“I’m a British Mother of 3 who has moved countries 3 times and reinvented myself professionally a few more times than that! During my early professional years I worked with disaffected teens in the UK. I took a break to travel the world, then did NGO Fundraising and Project Management for the same clients. After meeting my Welsh husband-to-be in Mongolia I moved to Geneva when we married. I thought I’d walk into the perfect job in the INGO Sector. Not in Geneva! It turned out they only wanted me for roles I’d already done for years (what about development??). Then only if I could function professionally in multiple languages, and preferably had come from a role in one of the National branches.
A long and difficult year of networking, job hunting and questioning my own abilities, finally led to a project with IFRC (Red Cross), a consultancy with UNHCR and finally a job with WWF! I was here! I was settled! I was sorted! … and then we started having kids.
I didn’t love my gynecologist … so strict and medical, she gave my UK-style birth plan short shrift! I was so envious of my UK friends with their NCT groups and kid-friendly cafes. I navigated being a working mum in a country that didn’t seem set up for it, didn’t want me to do it, and always added the extra challenge of French.
But it was being a Mum that challenged me most and 15 years later still is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Amongst the babies, the work travel and the juggling I kept up my long-term yoga practice to support my mental state. Originally something I saw as ‘sport’. It then morphed into a refuge and anchor from the relentless uncertainties of expat life as a new mother.
Two months after my third baby my husband’s company offered a move to Costa Rica. I was excited for the adventure and to stop work and spend more time with my kids. Until I stopped work and spent all my time with my kids!
I was in a country where I didn’t know a soul, didn’t understand the culture, and was grappling with yet another language. Together with a baby plus a 2 and a 5 yr old, it was a struggle. And for the first few monthsI just didn’t find “my people”. I felt very alone and home-sick for my Swiss parent network.
In the end it was diving into communities of people who shared my values that saved me. I joined the PTA and got involved at school. I ending up advising the Director on his Comms policy and eventually becoming Vice President of the PTA. I supported a new friend to create play-days for poor local children, facilitated by our kids on our campus. They were incredible days. And I sought out my yoga practice again. Once again, yoga was the place I regrouped from all that life was throwing at me.
With only 12-months of our placement left I decided to do something for my own development. I took on my Yoga Teacher Training. In a room of 34 gorgeous young Costa Ricans in the University district, my 2 friends and I were the ‘3 older Gringas’ who had to work extra hard to learn and then teach in Spanish. But it was the most Costa Rican experience I could have hoped for and an incredibly professional course. By the time we left I felt pretty proud of myself. I had developed in areas I loved, found my people, and eventually thrived in a very different situation.
In 2015 our path brought us back to Commugny and a local International School. I was excited to ‘come home’. Until I realized my family had moved on, I didn’t know the relevant places and of course my kids needed mostly new friends. Start again! WWF was restructuring with few opportunities. Start again! So I took the plunge. I had really enjoyed sharing my yoga practice with others and they seemed to benefit too. So I set up as a full time yoga teacher. I taught for myself and for a time ran a studio in a small gym. It became a bit much (still juggling kids, home, distant parents, travelling husband ….) so at the end of 2019 I went back to just doing me! Little did I know that just a few months later Covid would turn all our worlds upside down.
I will never forget my emotions the first week of lockdown. Huge fear of what might be coming, and a deep sense of foreboding. But most of all I felt frustrated. I’d turned into a 1950’s housewife endlessly shopping, cooking and washing – and I was cross that it all fell to me! But during this period I also got on my yoga mat every single day. To get out of my head and find a few moments of peace.
By the second week I figured that if I needed it, then others probably did too and tried offering some online classes. In spite of my technophobe tendencies. I have never had such full classes nor so much joy. Clients, friends and family from all round the world came together to connect, take a movement for themselves and release some tension.
It’s been a tough time and my heart goes out to anyone arriving in a new country these last few years. I’ve experienced some hard times these last months, and I know so many people have too. For me, the chance to connect with others and share moments that support physical and mental wellbeing have been an anchor. When we were finally allowed to be together outside, I restarted my beach classes – it was so emotional! And re-opening my Studio in September was incredible – a very special energy in the room that day.
So for anyone arriving and feeling a little lost, I would encourage you to try the things that worked for me: follow your passions, connect with people that love the same things, and if you can’t find something, set it up yourself! My personal practice, the experience of teaching, of running in the stunning vineyards behind my house and dipping in the beautiful Lac leman (yep, I’m a cold water girl too – addicted since 2019. By autumn 2020 so many people were interested I set up a WA group, now more than 50 members) have kept me sane and held me up through the hardest of days. And if I can share the benefits and help others find their tribe in this crazy expat life, then my work is more than worthwhile
I currently offer in-person and live-stream classes at my home Studio in Commugny, at Mies Plage, online and I offer private work, beginners courses, workshops and an On-Demand video library.
Yoga isn’t about sticking your leg behind your head (or anywhere else!) and I believe in the benefits for all – no matter your age, fitness level, body-type, gender, race or creed. I call my business ‘SimplyYoga’ to reflect this. Beyond all the hype we simply move a bit, breathe a bit, get out of our heads and into our bodies to soothe the Nervous System and calm the mind. If you’d like a bit of that in your life, I’d love to welcome you!
Find me and say hi!