Approximately six years ago I began the glorious adventure of overseas travel. The first trip was planned to, my now beloved, Italy. Apartment rented, “we will figure it out” attitude adapted, phase book purchased, but still knowing that I was about to be immersed for a month in an environment which I knew, “ciao”, “grazie”, and “spaghetti “ made me anxious for I would have questions and need answers. So what to do? About a month before the “trip of a lifetime” Jay, my congenial husband, sat down with Google and started searching for ex-pat sites based out of Florence to be exact.
Jay had lived in Europe while stationed in the Air Force so he was familiar with the age old idea that people with a common language and traditions tend find each other wherever they are planted, thus, helping to acclimate newcomers into the norms of the new society. It was not long before we were exchanging emails back and forth with an English woman, Alyson, living in Florence with her husband and two children. Simple questions like “Can I buy a cheap hairdryer there and where”, “What about travel adapters”, “Good neighborhood restaurants” and etc were all answered by this kind woman. Gracious help without the language barrier made me feel better and better before the landing gear even touched down. The best part about this was it was free, unbiased information from someone who was willing to pass on tidbits of knowledge she had to learn herself from asking a group of people just as we had. With ex-pat blogs, you can just post the questions and get answers/advice as if you have lots of little tour guides helping to make your trip a success. Turns out we made friends with Alyson and her family and every year since we have returned to the breathtaking view from Brunelleschi’s Dome as well as dinners and ever needed advice from Alyson and her network of friends.