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Expat Living: Two Things 2020 Taught Me

Building my resilience for 2021 and beyond

World Map with Route Lines

It is now February 2021 and we have experienced one month of this new year. Thankfully, we closed out 2020, and given all that occurred during that year, I thought it worthwhile to share my lived experience and reflections.

In December 2019, specifically New Year’s Eve, I committed to what my new year and a new decade would have resembled. I spoke to God and the Universe proclaiming that 2020 was going to be my year. I was going to continue growing my business, find a new job, and I was going to enjoy life. I did them all and I learned two main things during 2020.

While the global pandemic was happening, I was taking charge of my world to change my world! In January 2020, I moved to Bangladesh and at the end of October 2020, I moved again to Niger, West Africa. As a global pandemic raged, I became resilient, steadfast, and learned how to first take care of myself.

In the past 12 months, the two things I learned do not require years of experience, research, or even a degree. However, they are vital reminders of things we should be doing for ourselves all of the time.

I reaffirmed my self-worth

Quote about "being capable"
Alysha Rosly/Unsplash

Understanding who I was and what my talents were were essential. Not allowing anyone to mistreat me at work was also essential. I learned that I did not have to accept bullying, harassment, or sabotage techniques from my colleagues. I am smart, and I am worth much more than these tactics. I also knew and reassured myself that my skill sets were valued by this organization and would be valued by some other organization in the future. In other words, this was not my only option, and even though it was a time of global crisis, I would be able to take my skill sets and expertise somewhere else. Sometimes you have to know when it’s time to walk away.

Learning and understanding your worth will help you decide when it’s time to move on from a position. Understanding your value, skill sets, and the productivity level that you can provide for an organization is vital in understanding your worth to any organization. Once you have spent the time getting to know these things about yourself, you can make the best decisions for your present and future career moves.

I prioritized self-care

Self-care is not always about fancy things like a spa or getting your nails done. Self-care, sometimes, is just about your mental and physical well-being. We’ve all learned to pay more attention to our well-being (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and more) during this pandemic. For me, this honed through while I was in Bangladesh. Due to circumstances out of my control, my mental well-being started to deteriorate, and I needed to rebalance. Rebalancing meant making hard decisions. That critical decision I had to make was to leave my job. Sadly, my job was the source of my well-being, and it was compromised.

Quote about "Fresh Start"
Alysha Rosly/Unsplash

The unfortunate events at work that were reoccurring took their toll on my mental health, which took a toll on my physical well-being. I took the time I needed, the days off, even though I was working from home. I got the necessary psychological counseling that I needed to help me get through this time, and I have no shame in saying that calling up a counselor was at the top of my list. We all have to learn what we need to stay healthy in all aspects of our lives. Once I made the decision to leave my job, I started to plan, and with that plan, I took action and eventually left. I’m not saying it was an easy choice, but it was the right choice at the right time for the sake of my health. I had to choose myself, and I had to put myself first because no one else was going to, and that is the bottom line!

2020 in Retrospect

Life is not always a straight line, as I learned in 2020. However, life is what you make it, as a cliché says, and I choose to make the best out of 2020. I learned to make it work and make it work for me. Each of us has to understand who we are - our purpose, and how we will achieve that regardless of what’s happening around us in the world. Our choices are not always simple, but we have to make choices that are best for us.

So on 31 December 2019, during what has become my annual end of the year holiday, when I claimed that 2020 would be my year, I had no idea it would turn out this way. I would not do anything differently because I learned a lot about myself, the world, and how to value all of who I am and what I’m capable of doing.

Over the last year, I lived in two countries, having been in a total of four, and I acquired two jobs and two promotions to go along with it. It was never planned but that’s what happened in the middle of a pandemic. I have restructured my business, and it’s beginning to grow. My visibility is increasing, and as a result, I am being featured on various podcasts to speak, which has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve always been a ‘behind-the-scenes’ type of person and one who makes sure things get done. Now, it is time to tell my story, and I’m beginning to realize that this is one of the other things that 2020 has taught me. I have an account I have to tell - knowledge, insights, wisdom, and experiences to share with others.

Expat Life Continues

My journey as an expat with lived experiences for ten years total, and the last eight consecutively is a story to be told. It’s time for others to hear it. I am glad I learned this lesson in 2020 so that now I can step out from behind the curtain to be in front of it. I am not saying it’s going to be easy, but I’m willing to take that leap.

Yes, 2020 created all kinds of havoc, headaches, tears, and chaos, but for me, it taught me so much, and I am so thankful. I don’t know what 2021 has in store for me, but I know that I can do anything, go anywhere, achieve anything, and be okay!

As a career professional, if living nomadically is a risk you are willing to take, then seize the opportunity to take your career break abroad. Contact me and let's explore your options.


If you enjoyed this story about being location independent while overseas, then please comment as well as share it on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

— Karla A. Fraser, Expat Living: Two Things 2020 Taught Me, Roseapple Global, LLC. Originally, published in the Expat Chronicles on Medium.

Roseapple Global provides expat coaching and guidance for individuals or groups. We serve all aspiring or continuing expats and specialize in assisting higher education professionals. We also offer to consult for student-facing units of higher education institutions internationally. Our services focus on developing or improving the administrative and operational areas of your departments. We help you unlock your potential, maximize your ability, and equip you with resources and tools for your journey or your student-facing unit. Contact Us to help start your expat or student life improvement journey.


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