About Me

I’m suddenly feeling all shy but here it goes! Hello, I’m Sarah. Welcome to Expat of the World!

Who’s Sarah?

Difficult question- I’m still figuring it out. In short, I’m a 23-year-old Essex gal currently living in the Canary Islands. I hesitate over ‘Essex’ since I’d sooner resonate with being a Jew than a member of TOWIE! English doesn’t feel quite right and after devastating Brexit, I wonder if I’m even British.

I don’t feel like I’m ‘from‘ somewhere in particular because for the last 4 years I’ve allowed myself to fold into the places and people around me. Even my accent is distorted, coming across sort of Australian with a hint of Mediterranean (which makes me nervous to speak sometimes).

That isn’t to say I’ve ‘lost‘ myself or the edges that make me who I am. On the contrary, I’ve discovered versions of myself. By moving around the world I find places I resonate with and thrive in.

me

So why all the drama?

It’s been said I’m unconventional, this I don’t mind, it beats ‘weird‘. My life is always being judged one way or another, either I’m too lucky or I’m wasting valuable time. Some people don’t like me, others are inspired by me. I find introducing myself so difficult because it always leads to more questions, questions like, “Well what do you do?”, “You didn’t graduate?”, “Surely you can’t keep it up forever?” etc.

I’m tired of sticking up for myself and the life I’m actively creating but this, in a nutshell, is how Expat of the World started.

“Well what do you do?”

me

I practice yoga, I try and learn something new every day, I delve into different cultures, religions, diets and lifestyles. I write, I read. I learn languages. I work on being open, aware and kind. I’m in the process of letting go of my past and constantly throwing myself into the unknown.

Oh, you mean how do I make money? I teach English as a Foreign Language (cue disappointed faces). I devote the majority of my time to my students. Whether it’s planning exciting lessons, watching kids finger paint for the first time or explaining why we don’t say “I didn’t went”. It’s the most uplifting, challenging, incredible, tiring, wonderful cultural experience and the fact I get paid is just a bonus.

me

That isn’t to say this is it for me! This is what I do now. If there comes a point when I dread going into school, I’ll simply stop. (Yes, it’s that simple). What will I do then? Nothing to fall back on ya-de-ya-de-ya, heard it all before. If I stop teaching English it will be because life takes me somewhere else. Much like when I write, I don’t know what will come of it. I just sit back and embrace it.

“You didn’t graduate?”

me

No. I dropped out. Twice. The hazy, best-forgotten time I spent at the University of York was my ‘rock bottom’. I surrounded myself in toxic habits: I drank to feel numb. got into fights, dabbled in drugs and hit a real low point with my wrists. I started with a deep interest and great grades but became enervated with life. My heart was broken, my self-worth still battered by my childhood. I had the freedom I’d always craved, and yet I felt caged in and hopeless.

I entered a cycle of self-loathing. The long sleepless nights drove me so mad I started working night shifts in McDonalds. This way I could sleep all day and avoid seeing anyone. When my Ex repeatedly staggered up to my till at 4 in the morning for a Chicken Sandwich I wondered how my life had become so astonishingly pointless.

I looked into ‘how to get the hell away‘ and stumbled across the world of TEFL. This simple discovery altered the direction of my life forever.

me

While my classmates entered their 2nd year of studies, I lived in Vietnam and backpacked Italy. In their final year I was celebrating Eid in Maldives. In the years after graduation, I’ve lived in Italy, spent 2 months in Kenya, moved back to Italy (Sicily), taught new teachers at summer camp, visited India and moved to the Canaries.

me

In Sicily, the anxiety I had carried with me for about 10 years slapped me in the face and took over me. I struggled in every public setting, even in the shared kitchen of my apartment. Nerves made me sweat and shake and every day I felt faint and nauseated. I was a little girl again who just wanted a home.

The anxiety attacks were so severe I flew home. Home is my god-mothers house in England, who isn’t even my actual god-mother. She took me in when no-one else would. She taught me I wasn’t a piece of shit. You see, I grew up in two ‘broken homes’ as the phrase was back then. Most of my childhood I was ignored and hated in my mother’s house, predominately by my stepfather- for no other reason than I wasn’t his child. I was petrified of him. Then I was booted out every weekend to my dad’s house where my two older sisters detested my presence so much they wouldn’t share food with me. I lived on microwave fries and cereal- their payback since I lived with mum. They didn’t know about him.

I finally moved out when I was 15, and to my surprise, my eldest sister took me in. While it was luxurious to be allowed to talk at the table- I even remember him reprimanding me for breathing too loudly- and to play with my nephew without being told “When I get home from work I can’t bare to see you”, it was also a challenging few years. As my sister was struggling with her own issues, I spent a lot of time with my nephew- I still remember his first steps before falling into my arms. I juggled attending college, working evenings and helping to bring up a little boy, on top of all that teenage stuff of hormones, fall-outs and young love.

So that’s why I went to university and also why it fell to pieces. What sort of foundation was I starting adult life on? It was all a gigantic mess.

Now I’m building up those foundations. I needed a lot of scaffolding and time to heal, but I’m doing it. I shouldn’t link ‘living in England’ with ‘memories of pain and torment’ but I do and so I can’t live there. (Though I should point out that on the whole, my family and I have made peace).

When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at uni (a chronic pain condition) one of the best pieces of advice I’ve had was from the Doctor. When he told me there wasn’t much to do and would I like more painkillers, I burst into tears. Passing me a leaflet about taking hot baths, he said not everything has a quick fix. He explained how the years of trauma have resulted with this condition. I mumbled something about not being happy in this country but not knowing if leaving is the right thing to do. I can’t ask my parents, I said, I don’t have anyone to ask. He shuffled some papers and said I should absolutely do it, said the warmer climates would be good for the symptoms.

So I did.

Expat of the World documents my journey, not to any destination in particular, but of the day to day. It focuses on the learning processes of growing up, adapting, letting go, taking in, being strong and never giving up on yourself. My aim is to connect and inspire. To show how painful pasts or health issues don’t have to hold us back. That we live in a world where anything and everything is possible.

Within the scale of the life of the cosmos, a human life is no more than a tiny blip. What greater folly could there be than to spend this short time lonely, unhappy, and in conflict with our fellow visitors? Far better to use our short time in pursuing a meaningful life, enriched by a sense of connection with and service towards others.” – Dalai Lama.

19 comments

What do you think? Let me know!

  1. Shareef · May 23, 2014

    Hi Sara,
    I’ m Shareef from Maldives. I have read sweet sentences about Maldives and your work. I thank you very much and as a Maldivian I really appreciate your work. Need to contact you if possible.

    • Sarah · May 23, 2014

      Hi Shareef, thank you! I’m really happy you’ve been enjoying my posts – especially as a Maldivian yourself! You can contact me on my email im_sarah@live.co.uk or find me on Facebook, there’s more than one Sarah Harvey in Maldives though, so be sure to add me with job title: English teacher at Language Learning Centre LLC! Thanks again 😀

  2. Joyce · May 23, 2014

    Dear Sarah,

    My name is Joyce and I work for ExpatFinder.com.
    ExpatFinder.com is a free one stop website for people preparing to move or working and living overseas. We provide a myriad of services for expatriates and we have over 2,000 articles to help and support the people moving around the world and we are now creating an interview section to help the expats with real life experiences!
    We quite enjoy your blog about living in Maldives, it is very interesting and informative. Would it be possible to interview you to further share some of your tips and feature some of your first hand experience as an Expat and your interview will be published on our Expat Interview section as a guide for our expat readers. The questions are mainly about the day to day lifestyle of an expat. If it would be possible, could you also send some photographs that we can use?
    Of course, if you accept, we can add a link to your blog or some of your website.
    The questions are enclosed, feel free to respond freely. You can return the doc with your answers if you accept this invitation.
    Thanks in advance and do let me know if you prefer other means to conduct this interview and we would be happy to accommodate your terms.

    Best regards,
    Joyce

    • Sarah · May 23, 2014

      Hello Joyce!

      Thank you very much for getting in touch! I’d absolutely love to be a part of your site, especially as it helps so many people move around the world and live the kind of lifestyle they’ve always dreamed about. I didn’t see the questions that were enclosed, perhaps you could forward me the message again to my email address: im_sarah@live.co.uk And I’ll get right on to answering any questions!

      Thanks again Joyce, have a great day!

      Sarah

  3. Ceri · May 23, 2014

    Your story is so incredible, Sarah, and you’re amazing. What a life you’ve had and look how strong you are now. You really are inspiring.

    • Sarah · May 23, 2014

      Thank you so much that’s such a lovely thing to read 🙂 have a great day!!!

  4. Pingback: 8 Things Your Travel/ Expat Friend Does NOT Need to Hear
  5. Delia · May 23

    Hi Sarah,
    Great blog ! Thanks for sharing all this.

    Which inhabited island would you recommend near Male ? I am mainly interested in nice beaches, reefs,… But I will be very limited in time when visiting the Maldives. Also I prefer the ferry but don’t want to spend half of my journey on it…
    Thanks

    • Sarah · May 23

      Hi Delia. I’ve written several blog posts on various local islands in Maldives, I think Thulusdhoo would be a good island for you as its reef is lovely and there’s an uninhabited island close by as well easy ferry transfer to Male (not on Fridays). You can find more information on Thulusdhoo in my blog as well as online! Best of luck 😁

  6. Himadri Negi · May 23

    love your blogs. Do read mine if you ever intend to be in Dubai – I was in Dubai 2 weeks back!

  7. Bathool · May 23

    Hi Sarah,
    I stumbled upon your blog yesterday and you’ve really inspired me to explore my own country a bit more hahah. I really haven’t gone anywhere except Villingili,Hulhumale and F.Bilehdhoo (my island)

    I just want you to know how much you exude love,sunlight and positive energy. I can feel it radiating through the screen whenever I read your blog. My heart is so full of appreciation for your beautiful and strong soul. And thank you for being such an inspiration!

    Sending so much love and light your way xx

    • Sarah · May 23

      That’s such a big compliment, thank you! I know there are distractions and sometimes we just feel too tired or lazy, but we must explore! (I say that now wrapped in a blanket on my sofa on a Sunday morning hehe)

      Thank you again, I’m so pleased! You’ve really brightened up my day.

      Love and light– go and do something you’ve never done before!
      Sarah xx

  8. Ariana Peña · 18 Days Ago

    Hi Sarah,

    I just happened upon your blog this afternoon while looking for people to get in touch with who have lived in Maldives. I am a university student in the United States doing a research project on media and culture in Maldives. From reading through your blog, i know it’s been some time since you resided there, but I was wondering if you would be open to connecting via email so I could ask you some questions about your time living in the country?

    Additionally, I just wanted to say from reading through your posts that you have really inspired me to want to travel more. I have only been out of the country once during my junior year of university–I studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina for about fourth months– but I’ve been itching to get back out of my home country. Readong through your blog really inspired me to start planning my next adventure!

    Thank you for your consideration in advance! I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best,

    Ariana Peña

    • Sarah · 17 Days Ago

      Happy Monday Ariana!

      Thanks for getting in touch- I’d definitely be up for connecting and chatting! You can find me at im_sarah@live.co.uk. I’m really interested in your project already.

      I’m so pleased I’ve given you some inspiration! Be open and see which doors open up to you!

      Light and love, Sarah xxx

      • Mukul Dev · 10 Days Ago

        hi sarah i have sent you freind reqst on fb
        i need ur help i’m travel junkie
        bt due to financial resaons and facing problems in gettin visa im nt able to fly high i need ur help and guidence. i have almost traveled my country with my own efforts bt i need someone like you. i dn want to be rich
        my only wish is to travel around the beautifull and untouched places around the world

        • Sarah · 7 Days Ago

          Hi Mukul! How can I help you exactly? Travel doesn’t have to be about money- as you can see from my blog, the only way I can travel is through work. Working abroad gives me the opportunity to explore a country in more depth. Good luck!

  9. Tom Rollin · 8 Days Ago

    Hey Sarah!

    Love the blog’s new look! I hadn’t read your ‘About Me’ section before and I must say that I feel inspired after reading about your brave journey. Your honesty is food for the soul. Your title got me thinking. ‘Who’s Sarah?’ Sarah is whoever you want her to be! I found your phrase about discovering ‘versions’ of yourself very interesting. You need to find a version of yourself that you are totally comfortable with. You have travelled so extensively and fought back against so many family/health/work related setbacks that I think I know what you are. You are a battler.

    Your story resonates with my own. I didn’t really enjoy university either. It made me feel like a meaningless pawn in a puppetmaster’s game. My parent’s never understood me either. Dad is a business owner and my mother is a civil servant – I love them but they aren’t ‘enervated’ with life as you put it. They are cogs in a capitalist administrative-economic complex that has taken their souls. When I told them I wanted to travel they just didn’t understand. “Tom – you’re too much of a dreamer. You need to study hard to get a good job and raise a family.” I found this difficult to understand as I have never given much thought to the woman (or man, who knows?) I want to spend the rest of my life with.

    Going abroad was the best thing I ever did. I can do what I want, I can socialise with who I want, and I can laugh and love with who I want. Simple things which made me nervous at home are so much easier abroad. I dabble with veganism and vegetarianism from time to time – another thing that my parents could never understand – and each meal I have is like a victory over my oppressive old existence.

    To bring this rant to a close, I now know who Tom is. I think you are very close to knowing who you are as well. Living abroad is the key to the soul. Each plane journey is a ride to the stars. Each boarding pass opened is the opening of your hearts to new experiences. I know from your writing that you have a wonderful heart and a beautiful soul and you are unlocking them experince by experience.

    Much love,

    Tom

    • Sarah · 7 Days Ago

      Hi Tom- that wasn’t a rant at all, a wonderful comment to wake up to! You’ve certainly hit the nail on the head- I don’t know who Sarah is yet. Like a lot of 20somethings, I’m sort of floating around, not quite confident in myself and my abilities. I suppose I am a battler, and there’s only so much battling one can do. I know others have it a lot worse than me- but I’m becoming so tired, you know? Especially with health issues. It’s a slippery slope and before I know it, I will become enervated/drained with life once again (despite living in a beautiful place with beautiful people). I’m learning that happiness is absolutely a choice and does not depend on where I am or what I have, though it’s easier said than practiced.

      Your parents would have hated me, that’s for sure! ‘Too much of a dreamer’! Can you imagine telling a 5-year-old who says they want to be an astronaut that they need to Get Real?! I mean, with travel, it does depend on a few things. Travel is my lifestyle; I work, I save, I’m building a community around me, in most respects, I have a normal life it just happens to be somewhere sunny instead of the place I was raised. In this way, family etc can’t really moan at me. Plus, 23 is far too young to be concerned with raising a family- I’m still raising myself!

      BUT, when travel turns into yet another form of consumption, just like buying designer shoes even if you already have 50 pairs of shoes, I can see why parents get irritated. It seems frivolous and immature. A backpacker might see a £2000 trip to South-East Asia as life-affirming and eye-opening etc etc, but if to get that money they’ve had to scrape by in a job they hate for 5 years, or borrow the money, and after the trip there’s no money left and they’re back to square one, even as a traveller myself I can see why they worry. Although what one choose to do with their life and their money is completely up to them, parents on the whole just want the best for us and our futures.

      I love your last paragraph and am re-reading it over and over! I AM getting close to knowing who I am! It’s very exciting. This is what my 20’s are for, I’m realising. I want to be in a place in my 30s where I’m no longer searching, where the hunt is finally over!
      Each day is bringing me one step closer to that.

      P.S It brings joy to my heart to hear you say ‘I can laugh and love with who I want.’, such a simple thing, really, but even that right is taken away from so many people. We are blessed.

      Thank you for connecting with me!!

      Sarah