Lousie is the author of the books “Women Who Walk” and “The Winding Road to Portugal,” which entails various immigrants’ stories.
She was born and raised in Australia, and when she reached 22, she decided to leave her home. When her friends decided to explore Europe, Louise was brave enough to choose the other way even though Louise had to travel alone.
She arrived in the US with fears of the unknown. New York was an unforgettable memory for Louise as this was the first US city Louise moved to. She recalls how crimes were all over the place and how she even became a victim herself. Not long after, she traveled to Canada then to Mexico until she reached London, where she worked as a chef in a British ski resort.
Months after working as a chef, Louise got back to Australia to pursue her undergraduate studies but didn’t stay for long. She moved to Colorado, and there, she followed Psychology and Philosophy in Media Studies, which was not available in Australia at that time.
For 27 years, Louise has managed to stay longer in a foreign country than her home. It was when she reached her mid-40s that Louise felt the urge to leave the US. After meeting with a Portuguese friend in Mexico and experiencing her family’s warmness, Louise was encouraged to move to Portugal.
One day I ran for the train, and jumped on the train just as the doors were closing and it caught my force. And I fell to the ground on the floor of the train and really hurt myself. And I think I was heading to an appointment and I was worried I was going to be late. But what I didn't understand at that time is everybody's late here.
Hi everyone, and welcome to episode number 37 of the Emigrant's Life Podcast, where we share stories of people who left the country to chase a better life. And through the stories you can find ideas, resources, or motivation to do the same. I'm Daniel De Biasi. And in this episode, I had the pleasure of chatting with Louise. Louise is originally from Australia and lived most of her life in the US. But in her 50s, she decided to move to Portugal where she lives now. Louise is also the author of two books about immigrants, Woman Walk and The Winding Road to Portugal. In these books, she collected 40 stories of people from all over the world who moved to Portugal. For this episode, we decided to give away one of her books to one of you. To participate, you only need to leave a review on Apple podcasts or pod chaser. You can find the links in the show notes. And also, if English is your second language, you can find the transcript for this episode in the show notes. Just visit emigrantslife.com/episode37. And now, please enjoy my conversation with Louise.
Hi, Louise. Thanks for being on the show.
Oh, hi, Daniel. Thanks for having me. And I really love what you're doing, documenting the oral stories of immigrants as it parallels my work, which is writing about the immigrant and expatriate journey.
I know. That's why we find each other on Instagram. And we were able to connect to each other.
We did. Didn't we? Yeah, that's where I saw you on Instagram. I thought oh, look at what this guy's doing and what I'm doing.
I know exactly. And for a long time, at least for over a month, probably we were following each other and I wanted to get in touch with you. But at the same time, I wanted to read your book. So I was like a procrastinating I was reading another book. Oh my god, I can't finish this book. So I'm gonna reach out to her before I even have-
And have a conversation instead.
But then now I started reading your book. And yeah, it's really fascinating. I go through two stories out of 20. I love the first one. I really liked the second one, and I can't wait to keep going and read all of them. And now I'm here I can hear your story.
Okay, I'm happy to share it with you.
Yeah, because you are an immigrant yourself and you're originally from Australia, and you now live in Portugal? Do you move to Portugal later in your life? Let's work through maybe from the beginning, at what age did you decide to leave Australia?
I was 22. But I left because so many of my friends and contemporaries were traveling abroad or wanting to travel abroad because part of the culture of Australia is to travel abroad. Were geographically isolated from the rest of the world. And we have five major cities in Australia, all of those cities are on the coast. And so collectively, we tend to look out to the rest of the world. And I think that kind of fosters a curiosity about what's out there. And so it certainly fostered my curiosity. So along with some of my friends who in fact, were actually hitting to Europe, I hit it off to the US. And I went traveling around the US hopping on and off Greyhound buses for about three months. And then I went up to Canada down to Mexico. And then I hit it off to London, where I worked in a hotel for a period of time, but I was in London essentially defined work with a British ski company, because I wanted to work in Europe, because I love to escape. So that's in fact, what happened. I did find work with a British company, and I ended up in France. And I lived and worked in Kosovo in the French Alps. And I was there for about eight months. So that's how I initially left.
So when you initially left it was just a curiosity, I want to see the word I want to see what's out there, and then go back to Australia or what was your plan at that time? If you have any plan.
I didn't really have a plan. I mean, I definitely love traveling. It was a fantastic experience. After the ski season, I traveled around Europe with a friend and then I did go back to Australia, but I went back to school and I went back to undergraduate studies as we talked about a little before the show. I had already done a culinary program in my late teens. And in fact, the British ski company I was working for in Croatia Belle employed me to run a chalet to cook fairly lavish meals for Bahian guests, cooking, of course, was a great way to work abroad. But then by my mid 20s, I really did want to go back to school and do a little bit more study. Because working in a kitchen, as a chef, it's very labor intensive work, but it's not particularly intellectually stimulating work. And so it's also very creative. You're not going to grow intellectually cooking the rest of your life. So I did go back to school. But then I was really bored quickly with my studies. So a girl I met at uni, and I applied for a visa to work in the US over our summer break, Australia in the US had a reciprocal program for students, which granted visas to American and Australian kids. So we could work in each other's country over the summer break. And so we headed off to Utah to a ski resort during our summer break, which, of course, was winter in the US. And we loved it so much. We ended up deferring. And in fact, I think we extended our visas and we stayed probably eight, nine months, something like that. And while I was working at Park City, the ski resort, I made inquiries about graduate programs in the US and I ended up applying for a program in human psychology, and , the Swiss psychiatrist, and this was a at a grad school in Boulder in Colorado. So once back in Australia, again, I finished up another semester of my undergrad program sold up everything. And I remember when I walked through the international departure gates, this time off to Colorado to study, I had this feeling that I might not return to live in Australia, I guess it was because I felt them. So I was I was going off to meet my destiny. And in fact, I've never returned to Australia to live.
I want to go back a little bit. And you say that when you were like 22, you decided to explore the world and despite all your friends going to Europe, he decided to go to the US. Yeah, why do you decide to go to the US?
I think it's part of my personality. I'm not necessarily oppositional. But if everybody's going over there, then I go the opposite direction. I don't tend to follow the herd, I tend to go and do what I want to do. So in that sense, I think I headed off to the US because I wanted to have a solo adventure that was different from what my peers were doing. And it was kind of a lonely time because were my friends were backpacking around Europe together and doing stuff together. The US is an enormous country. And it's not set up like Europe to accommodate kids backpacking and staying in hostels, it just wasn't the case. And it doesn't have a train system like Europe hopping on and off Greyhound buses was a little dodgy sometimes because the Greyhound bus terminals were places where, you know, some really odd characters would hang out and then when I'd get to various cities, I'd usually stay at the Y and night or pretty dodgy places too.
Sorry, what's the Y?
Oh, like the YMCA.
Okay, perfect. Okay.
Yeah. So it was pretty risky traveling for a young woman to just kind of backpack around the US. But it was a it was a great adventure.
We spoke the other day before this interview. And you told me that going to the US is especially in New York was kind of shocking for you, because you felt like all these crime and things that you watch normally in the movie where actually when you went to the US was very similar to what was on TV.
Yeah, not long before I left. In fact, there was a documentary on TV and I was back home visiting my parents and this documentary was on the red beret vigilantes in New York that were would patrol the subways in the streets late at night as sort of guardian angels. And because there was a lot of open drug use, there was a lot of open weapons. And this was in the early 80s. And my parents were absolutely petrified for me, and in fact, I did see the red beret vigilantes on the subway one night. And I also remember seeing this kid who probably was the same age as me slumped in the seat. I don't even remember was he or she had knuckle busters on both hands. So in other words, if someone had approached him, he or she was asleep, he was ready to eat their Thanksgiving with these. Do you know what knuckle busters are those?
No, actually no.
It's a weapon and you you slip it over your head.
Oh, okay. The face that goes on your rings, but like a big-
Yeah, but they're all joined together. So if you hit someone, you're gonna gouge out their face and the fact that someone my age could be sitting on a trainlet's say this was late at night with really what what is an open weapon on both hands. It's pretty, pretty overwhelming to me. But again, I mean, it was an adventure.
Was a New York one of the first city that you moved in when you went to the US.
Yes. It was the first city that I arrived in. Yep.
Because you also told me that when you were in New York, somebody actually stole your bag with all your money.
They didn't get my traveler's checks, because in those days, you would travel with traveler's checks, but it was just all the cash that I had. So I think I' had cashed or whatever it was perhaps a couple $100 worth of traveler's checks. And it was the money pouch in my bag that they managed to steal. And this was in a Baskin Robbins ice cream store. And I was there because I had never seen 36 flavors of ice cream. I just thought this was unbelievable. This is America. This where you get 36 flavors of ice cream. And in fact, I think I mentioned this in a story that you read. I mean, so many people in New York are trying to get into, into film or into onto the stage. And I think it was one of the customer service people who was leaving about singing on one of the table tops. And I was just enamored by this performance. And it was because I was distracted, this person slipped into the ice cream parlor and managed to take this money out of my bag out of my backpack.
How long did you stay in the US at that point?
it was about three months.
And then you moved to Europe?
Then I went to London. And then at that point, of course, I did meet up with some friends. And I ended up sleeping on the floor of someone's flat until I got a job in a hotel. And then I think that the hotel had accommodation as well. So I actually lived in the hotel. And I was the chef in their kitchen. London has these little small private hotels. And so it was a small private hotel, and I was running the kitchen and living in the hotel as well.
And now brings us to the next question because you were able to work in Europe, you work in the UK, in France as a chef. And that because after high school before going to university, you decided to go to a culinary school and learn how to cook. And so it was because something that your mom says that wherever you go, people have to eat and something and that quote, resonate with you and you decided to study and learn how to cook. Why did you decide to go to culinary school? Was that because you were already planning to move abroad, or just you never know I might need it in the future?
My mother was always a very practical woman. And it was very practical advice. Because this is how I have always lived my life. All my friends were going straight on to university. And I refuse to do that I refuse to transition from secondary school straight into university because I thought it was absolutely absurd that basically, as a teenager, you're supposed to pick a track of study, and stick with it, study it and graduate and then try and find a job in that particular field of study. And I had no idea what I wanted to do. So in fact, I took a gap year. And I didn't really do much, I kind of hung out and had some small jobs or found some small jobs. And then I realized that something practical like a trade would be a great way to kind of know, prepare me to get straight into the workforce to give me several years of experience in the workforce. And that I always loved to cook, my mother was a great cook, my grandmother was a great cook. And I thought it would be a great creative trade as well. And all of that was absolutely true. And in fact, it really did give me a means to work abroad. It was a really good decision for me.
And for how long did you work as a chef overseas?
Well, it was only in London and Europe because I had no intention of working in the US because that would have been illegal and actually come to think many years ago so I can tell the truth. The British ski company that I work with employed me, as I said, to run the chalet and cook for the guests. But I was working illegal in France because I don't think France had any kind of reciprocal program with Australia whereby they would grant Australians like a short term work visa. So I have a very funny story, which is one day I was in the chalet I think preparing or cleaning up after breakfast and maybe preparing the dinner already. And the guy I worked for there was he had six chalets on three different levels on the mountain and he came running into my chalet. He said, Please take off your apron and quickly go into one of the guests rooms and lie on the bed. Like why? He said, Because gendarme are coming and you need to be a guest, you can't be looking like you work here. So I did as I was told, and I ran into run in the guest rooms, fortunately, everyone was without skiing. And I lay down on the bed and the gendarme came in, I had to produce my passport, of course, and and then I just said that, oh, I was a guest within this chalet and having a very nice time. So even though I, I work with this company for eight months in core Chapelle, I was actually working there illegally.
And then you decided, after this experience to go back to Australia and study and then you move, you're starting to the US. At that point, what were you pursuing? What was you studying?
my undergraduate program was in psychology and philosophy in Media Studies, I think. And then in the US, it was it was this graduate program in psychology with an emphasis on the works of the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung So it was a fascinating program. And it was something that was simply not available to study, or it was a area of study that wasn't available at that time in Australia. I guess, if I think about it, the reason that I ultimately left Australia to go to the US to do that study is because it was an opportunity not available to me in Australia.
And there was a time that you pretty much never went back to live in Australia?
Yeah. But having already lived abroad for for a while, and having already travelled through the US. As you probably know, because you've lived in several different countries. Once you've had that experience of growing into more of who you're becoming outside of your country of origin, it's very difficult to return and feel those saw you can kind of fit back into the culture that you've left behind.
So I think I was drawn to go back to the US because it was already somewhat familiar to me. And because I was absolutely determined to do this study, you know, I really do feel like I said earlier that I was I felt myself I was off to meet my destiny, that it was just absolutely meant to be.
So even after they finished you study, there was not a thought I've done my degree, and then I can use that experience that knowledge back to my current job.
Ya I know, because as I was finishing it up, I also landed a job. It was great that I got a job as I was finishing up my degree. And so there was no way I was going to abandon this job possibility. Plus, of course, I fell in love. I got married. And, and I was starting a new life.
Yeah, it's got a stronger bond when you find somebody in the country, it's just easier to stay in the country.
There was another little interesting story there, which I can also tell now because it's many years. But I wasn't able to get a student visa when I went to the US. So I actually went on my visitor's visa because my visitor's visa that I had traveled to the US on a couple of years earlier was still valid, I think it was something like I didn't know if it was a three year or six year re entry visa. So I was able to re enter the US on that visa. And I thought once I'm in country, I'll be able to get the student visa. And in fact, I wasn't able to get the student visa at some point. In fact, I decided to head up to Canada to stay with a family friend, I think. And I accidentally left my passport back in Boulder. And a good thing because once I got back to get my passport, I realized that not only had my visa expired, but my passport had expired as well.
So if I had managed to get over the border, but I wouldn't have actually been able to get over the borders. They would have checked my passport and seen everything had expired, I would have been deported back to Australia. So once everything expired, then I actually had to get an immigration lawyer. Excellent. Well, now I'm really in trouble. She proposed that she would do everything she could to get me a student visa at this point, I actually met the man that I ultimately married, but she couldn't get me the student visa and she said, there's no recourse now other than for you to consider getting married. So we kind of hastened our love affair along a little bit into marriage. But nevertheless, it was certainly meant to be however it didn't last. But that wasn't because we'd hasten the process. It was just that's what happens. You get married you hope it will last and sometimes it doesn't.
Yeah. Do you remember why they didn't accept your visa?
It was because the school was, it was a small, independent graduate school. And it was in the process of seeking accreditation. And while it was in that process wouldn't grant student visas, it had to be accredited. And ultimately, what the school did do was merged with another accredited small school in order to grant visas to incoming students. But by that point, I'd already married and graduated. So it was a moot point for me.
Okay, I guess you managed to stay in the country because you were married to an American?
That's right. But I wouldn't advise anybody else to do what I did. I think I was just very lucky that everything seemed to be basically kind of fell into place for me so that I could stay.
Yeah. And be in a situation where you're illegally in the country puts even more pressure and more stress into that dress for a situation that really is. So there's no point of going down that road, especially now, back in the days, probably the lows in immigration were a little bit more loose, it was easier to move to a different country, because normally people were doing that at the time. Now immigration process and immigration rules are way more restricted than they used to be.
Absolutely. You would never take that risk now.
Speaking of now, you recently moved to Portugal? How long did you stay in the US before he moved to Portugal?
27 years. Ultimately, I lived in the US longer than I lived in Australia. But it was in my probably in my mid 40s that I really wanted to leave, I thought that I would like to go back to Europe. I just wasn't sure how I would get here. And I was working in the US. At that point. I was divorced. And I think it was really just a matter of time before I figured out how to get here. And how that happened is that I was in Mexico at a workshop. And I met a Portuguese woman, and we became great pals. And she came to visit me in Colorado, and I came to visit her here. And her family and extended family were very welcoming. So I visited here several times over the course of a couple of years. And her family introduced me to the language, the food, the culture, and so on. And I was really just enamored. And the other thing was that the coastal life really reminded me of Australia. And it's very much a sort of a cafe culture along the coast here where I live now. And I I was reminded of Sydney, and I had really missed being by the ocean, living landlocked in Colorado up against the Rocky Mountains. I pretty much sold up everything in Colorado and moved here. And I kind of this is what I do Daniel, I did it in the same way I moved to the West, which I didn't, I didn't figure out anything, I just thought, Oh, this feels right, I'm gonna do it. So I put all my things in storage. And I came here and I rented an apartment. But I only had short term visa. So I had, I had to leave every three months, which was kind of funny. So I did that for two years. And then it's just sort of prior to 24 months, I think you have to make a decision have to either leave or seek residency. So I decided, well, I'll get residency. And then of course, I hadn't done my homework. And then I discovered that in order to get residency, you have to be in your country of origin. So then I had to go back to Australia to do that. But it was around Christmas time. And of course, bureaucracy always moves very slowly around Christmas. And in Australia it does, because everything closes down for about a month. And I thought it would only take me a month to get my residency and it took two months. So I was kind of stuck in Australia for two months. I wasn't very happy about that. But then I did get my residency and then settled quite happily in Portugal.
You said that you stayed in the US for 27 years. And the other day when we were talking you said you left Australia when you were 27 so you left with Australia 27 and you stayed in 27 years in the US? That's like a dumbass. Like repeating 27 and 27. It's gonna be interesting.
Yes, it is interesting, isn't it? And I noticed on your bio when when I listened to it your YouTube bio that you had left much the same age as I had to live in a different country. And I think when we talked earlier, we talked about that age being a really significant time for making huge changes in your life. Oftentimes it's the age when people embark on their first major career job or They get married, or they make some kind of major moves such as you did, such as I did. And it's kind of a time of really, I think, finding your way in the world as a, as an independent person separate from family and, and in our case, family and country and culture.
Yeah, it's probably even like, because you're getting so close to a new milestone, which is 27, you're getting close to 30. And you have this like a social pressure and the vitality, you need to have your life figuring out you need to be successful, you need to have a good job, a good relationship, or maybe a family with kids or whatever. And you're like getting so close, and you feel like, Okay, I got to do something. For people like us that do something, okay, let's get rid of everything and just move to another country. Was it the similar reason, what do you decide to leave us to Portugal? Or it was a completely different reason?
I think that it was, I think it was similar. I think that it was a 27 year cycle. I mean, I really was desperate to leave. In fact, I'd started to travel quite a bit. And and I think the more you're outside your comfort zone, the more comfortable you are outside your comfort zone. And, and I just began to get really itchy feet, it was a zone where I was living just got too small, because suddenly the world was a really fascinating and interesting place, again, with the travel that I was doing. And as I say from 45, I think I'd really wanted to leave the US and I wanted to return to Europe, and Portugal ended up ticking all the boxes.
Was it easy, because you left the US to move to Portugal when you are like in your 50s. Right? Was it hard to move to another country or learn another language? How was this transaction for you in that age?
Well, because it was what I wanted to do. I did it. But of course, those transition periods are always challenging. I'd say that first year, I think was very difficult. I had a couple of accidents too. Because as as you're aware, I'm sure as probably many people listening are aware the culture of the US is it's very fast. And and it's not necessarily aggressive. But you know, order to keep abreast of things you do have to develop a certain level of assertiveness. Whereas Portugal, in southern Europe, so it's a very different pace. And when I landed here, I was still kind of operating in the way that I had in the US, which was crazy, because there was no need for me to be that way. And it just meant that I I literally did have a couple of accidents that that caused me to slow down. You know, one day I ran for the train, and jumped on the train just as the doors were closing and it caught my force. And I fell to the ground on the floor of the train and really hurt myself. And I think I was heading to an appointment and I was worried I was going to be late. But what I didn't understand at that time is everybody's late here. Southern Europe.
No big deal if you're late. So I just learned to slow down. And over the following year, I learned acclimate to the very different culture and the language of course, I enrolled in school as soon as I got here in language school. And I got very quickly involved with an organization for international women and I was on their board. So that was a very demanding time as well. But I really threw myself into that work because it opened doors for me. And the international population or environment here is very rich with people from all over the world. And, you know, though I had Portuguese friends at that time, ultimately, it was the internationals that I was getting to know that became my closer friends, because the language in common amongst the international group here is English. Of course, we'd all exchange tips and tricks on how to survive the bureaucracy of Portugal and the language and the very different way of doing things here. And that's been a real lifeline to be part of an international community.
Is that when you start to be fascinated by other immigrants stories?
Well, one of the things that that I mentioned to you earlier is that I'd started to work with a memoir writing coach in the US before I moved here. And I had an idea that I'd like to write a book, I had already written a number of books, and I had an idea that I wanted to write my memoir. And then ultimately, I decided that I didn't feel as though I had enough to fill 250 pages with my own story. So when I arrived here and very quickly got involved in the international environment, and I was meeting, as I said before, some fascinating people with incredible stories. I went back to the memoir, writing coach, and I said I think I'd like to write or collect an anthology or put together an anthology of mini Memoirs of the people that I'm meeting here. That's exactly what I did. So the first book was the story of 20 women who move country to country on route to a life here, from 16 different countries. And then the sequel is the winding road to Portugal, which is the stories of 20 men from 11 different countries. And we said, as we started, where you've been collecting the real stories of immigrants, I collected and correlated the written stories or that I wrote the stories of immigrants and expatriates.
Okay. And what's the goal for you to read these stories?
I thought that, that it was possible that perhaps somebody else had collected these stories, because I seriously considered that the intellectual capital here was extraordinary. But nobody had and I thought for posterity, that I would collect them and correlate them, or maybe both for the Portuguese historical archives, because we're living during an interesting time where particularly the in the women spoke, these women who were kind of straddling two centuries, they were living lives that their mothers and their grandmothers could only ever have dreamed of, they may not have even dreamt of the possibilities that these women had embraced in their life. And then for the men, the one of the unusual things in the men stories is that a couple of the men are accompanying spouses, they followed their wives to Portugal. And this is really unusual. I mean, we really are living in different times where men pick up sticks and move because of their wife. Whereas it seemed that was not long ago, the role of women to follow their husbands. But what I found interviewing the men is that so many stereotypes that I bought to those interviews about men and the way men are in the world. We're not true, because the men were able to share really compelling and emotional stories about their journey. In fact, I listened to a podcast you did recently with a guy from New Zealand, another Daniel, and his stories along the lines of what I've just mentioned, which is that he ultimately followed his Polish wife back to Poland, and struggled with that role, because it is very challenging, I think, for men to surrender his position, perhaps as the primary breadwinner in the family is the stronger party of the partner and, and kind of surrender and identity that he very strongly feels represents who he is in the world. So and the men stories were very interesting. And the women's stories to me were adventure stories. They had just done extraordinary things and been to extraordinary places.
I haven't read the woman's book yet. That will be my next one. But is this your perspective because you're a woman of this because perspectives impartial writer, because you said like the women were very adventurers. What I'm trying to say like is that because sometimes we don't expect more men to do certain things. And when they do the same adventures, what a man if it does it just what men do, right? Is that your point of view is because a woman has more adventures, because usually woman don't do that. Or it's actually adventures because they actually do great things in their stories?
I think that yes, absolutely, it makes sense. I think that women can do spectacular and amazing things. But we don't really expect them to do that. But when they're given an opportunity to talk about what they've done, we realize how capable women are of doing extraordinary things. And I think that's what the women's stories confirmed for me. The other thing is that sometimes we are drawn, particularly for those of us who make decisions, such as living abroad as you have, as I have. Sometimes talking to other people about their experiences, helps us understand why we've made the decisions that we've made. I was always uncertain about why I've chosen to live abroad, why I've chosen to take perhaps the risks that I'd taken traveling and why I was so curious about other people and other places and other cultures. But in asking these questions of other people, the women in particular, then I began to understand through their storytelling and their answers, the wise to all the questions I had about my own life choices. So sometimes it's through hearing others tell their stories that we come to understand ourselves.
True. Yeah, totally. Because sometimes people have explanation for things that we all had in mind that we never actually put words into it. We didn't labeled those emotion. I don't know, label those aspects of our life and people maybe they've done it. I voluntarily, they labeled us our emotions and going back what you said, but woman, I totally agree with you. I think women are able to achieve great things in life and probably compared to men, they probably do more mythologically they do more planning and advanced, usually than men. That's at least my perspective, my point of view, I guess I can see like a woman do is exactly the same thing as a man. But just with more planning involved, maybe was in your situation, as you said, just-
I'm a little I'm a little bit more compulsive.
I could play with that. And is there anything that you learn through all these stories that anything that has changed in you or something that you learn from from all these stories that affected your life?
I think that I think that the opportunity of living outside of your country really affords you the chance to grow and evolve. And it gives you an enormous amount of emotional freedom. What I mean by that is that when you move to a new place, you have a sort of a level of anonymity, if you like, because there's no expectations along the lines that your family or friends in your country of origin wouldn't impose on you to be a particular way or to live up to certain behaviors that people identify you with. So I love this opportunity of moving countries to kind of recreate oneself. And that's a it's a brilliant place to be because so long as you're able to continue recreating yourself, you're then able to embody a more authentic expression of who you are. And then the other thing is that when you move countries, you're often confronted by the day to day challenges by someone or something that just causes you to grow, you have to move through these challenges and grow in some way. And there's something enormously rich and powerful about that. Because, again, it affords you this opportunity to keep evolving, which I don't know. But I often wonder, with a certain level of fear I think, if that would happen if I repatriated to Australia, if I move back? I don't know. I don't know, this is something I haven't explored yet. The return. Returning to your country of origin.
But even if you decided to move back to Australia, you will be an immigrant there. You lived your life away from Australia.
That's a very good point, Daniel. Yes, I wouldn't be returning to a foreign country really,
A completely different one from the time you left.
You're right. In fact, I'm thinking of a period when I did return in the US. So I went back for three months it was after, I think it was kind of when my marriage was a little bit Rocky, and I went back for three months. And it was really challenging because I remember trying to do things and because I, I sound Australian, and I have an Australian passport, there was an expectation that I understood things. So I think I was trying to open a bank account or do something like that. And I didn't know how things worked. And I couldn't understand the bank teller. Because you probably can tell that I talk fairly slowly. And this is as a result of living in the US where I had to modify my speech in order for people to understand me, because my accent used to be really strong. And so I learned to talk slowly and articulate more clearly. So then, when I was back in Australia, for this period of time, listening to people talk, I was like, Oh, my God, I can't even understand. I can't even understand what people are saying. Which made me understand why Americans probably didn't understand me when I first moved to the US. So yes, if I was to go back now or in the future, it would take me a while to acculturate to my to my home country.
And speaking of your own country, do you have any regrets leaving it?
Not at all, I'm not someone who has regrets. In fact, I think of regrets of living in the past and the past is behind you. And there's nothing you can do to change that and rather you learn to live with and make peace with your decisions and you move on. So no regrets.
And on the opposite side. What was the biggest upside about immigrating?
I think I I kind of touched on it when I talked about the emotional freedom because one of the things that I enjoyed about moving to the US is that I didn't have history with anyone there. So when nobody knows you, you're completely free of all those labels and judgments that are automatically assigned new in your country of origin. And then of course, that leaves you, yeah, totally free to recreate yourself. And I think that whatever age you are, the opportunity to recreate yourself, again, and, and perhaps again, with each country move is enormously fraying. Now, I know that's not the case for everyone. Because when I listen to people talk about their experiences of moving country, they often are really challenged by how their sense of identity is, is suspended for a period of time, they don't know who they are in the new country, or perhaps they've left behind a job, and they don't quite know how to identify themselves without that previous job. But to me, that has always been part of the adventure to suspend the old identity and immerse myself in the new culture, and come to understand something new about myself, or something different about myself in the new culture.
Yeah, I'd like to add something to what you just said that, at least for me, and I can hear from other people that they moved to another country, maybe an English speaking country, and then they speak the language. In the case, as you said, they felt like they are not themselves, because they can't they don't have the language to be themselves. It took me like a good two years surfing, for me to have enough English to be myself to be funny, even to try to find a partner or girlfriend at the time at the beginning was like, kind of, I don't even could be bothered to to try to find one because whenever I found, they can't fall in love with me, because the person that they meet, that's not me is just something that I tried to recreate. But it's not me, I don't have the word to be myself, even if you have a fight or being funny, or I can't be myself. So even for I think for probably two years, I didn't even tried to find a girlfriend, because I thought it would be like a total waste of my time. So in a career, that could be maybe you have a good job back in your country, you reach a point in your career where you are confident of your job, or you talk to people, you know what you're talking about. And when you move to a new country, or you don't speak the language, you have to prove to other people that you are not stupid. That's exactly how I felt. I felt I was stupid. And in my case, even I was talking with more in my previous episode, we have to get new certificates just to prove a piece of paper that proves that I'm not stupid. It's just I don't have the language skills to prove that I'm capable of doing the job. But I have a piece of paper that proves otherwise. So what do you say yes, it's for for many people is more challenging to find themselves when they go to a new country because they don't have the language level to be themselves. So it takes a while for me it was a probably good two years before I was able to be myself.
I understand. Yes. And my Portuguese is still rubbish. That's why I suppose I'm more immersed in the international community where anchor English is the common language. And I have an enormous amount of respect for people who speak a second, third, fourth, fifth language because it is very challenging to learn another language and yet, an immersion experience like you had first in New Zealand and now in Canada means that you don't have any choice, you really do have to learn the language. Whereas I've had a choice here. I must admit it was it sounds bizarre, but it was really frustrating in the US where people couldn't understand me because I have a very strong sound as we know for whereas Australians don't pronounce the R. And so people will constantly saying excuse me, and they couldn't understand when I said my name because my last name is Ross. And so for me that's a silent or when I say it's a silent R to the Americans. And they hear all sorts of things, but they don't hear Ross. It's kind of a kind of a weak response compared to what you went through. But I do understand the frustration of trying to make yourself understood and be heard when people are struggling to hear you and struggling to understand what it is that you're communicating.
Yeah. Now looking back, I wish I would have moved to Canada first. Just because the English is so much closer to Italian. Where as you said, you pronounce the R i remember the beginning when I used to have Kiwis, friends, British friends toward car, as you said, there's not there's like a car. And it was like where's the bloody R? There's no Rs. I couldn't even figure out what they were saying. Because there was like, I don't know what they were talking about. There was no R. And in fact, I remember like, clearly that was watching TV shows to try to improve my English. All the TV shows were American TV shows. So I was able to understand a conversation on a TV show without subtitles I was like a proud of myself, I will leave my room, I will go into the real ward. And I was back to square one. I couldn't understand a thing. What is going on, I was able to understand English in my room. I get out I can understand anything. And I remember a friend of mine, which was Australian, and I was complaining with him, I can understand people and blah, blah, blah, is like Daniel, don't worry. I'm been speaking English for 27 years, I still don't understand Kiwis. So the thing that isn't like a bad thing, okay. It's not just my fault. 90% It is my fault, but 10% is their accent.
Yeah, Accent. It's very difficult. In fact, before I moved to Portugal, I was being tutored by a Brazilian woman in Colorado. And every now and then she'd say, this is how you say this, and I'd listened and I'd be okay. Okay, I got it. I got it. And then at one point, she said, but of course, this is Brazilian Portuguese. So European Portuguese is going to be slightly different. And she sent me a link to Portuguese being spoken by Portuguese people in various places around Portugal, Portuguese being spoken in Africa, you know, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Portuguese being spoken in the Moyer store, the former Portuguese colony of Timo and it was different in every place. And then when I came here, when I was actually living here, I would get so frustrated, because I think whatever she taught me I'm not hearing and absolutely not here. And of course, there is a particular accent or way of speaking that the Portuguese in Lisbon have that's completely different from say, Porter or the Algarve. And what it is that they eat the end of the word. And it's actually not that different from what Australians do, they eat the end of the word, or they run words into one another, which is cost, not what they do in the US again, think about how slowly I'm talking. But I do get used to it. And I kind of enjoy it, because I can hear how language is modified depending on the environment, the people who are speaking it, and the the kind of the subculture of the group.
Yeah, I can totally understand that. Like, I think most of the country in Europe, wherever you go, that language is slightly different. Going back to your story, so you moved to Portugal about around seven years ago? And do you feel like this is going to be it? This is going to be the country, you will spend the rest of your life? Or you think you will try something else?
Yes, I will. And I'm not sure what that is. But I don't see myself staying here long term. I don't know why. But I feel restless. I don't feel totally, I don't feel totally at peace here. So there's something else to come yet. And I'm not sure what that is. But I'm open to it. And in fact, I almost feel like it could be in the next couple of years, I will see.
And do you feel like you will find a place where you can call home or you think you just got to carry on because you just want to try different things?
I do carry this fantasy that at some point, I'll feel like a place is home. But I've never felt that way. So I don't know that will actually ever happen. I think one really needs to learn how to just be present to where you are, and be comfortable with the home that you create where you are. Knowing that it's possible that something will change. And what we do know is change is imminent change is the only thing that is an absolute. So the idea that there will be one eternal home for a soul was I don't know that's actually true. Nevertheless, I have a little bit of a fantasy fantasy that that could happen. But I also adapted it.
And do you feel lucky to be an immigrant?
Oh, gosh, yes. I mean, I feel that the experiences that I've had living in several different countries have just been extraordinary. I think when I was a teenager, and I didn't want to go to university, because I really believed that the world was such a large alarge an interesting place that there was more to learn out there than a university. And I still believe that but in fact, I did end up going to university. But one of the things a teacher of mine once said to me is that experience is the real guru. And because you learn so much through direct encounters, when you travel or emigrate to another country, you can bet that initially every day will serve up a direct encounter with something or someone that will challenge you to evolve and grow. And to me, that's what life's really all about.
Yeah. And knowing what you know, now your experience. Is there anything you would have done differently?
Oh, absolutely not. It's kind of like that question about Do I have any regrets? No, I did what I did, and I'm happy with what I've done, and continue to do. And I, I have a great deal of faith in my intuition that I trust, the decisions I make, are appropriate for my personal growth and my evolution. And that's really helped me on my journey of leaving my country of origin and finding my way in very different places and different cultures and with different people
From your experience and experiences you hear from the people interview, and the book you've wrote, is there any particular advice you will give to people that wants to emigrate, wants to move to a new country?
Probably, to not do it like ideas, which is that you should probably plan and do your research as well. And obviously, these days, borders are far more wintered. So it is best to make sure that you have the right visa or the to have all your appropriate paperwork. And of course, we're talking about a very privileged situation. Because if you're a refugee, that's a very different situation. And the privilege we have is that we can do all that research that we can consider where we might like to immigrate to, would have been through our work, or would it be through a love we've met, perhaps your or they call them and they love pet, someone who moves for a relationship. So doing your research, getting your paperwork in order, getting your visas organized, one of the things that I touched on is that in fact, I did a little bit of tutoring, before I left the US in Portuguese so that I did have some basic Portuguese when I arrived, I also visited a number of times before I made the decision to move, I also correlated or put together in a little library on Portuguese history. So I read a lot. So all of that I think, prepared me well. And I think preparedness is a great way to arrive in the destination point. Certainly in my wisdom is I would say that. In my younger years, I would have thought that we were just going to go I'll figure it out when I get there. But I don't think that's a wise thing to do these days. The crossing borders is just way more challenging.
Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much. And if people wants to get in touch with you wants to learn more about you or maybe they resonate with your story wants to ask you more questions, maybe a question that didn't cover in this episode, where people can find you.
They can find me on Facebook and expat writer Louise Ross. Well, they can find me on Instagram louiserosswriter.
Also perfect. And as usual, the links will be in the show notes. One thing we decided to do this week, because your books are very close to what we do with this podcast, like sharing people's stories of immigrant stories and learn from the stories, we decided to give away one of your books, could be the woman books, the woman walk, that's the title of woman walk, or the men books is the winding road to Portugal. So we decided to give away one of these books and leave a review on Apple podcasts or pot chaser. And we'll select one of the people that have left their review and we give away one of your books.
Right. I think that's a great idea, Daniel, because of course, it's really necessary these days to get the reviews to help you work your way up in the algorithms, isn't it?
Yeah, it was totally multiple reasons why I'm asking people to leave a review. One is for the algorithm. So more people can find this podcast because gonna show up upper and the rank. But also just to figure out if what I'm doing is it's something good to people that enjoy or maybe I'm not covering part that people are looking for when they're moving abroad. These like reviews they're just like a feedback for me to understand if I'm doing a good job or not. So it's a way for me to learn. Yeah, it's always welcome. I just received one that day that just made my day. Just Yeah. Yeah, I don't do this for the reviews, but definitely helped my energy level to carry on and do it. And yeah, I don't want to complain about working full time sometimes can be challenging to run a podcast, this little things just give me the motivation to carry on and do my best.
Yes, it will. It's fantastic. As I said in the right at the beginning, I just I love what you're doing because gathering the the oral histories of the people that you interview is it's a significant project and an important project given that we're living in interesting times. So good on you. I think it's great, Daniel.
Oh, thank you. I really appreciate that. It definitely made me like a more humble person and more empathetic person just to hear and these stories just put my life and my experience in a completely different perspective. It's been a like eye opening experience since I started this podcast,
Yes, it does. listening to people does help you put your life in perspective, I think. So thank you. Thank you very much for having me on. And it's been a great conversation.
Yes, yes. It was great to like connecting with you and I know you're already a bit better. It was a pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story.
Thank you so much. Bye bye.
Thank you so much for tuning in this week. You can find the show notes with everything discussed at emigrantslife/episode37 and if you want to be on the show, you can visit emigrantslife.com/yourstory. Thanks again for listening, doctor. Next one Ciao
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