Living Abroad: Daniel & Reed II

This week, I’ll have them talk about their lowest and highest points during their experience, and what the implications were, if any.

Thanks for joining us for another week as we learn a little bit more about Daniel and Reed’s experiences abroad.

This week, I’ll have them talk about their lowest and highest points during their experience, and what the implications were, if any. If you didn’t see part one of this exchange, go take a look first: Living Abroad: Daniel & Reed I


As you know, I had my own experiences living abroad. My first month in Hanoi was pretty much consumed with finding a job.

It wasn’t enough to pay the bills, so to speak. I was doing that back home. I wanted to do something different. However, it can be a tough balance holding off on what is offered in preference for what you want. What you want may not be there after all…

Thus, I was interested to find that both Reed and Daniel cited their career paths as a major contributing factor leading to the lowest and highest points during their travel. I wanted to explore this more.

When thinking back on his career abroad, Daniel expresses a lucid, clear understanding of his successes and failures abroad.

I spent nine years working for United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education, as an Instructional Leadership Coordinator. It was my greatest success. [My family and I] got to know what it is like to be rich and live an enchanted life […] It is also my greatest failure because I let materialism control my life and I did not save any money from that time. I was making 120,000$ a year in Dubai. I saved enough to buy our farm in Isaan, but I could have been retired by now if I didn’t live in a Villa next to the Arabian Gulf and drive a tricked-out Hummer for nine years.

 

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The Hummer

While he concedes that he doesn’t “regret the Hummer” because it was the “best vehicle” he ever owned, he is also quick to point out why his greatest success was his biggest failure. Perhaps owing to the humility he learned from at one point having it all, he admits that nobody “cares if you wear a Rolex and drive a Hummer.

 

These days, Daniel opts out of caring what other people think, preferring, he says, to “take care of [himself] and [his] family.” To him, the whole thing was “a learning experience.

When asked about his successes and failures, Reed admits that he was motivated by his fear of failure abroad.

Failure to me would be having to go back because of lack of money or with nothing to show. This drove me to make sure that I succeeded and gave everything my all. There was a time that I was working 4 jobs 7 days a week so that I could afford to live here and still pay bills from back home. But I didn’t want to go back home.

He continues, owing his greatest success to a position offered to him by an Export company in Hanoi, as Marketing Manager. Having a stable job wherein he could make connections “paved the way for many of [his] successes” abroad.

For Reed, however, his job at the Export company, would eventually lead him to a period of intense worry as he left to pursue the possibility of starting his own company.

[…] I freaked out and was questioning everything. Is this a smart move, should I just go back to the US and make more money there, how can I get my girlfriend a visa there… I was so freaked out I even emailed an old client in the US about job opportunities. I mulled it all over and realized that I would regret more not taking a chance with starting a company here than if I just went home for quick money.

 

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Reed’s girlfriend, Ly

Like Daniel, motivated by the need and desire to support his family, Reed had other motivations. “I had met the girl of my dreams.” Together, they created @HanoiHandbook, a resource for travel in Vietnam, which they still run.

 

Reed closes by admitting he is “sacrificing things like financial security” by living abroad, but his desire to “shift [his] career” into a new direction motivates him beyond that.

One of the last questions I asked Daniel and Reed has to do with hindsight. I asked them to think back on their first weeks abroad and think about what advice they’d give their eager, uninitiated selves.

Reminding us of the very real phenomenon of Culture Shock, Daniel’s advice is to go out and “make friends with the locals as soon as possible.”

I don’t think its day 1 that you have to worry about, it’s more like day 29 when home-sickness and culture chock set in. Culture shock is very real and like any form of shock you don’t realise that you are in it. It can and will lead to depression, especially if you are prone to depression. Don’t worry it will go away.

As you will see when I explore Culture Shock in another entry, some get it early on, others, like myself, get it over a year into their travels. For Daniel, “six to eight months” is all he needed for “the chaos and oddities” to “become normal,” and allow him to “concentrate on living life.”

Reed highlights “keeping an open mind” during your time abroad.

Living abroad isn’t for everyone. I think the best thing is to be prepared but not over prepared. Living in a new country has a learning curve that can’t come from reading books or blogs you kind of just have to do it. So before you even get to day 1 make sure this is something you truly want to do and if it is just go after it, make it work […] enjoy the adventure. For me, I have enjoyed every second of it here and would say my quality of life [has] increased greatly […] but can come at a cost.


I wrap this up by confessing that I hope my readers benefited from these short exchanges in some way.

I feel that by comparing Reed and Daniel’s account, we can get a more holistic picture of what sort of adversities are faced living abroad. Moreover, we can see the motivations behind relocating one’s life entirely– and what keeps them there.


Next week, I will introduce two other individuals living abroad and explore their experiences. Additionally, I will continue to add to my Experiences in Thailand.

Living Abroad: Shared Stories

In this space, you will find content from other Expats whom I met while traveling. 

As Expats, we all had many experiences. Some were great, others not so good. I’m interested in the ongoing character/perceptual changes we undergo/make as we travel.

Change often comes as result of encountering challenges and overcoming them.

These can be anything from difficulties caused by the language barrier, a dfference in work environment, cultural concepts, etc. Trust me, living abroad has it’s share of challenges just like everything else. Whether we win or lose, there’s always a takeaway.

What do I aim to accomplish in doing this?

Well, it’s simple really. I want to show the realities of Expat life are, on a personal level. I’ll try to include people who have been abroad for several years and who are based in different countries. I’ll also try my best to include people who didn’t do well abroad and couldn’t overcome some of the difficulties they encountered, ultimately causing the to abandon their decisions.

I will look to answer qusetions such as what drove them to consider life abroad, leaving friends and family; I’ll ask them to elaborate on their individual process of assimilating in a foreign culture; and I will ask questions about finding work abroad.

Each Wednesday, I will share someone else’s story.

If you’d like to contribute by sharing your own story, feel free to contact me.

Living Abroad: Daniel & Reed I

This week I exchanged words with two individuals living abroad, Daniel and Reed.

 

This week I exchanged words with two individuals living abroad, Daniel and Reed.

Daniel, originally from Canada, has lived in six countries over the span of seventeen years. Married and with two beautiful daughters, Daniel now divides his time between a farm he owns in Buriram Province, Thailand, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Reed, a Texas native, has spent over two years residing in Hanoi after falling in love during a visa run. He currently works as a marketing manager for an export company and runs @HanoiHandbook, a resource for inspiration and knowledge regarding travel in Vietnam.

Continue below to see what they had to say.

Continue reading “Living Abroad: Daniel & Reed I”

Thailand ⇒ Mekong ⇒ Laos

Everybody’s worried about time / But I just keep that shit off my mind / People living on twenty four hour clocks / But we’re on a ride that never stops.

For two days we went by boat along the Mekong River.

On the 29th of January, I crossed over into Laos. The route that began in Chiang Khong, Thailand, near Chiang Rai, stopped at Pak Chong, continued to Pak Beng, then finally let us off in LuaLP-to-Chiang-Mai-sm.jpgng Prabang, Laos. I realized I knew nothing about the country. The Dutch group with which I travelled was quick to point out that “kip,” the currency used in Laos, is the Dutch word for chicken. Amused, we referred to money as chicken during our time there.

 

While one or two were made nauseous, others were just as easily coaxed into a deep sleep by the soothing sound of the boat as it loudly tugged along the Mekong._dsc1932

Most people played drinking games, took pictures along the riverside as the boat passed through, or chatted with the others. You can see the view from the boat along this path by visiting my other site, Mr. Chido.

As we stopped in Pak Chong, night was beginning to fall. As the boats unloaded, ranks of people quickly started their way up the ten-minute trek uphill, towards the hostels and guest-houses. The locals knew the drill, of course. The tourism from the boats provided them a steady supply of eager consumers. Consequently, we knew the drill, too– be at the front and get the better rooms. Delaying the search for accommodation can sometimes lead to interesting situations based on what’s left over.

I broke off from the Dutch and British I was with on the boat and found my way with another group.

We were coaxed into sharing a room after the owner of a hostel approached us, offering us some rice wine while advertising his private rooms. We accepted the drinks and took a look at the rooms. Satisfied, we gave him the money and laid in our beds for a while, drinking and chatting. After dinner everybody who still had some energy left converged at the one bar in town, which I forget the name of. It had a jungle/island atmosphere, L.E.D. lights and locals selling weed, opium, and offering both for the curious tourist. Although I would later try opium in Vang Vieng, Laos, I wasn’t up for the task yet.

At the bar, the two British lads and I were invited to some girl’s, where we would later get locked in by a barbed-wire fence. 

When one of the girls pretended to cook traditional Laoatioan food in the kitchen, waking up the owner, I realized things were getting sloppy. The owner was becoming increasingly present, often appearing to do a visual check on us or the girls, or her property. I later learned this was probably because pre-marital sex is extremely taboo here. After sometime the owner went back to bed and dissapeared. Three hours before our boats loaded up and left, we decided to leave; the girls were already asleep. We were chatting outside, feeling the breeze. As we left the building, it locked us out. To our surprise, the barbed-wire fence that once had a gap to let us in, was now locked. After forty-five minutes scanning the perimiter, we found a weak spot in the soil  where we could lift the gate up enough to shimmy out.

By 7am, everybody was already up to check out and make our ways to the boats and continue the last leg of our ride to Laos.  

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The Boats

Continue to Luang Prabang! Or, see how I spent my time in Thailand

All Things Arise, Exist, and Expire

Perhaps that look inwards is another goal in travelling to the more remote parts of the world.

Catching me off-guard, a stranger I’ve only known for two days noticed a sadness in me that goes unnoticed back home.

I was straddling a ledge on the roof of our hostel, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. The main street created a corridor that framed the sunset along the town’s main street. 16707386_10207937500506329_5323739127012508184_oI think it’s normal to feel highs and lows in life. I just get like this sometimes, I told her, throwing in a dumb joke about how I wouldn’t jump. She laughed and admitted that even if I jumped, the wires would brace my fall and I’d probably be alright. She left and I finished my beer. Strangely, I felt like crying.

 

 

 

Despite having so much time to myself while backpacking, I still experience many of the same negative emotions that I did back home.

Realistically, I feel these negative emotions are arising pricesely because I have so much time to myself. There is no distration to make me forget, to weed to numb the uncomfortable feelings I feel sometimes. 

In an environment without television, internet, or other distractions, one really has nowhere else to look and starts to look inward.

Perhaps that look inwards is a subconscious goal of travelling to remote parts of the world. With that increased inward gaze, one starts to be aware of things that was previously suppressed with distractions. Traveling in Asia has no shortage of distractions to the foreigner should they welcome it but can be equally distraction-free if you design your trip that way (no portable movie players, ipods, etc). This isn’t a 12-hour trip to distract yourself during, it’s something you need to interact with as much as possible and in as many ways as possible. In doing so, your interactions with travel will, in reality, be interactions with the self; the decisions you make, the people you seek out, and the way you hold yourself.

If at any time things get tough or heavy, realize a fundamental truth: All things arise, exist, and expire. Nothing is permanent. Things come in and go out. The thing that is liked just appears for a moment, exists, and expires.