While on a year long sabbatical with her husband in Rome, Sewall teamed up with long time friend Tiffany Parks to create a podcast about ex-pats aptly titled The Bitersweet Life.
In terms of the creation of the podcast, the idea came to fruition rather organically. Upon arrival in Rome, Sewall wanted to continue working with radio and was particularly intrigued with podcasting as an emerging radio format. “It provides a platform for radio people to do whatever they want to do without fitting into confines of the schedule of a producer,” says Sewall.
With the podcasting idea in mind, she lived through her (sometimes challenging) daily experiences of being an ex-pat in Italy and decided that she wanted to document and share her journey. Sewall then contacted Parks, a US ex-pat and editor who has lived in Rome for 10 years, and The Bittersweet Life was born.
Through each 30 minute (approx.) episode of The Bittersweet Life the pair take listeners on an engaging journey through the intricacies, challenges and experiences of being both a short-term and long-term ex-pat in Rome. The differing experiences of Sewall and Parks allow listeners to see the contrast in individual ex-pat journeys.
“We wanted to look at the ex-pat experience from two angles. From the perspective of someone who has just arrived and someone who has been there long enough to become more jaded and act more like a citizen,” says Sewall.
The production process of the podcast was also organic in nature. The pair recorded the episodes while sitting perched on Sewall’s bed in the loft of her Rome apartment. Sewall and Parks also invited special guests over to interview, gaining insights on a variety of topics while sharing cups of tea recording in the loft that boasted perfect acoustics.
With 34 episodes currently online (and more episodes to come each Monday in future weeks), Sewall found it hard to pick out a favorite. “We have done episodes on a variety of intriguing topics, but those that focused on language I found really interesting,” says Sewall. Many podcast episodes explore the struggles of living in another country that doesn’t speak your first language and how that can change the dynamic of relationships.
The Bittersweet Life delves into a variety of life subjects that all listeners can relate to including difficult topics such as sexual assault. Sewall points to that episode as being one of the hardest to do. “Talking in a raw and open way in radio about that topic was something I have never done before,” says Sewall.
According to Sewall, The Bittersweet Life, is appealing to listeners from all walks of life. “We’ve received great feedback from both current and past ex-pats, those who love to travel and people who are intrigued by the idea of moving to a foreign country but wouldn’t consider actually doing it.”
When asked about the difference between life in Ballard and in Rome, Sewall definitely has some interesting insights to share. “I thought Ballard was loud, but comparatively to Rome it is so quiet. I was also worried that when I came back it would feel like there was nothing going on compared to the busy streets of Rome, but Ballard seems to always have something going on,” shares Sewall.
In terms of advice for new podcast listeners, Sewall encourages everyone to start from first episode and share in the narrative journey of their adventures.
“This was a big year about strengths and weaknesses and The Bittersweet Life gives listeners an glimpse of how much you can learn about yourself while sometimes being out of your comfort zone living overseas,” says Sewall.
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Parks. Photo shows Katy (on right) and Tiffany (on left) on one of Katy’s first days living in Rome.