My Expat Story: Gigi Griffis

At Global Living Magazine we want to connect with our readers — know what you’re all about, what you love, where you’ve been and where you’re going. The best way to do this? Hear it straight from YOU!


[Courtesy of Gigi Griffis]

We received an email from Gigi Griffis, an American expat living in Switzerland. After traveling full-time for almost two years, living for a month or two at a time in places like Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, Paris, Mexico, and Belgium’s Flanders, in late 2013 Gigi applied for residence in Switzerland. To her surprise and delight, she received it and has been living in a small town in the middle of the Swiss Alps ever since.

What’s your favorite part of expatriate life?

​I love how connected I feel here. Living in Switzerland means I’m not only immersed in another culture, but I’m also only an hour or two away from even more culture, diversity, history, and languages. In two hours, I could be in Italy or Germany or France.

I also live in a big tourist area that attracts a lot of slow travelers – people who come for a few months or a whole season – so I’m constantly meeting new people from all over Europe and the world.

I think both of those things keep me curious, creative, and inspired. ​

What’s been the hardest part?

​Not knowing the rules! Twice this year I’ve been fined for breaking rules I simply didn’t know existed (once for trying to buy a ticket on a train and once for not realizing that in Switzerland you have to register your dog not once but TWICE). It can feel really overwhelming and unfair to be penalized for something you had no idea was wrong and then wondering what else you’re doing wrong and what it’ll cost you. ​

Where have you lived around the world? Favorite places?

​In a long-term way (more than 6 months), I’ve only lived in Switzerland and the U.S. (New York, Denver, Virginia, and Pennsylvania). But for almost two years I was a full-time nomad, which means I didn’t have a home base and really felt that I was ‘living’ on the road. So, if you count places that I lived for only a month or two, I’d have to add France (6 weeks in Paris), Scotland (1 month in Edinburgh), Belgium (6 weeks in Ghent), Croatia (1 month in Split), Italy (5 weeks in Perugia, Umbria), and Mexico (2 months in Sayulita; 1 month in Playa del Carmen) to the list.

Where do you want to move to eventually?

​Right now, I just feel really lucky to have residence here in the Swiss Alps. I’ve been a lot of places, but I’ve never found one as beautiful as this. This is the one place in the world that I always feel like I’m coming home. I’m definitely a nomad at heart, so I’ll probably do a lot of traveling in the coming years and I may eventually move away, but for now, this is it.​


[Courtesy of Gigi Griffis]

What’s your sense of ‘home’?

​For me, home is about how I feel. I’ve always been restless, always wanting to go see the next place and do the next thing. But this little town in the Swiss Alps kept drawing me back over and over again and there’s this feeling I get when I’m riding the train into the valley, where something inside me expands. I feel relieved, happy, home.​

Share anything else you’d like us to hear!

​I often talk to people who want to be expats and/or travel in a longer-term way, but feel like they can’t because of their commitments. One of the big things on that commitment list for people is their pets. They can’t imagine leaving them behind and they don’t think they can take them along.

This is why I like to bring up that I travel with my dog, Luna. She went with me while I was traveling full-time (she’s got 11 countries under her proverbial belt) and now lives with me here in Switzerland and travels with me when I’m traveling and writing.

Taking a dog with you – and figuring out ways to handle your other commitments from the road – is probably more possible than you think.

About Gigi Griffis: Gigi is a location independent magazine and guidebook writer. She is the author of the 100 Locals series, a local-centric series of guides that feature interviews with real locals instead of simply the opinions of one traveler. In addition to her books, she writes for a number of magazines and keeps a blog at gigigriffis.com.

If you’d like to be featured on our “My Expat Story” section, send an email to us at info@globallivingmagazine.com and tell us about your experience as an expatriate and/or global citizen by answering the above questions. Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle so we can help you connect with other expats from around the world!


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