Hungarian Residence Visa Card

It’s official – I’m Hungarian!

Well, I’m a resident of Hungary. And to say it was a roller coaster ride getting here is an understatement. But, taking the ride reminded me of a very powerful business and life lesson that I’d forgotten.

When we bought our apartment in Budapest I really didn’t think about having to obtain a visa. I know that sounds strange, but up to that point I hadn’t lived anywhere outside the U.S. We Americans are lucky because, for the most part, we can travel throughout the world freely; so I naively thought things would be similar if we wanted to live in a different part of the world.

Au contraire, mon frère!

Now, I wasn’t completely ignorant… I did glance at the requirements for a U.S. citizen to go to Hungary. What I read (not what it really said) is that we could stay in Hungary for no more than a 90-day period. No worries, I thought – we’d planned to travel so that wouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t until I was corrected by our U.S. intern in Budapest that I woke up from my ignorant slumber and realized that, actually, we could only be in the region for 90 days within a 6 month period. We were about to overstay our welcome.


I had thought that once we went back to the U.S. for 6 weeks, which we’d planned to do, we’d get another 90 days. Nope. I was now totally freaked. If we were just us hanging out here for kicks, it would be easy to go to the airport and leave. But we were in the middle of renovating our apartment, we were scheduled to shoot the final part of a TV show, and – most importantly – we had our dogs with us.

To say I was whipped into a frenzy is an understatement.

We scrambled. We met with our attorney, an immigration attorney, a relocation specialist, and consulted with the U.S. embassy. They all said the same thing: “You need to leave immediately.” And on top of that, it would be difficult for us to get a residence visa. We didn’t fit any of the criteria. There wasn’t a category called “We want to live here because we really love it.”

But when had I ever fit into normal criteria?

So we postponed the TV shoot, packed our bags, and headed to Croatia (more to come on that adventure).

Spending the winter in Dubrovnik, Croatia didn’t suck by a long shot. George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and see Dubrovnik.” But even in paradise, I was anxious. If we couldn’t get a visa, we’d constantly be playing the country-hopping game.

At one point, I was so wound up that I started to change our plans even before we knew what the visa outcome would be. I began to second-guess myself. You know how it is when you’re in a swirl… I jumped the gun and said quickly, “Let’s just pack up the dogs and go back to our simple life in the U.S.” I’d become so attached to the situation, looking at it in only one particular way.

Now, I don’t know if it was my stunning view of the Adriatic Sea or divine intervention, but one day I experienced a burst of clarity in my storm of confusion. The clouds parted and I thought, “Let’s just go for it and take what we get. If it’s meant to be, it will be.“ This is the philosophy in life that I normally subscribe to – but this time, I’d simply lost my way.

There was such a sense of freedom and power for me when I remembered what I momentarily forgot.

With this new sense of focus and commitment, we went to work while on the road, getting together all the required documents.

(I mean, come on, what country wouldn’t want us? :))

We jumped through all the necessary hoops – no problems (other than waiting for hours and hours in the immigration office with all the other hopefuls) – and it all paid off.

My life lesson: Everything shifted when I returned to our commitment and let go of the attachment to having things look a particular way. When you think about it, isn’t that the way things always work out… exactly how they’re supposed to?