Today’s guest post is from Alison at http://cheeseweb.eu, a very cool expat blogger. I especially liked this post for the insight into expat life, but also a new twist on the “Why Blog?” debate. Once you’re done reading this be sure to check out her excellent photography here.
When I started blogging, I wasn’t trying to make money on-line or become famous. In fact, I never expected anyone other than my friends and family would read it. But now, I’m pretty sure that blogging saved my expat life.
I moved to Belgium five years ago as a trailing spouse. My husband and I decided together that we wanted to try living in Europe. The opportunity came up sooner than we expected, when his company offered to move us to Brussels. Legalities being what they are in Belgium, I was unable to get a work-permit as the trailing spouse, so my days were filled with getting our new life settled.
Back then, blogging wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, and I didn’t know much about it, but I got tired of writing the same things and answering the same questions in a dozen e-mails. I had learned basic web design and HTML in school so I decided to start a website to share stories and photos with my friends and family back home.
My blog posts were basically extended letters. I didn’t think much about grammar or structure. My posts didn’t have a topic other than what I had been up to since the last time I wrote. I never expected anyone that didn’t know me would bother much with my blog.
In those first few months, I wrote only about happy things – new places we travelled to, new discoveries we made, etc.
The shiny newness of expat life wore off pretty quickly though. The reality was I was mired in mountains of Belgian bureaucracy and red-tape. We had no support from my husband’s company; we didn’t speak the language; we knew no one and we lived in a small community with limited public transportation. I spent most of my days feeling isolated and depressed and wondering what the hell I had done.
I didn’t want to burden my family and friends with my woes. Honestly, I felt like a failure for being depressed in the first place. I mean, I was living in Europe after all. Something that is a dream for most people was my reality. Except most days it felt more like a nightmare.
I turned to the blogosphere for help. Although there weren’t many expat blogs based in Belgium at that time, I found some blogs written by expat women in other countries who were writing about the exact feelings I was having. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone and it gave me the courage to write about what I was really experiencing.
It was scary to put my stress, struggles and depression out there, but instead of scorn for my whining, I started to get email and comments from other women in my situation. Some were already in Belgium, some were planning an expat move and all of them had similar fears and worries as me.
I was contacted by an expat news website in Belgium and asked to do a weekly column about my experiences in Belgium. Through that column, even more trailing spouses contacted me and encouraged me to keep writing and sharing.
It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually things got better. Because of my blog, I met people, I had an outlet for my stress and worry and I had a sense of purpose. Blogging and the support of my readers gave me the courage to pursue my career as a photographer.
Five years later, my blog and my life have changed dramatically. First of all, we have both moved out of isolation – me to the centre of Brussels and my blog to its own domain.
CheeseWeb is now much less focused on my day to day life and more on expat life in general. It covers a range of topics about life and travel in Belgium. I have guest posters on different topics from art to technology and I write about many different travel destinations around Europe.
Blogging opened so many doors for me in the early months of my expat life and continues to today. I honestly believe that blogging saved my expat life.
About the author:
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a garden and travel lifestyle photographer based in Brussels. Her website, CheeseWeb has grown into a resource for expats in Belgium as well as a guide for interesting places to visit, eat and shop, but first and foremost it remains personal journal of one expat wife, making her way in a foreign land.