs got adopted.
Jackson, Riley and Greg was the 3 charmers we fostered, trained and helped getting new homes, volunteering for City Dogs Rescue. We would do it all over again in a heart beat. City Dogs is an amazing organization and helping someone getting a safe new home sure feels good. We also had a real great time with these pups, Jackson for only 3 weeks, Riley for 4 months and Greg for 8 months. Now they all live in loving homes as happy as can be<3
Speaking of ‘happy as can be’, small and big adventures have the potential to make me just that. Before we moved abroad we decided to see, explore and taste as much as we could of this different life. The little things in the daily life, the weekend trips and the travels to near and far. We held on to that moving to the US and I feel blessed to have memories enough to fill a whole lifetime.
It doesn’t have to be far, big, luxurious or over a long period of time. Adventure can be right outside your door, but I also choose to prioritize it before many other things because I believe it’s one of the few things that actually makes you richer. There’s a lot of truth to the quote: “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled”, and doing so while young turns you into a storyteller and gives you experience to take with you in life. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to pursue my dream of doing just that.
The continent of the US has so much to offer and it’s so interesting how one country can be so diverse in culture, people and nature. Here’s a glimpse of our travels in USA and Canada.
So further up in the text I mention it has been lifechanging. Why? Because leaving everything that feels safe, making a life from scratch is hard and you really can’t prepare for it, but once you embrace it you will experience a new way of life. It’s amazing, it’s though, it’s humbling and it’s not for everyone but if you do it ‘right’ your views will broaden and you will learn so much you never will have the chance to learn otherwise.
If you have a dream of living abroad, you should try to make it happen in whatever form that appeals to you. There is so much to see and learn out there, and when you return, chances are a little piece of you will forever be changed, in a good way.
Go make your own path.
So, that was a little taste of my 5 years as an expat. With a grateful heart it´s time to say, We´ll be seeing you! From the bottom of my heart, thank´s to everyone that was a part of making these 5 years an extraordinary and unforgettable chapter of my life that I´ll take with me for as long as I live.
New adventures – here I come!
With Purpose & Pepper