Expat Life: On Not Being Able to Commit

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I’ve been a sort of ‘short-term expat’ for a couple of years now. I spent 5 months teaching in Vietnam, 9 months in Maldives and about a year in and around Italy. Now I’m temporarily back in my hometown, England– a little break from life. A break to restore, to be close to family, to just ‘be’ for a little while.

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This brings me to the problem in question: When I’m a couple of months here and half a year there, a year over there and a year somewhere else (which is what I thought I wanted when setting up this blog, hence the URL name), I find myself unable to truly commit to anything. How can I find long-term focus and stability when my life never seems to slow down?

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Things I or expat friends have had difficulty committing to range from clubs and activities to actual relationships. Things like a gym membership, they often want you to sign up for a minimum number of months, a year even. What if I’m not there long enough? I’ve wanted to sign up to art classes, courses.. oh don’t get me started on courses. I spend way too much time looking at courses. Teaching courses and modules like the DELTA, Open University courses, cooking classes, yoga courses, creative writing classes.. but anything that involves having to go to class just hasn’t been able to work for me.

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One reason it hasn’t worked out is simply because I’m not there long enough. The other reason has been because of a language barrier. In Italy for example, I couldn’t really find any clubs/activities I could join that were in the English language, I suppose is my own fault for not learning their language. But even clubs I could join like running or cycling were only on during my work hours. When I lived in a small town called Somma Vesuviana in Naples, basically nothing went on. I’d have had to travel into Naples city centre, but with the lack of trains and my work timetable I just couldn’t make it happen.

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In Maldives as I was there a little longer than in Vietnam or Italy, I was able to practice water-sports and get really into it, even diving most weeks. But I found a lot of online courses weren’t available to me due to my location, which was irritating.

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Now I’m back in England where signing up to things couldn’t be easier. Only problem is I’m short of money! I’ll start earning again from next week, but by the time I’ve saved something, it’ll be the summer and I’ll be traveling or working somewhere else again. Or just knowing that I’m not here long will itself stop me from signing up to things and putting a bit of routine back into my life. It’s hard, and something I definitely overlooked when deciding I wanted to combine travel and working abroad.

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The simple solution I guess is: stay in one place? But the world is out there! I want to take it all in! At the same time.. I want to build up my CV, especially as I don’t have a degree. I’ve noticed that emloyers don’t much like the look of me, maybe they think I’m unreliable because I’ve not settled down anywhere.

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The other solution is to take only online courses, but sometimes I don’t have wifi, the courses are WAY too expensive, or online just isn’t an option if I need that practical input.

Sometimes I just miss the routine of normal life… date night on a Tuesday, drinks with the girls on a Friday, yoga class on Wednesday, sports club (who am I kidding, I don’t do sports)… Sunday night pub quiz! I used to be a social butterfly… now holding onto hobbies, friendships, things that make me, me- seems so difficult as an expat on the move. It’s amazing really that I’ve managed to keep my long-distance relationship with Mr Italy going– perhaps the one thing I truly can commit too, across any distance.

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Advice from fellow travellers/expats moving around a lot? Links to courses I could do on the move or how you cope with wanting to combine learning and courses with travel, much much appreciated!

Hi! I’m Sarah. I dropped out of university tired with the mundane life I was living in England. Now I’m an aspiring ex-pat of the world, having already lived and worked in Vietnam, Italy and Maldives. I’m using this blog to document my experiences and hopefully inspire others!

9 Comments

  1. Jupp, I feel the same problem. My life as instructor on a specific aircraft type is nomadic. A few years here, some months there. But I love it! Thankfully can I return to my home in Bangkok for a short holiday every 6 weeks or so.

    1. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!!! A home in Bangkok sounds like a great place to unwind and meet new people, I’d love to find somewhere I can go to for breaks, somewhere other than the family home in England!

  2. If you want to get some new skills without the hefty university costs. Try online courses on edX or Udemy, that’s what I’m doing. I finished university with a degree in accounting entered a 1 year graduate program so I can be eligible for a CPA license, but I’ve lost interest in accounting and I want to breakaway from the “9-5 to stay alive” realm. Currently looking for work so I can save up some money so I can move abroad to teach English.

    1. Will definitely look into it! A heads up, I went straight into teaching English abroad without saving up 😂 I remember when I was interviewed on Skype for the position in Maldives and he said can you come in about 3 days and I was like “hell yeah!” And put the flights on credit and arrived with about £100 to my name hahaha- stayed there for almost a year and visited so many islands, even got PADI qualified! Sometimes you just have to go for it haha. Good luck!

      1. Oh wow really?? That’s awesome. I wanted to teach for a Thai program, but I missed the deadline for the 2016-17 cycle because I was still in school, but the representative told me to apply in the fall, but I’ll keep looking elsewhere so I can have more than one option…..or leave sooner if I can. I lived in the same city for all 22 years of my life and I’m ready to gooooooooooo haha

        1. Haha totally know that feeling! Are you free now? I’m working in Italy at summer camps and I think we are still hiring! They’re called Bell (Beyond English Language Learning). 🙂 x

  3. Hi Sarah, well done!

    It’s interesting to contemplate the physiological paradigms of different individual responses to past experience and the lives they go on to lead, influenced by such. I find it interesting that you have migrated from one particular “island” location to another at this present time, whilst dreaming of still a different island (Philippines) at some point in the future. There could be a very lengthy discussion on that itself, but if I could I’d like to ask something a little more simple.

    With such an apparent wonderful life experience in Maldives and a number of references to longing for it again, why would you leave? Are there work restrictions enforcing time restrictions? Is it just too culturally different for you to imagine some sort of long term commitment? Is it a little too quiet and removed after a while? Are the Canarias closer to the blend you seek? (Hmm, suddenly I realise my simple question has become a list, sorry).

    I’m curious as to why you might continue to search for “island” type destinations when it seems from the outside it would be very easy for you to go back to Maldives.
    I don’t ask in any sort of judgemental fashion. I am genuinely curious as I have had similar thoughts and destinations in mind, including Canarias, Maldives and Philippines.
    Why did you leave Maldives, what would stop you from returning long term and how do the Canarias compare?

    Thankyou for your time, Love your work and best wishes.

    G

    1. Hi Grant, what an engaging response- thank you! I left Maldives after a wonderful year for a few different reasons:
      – I felt it couldn´t get any better, any I saw other expats around me who had stayed for several years and were becoming bored, disgruntled and kind of alienating themselves from the culture, a bit like how Brits in Spain do it. Like a sub-culture within a culture, and it wasn´t really something I wanted to belong to.
      – My work contract ended and it wasn´t up for renewal, so I would have to find work elsewhere or in a different field. At the time I had a partner in Italy, so I decided to find work there and give our relationship a go (we later broke up, but I don´t regret this move)
      – It is culturally different and making friends with locals wasn´t the easiest (I was often accused of being some sort of prostitute for having several male, Maldivian friends). But we scuba dived together, we had fun. But there is a massive world out there, and we always miss what we don´t have. I longed for mountains and that fresh morning air… the crunch of leaves under your boots in a forest, and the freedom to challenge my students about anywhich topic we like, without worrying that I could get into trouble (words like Church were banned).

      For me, there´s just something so incredible about islands. The Canaries are polar opposite really, envirionmentally, culturally, socially, economically… but I love La Gomera as it is certainly one the least commercialised of the 7 islands. I miss the freedom in Maldives to jump on a boat and visit other islands, the Canaries is quite expensive and I haven´t yet had the chance to visit other islands except for a bit of Tenerife (which I really do not like). I also haven´t scuba dived. But I´ve made some local friends, hiked a lot and politically and culturally there´s nothing really going on that is problematic, so the general atmosphere is relaxed and ´no pasa nada!´.

      What I do miss is the kind of reggae, loose pants, long hair relaxed island living, and while Gomera is super chill, it´s sort of middle-class chill, I guess.. like there´s this sense of priviledge in the air. It´s only in the summertime when the backpackers from Germany flood in and make camps in the caves, that it starts to feel a bit more like an island far, far away. I suppose I´m looking for something a bit more rugged, where kids run around barefoot and there´s a beat in the air other than Despacito…

      Thanks again for a lovely comment,
      Sarah

What do you think? Let me know!

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