If you’ve tuned in to the Perspectives of an Expat guest posts before, then you already know I created this series so to learn more about the views and experiences of expats all over the world.  I found Natalia of Natalia Swiader Photography on Instagram and became OBSESSED with her photographs!  Natalia is a family, engagement, portrait and lifestyle photographer who just happens to be a Polish expat living in SCOTLAND. Seriously, Scotland. I have been eyeing that beautiful country for a long time and I can’t wait to make the trip and meet Natalia in person later this year.

Find out more about Natalia’s journey from Poland to Scotland and learn more about her, her photography work, her views on the most important thing about travel, and so much more below. More importantly, make sure to visit her website and be sure to follow her on IG. I promise you won’t be sorry!

Natalia Swiader Photography | Instagram

All images contained in this post are courtesy of Natalia Swiader.

Perspectives of an Expat | A Guest Series Featuring Natalia

Lisbon, Portugal

Where are you originally from?

I was born in the Masurian Lake District in Poland, a place very close to my heart, also called the Land of a Thousand Lakes. It’s an incredible place and my two grandmas still live there, I visit them every Christmas.

I lived in a few different cities in Poland – I went to the university in Torun (gingerbread capital of the country) and then moved to Lodz, third biggest Polish city, as I was offered a corporate job there after graduation. My closest family now live in Warsaw though.

Where do you currently live and what led you to move there?

I moved to the UK three years ago. I met an Englishman when still living in Poland and we fell in love and decided to live together. At that time, I was living in Leeds for almost two years and when he got a job offer in Edinburgh I moved again.

It didn’t work out though and soon after moving to Scotland I was on my way back to Poland to be surrounded by loved ones.

After I moved to Warsaw, I discovered that I didn’t like it at all. I enjoyed being around my best friends, being able to see my family much more often, but I was missing Scotland immensely. I realized that I was idealizing my country a lot when living abroad so the whole experience of returning to my home country was very disheartening, especially because of the political aspects.

As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like I had left a piece of my heart in Scotland. It was really weird, especially since I had only been there for a while. But I wanted to come back so badly. Although I was so scared of starting over and building a new life in a new place again, all by myself, without a job and not knowing anyone in the city, I decided to do it. It was scary as hell, but I knew that if I hadn’t done it I would have regretted it. I had to give it a try. 

Glencoe, Scottish Highlands

Was this a temporary or permanent move for you?

I knew that when I decided to move I was going to stay here for longer. Now I know that I want to stay here forever, it’s my favorite place on this planet.

What are some of the differences you see between where you live now and where you are originally from?

Scottish society is definitely more open-minded and supportive of diversity. It’s a place where it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your sexual orientation or skin color is, you will never feel excluded because of that.

It’s amazing and liberating, I love it about Scotland.

I wish Poland was more like that as well, but it’s still  a very, very long way to go for the Polish society to accept peoples’ differences, and understand that for instance who you sleep is not anyone’s business or that your skin color doesn’t have much to do with who you are as a person. Of course not everyone is judgmental and narrow-minded to think this way, but a lot of people are. 

What have been some of the biggest obstacles that you have had to overcome after relocating?

It felt like the stars aligned, I was extremely lucky. I found my first job after a week, I met one of my now best friends after a few weeks as well.

My English is pretty good as well so no language barrier was involved.

Scotland was very welcoming. 

Although – Scottish accent can sometimes be quite difficult to understand and the pronunciation of some Scottish words can be tricky. I still struggle with understanding Glaswegian accent. 

Also, people would make fun of me when I pronounced some of the words wrong – and when people make fun of you here it means that they like you, haha.

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

What do you love about where you currently live?

First thing – the people.

People in Scotland are incredibly friendly and kind. I feel like it’s not difficult to make new friends here – as least for me it seemed surprisingly easy.

I felt very lucky that I met a few people who quickly became a part of my life – I found some amazing friends who I can count on and share my thought and worries with.

Also, Scotland is a magical place and offers breathtaking views – whether you’re in Edinburgh’s city centre or in the highlands. I work as a photographer and I always feel like I’m spoilt for choice with so many beautiful locations around me.

There are plenty of great restaurants and cafes as well. I’m a total coffee snob and a pizza-addict so I’m very happy to have access to such a great food scene as the once in Edinburgh.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned from living abroad?

I learned that you can only grow and achieve great things if you let go of the fear. Or at least accept that fear will always be there when you step into the unknown.

That great achievements require great risks. 

A few days before my move to Scotland I became paralyzed by fear and I was freaking out – should I do it? Why am I doing this? What if it’s the worst decision of my life?

But I still decided to have faith in my intuition, listen to the voice inside my head telling me to be strong, that life’s too short to be a pussy. I learned to live with fear and do things that scared me anyway. I learned that you should always listen to your intuition, your gut always knows what’s right for you and what you should escape from. Often, I still ignore it, but when I do I always regret it.

Nelson Mandela said ‘may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears’. And that’s one of the things I try to never forget about.

What would be the number one thing to see or do that you would recommend to someone visiting that they would not be able to read about in a guide book?

My advice for someone traveling to Edinburgh would be – get lost in the city. Every time I just walk around in the city without purpose I discover something new.

Where is your favorite instagrammable spot where you live?

I love the area of Stockbridge; it has a vibe of a little town. I would definitely have to go for Circus Lane in Stockbridge – the loveliest street in Edinburgh. I’ve photographed a few couples and secret proposals there, it’s a magical place. It recently became very popular but hasn’t lost its charm.

Outside of where you live now, what’s been your most memorable travel destination? Why?

Barcelona. I’ve been only twice, but I would love to spend some time there every year.

There is something about this city that I don’t feel anywhere else, like a combination of freedom and inspiration on every corner. You are surrounded by art, iconic buildings, you can visit a museum and have the most delicious lunch in the city centre and then head to the beach to admire a beautiful sunset.

I love Gaudi’s architecture style, atmospheric cafés and restaurants, quirky shops, sunbathing topless, I love Spanish cuisine and how much is happening there no matter when you’re visiting.

The last time I visited Barcelona I attended a paella cooking class, went to explore the city by myself, I photographed a destination wedding in a vineyard and it was one of the most beautiful weddings ever. And one of the best holiday in my life. Barcelona is great if you need to spend some time by yourself.

Also, there are so many picturesque locations within and outside the city so as a photographer you have so many opportunities to create something amazing.

Circus Lane, Edinburgh, Scotland

How often do you travel outside of where you live?

Every couple of months. This year so far I’ve been to Lisbon, Ireland, I visited my family in Poland. Two adventures are still ahead of me: Iceland in May and Amsterdam in August where I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday. 

I also love traveling around Scotland as I feel like there is always so much to explore. Isle of Skye, Isle of Arran, Isle of Harris and Isle of Mull are still on my list.

What do you love most about travel?

It changes your perspective on things quite often, especially if you have an open mind. When you travel you learn about the world more than would learn from books.

The most important thing though is: don’t compare. Treat visits in every new place as a new experience, it doesn’t have to be better or worse than what you know and like, or are used to. It’s simply different and learn to respect it.

South Queensferry Forth Bridges

Tell me more about your website/blog.

As I work as a wedding and portrait photographer in Edinburgh, my website showcases my work: mostly weddings, elopements but also some travel photographs.

When I post photographs from a shoot I always try to say a little bit more about the people I photograph or a place I visited.

I like to add something personal in my blog posts, I love when couples share their stories – about how they met and how they fell in love. What I find very inspiring are stories about how two people built something amazing together, although it wasn’t always easy. Because love is never easy.  We live in the times when we want to get everything right here and right now, in the world where real love is something really unique and beautiful.

A lot of people have a sense of entitlement, like they’re owed the love of their life without putting any effort in it. They don’t understand that love is not just a feeling, it is a choice and it requires hard work. Great relationships, whether in love or friendship, are to be built and not found. Because all the great things in life require hard work.

And real commitment is something invaluable.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to work with people who share my views on that.

Anything else you’d like to share.

I love how many incredible people I met thanks to my job as a photographer and online platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.

We talk so much about how technology and the never-ending swipe culture changes our world for the worse, but I never forget how much I have gained by being able to connect with people who I otherwise wouldn’t have met – thanks to the online world. 

I have photography clients from all around the world and now I also have friends from so many different places. It’s amazing.

I might complain about some aspects of my life but overall I think it’s pretty fucking great.

If you’ve tuned in to the Perspectives of an Expat guest posts before, then you already know I created this series so to learn more about the views and experiences of expats all over the world.  I met Kristina of Living Wonderfilled through Instagram and immediately connected with her posts.  Kristina is copywriter and content creater who just happens to be an American expat living in SPAIN! It’s been really fun following her adventures and I was super excited to learn more about her experiences!

Living Wonderfilled | IG | Twitter

John Lennon Wall, Prague


Where are you originally from?

I was born in Miami, Florida but grew up between South Florida and East Tennessee. My mom is from Colombia and my dad is from Cuba, so culturally I’m actually much more Latin American than American.

Where do you currently live and what led you to move there?

Right now I’m living in Madrid! It’s going to sound crazy but I had been living in Nashville for about 1.5 years when I started to get restless. I started to crave Europe. Then I somehow got into a couple Spanish TV shows in September 2017 and decided I was going to try to move to Spain!

Was this a temporary or permanent move for you?

I’m treating this as kind of a trial run. I’ve never lived in Spain, so I’m not sure if I want it to be permanent. I may want to try living in other cities within Spain or other cities in Europe. I’ve always been charmed by Ireland, so who knows!

Puerta de Alcala, Madrid

What are some of the differences you see between where you live now and where you’re originally from?

Oh gosh, there are so many! I’d say the main difference from the US and Spain is the mentality. We’re very capitalistic in the states, people here are far more socialist. It’s almost a given that at some point people in the states will be entrepreneurs or have some kind of side ‘hustle.’ In my experience, people here aren’t like that. They don’t think outside the box as much in that sense, I think because society really doesn’t encourage freelancing and entrepreneurship as much as in the states.

I have a pretty broad worldview, so I have always been very curious about other cultures and my friends and family in the states are the same. Many Spaniards I’ve met aren’t that way. They like vacations and touristing, but for the most part they aren’t as curious or educated about other cultures.

Another one – which has been a huge culture shock and I occasionally struggle with – is the superiority complex Spaniards (in general) have about Latin Americans. I’m constantly told I don’t speak Spanish correctly, because I speak Colombian Spanish (fluently, it’s my native language). I’ve been told tons of times how South Americans are just innately less intelligent than Spaniards. It’s kind of a weird complex they have because ‘they discovered’ and ‘conquered’ most of Central and South America.

What have been some of the biggest obstacles that you have had to overcome after relocating?

Random (mild) racism because I’m Latin American. (Which they can only tell once I start speaking in my accent.) I don’t necessarily look American or Latin American.

Paperwork frustrations with my Visa, my Spanish ID, and other documentation required to live here on a Visa. The Spanish government is also notoriously confusing when it comes to all that.

What do you love about where you currently live?

So much! That I can walk everywhere, the food, siestas (yes, I take them!), the history. Spain has several different subcultures which I’m loving learning about! People here are also generally less materialistic and more focused on enjoying life rather than the hustle and bustle we’re focused on in the states.

Hundertwasser House, Vienna

What’s the most valuable thing you learned from living abroad?

The importance of speaking more than one language and cross-cultural communication in general. Even when I say something in Spanish, it may be a different word than a Spaniard might use, so it’s important to be aware of that when communicating. I’ve never been more thankful to my parents than I am now. Growing up they forced me to speak Spanish at home and had they not, I wouldn’t be fluent.

What would be the number one thing to see or do that you would recommend to someone visiting that they would not be able to read about in a guide book?

To go out on a Sunday afternoon, have a coffee and go for a walk. My favorite is to see how the families get together near where I live. There’s a park where families come to after their Sunday meal, and you can see multiple generations, cousins and extended family together. It’s a really great tradition they uphold.

Where is your favorite “instagrammable” spot(s) where you live?

  • The Palacio de Cristal in Retiro Park
  • Retiro Park pretty much everywhere
  • Almost any old street in the Salamanca neighborhood
  • Templo de Debod

Outside of where you live now, what’s been your most memorable travel destination? Why?

Greece, Mykonos specifically. I went after the busy season and had the island almost all to myself. I was able to ATV (quad) all over the island, which has got to be my favorite way to explore. The people were incredibly welcoming and friendly and it was a really peaceful place.

Vienna Christmas Markets

How often do you travel outside of where you live?

I try to travel to another city at least once a month. Sometimes that means another city in Spain, other times it means another country in Europe. I have some trips back to the states this year that were fairly expensive, so my springtime travel is a bit limited.

What do you love most about travel?

Learning about other cultures and their food! Also street art. I love seeing amazing street art and learning what it’s about. It’s usually a really great representation of a place’s history or current political situation.

Tell me more about your website/blog (if you have one). 

My blog is called Living Wonderfilled. It started as kind of an everything blog because I love writing, but has morphed into a travel and lifestyle blog. I’m going to start to delve into more expat-specific stuff now too, now that I’ve been living abroad for over six months and am staying for a while.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Well, obviously my opinions about Spaniards are generalizations. I am actually of Spanish descent, my great-grandparents on my dad’s side are from Galicia, and I have family there. I love it there!

*All images contained in this post are her own.

Over the past year, I have been lucky to become part of a new community – the expat community.  If you don’t know what an expat is, it’s essentially someone who lives outside of their home country.  I’m from the US but I live in Italy, therefore I am an expat.  It has been an amazing experience to get to know so many people from various walks of life and I honestly have become quite intrigued by it (see Ten Things I’ve Learned While Living in Sicily).

Through my new-found relationships, I have learned that the views and experiences of expats vary quite widely and I am fascinated by the differences and intricacies of adapting faced by others.  Thus, I dreamed up an interview series where I ask the same questions to a variety of expats I’ve met personally or through social media to get a broader perspective on expat life.  I’ve also thrown in a couple questions about travel and photography (if that’s their thaaang), since this is a travel and photography blog! I hope you’ll join me in the coming weeks as I welcome a variety of featured expat guests to share a little peek into their lives with me.

I’m SUPER excited to welcome my first guest blogger, Courtney, of Little Brave Travels.  I met Courtney around a year ago on Instagram and have really enjoyed following her journey.  She also lives in Italy (but much farther north), and it’s been refreshing to connect with her on that aspect.  It wasn’t until a little bit later that I realized she has a fabulous accent that I hadn’t really heard much of before (hear it here and get a good laugh [at her video, not her accent]).  Check out her story below and see where she’s from!


Little Brave Travels | Instagram | YouTube



Perspectives of an Expat featuring Courtney of Little Brave Travels

All photos courtesy of Courtney’s sweet, sweet Instagram husband.


Where are you originally from?
I was born in South Africa but raised in Botswana and Namibia.

Where do you currently live and what led you to move there?
I live in a small city very close to Milan called Pavia. I moved here 3 years ago to support my husband while he studies. (Luckily, he’s finished now! haha)

Was this a temporary or permanent move for you?
It’s a semi- permanent move. As we don’t know exactly where we will have to move once Angelo gets into his specialization course. We will definitely stay in Europe for the long run though!

What are some of the differences you see between where you live now and where you’re originally from?
Oh wow, this is a tough question. There are just So many! Firstly, public transport is amazing! I had never ridden a bus before moving to Italy. Safety is a big plus too, being free enough to walk around on the streets is incredible. I do miss the African people though, there is something so welcoming and homely about being in Africa. You have to experience it to understand.



What have been some of the biggest obstacles that you have had to overcome after relocating?
The language barrier was a crazy thing to overcome at first! I’ve gotten the hang of it now, and I can handle myself in a conversation. The second biggest thing was probably the overly loud and assertive culture. South Africans are generally reserved and not very emotional people, so you could say Italy has been one big culture shock!

What do you love about where you currently live?
I absolutely love the cobblestone streets, and also how small Pavia is. It’s close to Milan, so it’s easy to travel, but it doesn’t have the big city vibe.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned from living abroad?
To always remember that you need to push yourself. Get outside your comfort zone and grow. That means making mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make them, learn and try again! Also don’t forget to be assertive.

What would be the number one thing to see or do that you would recommend to someone visiting that they would not be able to read about in a guide book?
In Pavia I would say that you HAVE to walk everywhere, there is almost no need for a car, the city is small enough to cover the big points on foot. Besides, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the vibe. Also, the vineyards of Olt’re Po Pavese and an agri tourismo for lunch! Nonna will make you something amazing!



Where is your favorite “instagrammable” spot(s) where you live?
There are so many! The Ponte Coperto, and the Universities. The Duomo is incredible too, otherwise just all the cute little streets!

Outside of where you live now, what’s been your most memorable travel destination? Why?
Definitely Botswana, to me it’s home, and there is nothing more incredible than being in Nature. Sardegna was also an Incredible experience, I basically grew gills I was in the ocean for so long.

How often do you travel outside of where you live?
We travel outside of Europe at least twice a year. Otherwise its mostly around Europe or Italy, which we do monthly.



What do you love most about travel?
I love getting to experience different cultures, and of course meeting new people. I love to imagine life in these places, and how different people live.

Tell me more about your website/blog.
It started out as a way of me keeping my family up to date with all of our travels and it grew as a creative outlet for me. My little spot on the internet has become mostly about showing the people of the world that there is life outside of your comfort zone. There are incredible experiences and places to visit, if you only venture out a little. Sometimes that’s just to the end of your street, and that’s okay, but be uncomfortable, be brave, and grow.

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