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5 Things I’m Thankful for as an American Abroad

There are a few tough spots in my life as an American expat in Asia.

Most are pretty trivial – I’ve never been able to find the kind of deodorant I really like. Cheese is way more expensive than I’m used to. The drastic time zone difference between here and home can get really inconvenient.

And I miss certain holidays that just aren’t celebrated here – or are celebrated in smaller or different ways.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but I’ve yet to enjoy a pumpkin spice latte this season, it’s way too warm to get cozy in a cardigan, and I don’t even have an oven to prepare my favorite seasonal dishes in (not that I’d really know how to, anyway).

But the most important tradition for this time of year is still completely doable – which is giving thanks. And I think I have more things than ever to be grateful for.

So here’s my list of 5 things I’m thankful for as an expat:

#1 – I am embracing all my passions and interests in a way that seems almost miraculous.

Since I was a kid/teen, I have had a few consistent interests that seemed a bit random and unrelated. It wasn’t until I moved to China to teach ESL that suddenly everything clicked together in a way that is obvious and natural now.

I have been fascinated with words and language since before I can remember – I always loved writing, language arts was my best subject in school, and I was the person everyone went to with grammar or spelling questions.

As a kid, I also loved learning and daydreaming about other countries. I spent hours at the library filling up index cards with random facts about the countries I wanted to explore when I was older, and I made travel a priority as soon as I was old enough to.

Finally, as a high school student, I took a job in an after school program and immediately fell in love with all the kids I was caring for. I had another amazing experience as a camp counselor in college, and it was then that I realized I am happiest when working with kids and teens.

Teaching English abroad blends all these aspects of my personality and when I stop and think about this, I feel so incredibly lucky to have found exactly the right life for me.

#2 – I’m seeing and experiencing new things all the time.

Since moving to Bangkok in July 2016, I’ve traveled somewhere new almost every month. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think of this – I can’t believe how many places I’ve been now and cultures I’ve experienced, and I’m not slowing down any time soon! I love living in a part of the world where travel is so easy and affordable.

#3 – I’m much more interested in my own life.

When I lived in America, I would spend an embarrassing amount of time watching television. I could get through an entire series in a matter of days. It was the #1 way I spent my free time.

Sometimes I worried about this habit being unhealthy, but I could never break it – until I arrived in China. Once I was abroad, my TV routine just completely vaporized. I never even thought about the shows I used to obsess over. I don’t think I watched one for an entire year.

Now I’ll occasionally try to get into a series everyone is talking about. But it makes me restless and bored. I don’t enjoy it anymore, and I’d always rather be out experiencing something more real or substantial.

I think this change happened so effortlessly because I am genuinely happy with my actual life now, and I am thankful to be so excited by everything around me. Just going on a simple walk can be a great afternoon that energizes and inspires me. My mind is no longer trying escape a rut that I don’t really belong in.

#4 – I found an amazing partner in the most random place.

I have traveled alone a little, and it is definitely an empowering experience that I’d recommend everyone try at least once. But in the long-term, I am so thankful that I met Simon in the South of China and that we recognized how compatible – and rare – we were. Our dreams for the future are not very common, and finding someone who wants the same things and who we travel and live with so easily is definitely something to be grateful for.

#5 – I have the most amazing friendships.

We’ve mentioned in several blog posts how powerful friendships and bonds made abroad can be. We have so much in common with our friends out here, and we have a ton of stories together.

But living as an expat has also made me thankful for my friends back home. Before I left, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to stay in touch. Not only am I more active and busy than I used to be, the time zone difference makes communication tricky. Sometimes I wonder if my friends will eventually just write me off as someone who isn’t really important to their lives anymore – but every time I do hear from them or get a chance to catch up, I feel just as close and important as ever.

If you’re an expat living abroad, can you relate to any of these? What would you add to the list. And if you’re an American expat, how are you celebrating Thanksgiving while away from home?

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A Guide to the Different Types of Teaching Opportunities Abroad

Teaching is one of the most popular and achievable jobs for those looking to work abroad. But some people find themselves resistant to this career path, saying that teaching just isn’t for them. It’s true – teaching isn’t for everyone. But teaching might offer a greater variety of positions than you think. Before you make your decision, make sure you know all your options. Not every job will have you standing in front of a class of 30+ screaming kids!

First we will start with ESL. This is teaching English as a second language, and it’s probably the most common job for foreigners abroad. But don’t worry – you’ll have other opportunities to choose from if this one isn’t the best fit.

BABIES

Even at the young ages of 0 – 3, parents are eager for their children to start learning English. There are many jobs out there looking for English speaking nannies or daycare workers, and your job description might lean more toward childcare with natural English exposure rather than formal English lessons.

KINDERGARTEN OR PRESCHOOL

The next step up would be working in a kindergarten. Most countries are crying out for teachers willing to teach 3-5 year olds. Your lessons will be simple, repetitive, and playful. You will lead a lot of games and songs with basic phonics skills and vocabulary. Most kindergarten teachers have an assistant (or two) to help out, and class sizes are generally small.

KIDS

The most popular ESL job is teaching kids in primary or elementary school, usually around 5 – 11 years old. At this stage, you will be introducing basic grammar, but nothing too complicated (even for those who don’t consider themselves to be great at grammar themselves. You will also set aside time in your lessons for reading and writing practice. Class sizes get a bit larger here, possibly ranging from 20-60 kids. The biggest challenge at this age is classroom management, but if you are firm and consistent with discipline it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

TEENS

If kids aren’t your thing, consider working with teens instead. There is a lot of variety when it comes to teaching teens. Sometimes your objective will be preparing for them for entrance exams to English-speaking programs. Some of your classes will focus more conversation and fluency. You might also have classes intended to improve reading comprehension and writing. Teens will still appreciate a few games and activities in their classes, and they usually are easier to manage than younger kids.

ADULTS

Finally, you have the option to teach adults. This is also a booming industry worldwide, with language centers all around the world attracting adults who want to improve their English for business or travel. Adults tend to be very motivated students, as they have actually chosen themselves to attend your classes (rather than their parents forcing them to go). Their enthusiasm for practicing English and interacting with a native speaker can be really fun. Lessons are usually conversation based, and therefore class sizes tend to be small.

ONE ON ONE

If you hate the idea of standing in front of a classroom, whether that audience is three years old or thirty, maybe one-on-one lessons are for you. Kids might need to be tutored after school, teens are often preparing for English exams or proficiency tests, and adults might want the flexibility or undivided attention of a private lessons. These one-on-ones usually pay more per hour, but you’ll need to collect quite a few to make a full-time income.

SMALL GROUPS

When it comes to conversational English, small groups are ideal for students. With only 2-4 students, they’ll receive plenty of attention from you, and having a couple students will allow you to plan more activities for them to practice dialogues together. You can charge similar rates as a private, but with a few more students you’ll make more per hour.

LANGUAGE CENTERS

You’ll find these everywhere in non-English speaking countries. Part-time and full-time work is available, and you can usually find ones for kids, teens, or adults. Keep in mind that your working hours will most likely be during evenings or weekends, when kids are out of school and adults are off work.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Public schools will be for kids, and class sizes will usually be larger. In most cases, the English levels will be lower – some students will have had little to no English exposure.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

For smaller class sizes, students more familiar with English, and higher pay, look into private schools. Of course, there will also be more competition for these positions. If you are a new teacher, gaining a bit of experience somewhere else might be necessary.

The last consideration for an ESL teacher is what level of English you are comfortable teaching. The options include:

FIRST EXPOSURE TO ENGLISH

This would be the most basic of level, and it’s rare outside of very young children. You’ll intoduce basic words and phrases.

VERY LOW LEVEL

Students will need work on new vocabulary and pronunciation.

LOW LEVEL

At this level, a basic introduction to reading and writing could be introduced.

AVERAGE

Typically an average level student should now have a sufficient grasp on phonics, and they should be starting to read and write.

HIGH

These students will probably be speaking more, and they should be able to read and write in a good manner.

VERY HIGH

At this point, conversational English should be very good and they will be able to read and write well, although they might struggle for the right word or phrase at times. Grammar mistakes will still occur, but they’ll be able to self-correct when asked.

NEAR NATIVE

Some students will have a dual nationality, especially at private schools, and they’ll be speaking fluently. They’ll mostly need help with the same things students back home need – advanced grammar and vocabulary, writing organization and clarity, reading and discussing literature, and public speaking.

So there are many types of ESL teachers, but we aren’t done yet! Because ESL isn’t the only option for foreign teachers. Not interested in teaching English? Consider these options:

BUSINESS

Many companies will hire English native speakers to help teach their staff how to conduct business with English-speaking companies and professionals.

TEACHING FOR TESTS

Many students will reach out to native speakers to help prepare for a test or exam which will be taken in English. The subjects for this might include English, but it could also vary from math to science to social studies.

SPORTS COACHING

Many firms will look to hire an English coach to teach sports. It could be a football class, a swimming class, or even a boxing class. Parents see this as an opportunity for their kids to be exposed to English while doing something fun.

CONVERSATION CLASSES

This could be talking about anything. Maybe a student wants to learn how to order food, go shopping, or discuss recent news stories. I once taught a class about dating norms in Western culture.

PRIMARY TEACHER (INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS)

A perfect fit for a fully qualified teacher certified from a native-speaking country. These jobs pay the same as your home country, but usually the cost of living is much less so you can have a luxurious lifestyle. International schools are very similar to native schools, and nearly all subjects are taught in English and conduct outside the classroom is also done in English.

PRIMARY TEACHER (NON-INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS)

This is often overlooked, but many bilingual schools look for native speakers to teach a variety of subjects in English, such as math, computer, or health.

UNIVERSITIES

If you have an advanced degree, it will be easy to find a job teaching in a university overseas. We’ve even known people who’ve landed these positions without completing their Masters, or who get the job based on experience alone with no work completed toward a graduate degree at all.

 

As well as working in formal education, there are also some fun opportunities to teach within the expat community. These are good roles for people with special interests or skills, but official qualifications aren’t always necessary. Some examples include:

YOGA TEACHERS

In cities with a constant flow of travelers or expats, English yoga classes are always in demand. You can find jobs at gyms or studios. Some yoga teachers will even host classes in local parks for a small fee or donation.

FITNESS CLASSES

From Zumba to spin classes, you can also lead a variety of exercise classes for the English-speaking community.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

It is very common for expats to teach piano, violin, guitar, or another instrument in English. They aren’t giving any official language lessons, just allowing the student to be exposed to the language while practicing another skill.

CODING GRAPHIC DESIGNER WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT

The expat community often includes some “digital nomads” who make money online while traveling long-term. Offering courses or one-on-one tutorials for graphic design or website development could give them new skills to grow their business.

These are just a few examples, but the possibilities are endless. Think about your own skills and experiences – what can you offer to the local or expat community when you travel?

There are so many different types of teaching, most people can find the right students, subject, or approach that works best for them. Don’t want to deal with unruly children? Try teaching adults. Not comfortable teaching grammar? Take on beginner or lower-intermediate students. Don’t like standing in front of a class? Go for small groups or private lessons. Just don’t rule out this easy path to a life abroad until you’ve explored all options.

If you’re thinking about getting started with ESL, then check out our guide here. Furthermore if you’re interested in teaching in China or Thailand we offer specific guides to those countries.

 

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A Traveler’s Bucketlist – Beyond Sightseeing

When it comes to traveling, there are countless preferences, styles, and activities. Every traveler has their own pace, their own favorites, and their own frustrations.

While we will never deny we love a good tourist hotspot, we’ve also discovered that most of our memorable moments and fun days do not come from sightseeing.

Instead, we get the most excited about new experiences we have while exploring the world. So while many of our pictures may feature us at the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, or the Great Wall of China, our best stories take place in an entirely different setting.

If you can relate, this travel bucket list is for you. It won’t send you to any famous landmarks, but we think you’ll definitely have a worthwhile and adventurous trip if you can check off all or some of this list.

Camel Riding – While it wasn’t always the most comfortable experience, seeing the desert by camel was an unforgettable experience. I never realized how tall a camel is, and it took a lot of balance and core strength to keep from slipping off. The tour guide who took us out also provided two home-cooked meals and time to lie outside under the stars.

Boat Parties – If you’re by the coast and have a decent group of friends to split the cost, you can rent a boat and crew for a party on the water. We did this in Oman, and it was beautiful, fun, and relaxing.

Hot Springs – One of our favorite things to do in China was visit a Hot Springs park. Small pools are scattered throughout a flower garden, and the idea is to soak in each one by one. Despite being called “hot” springs, they range in temperature from practically boiling to ice cold. They also have a variety of aromas and medicinal properties, relieving stress, arthritis, acne, or inflammation.

Cliff Diving – Simon loves these high-adrenaline activities, whereas Kristin is much more nervous about heights. Whichever side you fall on, you should try it at least once. You’ll feel unbelievably free and come up laughing afterward, we promise.

Festivals – One of the best ways to get to know a new culture is to celebrate one of their holidays alongside them. We definitely recommend Songkran in Thailand, and there are several others we hope to experience one day (Mardi Gras, Holi, and more).

Cooking Classes – Loving the local food? In many countries, you can find one-time cooking classes designed for travelers. We signed up for one in India and had a great evening trying something new (and stuffing our faces).

Safaris – It’s always surreal to watch certain wild animals in their natural habitat, especially when you have only seen them in zoos before.

Motorbike Trips – If you had asked me five years ago if I’d ever get on a motorbike, I would have laughed. Now it’s one of my favorite ways to explore an island, mountain town, or small village.

Exploring by Water – You can get an entirely new perspective on some cities if you go by boat, kayak, canoe, or even paddle board. If you’re ever in my hometown, Anna Maria, I definitely recommend getting up and down all our canals. You’ll be right in our backyards and eventually find yourself at the beach.

Old Forts and Castles (with a twist) – Okay, so this one is creeping into sightseeing territory. But we did have a blast one day when we explored an old Omani fort that was basically empty except for us. Instead of browsing the fort slowly, reading everything, we decided to play hide and seek. It was really funny, way more entertaining, and we still were able to see everything.

This list is just based on our own experiences – there is plenty more to do out there! Share your best travel experiences with us, and maybe we’ll also give it a try.

 

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Beyond Teaching English: Job Opportunities Abroad

It’s time to bust this myth: Teaching English is not the only job you can do while living abroad.

Many people, including ourselves, want to travel for a long time.

Years, if not forever.

In order to do this, money is obviously required. So unless you have rich daddy, you’ll most likely need a job.

Teaching English is a common solution, and it’s the perfect fit for us. We love teaching and traveling, so combining the two is perfect.

But teaching is mentally, emotionally, and even physically exhausting. A break is needed from time to time, even for those who see teaching as their greatest passion.

Other people just don’t like teaching English. It’s not the career for them.

And that’s fine! Because teaching English is not the only job you can get abroad. Below we have a list of many other routes you could go down.

First, there are other types of teaching jobs you could have.

Teach at an International or Bilingual School

English isn’t the only subject you can teach abroad. Most countries have international schools for students who already have high English proficiency and who want to have most or all of their education in English. Bilingual schools are similar – students take classes in both languages with a English-speaking teacher half the time and a local teacher half the time. Qualifications needed will vary based on the school and the country.

Teach a Skill

Can you guide a yoga or fitness class? Give piano lessons? Teach coding, graphic design, or website development? Turn these special skills into your career abroad. This might mean starting your business, or sniffing around to see which studios, gyms or learning centers are hiring.

Childcare

If you enjoy working with very young children, you can find nanny jobs in many countries. Parents might be looking for an English-speaking nanny with hopes that their children will pick up the language naturally from a young age.

THEN, There’s other jobs completely.

Bar Work

If you have some experience bartending, this could be a great way to earn money to pay your hotel bills, save some money for your next flight, and continue traveling. You’ll also have fun and meet some great people. A few countries have laws against foreigners working in bars, but many don’t, so don’t let this restriction discourage you.

Translators

Can you speak more than one language? If so, there are many opportunities available for you! Companies need translators all around the world to help with speaking, writing, and reading tasks.

Editing

No matter where you travel, you’ll find English on billboards, signs, flyers, and menus – often with a few errors. Companies wanting to create high-quality ads and products will hire native speakers to check their copy for any mistakes before they publish or distribute. You also might find some students who will pay you to correct their essays or school projects – if you are comfortable in this ethical gray area.

Writing

Nearly every major city around the world will have some English media, such as newspapers, magazine, or websites. These publications need writers to produce great content with the natural ability of a fluent speaker.

Working Holiday Visa

Many countries offer an opportunity to work and travel in their territory with the right visa. While the terms may differ, the idea is that you can stay in the country for a longer period of time than the typical tourist, and you’ll be able apply for available jobs and fund your time there. Some countries that offer this are the USA, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Ireland and Singapore.

Farm Work

Not only will you get a steady paycheck, you’ll typically get a free room during your stay on the farm. This is a popular choice for expats in Australia, a country that requires farm work from anyone who wants to stay longer than a year. These types of opportunities can also be found in other countries. It can be hard work, but produce continues to grow and labour is always needed. Why not commit to a short period, make some good money, and fund another few months of travel?

Photographer

If you have good equipment, good knowledge, and a good eye, you can make some money selling stock photos, working for magazines or websites, or even being hired as a personal photographer. You can also advertise your skills to couples planning a destination wedding abroad.

Tour Guides

If you know a city well (or you’re a fast learner) and you’re a naturally friendly, talkative person, tours might be the right line of work for you. If a city has a healthy tourism industry, you can bet they have a need for English-speaking tour guides.

Work on a Cruise

This is a great opportunity to get around the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and a few other areas of the world while working. From entertaining kids to working a casino table, there are a variety of positions available on cruise lines.

Flight Attendant

Not only do airline employees fly around the world while working, getting a couple nights in top hotels, they can also fly for free on their off days. If you have experience in customer service, you might qualify for a job.

Acting or Modeling

We’ve known many expats who earn extra money this way. If there is a role that requires your look, there will probably be less competition abroad. These opportunities range from speaking roles on TV to simply being an extra in the background of a scene.

Beauty, Hair, and Massage

Plenty of travelers with salon experience are funding their travels by offering cheap haircuts and other beauty services to the people they meet while traveling.

Arts and Crafts

A friend of ours started a business in designing bracelets. Do you have a creative or artistic talent? Use it to bring in some cash.

Volunteering

Don’t rule out an opportunity just because it’s described as volunteering. Foreign volunteers are often given free housing and food, and some even receive a very small amount of money that can be saved if you try hard enough. Look into the terms of each position.

Your Profession

Look into your own industry to see if there are opportunities abroad we haven’t mentioned. For example, nurses, librarians, or researchers can all find programs that place them in temporary jobs around the world where there are shortages in their field.

Housesitting

Many homeowners with expensive properties will let you stay at their place for free to simply watch it. Some might pay you to watch their poodle. A good website to check this is TrustedHousesitters.com

 

The great thing is that this list isn’t even close exhaustive. There really are so many opportunities around the world, we could never name them all. What are we forgetting? Let us know in the comments.

 

TRAVELERS OFTEN GET ASKED HOW WE’RE ABLE TO FIND THE MONEY, TIME, OR COURAGE TO GO ABROAD.

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Is Teaching ESL Abroad for You?

This past weekend we were excited to launch our new, free guide – Getting You on the Plane: A Travel Manifesto – we hope it will inspire its readers to make travel a more regular part of their lives.

While there are many ways to travel the world, we both began our adventures by taking jobs as ESL teachers. This decision was the best one of our lives, but we realize it’s not for everyone.

Is it for you? Here are some questions to consider:

What qualifications do you have?

The most important qualification is simply being a native English speaker – or at least living somewhere where English is widely spoken.

If you have that covered, you’ll just need to find the country or school that prioritizes what you offer. Some countries care most about what kind of TEFL certificate you have. Others primarily want those qualified to teach in their home country. Some are looking for college degrees in English, or just a college degree full stop.

What qualifications could you reasonably get?

If you are lacking qualification, all hope is not lost. TEFL certificates can easily be earned online, and some schools will even pay for you to get certified before your job begins.

Do you like the idea of settling in another country for a year or more?

ESL teachers usually have plenty of travel opportunities, but their day-to-day isn’t quite as adventurous compared to the life of the traveler who is changing cities and countries every few days or weeks. They are making a home in another country, not just visiting one. After the initial honeymoon phase wears off, teachers settle into a routine that becomes quite normal.

This kind of slow travel is perfect for some people. You can really get to know the culture, form genuine friendships, and even learn the language.

Do you want a creative job with a lot of variety?

Teaching is different every day. You are always teaching something new, overcoming new obstacles with your students, and coming up with new approaches and activities. If you are a creative person, and the idea of a monotonous desk job fills you with dread, teaching is for you.

Do you have plenty of energy?

Teaching can also be exhausting in every way – physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ll need to be able to summon seemingly limitless energy to keep your students engaged and positive.

Are you patient?

You’ll need patience both inside and outside of the classroom as an ESL teacher. Language learning is a slow process, and your students will get frustrated, confused, or discouraged from time to time. It’s easy to also feel the same as their teacher – but you can’t show it.

Outside the classroom, you’ll encounter a host of challenges beyond the typical traveler’s stress. Arranging work visas, dealing with landlords, setting up bank accounts and international transfers – all of these tasks will take a cool head and plenty of patience.

And here are some questions that aren’t as important as you think (and why):

Are you good at grammar? Didn’t do so great in English class back home? Don’t worry – if you’re teaching beginner or intermediate classes, you’ll be able to manage the grammar lessons just because you’re a native speaker and the most common errors will naturally sound wrong to you.
Do you like kids? Not all ESL classes are for children. Look into adult language centers if kids aren’t your thing – they are just as common in most major cities.
Do you speak the local language? You don’t need to. You will only be allowed to speak English with your students, and outside of the classroom you’ll get by with body language and charades until you start picking up some basic survival phrases naturally.

Have you ever considered teaching abroad before? What’s holding you back?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Why Everyone Should Be an Expat at Some Point in Their Lives

So far we have lived in two countries as expats: China and Thailand, and we wouldn’t trade this experience abroad for anything.

Actually living in a new country is completely different from just visiting one. We believe everyone would benefit from life as an expat, whether it’s a six month stint, several years, or for the rest of their lives.

We met as expats living in China. 

Why? Here’s what we believe you’ll gain from making another country your home:

An Open Mind

Okay, so there are a few things in life that can pop that bubble everyone lives in for awhile during their youth. Maybe you had some epiphany-type moments at university, or when you met someone living a very life than you’re used to, or when you read a certain book.

But there is really nothing that compares to how expat life can open your mind. You’ll notice things about your old habits, home, and culture that you’ve never even given a second thought before.

You realize that the word “normal” really means nothing, and we are all products of our culture to some degree.

In China we were shocked by how people behaved trying to get on the metro (literally shoving their way on, no lines, no rules). In Thailand we weren’t thrilled with the sights (or smells) of squid on a stick that seemed to be at every street food vendor.

But eventually the shock fades, you stop comparing everything to what you’re used to, and you adapt to your new normal. You’ll find yourself becoming a less judgmental person who understands that there is rarely just one “right” way to do things, and you don’t immediately get upset when someone does something you’d have previously perceived as rude or strange.

You’ll also be amazed by some differences that seem so obviously better when compared to back home – such as a drastically lower cost of living, less red tape and tiresome regulations, better living amenities (beautiful swimming pools, saunas, and gyms are the norm in Thailand), and a culture that actually welcomes foreigners and values global awareness.

Not the best sight and smell we’ve came across. 

Amazing New Friends

Remember when you went to university and finding new friends was easy and natural? The expat community in most cities is kind of like that.

People worry about being lonely in a foreign country, but we’ve actually had the opposite experience. Nearly everyone we meet has a shared love for travel and adventure – even if we have nothing else in common, there is always that to fall back on. And everyone is looking for new friends because we’re all in the same boat when we arrive: unsettled and ready to find our new social circle.

Comfort with Your Style and Looks

You can forget about blending in – no matter how you dress, you will look out of place as a foreigner.

So if you used to make fashion choices based on just going along with the crowd, you’ll quickly lose that thought process. You’ll embrace a style that is more comfortable or genuine for you – whether it’s something a little wild, a little plain, or a little outdated. You’ll be happier with your look, and no one else will care – there is such a mixture of cultures and styles in the expat community, there is not one expected way to dress anymore.

Nobody cares what you look like. 

A Break from Materialism

The more we move around, the fewer bags we need, and the emptier our remaining bags become. Material items become less important, or even burdensome. You’ll discover the freedom that comes with owning less stuff, and you’ll find you prefer spending money on new experiences rather than new things. Flights, food, events, and socializing – isn’t that what really makes us happy?

A Healthier Financial Life

If you are living in a country with a lower cost of living, saving your money is easy. We can easily tuck money away while also traveling every couple months and enjoying a comfortable day-to-day life.

Epic trips can happen often! 

Easier Goodbyes

This could be seen as a negative, but the expat life is full of goodbyes. If you aren’t about to leave, one of your best friends is. You won’t go a year without a goodbye. The first couple will be tough. But then you’ll feel yourself getting stronger.

Is this because your heart is hardening? We don’t think so. Instead, we think we are learning that friendships can stay healthy and active regardless of location. We currently have friends all around the world, and we love it.

There is always someone to miss, but there is also always someone to catch up with, someone who is eager to hear the details of our lives and wants to share their own adventures. And we always have fun new places to visit on our holidays!

Confidence

You get so many stares when you are obviously foreign. You’ll also embarrass yourself a million times doing things the wrong way in an unfamiliar culture. And if you’re trying to speak a new language or use body language to communicate? Even more opportunities to look ridiculous.

Eventually you stop caring. You accept that you’ll often be the center of attention, and that people are occasionally going to see you as stupid, crazy, or silly. Why does it matter? The peace and freedom that comes with this revelation is priceless.

We’re often seen as silly!

More Self Knowledge

When living abroad, you’re always trying new things. You discover you start liking things you’ve always claimed to hate. In Thailand, many expats will develop a taste for spicy food – or at least a tolerance for it. You’ll also find yourself turning away from things you used to love or depend on – like getting around by car.

Maturity

For us, the biggest reason to live abroad is that it really forces you to grow up and take responsibility for yourself. You realize that you are more capable and more resilient than you ever thought. You become a lot more independent. You think more for yourself, and you realize that you are in charge of your own life. You have control over every decision about how you’ll spend the rest of your life. That alone makes it all worthwhile.

Returning Home

You might think being away for years means that when you return home it’s going to be like a foreign experience itself. It’s not.

We’ve never gone home for longer than a few weeks, but even during a short visit you’ll slip back in to your old life very easily. In a matter of days it’ll feel like you’ve never left.

Yes, people get on with their lives whether you are there or not, but nothing else changes that much – not the things that matter. You’ll see the same faces, pass by the same local stores, and eat the same meals. It will be familiar and comforting, and you won’t feel as if you’ve missed out on anything by going abroad.

Enjoy your new abode! You’re not missing anything back home!  

Do you agree with these points? What do you think is the best thing you’ve gained by living as an expat? We’d love to hear.

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Where Can £89 Get You in Southeast Asia?

At this point in our life, we spend most of our time in Asia. We are currently based in Bangkok, and during many of our holidays we tend to end up in another Asian country.

They say you don’t really notice how much a culture has affected you until you leave, so who knows what might be the cause of any reverse culture shock when we do move on, but for now we’re going to guess that one of the hardest adjustments we’ll have to make is having to pay “normal” prices for things again.

A Christmas Train Ride

Let’s start with a story. This happened last December, when we were back in England for Christmas. At this point we had both been living abroad for some time and we were probably taking the easy cost of living in Thailand for granted.

We’d already spent way too much money on only a few days in Iceland, even leaving us homeless for our final night in a drafty bus station. We couldn’t wait to get to England and make our way to the cozy home of Simon’s grandparents.

Our train tickets from London were already reserved and paid for, so it should have been a straightforward and painless journey with no extra expenses. Except after our sleepless night, a blizzard postponed our plane by about six hours.

So we missed that train, and had to pay for another. The second train cost £89 each. Keep in mind this is only a one-way ticket for a journey of about an hour and a half.

This arctic blizzard was the cause of the £89 payment. 

So Let’s Compare

When you convert £89 to baht, the currency used in Thailand, it equals 3,877. This is substantially more than we each spend in a typical week, even eating out every night and going out on the weekend.

We were horrified to watch that much money disappear on something so small – to the point where we still discuss it today. It has almost become a game – how much can you get in Thailand for the cost of a short train ride in England?

Let’s Play

Get ready to be shocked! We’ll start with flights, which you would assume to always be more expensive than a train. (All prices were found on Skyscanner.)

A return flight from Bangkok to Phuket is £67 – the train ride was only one way and it was still £22 more.

A return flight from Bangkok to Yangon, Myanmar is £37. So you could go there and back twice and still not pay as much as a train ticket in England.

A return flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? £46

A return flight to Hanoi, Vietnam? £53

A return flight to Singapore? £55

A return flight to Hong Kong? £78 – for six hours of flight time, compared to that hour and a half on the train.

Now let’s look at domestic flights from within these countries.

In Vietnam you could fly from Hanoi to every other major airport in the country including Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Dalat, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City for cheaper than that train. Ranging from £43 to the most expensive we found to Ho Chi Minh City for £80.

In Cambodia, a flight from Siem Reap to its other major city, Phnom Penh, is £31. For only £4 more than the train prices in the UK you could make this journey 3 times.

And we had to throw this one in – the cheapest flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Indonesia comes up to only £12. You could make that journey 7 times and still have £5 to spare when compared to our train.

Moving on to Other Trains

Let’s actually compare the train in England to train travel in Southeast Asia.

The best available seat on a train from Malaysia to Singapore, which takes roughly 7 hours, is only about £11 one-way/£22 return. To put that into perspective, for the cost of our England train, you could go from Malaysia to Singapore and back four times.
http://www.malaysia-traveller.com/Kuala-Lumpur-to-Singapore-Train.html

If you want to get from the top of Thailand (Chiang Mai) to the bottom (Hat Yai), you would take two trains, with a stop in Bangkok. The total for your trip would only be £63 and you would be traveling for over 24 hours.
http://www.thailandtrainticket.com

The most expensive bed seat on a train from the top of Vietnam (Hanoi) to the bottom (Ho Chi Minh City), a 26 hour ride, is around £69. You can basically tour the whole country for £20 cheaper than that train in the UK.
https://vietnam-railway.com



Other Modes of Transport

A VIP bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia is only £21. https://www.travelertick.com/destination/bangkok-to-siem-reap

A bus from Hanoi, Vietnam to Luang Prabang, Laos, totaling 25 hours, costs about £38. https://www.travelertick.com

Singapore’s so small, only a simple metro and bus ticket would enable you to see most of the sights. A 3-day pass can be purchased for about £11. http://thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg/

We even totaled up a train and bus route from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam across most of Southeast Asia to Yangon, Myanmar, totaling over 36 hours – the final cost? About £58. For this journey, you would cross 4 countries: Vietnam, Camdodia, Thailand and then into Myanmar.
https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Ho-Chi-Minh-City/Yangon

Finally, we had a look at the cheapest overland route from Bangkok, Thailand to Beijing, China – a trip that would take 4 days and 8 hours. It would only come to £113. Just £17 more than that shitty one and a half hour train journey from London to Doncaster, United Kingdom.
https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Bangkok/Beijing

Travel around Southeast Asia for next to nothing. 

So for those at home who are always saying “how can you two afford to travel so much?” – here’s the answer! We aren’t rolling in money, we just don’t need much to travel in many parts of the world.

We absolutely recommend Southeast Asia to anyone who wants to travel the world with a limited budget. It’s gorgeous here, fun, and the prices are affordable.

Tell us – were you surprised by any of these prices? If you had the £89 we spent on our train ticket, how would you choose to use it?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.