A Year Away from Home
It may seem like a daunting task or an abstract idea to move somewhere you’ve never been on a whim. Not knowing where you will be in a month’s time, not speaking the language, and basically experiencing everything for the first time is scary, but also really exciting.
Our goal was to have a home-base in Europe, somewhere central, so that travelling East or West by train, bus, or cheap flight would be possible. Our research for ways to live cheaply with maximum freedom led us to 3 options:
As former varsity athletes, we decided to pursue the sports option. In reality, not everyone will have this opportunity, but the other two options listed are similar enough to compare: you arrive, you live with a host family, you help out a bit if applicable, and you travel when you have breaks. Research and connections at home led us to Scorrd.com. While it is Field Hockey specific, there are similar sites available for other sports that we will link to at the bottom of this article.
At the start, we hoped for the best in finding a team but had back-up plans in case it didn’t happen for us. Scorrd had a few leads, but they all fizzled out or weren’t what we wanted. Luckily, we knew people in Canada that had played abroad and got into contact with someone in Germany. It’s not always easy to find a team that will take two players, especially when one is a goalie, but it happens often enough that the search is worth it!
After exchanging emails and sending resumes/footage of ourselves, we got an offer, found out what city we’d be playing in, and were told who would host us approximately 6 weeks before departure. It happened quickly: packing up our belongings, moving out, and saying goodbye to our loved ones. A preparation list on google docs between us helped a lot. You can open the app whenever you’re reminded of something you have to do/need before you go. Things that you may never think about until you have to include:
- visa documents
- unlock phone
- update debit/credit cards that may expire
- travel insurance
- squaring bills
- tax documents for the following year
One of the greatest parts of living with a host is that many of your everyday items will be waiting for you. Dishes, soaps, tools, linens, everything. Whenever you want to leave your basecamp, you do NEED a bag that fits the European standard carry-on. Flights on budget airlines have less room and amenities, but, no exaggeration, can cost as little as 10 euros if you don’t check a bag. The baggage check often costs more than the flight itself and bags that fit under the seat normally don’t cost extra. Also, cheap airlines don’t have the greatest reputations with luggage handling- it’s always better to carry your stuff.
Learning how to live in a different country is also easier with a host. Before you arrive, you can ask questions that even Google might not be able to answer which will save a ton of headaches and wasted time. If you need someone to translate a document properly, call a foreign office for you, explain local expectations, or show you how the transit system works, your host is always there. Living with a family also provides a large network. Neighbours, friends, and colleagues might need someone with skills you have, and if you need extra cash, these opportunities will be helpful. Make sure you tell others about yourself when asked, don’t be shy, and have a few CVs ready. A few people offered us small cash jobs in the first week. To extend, we were given so many tips in our first week in Hamburg by our families and teammates that we still haven’t managed to finish the list of “must see” places. Arriving fresh anywhere, even if there are only slight cultural differences, can cause stress and homesickness. If you’re afraid that you couldn’t do it or are contemplating the “what ifs,” that’s absolutely normal. One of our mottos in life is “if you don’t like it, leave.” The greatest part of travelling is the flexibility! Find places you do like and cherish them… the world is wide and sometimes a little bump causes a big adventure.