I was recently on a podcast where the interviewer asked me some good questions. I shared my story as a Black American expat who has lived in India and Morocco in a way I never have before. Today, I am unpacking my expat journey even more to give you a chance to learn more about me and hopefully envision a new way you can travel and work abroad one day.
Check out the Adventure Calls podcast here.
BEFORE I BECAME AN EXPAT
Before we begin, let me briefly share what my life was like before I became an expat. I worked in STEM education which was rewarding and challenging at the same time. Inspiration was a constant in my work, and serving young women and girls made me fulfilled.
Around the same time, I was making natural hair videos on YouTube and doing pretty well! So my hair and YouTube channel grew.
Then, something beautiful happened in my life. My (then) boyfriend, Gozie, asked me to marry him! I had a decision to make. The decision to marry him was an automatic yes. But that yes was also tied to A LOT. It meant I had to leave my job, my family, and my home for the promise of a life that offered so much more.
A LIFE OF TRAVEL
Fast forward to my marriage, a couple of months living in the Virginia/D.C. area, and learning French. Then, I moved to Morocco for the first time in my entire life of actually traveling abroad.
I did dream of a life of travel before it happened. I always knew it was something I would do one day. But I did not know how it was going to happen. I have realized in my thirties that the wishes, hopes, and dreams we had as children or young adults can come true. But we don’t always realize this until we are older. That’s because we let fear and our insecurities distract us from who we are truly meant to be.
My move to Morocco was pretty rough for the first few months. I know most people are going to say, “You know you didn’t have to move abroad if you didn’t want to or if you didn’t feel like that was something you could do.” My answer to that statement is moving abroad, when I did, was the right decision for my family and me at the time.
MY INITIAL EXPERIENCE ABROAD
Gozie works for the U.S. Government, and we were assigned to serve in Morocco for our first post. Although the job was gratifying for him and gave him a purpose, I struggled with who I was during my first couple of months in Morocco. I was depressed at times and very homesick. I even racked up about $1,000 in phone service charges because I talked to my family so much and did not realize I needed to manage my phone service differently.
My saving grace during this time was my YouTube channel. I transitioned from that natural hair content I was doing early on to sharing my expat and travel experiences with my family and friends back home.
I was also very fortunate for the job I had teaching local colleagues English and professional development. It was great because I not only got to work and teach, I also got a chance to build relationships and friendships with people that I really admired and still admire today. The key to me acclimating to my new home in Morocco was getting out into Casablanca, traveling the country, and exploring.
THE SEARCH FOR MY IDENTITY ABROAD
When I lived in Morocco, finding my identity was something I struggled with, even though I did not realize it was a cause of stress. As a diplomat’s wife (often known as the ‘trailing spouse’), I was automatically given labels that put me into boxes set to define who I was and what my role was supposed to be. Conversations that targeted my insecurities were had early on in my expat journey (and continue to this day).
A question like, “What do you do?” was never easy to answer because I was still trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, especially after living a different life before I was ever considered an expat. What I didn’t know at the time was that with this lifestyle, finding my identity multiple times within a couple of years is typical. There is no time limit in the self-discovery process. We have to be careful not to let the fear of what others think of us be the cause of insecurities that stop us from becoming who we are meant to be.
Having a YouTube channel and social media platforms have always helped me stay sane and somewhat consistent with my life. Making videos and sharing my life online has always been something I did, even before getting married and becoming an expat. I love that I can take my camera anywhere I travel or move. While in Morocco, making YouTube videos gave me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. When I started to worry about growth and income, YouTube became another source of stress for me.
LIFE IN INDIA
In 2018, I moved to Hyderabad, India, and I was more open with my life this time around. However, when it came to the stages of being an expat, the honeymoon phase came quickly. It was nice for about two weeks until we realized how unsustainable living life in a hotel is with another person for multiple weeks while working (and not on vacation).
We then moved into the apartment that we lived in for two years. During that time, there was culture shock, but I got over that pretty quickly. In my opinion, living in Casablanca, Morocco, was similar in many ways to my life in Hyderabad. Of course, Hyderabad was bigger than Casablanca, but much of what I saw and experienced in India wasn’t different from my life in Morocco.
Some things did frustrate me while living in India, however. But my mindset allowed me to see things for what they were while also not assigning much agency to those things concerning me.
On the other hand, I struggled a lot in my personal life during this time. I was not comfortable with who I was AGAIN, and I struggled to find my purpose and identity in this new phase of my life. Transitioning again was difficult, and I had trouble adjusting. But like I mentioned, during my time in Morocco, I could get out and explore, which allowed me to connect with the country and its people. In India, finding those same connections took a bit more effort.
GIVING MYSELF GRACE
Where we lived in India was a little more secluded compared to where I lived in Morocco. So it was a bit of work to get out and see the city. I had a friend that lived nearby, and she was a great companion. We went for walks and auto rides to different places around the city, which helped me find my groove and connect with Hyderabad. Exploring also enabled me to enjoy my neighborhood a lot more too.
Some undesirable places felt uncomfortable walking or driving past at first, but after I went past those areas one or two times, I got used to navigating them. These minor occurrences significantly impacted my life, and activities like walking and taking autos to new places in my neighborhood became a part of my routine.
Giving myself grace was a big part of me finding my purpose as well. Trying something new and being okay if it was not suitable for me or did not add positive values to my life was vital. Also, giving myself time and space to not be okay for a while was essential in growing.
Now I feel better prepared for the transitional phases I know I experience when I move abroad or back home. In addition, this knowledge will hopefully better equip me as I navigate my ups and downs.
EXPAT LIFE AND PURPOSE
We have talked a lot about purpose in this post. And to me, having meaning in my life separate from the act of moving abroad and being an expat is essential. I need other things in my life to shape who I am and to give me an identity. Sometimes only being an expat or trailing spouse, in my opinion, is limiting. So I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, and I honestly think this post is what I needed to share to open up.
MY WORK IN INDIA
Let’s talk a little more about my time in India. Early on, I did a lot of content creation, and I also taught English online. Thank goodness for my friend Jazzie Mas (@BlackDigitalNomad). She encouraged me to apply to an online English teaching program which brought me joy and gave me something to do when I was really struggling.
Then I got a job with the U.S. government, working with American expats and their families to help them acclimate to India. I supported my community with employment opportunities, resources, and much more. I even had a weekly newsletter that I posted. The job was gratifying, especially during the pandemic.
I did so much more than I thought I could. Doing this particular job gave me a different type of purpose, and I could serve people in ways I never thought I could. I was very thankful to have a job during this challenging time and have something to do. I’m a person that needs to keep busy, especially during tough times.
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I feel like I’ve shared a lot, but I probably have not even scratched the surface of expat life, the difficulties of being an expat, and how most of the things we deal with abroad don’t have to do with the places we call ‘home’.
Personally, the issues I’ve had primarily focused on my resilience or lack thereof in certain situations and my mental health. It’s hard to be vulnerable and share these things with you, but I hope my story is helpful and encourages you to try something new, travel, and maybe move abroad at least once in your life. I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Despite the negativity that I have felt due to my insecurities, lack of purpose, relationships with others, and the countries I’ve lived in, I cannot wait to move abroad somewhere else one day.
Have you ever thought about living abroad for work and a different lifestyle?
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— DISCLAIMER — This video and page serve as a creative outlet that highlights the experience of The Jazzy Nation. Any views or opinions expressed in this video and on this page belong solely to The Jazzy Nation. The Jazzy Nation is not associated nor does it reflect the views of the U.S. Department of State, any government agency, any U.S. government policies, or politics.