Expat

Fish out of water: expat bloggers interview series #2

interview-series
Don’t you just love being part of a community? I feel like it’s the only sane way to thrive in this big world. In the blogging sphere, WordPress can be a great way to find your tribe and another groovy WP expat blogger is Heather from 2Summers.

Heather is originally from Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. She currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and has with no intention of leaving.

What I like about Heather is her photographs. They are unique and amazing. Plus she is so good about traveling around SA and getting to know the people, too. She’s a true expat, explorer and I admire her seemingly inexhaustable energy to share what is uniquely SA.

Here’s Heather:

Photo by Gareth Pon
Selfie by Gareth Pon

// What do you like (and/or don’t like) about living abroad?

For me, the best thing about living in South Africa is that I am perpetually a tourist here. Even though I’ve been living here for five years, and know more about the country (and specifically Joburg) than many locals, life still feels new and different to me. I think this is why my blog is successful – I’m half foreigner, half local, and people like reading about South Africa from that perspective.

There are many, many other things that I like and many, many things that I don’t like about life in Johannesburg. If I had to pick the top things that I don’t like about living here, it would be the terrible traffic and the difficulty obtaining visas/work permits.

// What do you find most different about living abroad?

It took me a while to get used to the fact that as long as I live in South Africa, the first thing people will always notice about me is that I’m American. The moment I open my mouth, that’s what people hear. This is usually a good thing because it makes people notice me and listen to me. But it can also be a bad thing because it’s hard to blend in.

// What do you miss about home (besides family and friends)?

American football! I’m a die-hard Baltimore Ravens fan and there is just no replacement for that in South Africa. I’ve had to let go of my passion a bit because it’s nearly impossible to watch American football in South Africa. (My South African friends will disagree but rugby is nowhere near as interesting as football, in my opinion.) I also miss authentic Mexican food and Peppermint Patties.

// Is there something you feel you have gained since becoming an expat?

Yes. I’ve gained everything. I’ve discovered who I am and what I’m meant to do in life. Since moving to South Africa, I’ve become an artist and a photographer and accomplished things that I never dreamed I was capable of.

heather-on-roof
Heather on roof by Tim Van Rooyen

// What’s a day-in-the-life of you, look like?

The best thing about my life is that no two days are ever the same. Sometimes I spend the whole day at home, writing and blogging at my laptop. Some days I get up before sunrise to go to train at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, then go to a meeting, lunch with a friend, and a photography assignment. Some days I spend time exploring a new area of Joburg for a travel article or blog post. Lots of days I travel, usually to other places around South Africa but sometimes to other countries, too. Some days, like everyone else, I spend the day dealing with super-frustrating admin issues, or wasting time on Facebook.

Fortunately the cost of living in South Africa is relatively low so I can afford life without a 9-5 job. I could never do this back in Washington D.C., where I lived before moving here.

// Are there any expat or travel bloggers you particularly enjoy? Who? Why?

Two of my favorites are Barbara at the Dropout Diaries and Mark at Migrationology. I love Barbara’s honest, personal approach to writing and I really relate to her life story. I enjoy Mark’s blog simply because I love exotic food and I also love his writing style and photography.

Another favorite of mine is Sine at the Joburg Expat. Sine is actually not a Joburg expat any longer, as she and her family moved back to the United States a couple of years ago. But she’s kept the blog going and again, it’s Sine’s writing style that keeps me coming back. Her posts are honest, well written, and fun to read.

I read tons of local Joburg blogs too, but I don’t want to single any of them out because there are too many.

// What’s a question you wish interviewers would ask, but never have? (Then answer the question)

Hmm, that’s a tough one. I haven’t done enough interviews to properly answer that question. But I think that one important question for an interview like this is, “Why did you decide to move overseas?”

It’s a really hard question for me to answer so I can’t say that I wish interviewers would ask it, but I think it’s an important part of every expat/immigrant/migrant story.

My answer to that question is: I realized I was living the wrong life and I had to leave home to find the right one. My decision to leave was excruciatingly painful and I’m not proud of the way that part of the story unfolded. I left in a traumatic, ungraceful fashion and my actions hurt people who I cared about. I didn’t even really know why I was doing it at the time; I just knew I had to.

But thanks to that traumatizing decision, I’ve figured out who I am and where I belong. I’m really grateful for that.

Jumping Heather by Meruschka Govender
Jumping Heather by Meruschka Govender

Thanks Heather!

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23 thoughts on “Fish out of water: expat bloggers interview series #2

  1. Thank you for conducting a great interview, Lani. I enjoyed meeting Heather and reading about her life as an expat.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Heather, thanks for being vulnerable and sharing how your decision to leave and the leaving was difficult. overall, i enjoy reading travel and expat blogs, but i think some bloggers intentionally omit their shortcomings and mistakes and hardships, and by doing so it gives the reader a limited and skewed glimpse of their life. your post reveals your humility and maturity in admitting your failures/mistakes and how you’ve grown to see and recognize it. that’s pretty special… keep on writing and sharing.. !

    Lani, this is a great series.. thanks for hosting this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot for the comment. It’s definitely all too easy to gloss over the hard parts of this story and focus on the light, happy parts. I’m actually trying to write a memoir right now and finding it really painful and hard to write about the bad stuff, even though it’s essential to the story. There’s a lot of it that I’ve left out of my blog up until now. Nonetheless I’m grateful for all of my decisions, good and bad, that have led me to the point where I am right now. Thanks again to Lani for giving me a chance to put this stuff into words 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This was such an interesting interview. I found it especially interesting to hear that you can get by in South Africa without a nine to five job. That would leave time for other things, like pursuing passion and just taking life easy. True that being different from the locals makes it hard to blend in…but I’m sure Heather got used to the attention after a while 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mabel. Moving to South Africa has definitely shifted my priorities. Things like money and job security are so much less important to me now than they once were. Living in South Africa has given me the opportunity to live outside the norm and I’m really grateful for that.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks Lani & Heather for a great interview – I will use the ‘what question would you like to be asked…’ in my own interviewing from now on. I lived for two years in a black neighbourhood in Maryland on the edge of DC and it was the first time I experienced being noticeable for my white skin and (when I opened my mouth) my English accent. Gave me a new perspective. I only lived abroad for five years in all and always intended to return to the UK, but I think the experience has been germane to how I am now and how I write now.

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  5. So good! I really loved the last bit about why you moved overseas – realizing you were living the wrong life and looking for the right one. It’s so important to be able to find the life you were meant to live; even if it confuses or angers people who can’t understand why you can’t find that life where they want you to. I may steal that answer for myself when people ask me that. 😉

    Love love loved it! This series is introducing me to some great people.

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    1. Thank you. Sometimes I think that “living the wrong life” is a really cliche way to put it. But that really is exactly how I felt. And now I feel most definitely that I’m living the right one.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great pictures. I’ll have to check out Heather’s site for more info on Joburg itself. One of my sisters spent a few years there — she said she always tried to greet the locals as quickly as possible so they would identify her as American and not mistake her for an Afrikaner.

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  7. Great interview! I always love to hear what motivates people to move and how they blend into their new environments. Nice to meet Heather!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Lovely sketches and great interview.

    I can relate to the life changing experience from living abroad. I, too, lived in a very conservative corner of the Middle East. Colleagues recalled their experiences with horror from the locals.

    I, on the other hand, went every where on my own, wore open toed sandals and bright nail varnish. I spoke very little Arabic. I was the only expat from my compound who stayed in cheap hotels in less desirable areas, else where in the Middle East. I had kindness, generosity and support from locals and expats (Asians, and Filipinos). I didn’t have any negative experience; it
    has left me forever changed. More importantly, it has opened my heart and mind to many things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful. It’s nice to hear a normal and positive experience about the Middle East, especially from our Western “fear mongering media” standpoint. And it’s important to share these things, too, just for that reason.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Like

  9. Lani I really love your Fish out of Water series. The two expats you have introduced so far are SO AMAZING! … and I have simply fallen in love with their blogs. It’s also fun to read about the thoughts of other expats and what we all miss and don’t miss about home.

    This blog especially is a wonderful window into a country (and city) I know little to nothing about. Her photos are stunning. Just read the Zanzibar post and I’m captivated by the photos. It really shows the human spirit.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks and I’m sure Heather thanks you, too. I like your window anaology. It is nice to experience another life through expats’ blogs – I almost want to include bloggers who were expats and are now back home because I feel like I know a lot of you. It’s all interesting – then again, I like stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A really interesting interview. I like the fact that you moved away because you felt you were living the wrong life – affirmative action is so much better than moaning.

    I will say however, that you are oh so wrong about the rugby 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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