Interview with Expat Life Coach Allegra Stein

AllegraSteinThe Journey Within

Interview with Expat Life Coach Allegra Stein

By Claire Bolden McGIll 

Global Living Magazine – Issue 15 | Nov/Dec 2014

It’s a normal part of expat life to be angry, frustrated or even depressed now and then. But, if you feel like this, are you potentially preventing any chance of having a successful and rewarding life abroad?

I’ve met a few ‘Negative Ned’ or ‘Debby Downer’ expats and they always seemed to suck the life from me. You may have met some yourself in meet-up groups or trolling around expat forums. The best advice I ever got was from Allegra Stein, an expat life coach, who told me to remove these negative experiences from my life, and she was right  because it made a huge difference to not be exposed to this way of thinking.

Expat website Cheeseweb.eu comments, “For the ‘Debbie Downer’, nothing is ever good enough in her new country – the service is bad, the weather is terrible, the food is too bland or too spicy, and nothing works the way it does ‘back home’. In fact, it seems like every time she opens her mouth it’s to say how much better something is in her home country …which begs the question: If Nelly’s home country is perfect, why did she leave?”

Allegra Stein 2

Allegra Stein, 38, is a life coach and works with members of the expat community all over the world. She offers a plethora of advice for expats who are undertaking the journey of expatriation and helps them to find their way, figuratively speaking, of course.

In an exclusive Global Living interview, Allegra gave her tips on finding positivity and enlightenment when expat life might pose challenges, conflicts or confusion.

Tell me about yourself and the work you do, particularly with expats. 

I love to help people discover why they feel the way that they do – to find awareness, responsibility and power within themselves, no matter the circumstances – and then to support them as they turn their dreams into projects.

My personal background includes a lot of international travel, a 2+-year stint in the Peace Corps (Bulgaria), and a cross-country move from Los Angeles to New York.

Part of my work as a coach has been in researching and creating a model of personal identity and using that as a tool to support people facing and following a relocation. So much of who we are can be uprooted and shifted around when we move; the discomfort of that can be heightened even more when we don’t understand why we’re struggling so much. I like to provide the space and structure to explore all of those personal changes and become deliberate about how we want to rebuild our lives in our new space.

As a life coach you offer ‘a unique combination of travel and moving experience, plus enthusiasm and straightforward, thought-based coaching skills to help clear out confusion, doubt, fear and negative emotion’. Are there examples of expat travel and moving experiences where people have come through ‘the other side’ through working with you?

Often there is relief within that first session alone. Simply having awareness of WHY we’re feeling so overwhelmed can be incredibly cathartic. I help my clients put words to the emotional chaos they’re going through, which in turn renews that sense of personal strength and the truth that they’re not as out of control of their lives as they think they are. With the clients I’ve worked with, it’s incredible to watch those light-bulb moments happen; the result is that they feel lighter, more in control, aware… and taking back responsibility for their lives and what they want to create next.

What are the most common emotions and experiences for expats and what is your advice for them?

The most tangible struggle is a diminished social life. With change comes both discovery and loss – and it’s very easy to stay stuck in the “I’ve lost so much!” story that you no longer see the “But look what I’ve gained!” side of the coin.

My favorite advice for meeting new people is this: Do what you love. If you’re trying to find your new best friend, stop. Start doing what you love and the friends will follow.

When I first start working with someone who is struggling after a move, I emphasize the importance of strengthening the internal self – our self-care, thought awareness, honoring our interests – as an essential step in rebuilding a life somewhere.

Otherwise, it’s easy to get caught up in the belief that if we just make sure everything around us okay, then we’ll be okay. I’ve spoken to so many people who move, find a great house, get a solid job, and put everything in its place – and still feel unsettled and miserable. It’s never about the external stuff… always what’s going on inside.

The expat experience is a journey. How do you use your own journeys and life skills to help others pursue their own adventurous paths? Have you encountered any very unusual journeys or cases?

I know first-hand what it’s like to move and change and switch things up. Like I said, change involves loss. Well, as I see it, I forced the loss piece – by leaving my friends and family to explore a new part of the world – so that I would experience change. I didn’t wait for it; I sought it out.

I bring that energy to my coaching relationships, too. When clients tell me that they’re going through so much overwhelm and change and struggle, I say, “Yay! Congratulations!! This is where change comes from, and change and growth are good! Hold on for the ride! I promise you’ll be okay.”

Some people don’t like that; they’d rather just sit in their misery, blame their circumstances or their partners, and wallow. I love action-takers, though, and the people who are able to find that burning ember of potential and growth underneath those layers of struggle. 

You mention that you are no stranger to the thrill of doing something different and exhilarating. How would you coach someone who has negative thoughts about change and taking on a new experience?

I love doing thought-coaching and mindset work, but my clients have to come to the table knowing that their old way of thinking is going to be challenged. If they’re not at all open to that, the coaching partnership won’t work. For those individuals who genuinely want to change and are willing to explore a new perspective, it’s incredibly inspiring to watch them take responsibility for their lives and their emotions and uncover the power they have to create the lives they truly want.

The first step is simply awareness – to take the blame off of our city/partner/job/boxes/messy house/etc. and accept that we alone are responsible for how we feel and what we do with our lives. This is both the most liberating and most difficult part of the work.

What are the biggest factors in someone being unable to deal with or accept change?  

Blame or staying in a state of victimhood. I hear things like: “It’s his fault that I’m so miserable.” “I never wanted to do this in the first place.” “I’m only here because she wanted to be here.” “Why is my partner out having such a great time and living his/her life while I’m here, at home, miserable?!” All of these statements reflect someone who has a hard time owning their emotional life and prefers to sit, albeit unconsciously, in a state of victimhood. It’s easier there.

How does your coaching with an expat function? What could an expat expect from you and what would be expected from them?

My coaching is extremely tailored to each client and starts with a deep coaching conversation to uncover what the person truly wants. From there I craft a coaching proposal that will meet their specific needs and goals. Sometimes our coaching lasts two months, sometimes six, sometimes longer. There is no one-size-fits-all when working with me, which is why I always like to start with a conversation. I coach over the phone and Skype, so there are no geographic limits.

What I expect from my clients is a willingness to play all-out – to be curious, compassionate and vulnerable, to be open to change, challenge, discomfort and creativity.

I love big dreamers and speaking with people who light up at the idea of what they most want to create and do with their lives – clients with purpose and vision.

For more information, visit www.allegrastein.com

Image courtesy of Allegra Stein

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