Dr. Noah Charney: International Best-selling Author Shares Journey of Life in Slovenia
Our special guest on The Moving Roadmap podcast, powered by Avvinue, is Dr. Noah Charney.
Dr. Noah Charney is an international best-selling author of more than a dozen books and a professor of art history living as an expat for more than a decade in Slovenia. He just recently launched a kickstarter campaign for a limited edition parenting book.
Transcripts are automatically generated and may not be an 100% accurate transcription.
Nicole (Host): Welcome to the moving roadmap podcast powered by Avvinue. My name is Nicole, and I'll be your host for the show. In this episode, we're excited to introduce our guests, dr. Noah Charney, and an internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen books and a professor of art history, living as an expat for more than a decade in Slovenia.
Now trending on Kickstarter is a limited edition parenting book, which you can pick up a copy now. So check out that book. We'll leave the description and link in our description. So welcome to the show Dr. Noah.
Noah Charney: Thanks so much for having me.
Nicole (Host): Great. Yes. We're excited to hear about your story and your relocation journey.
So I guess to start off, where are you originally from and where are you currently?
Noah Charney: Well, I was born in new Haven, Connecticut in the U S and I now live in comic Slovenia, but the path was a serpentine one. And I've actually lived in, I think, eight different countries and about 14 different locations before I ended up settling here.
Nicole (Host): Oh, oh my goodness. You moved around a lot. That's awesome. Where were some of the other countries you've lived in?
Noah Charney: Well, my story goes back to when I was at boarding school and I went to a boarding school in Connecticut called Choate Rosemary hall, and they had abroad programs that are similar to, university programs, abroad, where you could pick a country that you would live in.
You'd have a homestay and you would go there for a semester and you would have immersion in the foreign language. And I lived in Paris and Pole in France when I was 16 years old. And from that moment on, I thought this is great. I want to live in Europe. For some reason, I always felt more at home and more comfortable.
They're more excited by just daily life, the appreciation for culture and history and food and family and things that you can of course find in the States, but it seemed more pronounced. In Europe. And so I had this idea that I wanted to live in Europe. I wasn't quite sure where, and I was quite flexible as to where I might go.
So I later on wound up doing my postgraduate studies in England and studying Italian art history. And so, the places that I lived tend to be focused on studies. So I'm in London and Cambridge and Paris and Pole and Lawrence, Rome where I taught. Venice, my family has, they eventually got a vacation house in Orvieto, outside of Rome.
So that's another place I was in, yeah. In Leiden, in the Netherlands, in Madrid and in Ljubljana Slovenia. And then I eventually settled in comics, Slovenia, which is a beautiful small town, just 25 minutes North of the capital Louisiana in the Alps.
Nicole (Host): Amazing. So you just made, you know, your way around Europe sounds like amazing places to have lived.
You definitely hit some of the hotspots for sure, real expat.
Noah Charney: Yeah. And I was just auditioning for which location was going to be best. And to be honest, I liked all of them and that's not a process. I didn't mean that. I think I probably would have been equally happy in any of the places I mentioned, probably many that I haven't even visited.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. And, and you mentioned that a lot of the different places that you lived in had a lot to do with where you, you know, you studied, you know, you were working your postgraduate program or where you worked. So now you said, you mentioned that you've settled now in Slovenia. So I like to know more about making that decision.
How, how long did it take you to actually feel ready to, to move or to get settled there in Slovenia?
Noah Charney: Well, you have to understand that I was on the lookout for a place to settle and it was quite proactive. So while I was doing my postgraduate work, I was a student at the University of Cambridge, but I had, as we Americans say ants in my pants and Cambridge was totally charming.
And Harry Potter, like for a couple of years, and then I started to want to expand my horizons a bit. And so I started proactively auditioning. Places that I thought I might like to move long term. And for each one I chose a place that I found exciting that I had some initial points of contact, but I also created a sort of immersive interdisciplinary program of.
Voluntary studies for myself about that place to learn, watch as I could, and to imagine myself living there. And this is something that I would recommend to people considering moving abroad, because it's, you're sort of forecasting what your life would be like and going beyond the superficial approach for tourists and saying, you know, what are the logistics like to get work done administration?
yeah. And then for me, as a professor interested in humanities, I would Merce myself in the. History. I would try to listen to music that was written by people from that place. I would read books that were set there or about the place and try to create an internship disciplinary course for me, which for me was part of the fun, but it also helped me feel like, Hmm.
It was really getting to know the location in a way that was deeper than many locals would bother with.
Nicole (Host): Wow. So very strategic in your approach, strategic and creative at the same time. Right? Like listening to the music, even reading the books that were set in that specific location. Very creative. I have yet to hear that.
And I'm sure listeners are like, wow, this is another, another thing I can do to help prepare for my move abroad. Right.
Noah Charney: It really does help. and then, then what it came down to in terms of location was I was basically I'm on the hunt for the future. Mrs. Charney.
Where do you want us to settle down? And, but I knew I wanted to marry someone who was European and I was entirely flexible as to where she might be from as long as it was a way for me to live full time in Europe, where I felt so good and I wound up marrying a slogan. and we lived in a number of other places together before we lived in the U S we lived in the UK in Italy and.
Spain and the Netherlands, before we decided to move to Slovenia. And that was really when we decided to have kids sort of vignette is a country where just about everything works the way it's supposed to all the time. That is not the case at all in Italy. Yeah. So logistically it's a much easier place to settle.
and, in terms of just admin, the things that you need to do to get. On with your life, especially if you have children. it has one of the highest qualities of life on the planet for one of the lowest costs of living. And that was really a deciding factor for us to be here long term.
Nicole (Host): Amazing. Well, sound, it sounds like just a beautiful love story and, and how you even ended up staying, you know, in Slovenia.
So, for those who are considering Slovenia, you definitely hit on some great things, right? Highest quality of life. It's a great place logistically, but kind of talking on the logistics side, what were some of the steps to. You know, be able to stay there long term. Did you have to do certain paperwork or what was involved in that process to make it official?
Noah Charney: Sure to make it official, and you know, the easiest route is, a bit when we get a reunion visa, which means that you're married to, someone from that country in this case, it can be from any EU country and you can live anywhere else. that's of course not open to everyone and you don't want to just get married for that reason, but that, that was how I initially came here, but I can.
Say that there was another route that was possible. There are a couple, one is that if you can successfully argue that your presence improves the country from, for example, a cultural perspective, which I could theoretically argue because I'm a moderately well known, author, and a TV presenter, columnist, and whatnot.
That's one route that you could take. Another one, is this was a little bit backwards, but my parents we're interested in a vacation home slash retirement home in Italy. And one way that you could approach it is, most countries will let you retire there. If you can demonstrate that you have enough space savings or income, that you won't be a burden on the state.
And so another approach is to have basically if you have a relative yeah. In that position to get a visa yeah. That they're going to retire there. And then you can have that family reunion visa, for example, parents. So, those are a couple of, of the potential. Mine was quite literally just the family reunion.
If you're married to an EU citizen, then you can pretty much automatically get that. You just have to demonstrate that you're not going to be a financial burden on the state.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. Yeah. And it's interesting that you, you looked at those three different options, right? It's, it's good to know that there are options available.
Yeah. And even, almost a creative way of looking at it too. Right. Then, you know, if you were to have family to retire there and then you can get the family reunion, of course that's a lot more logistics in place, more people involved, but there's different ways to, to make that dream a reality. If you're looking to move abroad so glad that you brought that up.
Noah Charney: Sure another one to think about is if you happen to have a grandparent from Europe, a lot of the countries have a grandparent clause where you can get a visa or even a passport. If you just demonstrate that someone as recent as your grandparents was a citizen of an European country, they definitely have that for Italy.
I'm not sure about where else, but that's another thing to consider.
Nicole (Host): Definitely. So definitely look into your family, your family tree, and start seeing who, because that can definitely open up doors for those looking to move abroad. So I know you moved around a lot and, but with maybe some experience, what was the most challenging aspect of coordinating your relocation?
Noah Charney: Well, I was pretty lucky because from age 16, I was used to living on my own. I went to a boarding school and my life was pretty much a pair of suitcases and I would make each apartment or dorm room my own by putting up the same set of posters and hanging white Christmas lights. And that signified that it was that it was home.
So we're used to it from that perspective, then I'm moving to different places. The easiest is as a student, certainly the most logistics are taken care of for you. So first I studied at the Courtauld Institute in London, which is a part of the University of London where they teach only art history. And then I studied at university of Cambridge in each one of those places, and did the logistics.
A bit easier. I'm moving to London. The Courtauld Institute did not have dormitories, so you could find your own student accommodation or an apartment. And I stayed in a wonderful place. I would recommend to anybody moving to London as a student with a very silly name, it's called the good enough club and founded by, by Lord.
Good enough, a hundred years ago. And it basically functions like an Oxbridge college, right in the middle of London. and it's competitive to get into, but you have to basically be nice and, and proactive and interesting, and that they let you in regard, they don't look at your, your grades at all.
They're looking at you as a person and the best friends I've ever had are those that I made there. And it was a great way to live in Mongan as a postgraduate student. And some of the other places, our, our trickier logistically, if you want to really set roots down, but for most of them, you need to, if you have a friend there, especially who speaks the language fluently, then if you're going and sort of auditioning it.
And not trying to set up a business and then open a bank account or whatnot, then you're essentially, there is a tourist and it's quite easy. When you get to the phase of wanting to get integrated into the healthcare system, opening bank accounts, then you really need someone who's going to work on your behalf.
And it could be a very good friend who's willing to put in the hours and the headache, the, the, the easiest and most cases is to hire a consultant or a lawyer. And there are people who specialize in this and that, that is really a distinct specialization area that is hugely beneficial and worth the investment.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely completely agree on that. Every country is different when, you know, opening a bank or getting a phone. And so having a local resource, professional services as well to help navigate that, that is really helpful. So what were some things you didn't expect to happen during your move?
Noah Charney: So I think I've been pretty lucky with some moves.
The moves themselves were always smooth, but really it's because I was used to it. I think it might've been more traumatic if I was basically at home all the time, or if I'd been in the U S for all of my life and then suddenly shifted locations. I, I think that we didn't even get anything lost in the course of a move.
I think the hardest parts were trying to integrate. All the paperwork into moving to Italy. And everyone was very well meaning, but Italy has a famously labyrinthine bureaucracy where nobody knows exactly what you need, but you definitely need the one piece of paper you've never heard of. And it's like a classic.
And that's one of the things I you shade about, well, I'm going to say kind of ex-Habsburg, countries where, where they have this sort of, I guess more Germanic approach to bureaucracy where, where there may be a lot of rules, but there are no surprise rules and everything is written out and the checklist is.
Is established and you just have to do the paperwork and then you're done. And still being there is thankfully one of them. So, you know, there was a lot of paperwork, but there was no surprise paperwork and it was very clear what needed to be done. And you have to fulfill the following rules and some of the rules might feel a little bit silly, but that's the way it is.
And then. At least all the cards around the table. Whereas in Italy it feels like there's, there's always some key master who is blocking your next step and, and you've never heard of what they need and you needed it yesterday.
Nicole (Host): Yes. You know, thanks for touching on that because you know, Every country again, is so different and the way to handle your paperwork.
And there's some countries with many surprises. So also in my journey abroad, I've experienced that it's sometimes hard to distinguish what you need and when do you need it? But like you said, most times it's you needed it yesterday and to be signed, in your home country or something. So sometimes there's those surprises.
Surprise rules or surprise paperwork that comes up, but interesting to know, Slovenia has everything easily organized. So definitely another reason if anyone's looking to move, that sounds like a great place to relocate.
Noah Charney: I am. I'm a big proponent of it and it's not just because I live here. I did a lot, a lot of research about which countries I might want to live in full time.
And, you know, a couple of years ago I pitched an article to the Washington post, which is one of the publications I write for. And, the idea was 20 things. America could learn from Slovenia. And the editor said, great. And then the editor told me you only have 600 words of space, so it's gotta be six things.
But I had a long list of things that, you know, especially the government that retained some of the good things about a socialist system and got rid of most of the bad things. And so the government really takes care of its citizens in a way that. At least from the perspective in American, we're certainly not using America.
You can get the absolute best of everything, but it is very costly with a high cost of living. If you want access to that. Whereas a very recently socialist state manages to have an incredibly high quality of things like healthcare and early childhood education and whatnot for, what Americans cannot believe is such a limited cost or is free all together.
So there was a long list in that article. If people are interested, if you go to no attorney.com and click on articles, you can see literally dozens about, you know, my adventures abroad. Many of them are really Ravinia also to Italy. and I also have a book that was a big bestseller in Slovenia a couple of years ago called live Slovenology: Living and Traveling in the World's Best Country.
It's a live analogy, living and traveling in the world's best country, which I actually think I'm not just saying this, the slogans would like me more, but, and so it's basically a book length account of, adventures in being an expat and how I ended up there and my adventurous traveling around Slovenia, and all the things that I like about a tip, take a whole book to, to list because there's so many.
Nicole (Host): Well, definitely you sound like you have a lot of resources available for expats. which is really great. I'm definitely going to be checking out those articles as well, too, to learn more. And as I had over to visit Slovenia, sometime I'll have a better understanding where I'm going and how things are over there.
Noah Charney: Come on down.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. So now looking back, You know, of course your journey has evolved since you were 16 years old. What advice would you give to someone who's considering moving abroad?
Noah Charney: Okay. The first thing that I recommend to everybody, but you got to hear this advice early on is to do a study abroad program as early as possible.
A lot of Americans in particular will go on their junior year of college, which is great. But if there's any chance to go earlier, I feel super lucky that I went my junior year of high school and it was a really life changing experience that made me grow and mature. More quickly and more deeply than I would have otherwise.
And especially if it's immersive in a foreign language, and if that's a possibility, then things are much more in my opinion, exciting. than if you were to go to a country with a language you already speak fluently. So I think going abroad as early as possible, basically auditioning what it feels like to be in a new country and being there without your family, as infrastructure and having to navigate on your own to at least a certain extent.
When I was 16, obviously I was still a high school student and most of the things were handed to us, but we were still there without parents. I'm living with a family that didn't speak English, in a city that was huge for us. And we had to navigate on our own and that felt hugely exciting and liberating.
Then the next step I think, is to try moving to the country for as long as possible without making it a permanent move, as you can, to get a sense of what it would be like, because just as a tourist, even for a couple of weeks, not give you any indication of what it would be like to live there full time.
So most countries, you can do three months at a time without a special visa. And I would recommend doing something like that to get a sense of what it would be like to get into a routine there where you're not just going to restaurants and tourist sites, but you're just doing whatever your normal lifestyle would, would require.
You're going grocery shopping. You're. Getting things done that are quote unquote boring or quotidian, but it gives you a sense of what it's like to do them there. And that's where you also can try to meet other pats and hear about their experience and learn from their mistakes. That's usually the best way to do it and figure out the logistics of moving there.
For an extended time, but it's basically like a two to three month audition period. And I think that's the best advice because people have just been safe for a two week holiday and they loved it. Well, moving there would be a completely different prospect
Nicole (Host): Great advice. And I love how you mentioned doing a study abroad program as soon as possible, you know, as young as possible.
Right. because once you get that. International experience. There's something about it that you just have to, you know, continue exploring and, you know, you were privileged enough to, to have the opportunity in high school and get that immersion into another culture. Probably impacted now your whole future where you've moved around different countries.
Yeah. And so that's beautiful. I know for myself, in college there was a study. I brought a program and I always say my biggest regret was that I didn't do it. But my friends did surprisingly, they now live abroad and a lot of it was attributed to their time that they spent. So I know for sure, I would have.
Moved abroad sooner. If I had gone to a study abroad program and probably would have. Figure it out more where I should live, better just because of that. So, thanks. That's great advice.
Noah Charney: Sure.
Nicole (Host): So you've shared so much of your story and just some really great tips and you have amazing resources available for our listeners.
So I guess we'll just kind of wrap up with a nice random question. Where is the best city you visited, your favorite city?
Noah Charney: Yeah, that's a great question, but I have an easy answer. My favorite city in the world is Rome and I lived there for, I think, a total of about a year and a half. I was there for one period of nine months.
When I was still a postgraduate student, I also taught there. And then I feel like I lived there because I spent two years living in Orvieto, which is an older area, but it's just, just a 45 minute train ride from Rome. So I was commuting there often and it's just the city. I felt most at home credibly friendly.
It is not too large, but there's an infinite amount of things to do. And it's a place that 's true for throughout Italy, that rewards regulars. And expats in a way that some other countries don't. And what I mean by this is take a restaurant. if they think you're a tourist, you literally get less good food.
Yeah. And if you start to go the same a couple of times in a row, and you have chats with the waiters and they understand that you're regular you pay less and you have better food. Quite literally because they assume you're there for the long haul and the torso won't know the difference and you'll never see them again anyway.
And that's a silly example, but also in Italy from a language perspective. They are very happy for people doing their best with Italian. And they are entirely understanding if you don't speak so well, because very few Italian speak other languages in other countries. And I'm looking at you Frank well with a bit nicer.
Yeah. Sometimes you get a little bit of the cold shoulder or people just switch into English. It's less of an inviting experience linguistically or rather more of a challenge. So for me, Rome is the most exciting place to be. But now that I'm getting old and crotchety and I have children and I like living in a quiet town in the Alps, it would feel very hectic and of, maybe too much kind of.
Dirty and trafficked and whatnot never would have occurred to me when I was younger. Now I can see the appeal of living in a quieter place, especially with young children. But it remains my favorite city to answer your question
Nicole (Host): beautifully and well well-described for sure. so thank you so much for answering that question.
Another thing is how can our, our listeners find you on social? I know you mentioned some of the books that you have, but what about, how can they find you on social?
Noah Charney: Sure. I would love to be in touch with anyone who's interested, on Facebook. it's under my own name, Noah Charney on Instagram.
It's under “Slovenology” because the Instagram posts are basically about crazy things that I'm doing in Slovenia. and there are links to both of them through my website, which is no attorney.com.
Nicole (Host): Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. And of course, we're going to include all the resources, the links, where you can connect with Dr. Noah from our podcast. So thank you again for being part of our show. We loved hearing about your journey. So thank you again.
Noah Charney: Thanks for having me.