“It was all a dream!” (in my Biggie Small’s Voice) before living abroad became my reality. This is a photo taken of me in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on December 23, 2017. While having dinner at the Emirates Palace something resonated in me about the life I desired. I desired more out of life – more meaning, more influence, more experiences, more genuine relationships. At this moment in time, I put it out in the atmosphere (AGAIN) I wanted to live a portion of my life abroad. I didn’t want to have any regrets or “what ifs”. I desired a new way of living.
Hindsight is really 20/20. My journey to international living began long before this trip to the United Arab Emirates. Prior international trips as well as domestic trips have prepared me for this transition in my life. I’ve always had a deep admiration for adventure and exploration. All along I was baby stepping my dreams into reality.
6/2016 – I vacationed for 35 days for my 35th birthday with two friends. We visited Greece, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Netherlands, France, Spain, and Morocco. I became comfortable with currency conversion, time zone differences, climate changes, among other things. I also stayed with a friend who formerly lived in metro Atlanta and now lives in Paris, France which gave me confidence and morale that my desire could some day be my reality. I started to put my declarations to paper almost daily.
8/2017 – Be careful what you ask for. As destiny would have it (Evidently, I was moving too slow.), the condo I was renting had been contaminated with mold so I had to do an emergency evacuation. As the saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I saw this situation as an opportunity to free up some financial burdens. I sold household wares, furniture, clothes, shoes, etc on LetGo and OfferUp.
9/2017 – I leased a room at a friend’s house.
12/2017 – With the discretionary income, I paid off my car loan, consumer debt and solo traveled to the United Arab Emirates for 2 weeks. I became comfortable creating a personal itinerary, traveling abroad alone, and making friends during my travels. I visited another friend/co-worker living in the U.A.E. who formerly lived in metro Atlanta, another confidence booster.
6/2018 – I vacationed for 2 weeks in Thailand for my birthday with a friend I met in Abu Dhabi. International travel was my new normal. Everyone was asking where was I going next.
7/2018 – I put more action to my desires and I packed everything I couldn’t live without in one suitcase and a backpack. I was living my personal motto, “Live simple so I can live more.”
8/2018 – I took more action, I scanned, shredded and recycled a ton of papers and magazines.
11/2018 – I traveled to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to spend Thanksgiving with my friend (and oh, we got engaged!). The engagement was the icing on the cake. U.A.E., here I come.
12/2018 – I resigned from my job, sold my car, gave my remaining possessions to relatives, friends and the Goodwill. I boarded a one way flight on 12/30/2018 to Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the rest is history.
1/2019 – I began a new chapter in a new country for the new year.
As of today, I’ve been living abroad for a whopping 97 days. Living abroad has exposed me to different cultures, climates, currencies and cuisines. I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’ve met people from different parts of the world. I’ve eaten a variety of international dishes from Pakistani Paratha to Arabian Shawarma to Indian Biryina and Ghanaian Cocoyam with Vegetable Stew. I picked up a few words in Arabic and Twi, a dialect of the Akan language spoken in southern and central Ghana. I celebrated the new year with a fireworks and laser show at the Burj Khalifa. I saw Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi – a historic first visit made by a pope to the Arabian Peninsula. I watched bull fighting, visited the Al Badiyah Mosque (the oldest mosque in United Arab Emirates) and saw an island shaped like Snoopy in Fujairah – one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
I visited Nairobi, Kenya and saw the outskirts of the Nairobi National Park – one of its kind, a national park with wildlife located in the center of the city – while stuck in a lot of traffic. I traveled to Kumasi from Accra, Ghana on a VIP bus. I got married in Kumasi, Ghana. I attended a seventh day adventist church service taught in Twi. I attended the Agape House New Testament Church in East Legon Accra. I got my hair twisted for 20 Ghana Cedis ($4 U.S. dollars). I visited the Labadi Beach – a famous and populous beach in Accra. Just to name a few of my memories. Some downsides are I got a speeding fine via radar while driving in Abu Dhabi. I wasn’t allowed due process. My credit card was just charged by the rental car company. I experienced discrimination on two separate occasions. I’ve experienced lights out and water out in Ghana more times than I would like to admit.
Every day is an adventure and sometimes a challenge. I utilize the word “challenge” loosely, considering I was born and raised in a highly developed country. I’ve spent 73 days in a developing country and 24 days in a least economically developed country (LEDC). I’m accustomed to a western standard of living. All in all, the europhic awards outweigh the illusioned challenges. In the words of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche –
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
I try to keep this mindset as I baby step my dreams into reality. The challenges are a necessary part of my growth that will aid me in reaching the highest, truest, fullest expression of myself. Join me in “finding yourself”, and discovering new ways of thinking, new ways of working and new ways of living. You’re invited.