In my work with expat partners, I’m often asked “How can I maintain a sense of self and make the most of my expat experience?”
In this interview, Expat Blogger, Dawn McGill shares how writing her blog has provided her not only with an outlet in which to cope with the challenges of relocating, but has also kept her connected with family and friends, and given her a sense of purpose.
Read on to find out how she got started and what blogging has taught her about expat life.
When did you start writing your blog, and why?
I started in April of last year, shortly after I moved to Montreal from Scotland. I’ve always wanted to write, but back home I never had the time, or the inspiration, to write.
When I moved to Montreal with my husband’s job, I was faced with many challenges setting up in a new city and struggled to find work due to the language barrier. I suddenly had a lot of time of my hands, and lots of ideas for content. I knew I had use my time abroad in a positive way, so I looked in to the possibility of setting up a blog, to share these new experiences.
What impact has writing your blog had on your expat experience?
Writing the blog has definitely benefited my expat experience. I love Montreal and the experience of being an expat here, but I think if I hadn’t written the blog I would return home feeling that I had not made the most of my time abroad.
Whilst being here, my husband’s career has progressed, but I don’t have that. I gave up my career to come here. The blog has given me a sense of purpose. I haven’t progressed in the career I had before, but at least I have achieved something that I’ve enjoyed and I’m proud of.
It’s encouraged me to go to different places, try different things, because without those experiences I wouldn’t have the content I need for the blog! I’ve also rediscovered my passion for writing.
Even if I never get another follower, I would definitely see this as a positive part of my time here.
Can you tell me some of the qualities that help you in blogging?
I do have a passion for writing so that helps, but more importantly than that I’m an honest person. I think if you want to engage people, you have to be honest.
People want to know you as a person. If you want to write about your experiences as an expat, and you want people to read it, you need to be prepared not just to share what you are doing, place you visit etc, but also the challenges you face and how that feels.
What has been the most challenging moment in your blogging journey so far?
The most challenging moment was that first post. Just getting the page live and putting myself out there. I felt sick for the three days afterwards! It was very, very nerve wracking.
It was more difficult imagining my friends and family reading the blog, than a total stranger. I’m often blogging about feelings that I would never share with anyone, not even my husband or my mum and dad, and yet it’s on the blog for everyone to read. It took a while for me to feel comfortable with that.
How do you motivate yourself to keep the blog up and running?
The comments that I get from people are my main motivation. One follower contacted me to say that he had never been able to share with his family about how he felt about homesickness. He sent my blog post to them, as a way of explaining it. It was great to get that feedback. Even if my blog only touches a few people, if it’s making a difference to just one person, that motivates me to keep going.
My family and my closet friends are my biggest supporters. They love reading it, so I keep writing it. When they come and visit, they suggest places to go that they have read about in the blog. I love the fact the blog sparks other people’s interest, not just my family, but other expats to try different things, to get out and explore their new city. This spurs me on to keep writing.
I try to be realistic. I plan for what I want to do on the blog each week, but I don’t always achieve it. I get invited to go out somewhere, or to do something and I usually prioritise living my life in Montreal, rather than writing about it!
Of course, sometimes, there is a little bit of self doubt, and I catch myself thinking is this is just a silly idea, what’s the point?, do people want to read it?, it is worth investing all this time? Then I receive some positive feedback, or remind myself why I do this. That helps me to focus on getting my next post live.
In the future where do you hope your blog will take you?
I would like to think that my blog will continue to grow, with more posts, higher levels of engagement and an increased number of followers.
However, more importantly, it has shown me that I do love to write. I’m not sure I’ll ever make a paid career out of blogging, or if I will continue the blog when I return home, but I will definitely look for opportunities to write in some form in my future career.
Would you encourage other expats to consider writing a blog?
I would definitely recommend it. Even if you just want to do it for your family and friends to keep them up to date with what you are doing, and have no aspirations of anyone else ever reading it, it’s an excellent outlet.
Moving to a different country is difficult. It’s wonderful, but it’s also challenging. The process of relocating posed a lot of questions and thoughts in my head that without the blog would have just have remained there.
I wouldn’t have talked about homesickness, or the challenges of relocating. Writing about my experiences and putting my thoughts down on paper has been very therapeutic, and good for my mental health.
What 3 top tips would you give to other potential expat bloggers?
- Not to over think it. Just put your first blog out there. You can always improve it. The hardest step is that first post.
- Don’t expect you are going to make it a paid career from it. Do it because you want to, because you enjoy it, not because you think it will pay your bills
- Choose the content of your blog to be something that you are passionate about. Not only will that make the blog easier to write, but your passion will come across in your writing and engage more readers.
Dawn’s passion is her expat journey, and the adventure that she is living. In her blog, https://dawnsworldblog.wordpress.com/ , she shares what she loves about living in Montreal and how she feels about relocating. You can read her post on homesickness here https://dawnsworldblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/home-is-where-your-heart-is/
If you’re an expat making the most of your overseas experience i’d loved to know how. Please respond in the comments below.