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#LivingTheDream: Expat life stripped bare - 10 women share the emotional and practical realities of life away from 'home'

Grief, loneliness, Brexit, motherhood, identity, belonging and rootlessness are just some of the issues that are explored in a selection of honest and personal stories about life away from 'home'.

#LivingTheDream brings together nine essays written by women, about the emotional and practical challenges of expat life, challenging the perception of a ‘blessed’ life under sunnier skies and instead depicting a tougher reality.

British-born editor and co-author Carrie Frais wanted to reveal some of the largely untold emotional upheavals and struggles that go hand-in-hand with living away from home.

The project came from Carrie’s increasing feelings of isolation and rootlessness during lockdown in her adopted city of Barcelona, exacerbated by Brexit and her own grief following the death of her parents whilst living abroad.

She felt the need to reconnect, reach out, encourage positive interactions and expose uncomfortable truths about the often misrepresented so-called expat existence.
“The women who have contributed to this collection of stories all share the (often) rollercoaster experience of moving away from the country of their birth. We are sometimes viewed as courageous, uprooting ourselves from the security blanket of having one’s extended family nearby to face new adventures and experiences in far-flung corners of the world. Yet, our lives can be emotional, confusing and challenging. When we experience anxiety, stress, insomnia, loneliness, fear or even depression caused by, amongst other things, culture shock, rootlessness, social exclusion, grief or bureaucracy, we struggle with people’s perceptions versus our own reality.”

Carrie also wants people to re-consider the way the term ‘expat’ is used, believing that it has run its course: 

“It retains connotations of privileged, financially mobile western white men and women working abroad, or retirees relaxing on sun-soaked beaches. Nowadays, people are choosing to emigrate for a myriad of different reasons and some of us feel that being labelled an expat can set us apart from our adopted cultures when, in fact, we are trying to do exactly the opposite”.

During the COVID-19 era – as has been the case with many different demographics – expat lives have been under greater strain due to increased feelings of disconnection and isolation.

Each chapter in #LivingTheDream is followed by reflections, advice and insightful analysis by Australian-born author, therapist and expat Leigh Matthews in the hope that those internalizing their struggles will realize they are not alone and may be motivated to open up to friends and family to obtain the support they need.

Building a life and career abroad is not the same as having an extended holiday. It isn’t always easy to be away from close family and trusted friends and to navigate the challenges of moving to and settling in a new country. And yet, despite the mountains many of us have had to climb, it is still worth it”. Carrie concludes.


  1. Calling ‘Time’ on Drinking Culture - Adrienne Walder, Mid Levels (Hong Kong)
  2. Exercise Caution in Your Business Affairs - Deborah Gray, Barcelona (Spain)
  3. Married Plus Four, a Trail Between Four Countries - Avivit Delgoshen, London (UK) 
  4. Bremain in Spain: a Brexit Legacy - Sue Wilson, Valencia (Spain)
  5. Poms in Thongs: an Aussie Culture Shock - Annabel Cotton, Sydney (Australia)
  6. Restlessness, Rootlessness & Resilience - Morag Makey, Matapouri (New Zealand)
  7. Two-dimensional Dreams Versus 3D reality:Friendships & Loneliness in Rural Italy - Elizabeth Heath, Umbria (Italy) 
  8. Grief, Emotional Baggage & Belonging(s) - Carrie Frais, Barcelona (Spain)
  9. From China to the Southern French Alps:a Single Mom's Adoption Story - Pippa Curtis, Briançon (France)
  10. Identity: Becoming Me (Again) - Jane Mitchell, Barcelona (Spain) 

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Listen to the interviews


"Most of us wonder what it must be like to leave our rainy isle for life in more exotic climates; so this is a fascinating book. These true-life tales reveal what life is like behind the rose-tinted (sun)glasses. Warts and all. Ten women tell their stories of love, loss, struggle and success. You can only admire their openness and honesty. It made me want to meet all of them over a long, sun-soaked lunch somewhere, to hear more! A great lockdown read."
"As we grow older, we realize that there are so many people who share our pain & journey, but we don't always get to see what their journey has been like. This book reveals the real lives, stories, pain, joy, and hardships of 10 unique women in different countries.

As an expat myself, I was nodding and feeling all the feels while reading some of the stories as well as learning how other brave souls have managed to turn their lives around in a foreign environment. But the waves of each story rise & fall differently.

If you're not an expat, and think the life is always better on the other side - well, this will give you real insight into the highs and lows of a "lucky" life away from home.

The only downside I would say - is that I wish the stories were longer and that I could understand the lives of some of the women in more detail!"