“Sally, What Are You Doing With Your Life?”

So the phrasing isn’t usually so direct, but the gist is about the same. When you return home and you’ve finished your undergraduate education, everyone wants to know about the big picture. You’re 24, what are you going to do now? Did you finish dealing with that pesky travel bug you’ve been plagued with for years? (Haha, funny joke!) Wow, you’re going to be here for at least a year? Is it time to settle down, now?




But maybe for a little bit.

If you’ve been following my Instagram recently, you’ve probably noticed that my life consists of a lot of domestic things at the moment. There are dogs, scarves I’m in the middle of knitting, running shoes, neighborhood street lights… not so many foreign things. Unless you count that sushi I ate two weeks ago, which I definitely do. It’s almost the same as going to Japan, right?

Anyways, that’s what I’ll be telling myself for the next few months. Not that I’m unhappy to be back in Pittsburgh, because that’s not the case. Pittsburgh is awesome, especially in the summer. But I think it’s always a hard adjustment to start a routine when you’ve been living a country-to-country, city-to-city kind of life for any serious amount of time. And even harder if you spent a year and a half prior to that living in Asia and eating strange foods on the regular. It’s just tough to go back to your neighborhood grocery store or bar or mall and feel very excited about it; I’m experiencing that first-hand and certainly not for the first time.

What’s different about this time is that I have to learn how to work through it.

I’m going to be back in Pittsburgh for at least a year.

Why, you ask? Well, let’s start with the most obvious reason: I’m broke. Thanks for all the cash, South Korea, and you’re welcome, Europe, for spending all of it within your borders. Even if I was planning to move to another city in the USA, I’d still need to take some time and work in Pittsburgh until I could afford to do so. But that’s not the plan at the moment, because I’m waiting to hear back from an application to the Peace Corps that I sent in last month. There’s no guarantee that I’ll get in, but in the chance that I did, it would still be about a year (or more) until my departure date and it makes the most sense to stick it out where my friends and some of my family are, and where the flexible timing of it all wouldn’t strand me.

But, if I needed more reason to stay, it arrived last week when I accepted a writing and social media job in Pittsburgh. This job would have been tough to pass up no matter what my plans were; it’s what I love to do and do well, but with room to grow. So while some of my readers may be sad to hear that my next job isn’t overseas (I just couldn’t work with kids in a classroom again, I’m sorry!), the rest of my friends from Pittsburgh are pumped to see me stick around for more than just a few weeks here and there. And I’m pretty happy about the new gig, myself. A job I enjoy is a first, solid step in the right direction for a recovering expat like me.

Which leads me to my personal goal for this year or more (who knows?) in Pittsburgh: I want to make Pittsburgh work for me. I don’t want to feel like I’m just passing the time here. I want to put things into my life that I enjoy and which are fulfilling. Part of that process will be dissecting what exactly about expat life and travel abroad made me smile. Was it the new foods? The broken English and prevalence of foreign languages all around me? The chance to meet people with different cultural upbringings? Or just the sheer variety of cheese in Germany? Because if that’s the case, I’m pretty sure the USA has a few stores that won’t disappoint in the cheese arena, and all I need to do to feel better is visit them.

So my plan is to find activities and organizations in Pittsburgh that scratch my international itch. And see if I can’t recreate some of the things I love about life abroad, but do so while staying in one place for a bit.

This is going to be one heck of a challenge, folks. Wish me luck.


 [Begin shameless self promotion.]

Did I mention I’m poor?

And I’m selling blank notecards with my photography on them! If you’re interested in grabbing yourself a set of 4, head over to this page and order yourself a few. Contact me with any problems or questions or haikus you’ve written for me, anything!


Are you also in a transitional move home? What have you done to scratch those itchy feet without jet-setting across the world again?

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14 thoughts on ““Sally, What Are You Doing With Your Life?””

  1. I’m so happy you found that job – sounds like a perfect fit! Congratulations! The job will certainly help with the transition. And transitioning from travel/expat life to life back home is a huge part of being an expat/traveler – so any writing will still very much interest your readership. (You don’t need to apologize for where you live, it’s your life not ours!) I’m excited to learn about Pittsburg – I’ve never been there before.

    I’ll be able to better relate once again in November when I return home. And while the plan isn’t to stay home for an entire year, there is no plan so everything’s up in the air. No idea what’ll happen, though I’d like to take off and travel by spring if I have the finances/means to make some money on the road.

    Good luck with Peace Corps! I went through the application/interview process two years ago. Was nominated, but later dropped out after getting the teaching position in Spain. It used to be high up in my life list, but feelings have changed for me after frustrating experiences in Spain actually. But I like that there’s no age limit, so I’m not ruling it out…

    1. Thanks a bunch! Pittsburgh is a pretty cool city and I’ll obviously need to write more content about it, now that I’m settling in here for a bit. And how cool that you also went through the process with the Peace Corps. I also can’t say 100% that I would accept and go, but it’s a serious possibility to consider. We’ll see what the next year holds.

      Hopefully you’ll find your time at home less stressful than mine has been and be able to relax and enjoy the things and friends you missed. The transition will likely be much easier if you put some plans together for your next stage. But all in good time! 🙂 Good luck with everything and I’ll be looking for your updates about it.

  2. Yay, so happy to hear what you’re up to these days. Congrats on the job – anything with a good fit can be perfect, even if it’s just for a bit….or not! I think I will be in your shoes this winter… it’s not looking like I can stay here much longer, financially, so this was a refreshing read and lessened my sense of impending doom 🙂

    1. Thanks Rika! Don’t dread, be excited! I’m sure it’ll be temporary anyways, so just enjoy those things at home that you don’t find on secluded islands. Like constant internet connections. 😀 Looking forward to your posts about it!

  3. Sally,

    Good to hear about your plans for at least the next year. While your transition is sure to be challenging, I am quite confident that you will overcome these temporary hurdles.
    With regards to your shared status of being poor, I have an idea or two on that front. As you likely know, I have become somewhat attached to the canine friend of yours and think we might find a for you to profit on this revelation? Let’s think on it! What about my agreeing to pay you an adoption fee? We could spread your receivable due out over next 12 months??? What your agreement to allow Mary to remain in TN for next 12 months for a nominal fee??? Surely there is something creative you could come up with so that we both are satisfied?

    Think on it!!

    My best,


  4. I’m in between moves too, and nothing really feels like home. My “home” physically is in Waterloo, but I’m in Winnipeg for the same reason as you – $. I actually find it a strange and often lonely place to be, despite having been born and raised here. Sometimes I just feel like I don’t fit in anywhere except in places where no one fits in (read: around a table in Saba playing cards and drinking beer with a chain-smoking middle aged Irishman, an alcoholic Dutch guy in his thirties and a sweet as can be German girl working her way around the world one job at a time). Know what I mean? I’m still trying to make the most of this temporary stint, but it’s hard. Good for you for having a positive attitude about it all.

    1. Haha I know that feeling Colleen, and actually that sentiment reminds me of the book you recommended to me (Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende) and I can totally see why you love that kind of a story, too. I think it’s easy for anyone to fit in where no one fits in, even when they do have a place at home. I also love to find myself in those kinds of places. But I think it’s important to create a place for yourself where you otherwise would be really lost, if for no other reason than because challenging yourself to be happy in uncomfortable situations will make you a stronger person. Send me a message anytime you want to chat and good luck with your in-between stage, Colleen. I’ll be thinking about you!

  5. I’m doing this transition back into regular life thing too, and although London is awesome there are days when only the lack of cash keeps me from getting on the first plane to anywhere. So I’m going to be very interested in seeing how things go for you and reading your tips for coping!

    1. Thanks Jo. So far it’s been both wonderful and very rough, and I imagine it’s the same for you. Hopefully that cash situation rights itself though and you can do a few mini trips at least! At least I hope that helps… for my own sake too, since I don’t have anything big planned anytime soon. Good luck with everything!

  6. Congrats on the new job! It sounds like a good fit. I wonder how you’re going to go being home for a whole year? The longest I’ve spent in Melbourne since I left is 5 weeks. I think it’d be nice to get a place in the city there for at least a few months and get to know it again.

    1. Thanks Olivia. I think it’s a positive move, although sticking around my hometown might be a test of will. I should have enough time and money to do a little bit of travel, though, so it won’t be like I’m chained to Pittsburgh for a year. Regardless, lots of things to do in the city, so I’m excited about that. 🙂 I hope Melbourne is fun for you, too, even though you’d obviously rather be somewhere more exotic haha. Enjoy it while it lasts!

  7. How exciting that you’ve applied to the Peace Corps! And, congrats on the new job! There are good things about being settled in one place for a year or so. You seem to have the right attitude about making Pittsburgh work and I’m sure you’ll end up enjoying things here. I’ve made it a mission for the last few years to discover fun and new things about the city and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. My only problem is it’s such a small city and you run into the same people constantly!

    1. Thanks Laura! I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year. I should have enough time to fit in some travel alongside the fun city things, so I’m looking forward to the next few months. 🙂 And of course, meeting up with you a few times! I’ll be in touch once I have any money haha.

  8. Finally catching up with you! I’m actually really glad to hear you’re wanting to make Pittsburgh work for you because “just passing time” is exactly what I did when I went back to the UK last year. I knew I wouldn’t be there forever and was actually happy to leave.

    Question: How far away is Pittsburgh from Philadelphia? I’m paying a visit to Philly next January sooooo … 😀 Yeah.

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