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Longing to Travel

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5 Must-Experience Adventures in Sweden

As you’ve heard, we’re moving to Lund, Sweden for the next two years! In addition to all the boring stuff we have to do (like packing), we get to do some really fun stuff like purchase guidebooks and start our Sweden Bucketlist! In fact, we’ve already started our list. Check it out below!

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Packing for an International Move: 3 Must-Read Resources

A few weeks ago, I announced our move to Lund, Sweden in August. With only a few weeks left, I’m in preparation mode. The most common question I get asked is: “How are you going to take all your stuff?”, The answer is simple: I won’t.Continue Reading →

Grad School in Europe: Masters in Lifelong Learning: Policy & Management (MA LLL)

I have mentioned my grad school program a lot, but never took the time to explain exactly what it was or what I did. Check out the infographic below to learn more about this transformative experience.

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The Ultimate Urban Exploration Packing List

It‘s no surprise that the overwhelming majority of my travel has been to urban destinations.  Whether it’s Dubrovnik, Istanbul or Beijing, I’m pumped and ready to explore every square inch of each city. I want to see, eat and experience everything. But experiencing a city like a local takes a lot of planning. Other than what to see, what routes to take and, of course, where to eat, the single most important part of travel planning is packing the right things. That’s right. Forgetting an umbrella can make or break a trip, as can sunburn, sea sickness or an uncharged camera.
So before you pack for your next urban escape, check out this list of must-pack items. You wont be disappointed.
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Transitioning from the Outside, In

Some ask me why I constantly hit the reset button on life and commit myself to living (for extended periods of time) in cultures and places I know nothing about. This is my response to those people.
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10 Languages That Are Easier To Master For English Speakers

This week I’m excited to have Kristy Megan share some tips on language learning for English speakers. Kristy is a foreign language educator and a consultant who provides coursework help to international students writing academic paper in English, as well as blogs tips and tricks to help students learn foreign languages on their own.
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Learning new languages cannot only improve your mental power but it can also impress others around you. However, learning new languages can be very intimidating for many. If you are an English speaker, then there is no need for you to be afraid. There are lots of languages that share their origin with English language and you can get the hang of new languages in no time. Here are ten languages that you should try out.

ITALIAN

A lot of Italian words are interchangeable with English. If you add an extra vowel at the end of English words, you get the Italian versions instead. For example, “forest” in English is “foresta” in Italian. If you want to learn Italian online, check out One World Italiano.

FRENCH

French is another language with interchangeable words with English. The only difference is the reduction of words instead of addition. For example, “chocolate” and “rice” in English is “chocolat” and “riz” in French. If you want to learn French online, check out Babbel.

GERMAN

English is considered as a Germanic language in origins. English words share their origins with German language making it a very easy language to learn. For example, “scientific” in English is “scientifik” in German language. German only seems hard because of the spellings, the words are pronounced similarly.

DUTCH

Dutch language is a cousin language of German. The structure of Dutch language is very similar to English. “The Old Man” in English can be read as “de oude man” in Dutch language for example. If you are interested in Dutch language, you can find online courses very easily.

SWEDISH

If you can master the four extra vowels, learning Swedish language is a breeze for English speakers. There is no hassle of grammar, the words are quite similar to English language and the language itself is practically melodious. Babbel also offers Swedish language courses online.

SPANISH

Romantic languages such as French, Italian and Spanish all share their origins with English. Spanish is a beautiful language with many cognate words, which makes it a simple language to learn. Over 37% of employees working in organizations have considered Spanish as a useful language due to its availability in three continents.

PORTUGUESE

With the amount of people becoming interested in the South American countries, the Portuguese language is also gaining popularity. The language is quite similar to Spanish, thus easier for English Speakers to master. You can learn it online at Easy Portuguese.

AFRIKAANS

Afrikaans might be unheard of but this language is very similar to the English language and easy to learn. Moreover, there are no tenses associated. Everything is plain and simple. If you do not understand something, you can ask “Wat is dit?” and you have scored yourself some Afrikaans.

ROMANIAN

European languages all share dialect in one way or another. This is probably because their ancestors are the same. Romanian language is again similar to English and other European dialects making it easier to learn. You can teach yourself some Romanian online at Romanian Lessons.

NORWEGIAN

Norwegian language is also a cousin language of German, Dutch and Danish languages. For this reason, it is quite easy to learn. Although spoken less frequently, you can always impress your colleagues and, perhaps, earn a business trip or two to Norway.


Learning languages is not hard once you master the flow of it. Not only does it increase your skills, but it also helps your career with that boost you need to move forward. Having command of one or two language is very common, but having strong verbal and written skills in several languages would be an additional bonus.


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Have you tried learning any of these languages? If so, what was your experience?

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

GLOBAL LIFE UPDATE
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During our year in Turkey, we spent lots of time reflecting on where we were at and where we wanted to be. For those of us in our early 30’s, planning for the future is no joke. We have to seriously think about saving for a house, retirement (yes, RETIREMENT!), aging parents and starting a family! You can easily get away with not caring in your 20s (although that’s strongly discouraged), but in your 30s, it’s wise to plan ahead.

For my husband and I, we yearn for further advancement in our careers, growing our family and, of course, more travel! So after lots of hard work, dreaming, saving money and planning…our dream came true.

We're Moving - Swedish Flag - Copyright Longing to Travel

Yup. That’s right. We’re moving. AGAIN! Over the next months, I’ll reveal what we’ll be doing in Sweden and how it’s all possible–financially, professionally and logistically.


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What are you doing to make your dreams come true?

When Working for Free is Your Best Career Move

Over the years, I’ve accepted paid and unpaid positions and plan to continue this trend in the years to come. But with nearly a decade of professional experience and a master’s degree under my belt, some might wonder why I’d ever accept unpaid opportunities. This post explains my logic.
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Learn New Skills
If you’re wise, you’re always reading up on your field and trying to identify the new tools and skills necessary for success in your area. Since an employer is less likely to hire you for a position you have no experience in, unpaid work opportunities will give you a chance to not only learn new skills, but build up a track record you can reference in job interviews.

Expand Your Network
With each new experience comes new networking opportunities. And what better way than by volunteering your time and connecting with a whole new group of people. Think about it. There’s your new boss, your new co-workers, clients, companies your organization works with, etc. That’s a whole lot of networking!

Stay Inspired
Many of us are stuck in a place where we aren’t yet earning money from our passions. Until that day comes (and it will), you have to stay inspired. Taking on unpaid work is a great way to do what you love on a regular basis.

Avoid a Gap on Your Resume
When you live a nomadic life, you’re constantly moving around and starting over. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave from one job and immediately start another. But the reality is that most of us don’t. To avoid those unwanted gaps in your resume, consider taking on freelance or unpaid work. As long as the experience is relevant to your field, it won’t be a problem that it’s unpaid.

Developing Expertise
Having said that, the reality is that, while avoiding gaps in your resume is extremely important, it’s even more critical to develop expertise in one or two professional areas. When you travel and move, you’re constantly changing jobs and locations, which may make employers question your expertise. By complimenting paid work with unpaid work in your field, you strengthen your professional profile. This will allow you to continue developing yourself into an expert in the field and round out your professional profile while continuing your globetrotting life.

EXPERT TIP: If money is a concern, only take on part-time unpaid work and use your other time for paid work which may not enhance your resume. When you organize your resume, replace ‘Work Experience’ and ‘Volunteer Experience’ with ‘Relevant Experience’ and list all your paid and unpaid experiences there. Remember, your resume is to showcase your skills as they relate to the job you’re applying for. It’s not meant to be a time line of all your paid work experiences.

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What are some other benefits of unpaid opportunities?

Creating a Life You Love: 3 Resources to Get Started

In the last two months, I’ve had several conversations with people who were deeply unhappy and felt stuck in life. When I asked them why they were unhappy, they began explaining the reasons why. When I asked them what their perfect life looked like, surprisingly, they couldn’t articulate it it to me.
They knew why they were unhappy, but couldn’t tell me what would make them happy.
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More often than not, my clients and readers contact me with hopes that I can solve their problems or even that I’ll show them a bit of sympathy. The truth is, while I sympathize with those who find themselves in situations less than ideal, it is amazing to me that those same individuals haven’t given thought to what they want out of life. Living a fulfilling life requires intentional action and discipline. It never happens overnight, but it is possible.

If you’re stuck and want to get unstuck, I recommend these articles about identifying your dream life and setting goals to get there:

How Will You Spend the Next 20,075 Days?

From Dreams to Reality: Design Your Global Life in Just 5 Steps

3 Steps to Global Lifestyle Design: Visualize.Document.Create.

If you like the links above and want to design your personal plan, consider a private Global Lifestyle Design session with me!

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What is one thing you could do right now which would get you one step closer to your ideal life?

Letter from the Editor: A New Chapter Awaits

Howdy Travel Addicts!

I’ve been MIA for awhile, but I haven’t forgotten about you. In March, we left our amazing adventure Teaching English in Turkey and headed on a 23-day trip westward. We spent our time exploring the Adriatic cities of Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, attending a research seminar in Italy and visiting family England. Upon return to the USA, we spent time visiting family and friends in the Midwest.

Two month later, here’s where we’re at:

We’re readjusting to life in the US. While it’s amazing to be close to family and friends, it’s a bit awkward to answer the extremely loaded and complex question “How was Turkey?”. I still haven’t written about your experience post-departure because I’m still struggling to find the words to accurately express how the experienced changed me.

We’re dabbling in freelance work. Between odd jobs here and there, continuing to grow Longing to Travel, pubic speaking engagements, helping others grow their business and simply taking on work to learn new skills, we’re staying busy. We deeply miss our students and colleagues and Turkey and have unsuccessfully attempted to fill that void by taking on teaching ESL lessons here in the US. So far, it doesn’t even compare to the incredible relationships we built with our students over the course of the last year. But we’re staying open-minded.

We’re preparing for our next adventure. I can’t quite spill the beans yet, but we have some BIG news to share. Our lives will drastically change (again!) and we’re over the moon about it. As in all things, this next chapter will bring about great joys and challenges, test our courage and strength, and, above all, help us contribute to the world around us. Stay tuned. You won’t want to miss this announcement.

With that, I want to thank everyone who has supported Longing to Travel over the past year and half. I have had the opportunity to work with many individuals wanting to live an authentic life of travel, which is non-traditional and complex in nature. To all of you out there, don’t give up. Dream BIG. Stay focused. It’s possible because I.AM.LIVING.OUR.DREAM. And you can too!

– Pouneh Eftekhari, Founder at Longing to Travel

My Big Fat Iranian-American, Baha’i-Catholic Wedding

I grew up with many cultural influences in my life as well as multiple religious influences. This blend of cultures an religions has been a blessing and part of my identity. It even because the pillars for planning my wedding and marriage.
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A little Background

I was raised in Wisconsin with the teachings of The Bahá’í Faith, the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad. The central theme of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society.

My upbringing in my predominantly all-white, Christian region of Wisconsin was complimented by the traditions of the Iranian culture–language, food and music. While there are too many things to write about the Iranian culture, let’s just say I came home from school once to find a slow-cooker full of sheep’s brain. No joke. So as you can imagine, growing up was a juggling act between regular kid problems and managing these cultural and religious differences.


Boy Meets Girl and then Get Married

Fast forward to college where I met my now husband. I wish our story was as simple as ‘Boy Meets Girl and then Get Married’, but it was not. Boy met girl. Boy dated girl. Boy and girl moved to opposite ends of the planet for a few years, then found one another again and got engaged. While the details of this almost decade-long relationship aren’t important, what is important is to acknowledge that I found the most Midwest guy who, incredibly enough, embraced my multi-layered identity so much that sometimes I think he’s more me than I am!

While I make jokes about my life until now,, it has truly been a blessing having these different cultural and religious influences in my marriage. In fact, it even made our wedding and marriage more colorful that I could have ever imagined.

Marriage and Family Life
Bahá’ís understand that the family is the basic unit of society. Unless this all-important building block is healthy and unified, society itself cannot be healthy and unified. Bahá’u’lláh said marriage is “a fortress for well-being and salvation.” The Bahá’í writings further state that married couples should strive to become “loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity…”. The process of preparation [for marriage] includes a requirement for parental approval of the choice of a spouse. This does not mean that Bahá’í marriages are arranged. Individuals propose marriage to the persons of their own choice. However, once the choice is made, the parents have both the right and the obligation to weigh carefully whether to give consent to, and thus guide, their offspring in one of life’s most important decisions. Bahá’ís believe that this requirement helps to preserve unity within the marriage–and within the extended family.

Bride and Groom - Iranian_American_Bahá'í_Catholic Wedding - Copyright Longing to Travel

Our wedding was a mix of all the various parts of us: Iranian, American, Bahá’í and Catholic. We chose parts of each culture/religion and adapted it into what made our wedding ceremony uniquely us.

Sofreh Aghd - Iranian_American_Bahá'í_Catholic Wedding - Copyright Longing to TravelWe chose to get married in front of a sofreh aghd, a traditional Iranian wedding spread. There are various items one can include as part of the sofreh aghd, which represent different things like fertility, health, wealth, love, etc.

Wedding Ceremony - Iranian_American_Bahá'í_Catholic Wedding - Copyright Longing to TravelWe also incorporated another Iranian tradition which is calls for a piece of fabric to be held (by women) over the heads of the bride and groom. The tradition calls for happily married women to grind cones of sugar over the heads of the bride and groom in order to ‘shower them with sweetness’. (Don’t worry, the cloth was over our heads, so no sugar fell on us!)

Simple Vows and Ceremony

“We will all, verily, abide by the will of God.”

Following these traditional Iranian customs, we chose to incorporate a few spiritual readings from both the Bahá’í and Catholic scriptures. In The Bahá’í Faith, the marriage requires only the simplest of ceremonies. In the presence of two witnesses designated by the local Bahá’í governing council, the couple recites the following verse: “We will all, verily, abide by the will of God.” Beyond these simple requirements, Bahá’ís are free to design their own marriage celebration. Depending on personal tastes, family resources, and cultural traditions, Bahá’í ceremonies run the gamut from small to large, including all manner of music, dance, dress, food and festivity.

Eftekhari-Brandon - 2012-09-29-

After that, in true American and Iranian style, we celebrated! There was food, a father-daughter/mother-groom dance, our first dance and of course an all-night dance party which included music from around the world.



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Have you been to a wedding that incorporated other cultural or religious elements?
If so, we want to hear your stories and see your pictures!


For more information about the Baha’i Faith, visit: www.bahai.org

(Italicized Content Adapted From Here.)

Why Saying Goodbye Never Gets Easier

FACT: I have moved 14 times in the past 12 years…with at least another move scheduled for late 2015!
To say that I’m an expert at moving is quite the understatement. I’ve learned to pack a carry-on for a 10 day trip; a medium-sized suitcase for a year abroad; and, like a game of Tetris, have learned to pack up a whole apartment into just a few boxes. What I have yet to master is the art of saying farewell to people I’ve met while living abroad.
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Until you’ve lived abroad for a considerable amount of time (longer than just a year abroad), you can never fully understand how much the community you’re surrounded by impacts your global experience. It’s those people—the generous and hospitable people who welcome you into their lives–that make it impossible for me to leave my home abroad with dry eyes. Leaving Turkey was no exception…here’s why:

Living Abroad is Like Being a Child Again
No matter how old you are, how experienced you are or how adaptable you think you are…you’re not. When you move to a new place, you have a whole new infrastructure, set of social norms, language and culture to learn. This means you’re back at step one, trying to figure out how to do basic things like buying shoelaces, ordering still instead of sparkling water and asking for directions. But with the help of friends, colleagues and, more often than not, kindhearted strangers, you will learn the ropes quickly.

Signing Documents Written in a Foreign Language Can Be Daunting
When you live abroad, you have to set-up a ‘real life’. This means finding a home, setting up utilities, registering with the local authorities, etc. Without the help of our friends and coworkers, I wouldn’t have had an easy transition into my new life abroad. I couldn’t have imagined singing official documents (i.e., immigration documents, housing or cell phone contracts, etc.) without the reassurance of a local I trusted. I also couldn’t have imagined trusting a doctor’s diagnosis without the stamp of approval from a local I knew held the same standards as I, an American, did.

Everyone get’s homesick. Everyone.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived abroad. Sometimes you just miss home.  I’ve found the times I miss home the most are when I am abroad and alone. Especially at night. So when the locals invite to me out for a coffee, to see a movie or to go for a walk, it’s those times when I feel less homesick. In Turkey we found nothing but gracious hosts who showed us the true meaning of Turkish hospitality. Whether it was our student who invited us into her home to break the fast during Ramadan; our co-worker who accompanied us to the many governmental offices to sort out or visa situation…on her day off, no less; the shopkeeper who gave us a whole cake for free simply because we were ‘guests in his country'; or countless other encounters we had with locals, it’s safe to say that we encountered enough hospitality to last a lifetime. These encounters made us feel like we were part of the local culture and community. An that made all the difference.

I’ve said it before, but it’s true: travel reminds me that the world is made up of good people. The more I travel, the more this is confirmed. But the only way I can continue meeting these amazingly kind souls is by saying goodbye to the one’s I already know. The one’s who have helped make so many places my home. This is why it never gets easier to say goodbye.


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What makes saying goodbye difficult for you?

America’s Greatest Achievement: The Reason I Love My Country

Most who know me well have endured my many lectures about how (insert any European country’s name here) is ‘doing it right’ or how my country, The United States, could ‘learn a thing or two’ from (insert another European–most likely Scandinavian–country’s name here). What I seldom say, but should shout from the rooftops, is that there is one thing that happens in the US that I’ve never seen happen anywhere else in the world. Something so incredible, yet nearly unattainable by other countries in the world. Yes. Even by other western countries.
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So what do we, the USA, have that every other country should actually try to mimic (as opposed to our terrible food habits, consumerism and other obnoxious things I try to escape from by living abroad but sadly encounter everywhere I go)?

It’s the ability to be you–both in ethnicity and nationality.

For someone like me whose parents sought asylum in the US 35 years ago, I was raised with dual and often competing cultural norms. In my home, it was all things Iranian: speaking Farsi, drinking tea and celebrating ancient traditions, like NoRooz (which happens this Friday! Happy NoRooz everyone!). Outside of my home, it was all things American: eating burgers, going to school dances and working hard to achieve The American Dream. For a long time I’ve felt grateful for having been raised with two different cultures since it allowed me to incorporate the best of both cultures into my everyday life. But that wasn’t always the case.

Before my first experience living abroad, I had felt as though I didn’t quite fit in with either culture. I was neither fully American nor fully Iranian. Once abroad, I felt at ease since there was no expectation to belong. It was this pressure-free situation that allowed me to relax and just be myself. Perhaps this was the underlying reason I chose to spend so many years living abroad.

I could be as much or as little of either culture as I wanted to…and no one cared. Or so I thought.

Recently, I realized something. When I’d traveled or lived abroad, especially in Europe and the Middle East, my perception of the situation was false. Although it’s true that I didn’t have to fit in, the local population didn’t see me as I saw myself. When I’m at home or abroad, in my mind, I’m both Iranian and American. All.of.the.time. But when I’m abroad, people see me as one or the other. Never both. And oftentimes, they completely ignore one part of my identity–usually the American side.

For example, I just spent the last year living in Turkey, where my husband and I taught English. Although it was clear that we were both native English teachers from America, my husband was often referred to as a real American and I was referred to as Iranian (Side Note: I’ve never been to Iran).

Just yesterday, here in Venice, the breakfast chef–a very sweet, Venetian man–asked us, “Where are you from?”.

I knew what he was asking, but I played dumb and answered, “I’m from Wisconsin“.

Then he asked again. This time I said “United States”.

He asked again, but before I could answer, he said “Where are you really from?”. 

Where am I really from? My standard response, which I can now say in 4 languages, is: “my parents are from Iran, but I was born in America”. He immediately smiled and then began a 15 minute conversation with me about Iran, it’s government, people and history.

It was like he didn’t hear me say that I was born in America.

I know that these conversations are all innocent in nature, non-aggressive and stem from a general curiosity about other people. In my 25+ years of travel to almost 30 countries, I have learned that I can only be Iranian-American in the United States of America. It seems trivial and maybe even stupid. But when your identity is questioned, rejected, or faced with unwelcomed modification, you too would feel a deeper sense of appreciation for growing up in a place which truly embraces all sides of you–even the parts which were in direct conflict with the social norms of your community.

So thank you to my country, The United States of America, for allowing me to be who I really am. It’s refreshing that I don’t have to explain myself when I’m home. I’m simply a Wisconsin girl with an interesting family background. And for that, I’m truly grateful.

This, my friends, is America’s greatest achievement.


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How are you/your identity received when you’re abroad?

A Year Abroad: TEFL, Turkey & Travel

My husband and I left Turkey exactly one week ago today. It’s incomprehensible to think about how quickly the time has passed from when we we boarded our flight to Turkey in 2014 to now. While summing up this experience into a few words is near impossible, the posts below from the past year will give a glimpse into what our experience was like.
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Have you ever lived abroad? If so, how do you explain your experience to others?

Sarajevo: The Jerusalem of Europe

On March 3rd, we left our friends and jobs in Turkey and set off for a once-in a-lifetime trip. Our Adriatic Adventure began with a stop in Sarajevo, Bosnia – The Jerusalem of Europe.
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Have you been to Sarajevo? What was your favorite memory?

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