When we look back to our life, especially after an adventure or a series of episodes, we often find ourselves changed.
It can be a small, seemingly insignificant difference or a critical, substantial one. Either way, our perception of life has altered by some means and, sooner or later, we find ourselves evolved.
The outcome of the change depends on us.
Ultimately, how do we want to live and interiorise the evolution has largely to do with our attitude, our approach to life.
I have always been fascinated by people who were able to make dozens of changes in their lives and, in this category, there is one to which I am particularly fond: expats.
Being a part of this kind made me see the world differently, in a more open way. The expat perspective has enriched my life with cultures and stories that I would have only dreamed of if I decided to live my all life in my small town. And for this reason, I do feel very grateful.
Do I feel luckier than my friends who stayed and live a life in our small town? I don’t.
Being an expat is tough work and if you are part of the gang, you know why.
I just feel I had a different life.
When I met Katia Vlachos I knew I was just experiencing the tip of the iceberg of my expat journey. Katia moved many times during her life, with and without a family. Her experience and her kind predisposition to help others, led her to develop a career as an expat transitional couch.
Here’s my interview with a woman that has convinced me to start this blog, who always supported me after and that truly cares about people.
I hope you’ll like this interview and if you are interested to read more about other exceptional women in Zürich, this is where you can start with.
A Great Move:
an interview with Katia Vlachos.
Q: Katia, thank you for being here and sharing your story with us. Would you like to share with us how was your life before moving to Zürich? A rather nomadic one!
A: You could say that! I had a nomadic beginning, a conventional upbringing and then ended up back in the nomadic life. Coincidence? Probably not. I was born in Cameroon to Greek parents, raised in Greece and have been an expat for the past 25 years, mostly moving back and forth between the US and different European countries. I think I’ve had what’s called the ‘migrant bug’ from a young age. Both my parents were immigrants and, somehow, I always knew I’d end up living outside my ‘passport country’, ideally in many different places. So far, it’s been an amazing journey and I have no intention to settle somewhere. I wouldn’t even know where!
A Great Move: the turning point.
Q: Could you tell us about your personal and professional path and how you ended up writing a book about international moves?
A: In my first career, I was a researcher and military analyst, working for think tanks in the US and Europe and then for the government. After a particularly difficult move, which also seriously damaged my career, I spent a lot of time feeling resentful and disempowered.
I had also taken a break from work to have our two children, so my confidence was extremely low.
When I was on maternity leave for our third child, I tried to make sense of my difficult transition experience by researching how expats adjust when they make international moves. This research turned into the outline of a book and I think that’s when I started to recover my sense of professional identity.
But the real turning point was later on when I went through my coaching training. First, I realized that feeling like a victim not only prevented me from taking responsibility for my life, but it also kept me from moving forward.
So I started making conscious choices for myself, one (small) step at a time. Through coaching, I also discovered a sense of purpose, which is to help other expats like me go through challenging transitions.
And so, the new Katia was born.
A Great Move: the publication.
Q: In 2018, you published “A Great Move: Surviving and Thriving in Your Expat Assignment”. Tell us more about the book and for whom it represents a reference resource.
A: I wrote the book I wish I’d had when I was going through my own difficult expat transitions. A reviewer once called it ‘the little black book’ for expats, which made me extremely happy, because that’s what I wanted to create: a manual for making international moves, filled with real stories – not just my own.
In the book, I explore the different phases we go through when we move, how to approach each phase, but also some fundamental ‘pillars’ of expat life, such as the concept of home, the cycle of transition and the impact of our personality on the way we adjust.
So the primary audience for this book is anyone who moves as well as those who work with and support them (corporate sponsors, coaches, trainers, relocation professionals, researchers etc.).
Q: Always in 2018, you trained to become a co-active coach and started a career helping expats make transitions. How do you support people during your sessions?
A: My role as a coach is to accompany my clients on their journey and provide them with the support that they .need at any particular moment. All coaches have our ‘toolboxes’, of course, but it’s the client who determines the direction we go.
I am there to listen, test ideas, provide structure and feedback when needed, hold the client accountable as they turn their ideas and dreams into reality.
Ultimately, I want my clients to feel energized and empowered through working with me and, most importantly, to find joy and thrive in their global lives.
A Great Move:
an interview with Katia Vlachos.
Q: This is one of my favourite parts of your story. It is a clear encouragement to cultivate a dream and never let it go.
Be an inspiration to others now and tell us: how long did it take to write your book?
A: It took me several years to research and write the book – I hear that’s common for first books (and writers with young kids and one on the way). Also, I ended up writing two books. The first one took most of those several years and was purely academic – it was like my second PhD dissertation. Thankfully, at some point, I realized that I wasn’t going to help anyone with that book, because no one would read it! Also, I couldn’t get myself to finish it, which was a good sign.
So I scrapped it and within a year, I wrote the one that I ended up pitching to my publisher.
Q: What are your plans for the future? Zürich will be your city for a long while?
A: I love it here. I need to be near water to feel at home, so Zurich and I bonded immediately on a visceral level. Plus, being a Greek mom, raising my kids in one of the safest cities in the world helps keep my stress levels down. That’s priceless.
Once all three are out of the house, my husband and I dream of splitting our time between a gorgeous beach house in Southern California (my happy place) – I’m thinking Malibu – and all the different locations where our kids (we have six in total between the two of us!) will end up living.
Questionnaire with Katia Vlachos.
The main trait of your character?
The quality you prefer in a man?
And in a woman?
Confidence in her own power.
Your main flaw?
I curse a little too much when my kids are not around.
The last time you cried?
A few hours ago.
Would you change anything in your body?
No. But freezing the passage of time comes to mind.
The superpower you would like to have?
The ability not to let anything upset me.
The most beautiful gift ever received?
Three of them: my children.
Everything and everyone is my teacher. A wise woman once told me that.
Find out more here about Katia’s latest bookWhether you are a first-time expat or an experienced one, this book provides the principles and proven process you need to follow to make a successful international move.