Julie and Drew are the couple behind Drive on the Left, a blog chronicling two Americans who decided to move to the UK and officially become expats. Their time in the UK may be coming to an end, but their expat status definitely isn't!
We were lucky enough to catch up with them and ask a few questions about what they're currently up to and what might be in store.
What was it like making the decision to leave the states?
When we were first approached about the idea of moving to the UK (from NYC), we said no. It wasn’t that it didn’t sound intriguing, but we had both recently made changes at work, and were eager to see our new projects through. About a month later, the idea resurfaced, and this time, something really spurred us to take it more seriously. All along, the conversation wasn’t about ‘will we like this?’ but more about the logistics of moving a home and a dog and a career overseas.
What are your long-term expat plans? Do you ever see yourselves moving back to the states?
Oh the million dollar question. We are in the thick of this discussion right now. Julie has a full time job with a huge multinational corporation which means that theoretically, we could continue to move around the world with her just taking new positions wherever. However, in order for those positions to work out there needs to be a need in an office that is a good fit, and that office has to decide to hire a foreigner instead of locally. We’re finding it to be a really slow moving process.
We both assume that someday, yes, we will end up back on US soil. There are several places that would be interesting to live in, like the Bay Area perhaps, or maybe even Chicago. We have friends and family in both.
You’re currently road tripping - what made you decide to hit the road and how did you budget for it?
We knew that our UK work visas would be expiring in the autumn. We could have renewed them and just stayed in London indefinitely (with the help of Julie’s company who would sponsor the visas). But we decided to take another roll of the dice and see if we could land another assignment elsewhere. In the meantime, we basically put the word out that while we were open to moving wherever there was a need, we also didn’t want to actually relocate until the start of the year. Essentially, we planned to have a break in work.
We started budgeting and saving for these 4 months off at the beginning of 2016. We knew that in order for us both not to work for a sizeable chunk of the year, we would need to have some unknown figure saved. We made up a budget of about $150/day that we would likely need to live (neither of us knows exactly how we came up with this completely arbitrary number) and then we saved that amount over 8 months of work. On our road trip we’ve stuck to that budget, but we know that once we head to the States for the end of the year, the budget will look much different as we are staying with family (free!) but buying Christmas gifts and seeing all of our friends (expensive!).
You two do it all - traveling, blogging and making Youtube videos. How do you make it all fit into your busy lives?
We’ve found that the ‘daily business’ of just keeping our site going - posts, photos, social media - takes us about two hours per day. Every single day. It isn’t hugely time consuming as long as we spread it out and do a little each and every day.
We do the extra stuff - making videos, working on brand partnerships, continuing education - when we have time. Before we left on the road trip, Drew was handling most of this portion of work as a nearly full time job. Now that we’re travelling, we focus on the daily business side of things and just do the extras when it rains or when we just don’t feel like touring around that day.
You’re always eating the most delicious meals wherever you go. What’s been the best and worst dining experience?
This is like asking a parent about his favorite child! Drew was in the restaurant industry for ten years, so he has an encyclopedic knowledge of restaurant openings and news. Thanks to him, we know if we’re heading to a place that has an important opening, or if there might be a restaurant worth detouring to.
All that said, in London, we put together our 50 top dishes we ate in three years living there. On this road trip, we loved getting to know Balkan cuisine intimately (some favorite spots were TimaIrma in Mostar, Bosnia and Astra in Papigo, Greece. On the negative side, we haven’t had any terrible meals, per se, but after the tenth meal in a row of stuffed peppers and cevapi, let’s just say we were more excited than we should have been to see a non-Balkan restaurant in Belgrade, Serbia.
(One funny note, when we were in Belgrade, we were with some locals on a street art tour, and we stopped for pizza. There is a local pizza, very inexpensive and popular, that we found disgusting. It’s a normal dough, with no tomato sauce, with toppings right on the base. Then, coating the entire thing is a thick, mayonnaise/sour cream-based spread. Kind of like a potato salad minus the potatoes. We get why it’s popular - cream, bread - but the spread was so thick, nearly inedible!)
What would you tell someone who's thinking about becoming an expat, but might be a bit apprehensive?
As we were told over and over, if it doesn’t work out, you can always come home.
We have moved a few times as adults and were comfortable with the idea of making new friends, but we worried about getting home quickly if there was an emergency or staying in touch with family and friends given the time zone differences. We needn’t have worried. Julie’s family has a weekly Skype call, every Sunday evening, so she talks to her parents and siblings ‘in person’ that way. We’ve gone to the States usually twice per year, and thanks to longer vacations and the ability to work from home, we’ve been able to really stretch those visits to see everyone that matters.
Let’s just say that moving abroad has motivated us to keep in better touch than when we were living in New York!
From the Adventurers: Thanks so much to Julie and Drew from Drive on the Left for sharing a bit of their story with us! Be sure to head over to their blog and follow along with them on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram for more delicious travel tips and stories.
Thanks for reading, we'll see you on the road!