Sarah and Eric Hollis, Gmunden

Who are you?

We are Sarah and Eric Hollis – your ordinary, animal-obsessed, travel-loving family presented with a life-changing opportunity to emBARK on a three-year, 4,623-mile away adventure, with our three animals, from Illinois to Austria.

My name is Sarah, and I am an Austria-based art director, designer, illustrator, photographer and all-around creative guru. I combine my love of animals, travel and design to create The Pack Mama, our travel blog and online shop for other travel-loving, animal-obsessed people. My husband, Eric, is the reason for this life-changing opportunity. He’s wanted to be an expat for several years, so when his job asked if we wanted to move to Austria for three years, we said yes without hesitation. We have two dogs, Charlie and Daisy, and a cat, Denzel, and we love getting to share this experience with them.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

On 19th October 2020, we moved to Gmunden, Austria from West Chicago, IL, USA.

For the last eight years that Eric and I have been together, we have traveled the world, and every time we’re in a different country, we talk about what it would be like to live in a different corner of the world. So when Eric’s job offered us the opportunity to move to Austria as expats for the next three years, we immediately said yes.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The two biggest challenges we faced were the global pandemic and getting our animals abroad. The pandemic constantly pushed back our move date and made us cancel our trip to find an apartment in Austria, so we had to sign a lease without seeing it in person first. Secondly, moving our animals over had its fair share of challenges. We only had a few options to get them here, but we knew that one wrong decision or missed signature could result in being turned away by customs.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We used a relocation agent provided by Eric’s company.

Are there many other expats in your area?

No other expats, that we know of. Austria is where the international supply chain office is located in Europe for Eric’s company, and Linz is the major expat city in Austria. Everyone told us we needed to find an apartment in Linz. However, after living in cities for most our lives, we knew that the mountains and adventure would better suit our lifestyle, so we decided to settle down in Gmunden, Austria. It’s a major vacation town for locals, situated right on a lake and surrounded by mountains.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Everyone we’ve met has been friendly and, for the most part, spoken some English, which helped tremendously while getting settled in.

Sarah and Eric moved to Gmunden, Austria from West Chicago, IL, USA

What do you like about life where you are?

We feel the location in Austria and the apartment we chose fits ours needs and lifestyle perfectly. It is only 20 minutes to Eric’s work, is surrounded by nature, and has all the wish list items for both of us. Our home is a short walk from the downtown area and public transportation, which is useful when we want to explore coffee shops and restaurants or connect to other areas of Austria via train.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Dealing with the Covid-19 lockdown rules. Having to stay at home most of the time doesn’t allow us to meet many people, try out local restaurants, or travel around to the surrounding countries.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

The language and currency are the biggest differences. Everything else seems familiar and feels like home to us.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Plan and do your research so you know what to expect.
  2. Realise you’re about to embark on a huge move and things won’t always go according to plan, and that’s okay.
  3. Learn some basic German so you can get around without feeling completely lost.
  4. If you have pets, bring them with you. Side-by-side adventures with your pets will lead to a much more fulfilling experience for all.

What are your plans for the future?

We plan to visit all 44 European countries, learn to speak German, continue to move up in our careers, and create a brand that inspires people to travel the world with their pets.

Visit Sarah and Charlie’s blog, The Pack Mama, and follow them on Instagram @SarahHollis44 and @ImCharlieHollis