My Truth of Working Overseas

Written by doubleoexplorers
NYC, New York

Someone I met overseas once told me 

“All expats are either running away from something or are in search of something”.  

This phrase still holds true for me today – an expat art teacher 4 years into the floating, fantasy world of Never Neverland where foreign faces are always welcomed and excused for their behaviours, where our cash flow seems to be 10x higher than the locals and therefore can afford to drink till we drop whenever we wish, where there’s no more expectations to get married, buy property, and start a family.  Other than my job, I didn’t need to be responsible for anything else. 

It is so easy for me to loose track of time when I’m over here.  After all, nothing really changes back home anyway and everything will operate the same when I do decide to go back. Right?

I still can’t believe I chose to be in Asia during the time I decided to start an independent life.  At first, it was simply because of curiosity mixed with wonder.  Curious to see what the culture is like on the other side.  And at the same time, wondering if I can live in the unknown and survive. Key word: Survive

Beijing, China

But why?  Back then, I saw the move as myself in search of something. But what I was searching for, I did not know.  

A year went by, and I was more confused as ever – with my choices, my habits, my relationships, my incentives. I needed one more year.

I told myself, 

“The second year will be my last.  I’ll make the most out of it, and figure everything out”.

Darkhan, Mongolia 

But another year means meeting new people, meaning being sucked into my version of the expat life again except with another crowd.  I definitely knew how to escape from all my relationship problems back home – I just needed to ignore and live in the present…or at least the present that I trapped myself in.  The present that only consisted of the people I knew overseas who were physically there with me.  Everything else was so easily wiped away.  

Of course I went back to Canada for the summer and I decided to go back during my Christmas holiday as well during my second year.  Whenever I went back, I expected life to be joyous with my close friends and family members.  And it was.  But I didn’t realize this until now, that for me I was going back to something that was stable in my life, something that was barley changed to me, but for them I was going in and out of their lives as I wished.  As if time has stopped for them while I’m overseas so I didn’t need to be part of it.

Da Lat, Vietnam
The second year eventually turned into the third year.  By that time, I chose to stay for a third year because it felt to me that I had more overseas than back home. 

Home felt like a passing place where I go to find stability and reenergize, but it was not enough to keep me. 

By then, my life overseas was a lot more comfortable than my first year.  I knew the secrets the locals use to get around, to pay bills, to order online, to live.  I felt like I somehow was winning at a game of adaptability, but I was the only player.  So what happens after I’ve completed all the levels?  I create more levels for myself of of course. 

If I can simply survive living in an unknown land, then what about dating for keeps?  Will I be able to establish something with someone from another culture and location and have it work?  

These are things I might have had in my subconscious when I was in and out of love throughout those years.  Of course I was really trying to get to know those individuals for who they were and the love was real.  I’m only reflecting back on it now to try to understand why I would push myself so hard to find someone.  

Samburu, Kenya

Yes, the daily expense is cheaper in Asia.  Yes, the average expat would be able to make enough money to put a lot in their savings…that is if we don’t spend it all over here already.  The seemingly unlimited flow of red bills traded for a good western meal, a few pints of beer or long islands, clothes from western brand stores, plane tickets, groceries from stores that sell western brands, had me thinking I was a millionaire.  

I would never be able to spend this way, living in the high ends, in my own country.    

In a way, it was great.  In another aspect, the expensive lifestyle was so hard to control and stop.  Perhaps spending was a way to make me feel ‘happy’ and comfortable – for me to think that life overseas is great.  

Reality is that I’m disappointed in myself at the end of every year to see how little I have saved.

Taipei, Taiwan

….AND CUT!!!
Enough with the negativity!! 

I started reflecting on all of these things because of the book I recently started reading.  Wild: From Lost to Found, by Cheryl Strayed.  No, I’m not blaming her book for all of these negative thoughts, but her book did inspire me to blog what I have been thinking.  In a way, this is a way for me to channel out my stress and negativity.  

But I am glad I did some reflecting because I don’t think I will ever know what I am in search of.  And instead of obsessively searching for answers and ‘the right path’ and the ‘right way of life’ because one thing I have definitely learned from being over here is 

anything can be correct, all things can be possible, and everyone’s path is different so stop trying to go on their path.  

I literally just need to keep doing whatever makes me happy and end the things that don’t.  I also realized I was also running away from something (I don’t know what though) when I left 4 years ago, and I should embrace what I have in Canada instead of pushing it all away.  Meaning taking the time to be more involve in my friends’ and family’s lives.   

Of course working overseas has it’s ups and downs and I have definitely done lots of things I am glad I did, and achieved lots that I am super proud of, but I’m also really glad I was able to reflect on what has been bothering me these past few months…years? 

4 years ago, in Shanghai, China, with my sister (and family) visiting me.


Comments: 1

  1. Catherine Tran says:

    Thanks for sharing Addie! It was really inspiring to read this! 🙂

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