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Month: January 2019

Life as an Expat In Austin Texas :Part 1


Life as an Expat in Austin, Texas. Its just gone 1 year to this day when we packed our worldly possessions and headed for a new life here in the States.

Life has been full of surprises, hurdles or bumps as you’d say but its been full of opportunities and definitely completely different to how we lived in Ireland.

Lots of you have requested this post and want to know why we moved and what does one need to do when making the move…let me begin by telling you why we moved.

When we lived in Ireland, Hubbie traveled a lot, I’m talking the majority of the month (every month) he was gone, as in 2 weeks out of 4. His work required him to be all over Europe, Middle East, Africa and sometimes the states, which may sound glamorous but its quiet the opposite. At first when the kids were small they didn’t seem to notice as much but gradually as they got older they began to understand. And with understanding they started to miss their dad more and more, especially once the eldest started school…it was hard on everyone, Hubbie missed school events or family events and it wasn’t nice for anyone.  So when an opportunity came for him to move within the company to do the same position in the states, it made sense. My question to him before we made the decision was “Will it stop all the travelling?” and once it was “Yes” that made our minds up.

There was a lot to consider before moving, missing Family and Friends was a huge part. It was exciting initially but as the departure date loomed and everything was packed it was absolutely terrifying too.

We were scared for our kids as to where we were bringing them to, the dangers they are exposed to here in the States, that we wouldn’t be faced with in Ireland (but I’ll go into that in a little detail in my part two post) plus the guilt of taking them away from everything they know, friends and family, cousins and everything else in between.

So before relocating and making the big move make a short trip to your destination. It allows you get a feel for the place and the different areas and neighborhoods.

I did this in October before we moved finally in January. It will be exhausting but worthwhile, as you can decide on an area and in my case, schools. But there is more on that below…

 First up once the decision is made to move to the states, your company will usually organise the VISA and paperwork as they will be sponsoring you. They may offer a relocation package. Check before going (and accepting any contract) if the company contribute towards health insurance (very important to have it in the states see below) A relocation package might include organizing and paying for a moving company to help you migrate/relocate and bring furniture etc (check with your company as some don’t do this). I’d highly recommend a moving company as it makes the move a little less stressful. They will pack and unpack everything, you will not be expected to lift a finger. (initially I didn’t believe this but its true they packed my whole wardrobe, hanging pictures absolutely everything). You’ll have two types of shipping, one by air freight and one by cargo.

Air freight should contain the absolutely essentials you will need to get you through until your cargo arrives. Air freight arrives 2 or 3 weeks after you have landed in the states. For me I packed enough clothes to get us through and some kitchen utensils and towels bedding etc we’d need. Bare in mind the house you rent will not be kitted out, it will be completely empty. There will be no Appliances (there will be a cooker but a fridge is not a guarantee neither is a washer and dryer so double check this when viewing houses!!)

The cargo arrives about a month or 5 to 6 weeks after you land in the states, its definitely a relief when you finally get the cargo as all your belongings are in there, family photos, furniture, bikes, you name it!!

For us we decided to use a facilities company here in the states, to kit out the house before we arrived. What they do is rent to you, absolutely everything you need to function in a house for the month until your own cargo arrives. Its very clever and they think of everything, including appliances such as irons hoovers, clothes hangers, cooking utensils, coffee makers everything you would need. Its well worth looking into it.

Before making the move, make sure that you have enough finance in your savings or that you have Irish credit. You will have to pay everything by cash as you will have Zero credit rating when you land and move to the states to live. It takes a year to build this up. So you’ll need a deposit for renting a house and the first months rent. We had to buy all our furniture or anything we needed for the house by cash, so you can imagine how that can all add up. Cars will also have to be bought by cash, although a lot of Expats use a leasing company to get their cars initially. That will still need a holding deposit of about $4K along with insurance which costs twice as much here due to having an Irish drivers licence. For our 2 cars we pay $5000 yearly on insurance.

Bear in mind too you will have to replace all your kitchen appliances or any electronic appliances as our Irish ones don’t work in the states, so you will need plenty of cash! Its so important to be aware of all this.

Get your driving license!! As soon as you can and are comfortable enough with driving on the opposite side of the road apply for your driving test. Although it is legal to drive on your Irish licence, most places look for Drivers license for everything. From collecting a simple online order, volunteering at the school,  to buying something like furniture etc on credit in a store. The main purpose and wanting to get a US licence is if you don’t have it,  you are penalized by car insurance company’s. They will charge you almost $1000 more than what you d pay if you had a US drivers licence. In Texas you need to redo the whole driving license procedure, as in knowledge test, video impact test, eye test and driving test, regardless if you have a full Irish driving test.

And so back to finding the house/area you want to live in. Find a good realtor that can help navigate areas for you, ours was excellent, instead of showing us houses or viewing houses, before we arrived in October on our short trip, he emailed us a list of houses in different areas, we narrowed down the houses we liked the look of. Before viewing a single house on our list, our realtor, for the first day, made us drive around all the areas of our preferred houses on the list, we wanted to view along with checking out the nearest schools in that area. It was an excellent idea as we got a good feel for the area and in our case the size of the school for our kids before even viewing the houses we liked. It saved us falling in love with a house but not the area.

One thing I found is area and school size was more important than the house for me. Safety was my main concern and a small school my priority. (some schools as in primary schools (elementary) go up to 1000+ students which is quiet overwhelming for a 5 year old coming from a small Irish country school. This exercise also saved us wasting time on Day 2 viewing beautiful houses that were not in the right locations due to schools or not ticking our requirements due to the area.

Write down before your trip the things that are important or top priority to you for the type of area you want to live in, i.e safety, amenities, location, scenery, schools etc. It will narrow down your choices and make the final decision easy. When you see a house you like, you need to apply to rent it and there is a fee to apply, this will cost $100 per application so be certain its what you want, and even when you apply you can still miss out on the house. It can get frustrating as your fee will not be refunded. But don’t be discouraged. (we lost out on 3 houses but the house we are now in is ideal and in a lovely community and less than a 2 min walk to school).

Once you arrive set up a bank account as soon as possible, the bank will also give you an option for a secured credit card (what that means is you pay for the credit card, you need a deposit of a minimum of $300 upwards) take this option as it will help you to begin to build your scores for credit rating.

What we have learnt the hard way and another top priority, is get all your utility bills set up in your name immediately almost as soon as you land. You need to physically go into the water company and electrical company offices and sign up the house account in your name and pay a deposit. You simply cannot do this over the phone (as we thought we could do initially). We didn’t do this straight away (we thought we could just call them up and sign up via telephone) and our water got cut off, it takes 12 hours for them to connect the water supply so for us it took 24 hours. 24 hours without water is not fun!!

If your company pay towards your health insurance, then register yourself with their recommended Doctors near to the area you live, its important to get all cards etc sorted. Every company is different so check with them what your health insurance cover is and what you need to contribute to it, it will save you a lot of medical and dentist expenses. Health insurance is very important, without it here in the States, it can become very expensive very quickly especially with kids.

Speaking of Kids if you have children, they need to have more immunizations here in the States than they would have at home. So even if you are up to date in Ireland, there is extra ones they need here (about 6 or 8 extra I think in total). Schools in the states will not let you begin school until all immunizations are completed.

It is hard at the start because there is so much to organise but you are also missing your family and friends and feeling incredibly homesick. But once all of the above is done you will settle into things and begin to explore and understand your area you live in. There is a lot of differences here in Texas some I never considered before moving but that’s for another post, the part two

Send any questions you have or if what you want to know other areas apart from the differences etc with Texas , message me and I will cover them all in part two…

Until then




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Travelling and Exploring around New Mexico


Travelling around America is a completely different experience to travelling around Europe …for one I’m not living on an island and have to grab a plane to get to a different destination…for Americans you jump in the car!! Ok so now i totally understand the meaning of “Roadtrip!”over here!

Roadtrips stateside usually consist of long drives as in 12 hours 14 hours, the magic is these types of distances don’t seem to phase them. Its a big country and Texas is an even bigger state, to get out of the state from Austin alone takes 6 hours, so we decided to embrace this driving to a destination.  And so for our Christmas break we took a 10hr 44 mins roadtrip to Santa Fe..wheres that I hear you ask…Why none other than New Mexico…Now granted these roadtrips are not done all in 1 day, most people like to break them up, so that’s exactly what we did.

Our trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico was broken up by two stops, and spread out over 2 days for the journey to get there. We drove a 8 hr journey from Austin to Roswell, having a quick food/coffee break along the way . (We traveled with our two kids so brought plenty of snacks, drinks and numerous chargers and electronics ie ipads and mobile phones not to mentioned downloaded all kids music theme songs which entertained them for most of the car ride. They tried to guess the movie the song was from and also sang along) The kids are unbelievable driving long distances so we are very lucky.

The beauty of this trip  was free accommodation using points, my husband due to all his travelling for work (before we moved to the states) has built up a huge number of points with different hotels, hence most of the hotels were paid by points and it saved us a lot of money. Always keep this in mind when travelling with work to book into hotel chains that do point systems as it might pay for a few nights if you decide to go on a weekend break or holiday.

We stopped over in Roswell for 2 nights, the 1st night we arrived late so it was basically dinner and bedtime. Roswell as you know is famed for an alleged 1947 UFO crash, so the next morning we aimed to visit the International UFO Museum. We stopped off at the Chaves County Courthouse which is an impressive building and the snow that had fallen that night was an added bonus.

Its a nice town but not a lot happening there. However it was perfect for us to stop off and take a rest after all the driving. The UFO museum is both entertaining and interesting and the kids loved it.

After our second night in Roswell, we took our journey further up to Albuquerque, the journey which should have only taken 3 hours to drive, took in fact 5 hours due to the winter snow storm that blew in overnight. The roads were treacherous and had we known how bad they were we perhaps wouldn’t have gone. It was most definitely an experience, with lots of abandoned cars, trucks and even Boats on the sides of roads, or out in fields!!

Coming into Albuquerque, the drive into the city was beautiful with the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains, we spent a  night here and had a wander around the district area known as Nob Hill (that was a cool artistic street), and has been described as “The heart of Albuquerques Route 66 culture”.  For me Albuquerque was just like any other large town you would pass through in the states, I think I was expecting a little bit more of a small town feel. I do know they run cable carts up the mountain at certain periods of the year and they also have an amazing balloon festival around October time, so it might be more fun to go around then instead.

And so the next day it was onto the place we really wanted to see “Santa Fe” the capital of the US state of Mexico. We stayed in  a quaint hotel call the ‘Inn of the governors” in the downtown area. We ended up staying two nights here due to an unexpected winter storm, but lucky for us, as we love this traditional cosy hotel. We didn’t use points for this hotel but it only cost $139 for a two double bed room including breakfast, which in my opinion was very reasonable.

This town was beautiful, exactly what I had imaged  Santa Fe to be, it was old worldly, and had Spanish and Mexican influences throughout the whole town, mainly reflected in its buildings.

The plaza which is the main area downtown really reflected this. It is the national historic landmark of downtown and a central gathering place. It is surrounded by bars, restaurants, old historical buildings  (Palace of the Governors the oldest public building in the US) and art and sculptures. As it was Christmas we were spending new years eve there, the trees in the plaza were decorated with Christmas lights and a stage was set up for a count down at midnight. They also lit bonfires later that evening around the plaza on the streets and it was such a festive feel. Beside the plaza is the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi and definitely worth a look.

Santa Fe also has a Spanish colonial mission church known as San Miguel, it is the oldest known church in the continental united states as it was said to be build around 1610 and 1626.

There is beautiful narrow crooked streets spreading out from the Plaza area around the town and each corner street reveals beautiful art , sculptures and buildings. Its scattered with history of its ancestors  hidden everywhere and which  is why I think we fell in love with this place.

Alas the storm cleared up and the main highways were clear so it was time to make our way back to Austin. Again we had the mammoth drive of of nearly 11 hours. So once again we decided to break it up with an overnight stay in Lubbock, we did a slight detour to Amarillo which allows you drive some of Route 66, that has been one of my top things to do before I die 🙂

Off we set and you hit route 66 as you take the exit to Tucumcari. I imagine Tucumcari was once a roaring town during the 60’s as for many years it was the popular stop for cross country travelers.  Old Route 66 runs through the heart of Tuscamcari via Route 66 Boulevard and its like driving through times past!!! There is vintage motels and restaurants that were built in the 1930s 40’s and 50’s scattered around as you drive through the boulevard …..it was fascinating.

So fascinating we decided to stop for Coffee and what a unique treat that was for us. We stepped into Kix On 66! It was a lovely friendly old style restaurant with good food too!! I felt like Sandy in Grease 🙂

After our quick stop at Kix on 66 we traveled on towards Amarillo, we really wanted to see Cadillac Ranch, but on getting there it was a bit of a let down. The art work was off out in a field but was ruined by litter. People just threw and scattered their empty spray cans around the cars, leaving the artwork looking unpleasant and an eye soar. Such a shame and disappointing to see, unfortunately too there was no trash cans anywhere to clean it up a little.

Its so cool to see the cars lined.. but what a shame the trash that surrounds the Cadillacs

From there we headed to Lubbock and stayed overnight in the Holiday Inn, again using hubbies points. Buddy Holly was born in this town and there is a museum there which is worth going to see. Unfortunately we didn’t have time and headed onward towards Austin which was another 6 hours drive.

Overall New Mexico is beautiful, when the snow storms came the roads are very risky and we were unprepared for that, however we were lucky to make it to and from there safely.

I loved Santa Fe and its old worldliness and would definitely recommend going to see it, it really is quiet beautiful and I can see why they nickname it “the land of enchantment”.

Until next time


Pam xx


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