Whale Guiding in Scotland!

 Elina  New home: Stornoway, Scotland         Home city & country: Enköping, Sweden  Move date: June 2017

Elina

New home: Stornoway, Scotland       

Home city & country: Enköping, Sweden

Move date: June 2017

Why did you decide to move abroad?

While spending 3.5 months in Khao lak, Thailand as a snorkeling guide for dive company Raya divers I started to develop a big interest for whales and sharks. It all started after we saw a few Minke whales on one of our speed boat trips to Surin Islands, which were the first whales I had ever seen. They were massive! So much larger than any marine animal I had ever seen before. 

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats

Shortly after the encounter with the wonderful minke whales I really felt that I would like to work with whales and applying for a guide position for a whale watching-company felt really natural after the months I had spent guiding in Thailand. 

From my hostel room in Thailand I started to research possible countries that were good for whale watching, and soon decided that I would like to work in either Iceland or Scotland. These countries intrigued me the most because of their stunning landscapes (I'm a massive outdoor enthusiast), because I wanted to try a different climate than the tropical one I had been living in during the winter and a secret wish of seeing orcas. 

In the end Scotland ended up as the no. 1 country on my list and I literally googled "Scotland, whale watching" and tadaaaa, the no. 1 company that showed up as google results were Hebridean whale cruises, ranked as Scotlands no.1 whale watching company. I didn't see any available job positions on their website but decided to send them my CV and a cover letter, describing how much I would like to work for them and what I thought I would contribute to their company. 

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats

I didn't get a response straight away from the company so I was actually considering going to Iceland to work as a puffin guide (you know those cute tiny penguin-like birds!) because I had gotten a job offer but I decided to decline because I wasn't feeling it 100%. 

After a month or so I got an email from Nick, the manager of Hebridean whale cruises, telling me that they were actually in need of a guide because they were going to get access to a new, big boat this summer (lucky me!). He also offered me accommodation in one of the cabins on the boat. After emailing back and forth a few times I started to get a really good feeling about the job and told him that I would travel to Scotland as soon as I had finished my B.sc in Biology. 

About a week after my graduation I boarded a plane to Scotland and started my travel to the Outer Hebrides, Stornoway.

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats

How did you spend your First Month Abroad?

My first month abroad I spent trying to learn as much as I could about cetaceans, exploring the town-area and the nature around it. I had picnics in the parks, enjoyed the beautiful views of the Hebrides and discovered my favourite café An Lanntair (has the best mocca latté!).

Work was fantastic, during my first trip with Hebridean whale cruises I saw my first ever humpback whale. Some of the coolest species I've seen while working for Hebridean whale cruises were: Pod of Orcas (Wish coming true!!), humpback whale, Minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, risso's dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins, Atlantic white sided dolphins, puffins, white tailed eagle etc.! Literally a wildlife bonanza! On a half day trip we would normally expect to see 3 different species of dolphin and 1 whale specie - it was almost to good to be true!

I was also really lucky that my manager, Nick, who had been running the company for over 20 years was crazy knowledgeable about both birds and cetaceans, and how to spot them. He taught me loads.

During the first month we didn't have any wifi on the boat which kinda pushed me to entertain myself with other stuff and kinda brought out quite a creative side. I bought painting stuff and started to paint landscapes, I read books and actually wrote a manuscript of a children book regarding ocean conservation.

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats

What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?

The most surprising part about Scotland was that it was even more beautiful than I had imagined. The views, especially in the Outer Hebrides, take your breath away... but it is also VERY windy and quite cold (even for a hardcore Swede like me), so bring a windproof jacket and thick, cozy socks if you are going there for a visit.

I was also surprised of the huge amounts of cetaceans in the Hebrides, it was amazing. Every cetacean-lover should definitely go on a whale watching-trip there.

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats

Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?

The Scottish language was actually easier to understand than what I had expected. One thing took me a while to understand tho, the word "wee." For me is "wee" kinda similar to "pee, like "I'm going for a wee." Because of this I was kinda confused when everybody was saying stuff like "give me that wee mug!" "have you seen that wee bird" and to be honest it took me like a week to figure out that it meant small.

What are your favorite activities in your new town?

My favourite activity in my hometown is actually to work, because of all the amazing dolphins, whales, birds and seals you get to see! My favourite place to eat in Stornoway is no doubt the Thai Café & Takeaway, it taste exactly like the food you get in Thailand! I was so happily surprise after my first meal there, I strongly recommend their Pad thai. I would also like to recommend Lews Castle Grounds if you are going to Stornoway for visit, a really beautiful area right by the habour (were 5 grey seals are residents).

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What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?

Anyone visiting the Outer Hebrides I would advice to bring WARM and windproof clothes! Even if it's 15 degree Celsius in the air the winds from the Atlantic ocean makes it feel much colder.

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats

What is the one MUST SEE?

Anyone going to Scotland has to visit the Isle of Skye, my favourite part was the fairy pools. Two other amazing places is the Glenfinnan viaduct (especially if you're a Harry Potter fan) it takes you to the bridge the Hogwarts train passes in the movies and the city Ullapool. Ullapool is a stunning area surrounded by mountains and the sea, if you get the chance you should camp at the holiday park Broomsfield.

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats

What do you miss most about home?

My amazing boyfriend, friends and Swedish food.

What's next?

Next up is me starting my M.sc in marine biology at Stockholm University this autumn. This will hopefully lead to plenty more adventures involving the ocean and the marine life.

 First Month Abroad, Living Abroad, Life Abroad, Whales, Scotland, Whale guiding, Sweden, Thailand, Expat, Expats
 First Month Abroad, Life Abroad, Living abroad, Scotland, Sweden, Thailand

There are no Bakkies in Canada

 Leigh  New home: Barrhead, Canada           Home city & country: Cape Town, South Africa  Move date: November 2015

Leigh

New home: Barrhead, Canada         

Home city & country: Cape Town, South Africa

Move date: November 2015

Why did you decide to move abroad?

My husband is a doctor and a few of his colleagues had been discussing the option of moving to Canada to work, as it is generally quite easy for South African doctors to get jobs there. We hadn't really thought of moving until friends of ours started the process and we decided to do it too. There are many reasons why we decided that moving was the best decision for us -- we wanted to travel more, and we wanted a different citizenship -- all things that we would be able to do in Canada. We hadn't ever moved abroad before, even though we had traveled lots so it was definitely a new experience.

Snowy trees.jpg

How did you spend your First Month Abroad?

My first month abroad was still exciting. We explored our new city and even traveled nearby to the mountains and got engaged over Christmas time! For me, the first month was the easiest!

What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?

There are so many things! I actually wrote a very honest blog post all about what I realised since moving but mostly: I was surprised that I still experienced culture shock even though there wasn't a language barrier. I struggled to 'gel' with locals. I was also surprised at how I started glorifying home when I missed it. Forgetting all the problems we left behind and sometimes forgetting how blessed we were in our new country. But these are so normal. Moving is a huge adjustment and you always go through moments of missing your home country -- family & friends especially!

 First Month Abroad, Expats, Expat, Canada, South Africa, travel

Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?

My accent and pronunciation of certain words means that I often have to repeat myself! But we all laugh about it. There are also loads of South African slang words that I forget aren't internationally known so when I say things like "Bakkie" or "Braai" or "Robots" people usually look at me funny and then I have to quickly think of an alternative word for it.

 First Month Abroad, Expats, Canada, Move, Travel, South Africa

What are your favorite activities in your new town?

Because I live in a really small town, after moving from a really big, cosmopolitan city, it's tough to adjust into activities here so we usually drive into Edmonton just a few minutes away to try coffee shops, explore new shops and areas. We also enjoy going for walks along the river valley or hiking in the mountains nearby. I started my blog initially to document all our activities locally and encourage more people to explore their cities and find little hidden gems!

What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?

For tourists visiting Edmonton, I would advise them to come in the summer unless they're used to the cold! You would only need a few days to explore the city -- we have some amazing restaurants, an indoor water park; lots of outdoor activities; the Muttart Conservatory and some amazing art galleries -- it's quite a quirky, artsy city!

 First Month Abroad, Expats, Canada, Move, Travel, South Africa

What is the one MUST SEE?

Not sure I can decide on one must see in the city -- there's just too much! I personally love markets so I would suggest getting out and trying the outdoor market on 104th street Downtown in Edmonton. And once you've visited Edmonton, definitely head towards the mountains, to Banff!

 First Month Abroad, Expats, Canada, Move, Travel, South Africa

What do you miss most about home?

So much! Friends and family, definitely. But also the familiarity and being surrounded by like-minded people in terms of culture. They know how you speak and think. They know how to relate to you. And South Africans are extremely friendly and down to earth. It's always nice going home to our culture and friendly vibe.

What's next?

We will probably stay on for a while in Canada. No set plans to do anything as we know things change, and we can feel differently in a matter of a year. But for now, it's nice settling into normalcy. We will still continue to travel non-stop and who knows, we might find another city we would love to live in too! My husband, Craig, is obsessed with the English countryside so one day we might consider retiring there. We're open to anything! I think you learn that life can always surprise you.

 First Month Abroad, Expats, Canada, Move, Travel, South Africa

Space of infinite possibilities

I hope that people who move abroad realise that it is one of the hardest things to do and that at the same time, it can be one of the best blessings. If you can get through the hard times, you can come out stronger and happier!

To read more about Leigh's life in Canada, check out her blog The Globe Diary.

 First Month Abroad, Expat, Expats, Canada, South Africa

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