002: Why We Became American Expats in Hong Kong
In this episode, I’m sharing why we became American expats in Hong Kong. What were the circumstances that led to our decision? What was the pivotal moment that inspired this move half-way around the world? And what were our dreams for moving here?
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Our lives before deciding to become expats:
Before we decided to uproot our lives and move to Hong Kong to become expatriates we lived in the tiny town of Ware Shoals, SC, USA. Actually, not even in the town, we lived on the outskirts of the town. We were definitely in the boonies. It’s one of the places where you can count on things to never really change.
Probably one of the best things to happen to us living in this area was our church. Seacoast Greenville was one of the best church communities I’ve ever known and it had been our support for a while. It honestly was one of the things that saved our marriage. So it was hard to leave that.
We also were professional photographers/ videographers and we loved the people we worked with and the art we got to make. Our clients were like family and we still keep in touch with many of them today.
Finally… our family. We lived very close to all of Allen’s family and we even lived in my mother-in-laws old trailer so we didn’t have to pay normal rent prices. We would have Sunday lunches together and everyone was really close. Allen was also a volunteer firefighter, and if you know anything about firefighters, that is a family. We would have cookouts together and if anything was wrong when Allen wasn’t at home I could call any of them and they would help out.
The Bad or Difficult:
While I loved the wedding and portrait business we were creating, it was increasingly difficult to make a living at it and my carpel tunnel and sciatica were getting worse too. I knew I probably needed another option as it wasn’t supporting us financially and it kept us pretty tied down to that area.
There were also very few job prospects around, especially for an art teacher who was certified in one state, but not the one I lived in, and I couldn’t afford to take the few extra courses I needed. And my husband wasn’t happy about his prospects either… we were both running the business and working as bus drivers, plus I was subbing. We were exhausted…
I needed more diversity and culture. Everything is the same there, everyone is the same. I grew up in the melting pot of Florida where I interacted with people from different countries and cultures all the time. I went to school in Philly and my friends were often foreign exchange students. Yet here… that cultural diversity was hard to find.
The moment I realized things needed to change
While I can’t remember exactly where it all started I do remember the moment I realized what was wrong. It was right outside our home and it was a cooler fall day. We were walking to the car and he asked me what was wrong, a dangerous question for a husband to ask… I don’t think he ever expected my response… I told him I was dying inside. Our marriage was doing great, we had had the best wedding and portrait season yet, but it just wasn’t enough. I was missing out on something and I felt like my world was caving in on me….
My Inspiration to Teach Abroad
I wish I could remember when I started reading about teaching abroad, or even why. Up to that point I thought the only people that got to live abroad either worked for the government or were young, single, college kids. But I remember finding this ebook about a guy who lived and worked teaching English abroad and made great money doing it and he told stories of how families were doing the same. It instantly resonated with me.
It made me remenisce about my time in Paris and visiting the American International School and dreaming of teaching at a school like that one day. And I realized it was still possible. Despite all the heartache and failures of my past, my future dreams were still possible.
The day I told Allen I was dying inside I finally told him of my dream. I asked him not to answer me right away. I asked him to think about it and pray on it for a few days. But once he agree to give it a shot, the hunt was on. And about two months later we were in Hong Kong.
Our hopes for moving to Hong Kong
We had many hopes for this new overseas adventure. Some have happened, some haven’t, but that’s ok, we tried.
Of course, one of our big goals was to travel more. I always want to travel and southeast Asia is supposed to be cheap! But unfortunately we weren’t always in control of our money and so we took two trips home and two to the Phillipines…. but those trips to the Philippines brought us new friends and new perspectives.
We had hoped to learn Cantonese, but lets just say I tried lol. Allen did pick up some words, but I’m at about 5 or 6 words. Fairly certain my toddler knows more than me lol. I love languages, but I just don’t hear them properly. And when a language has 9 different tones for the same word… it’s going to require a lot more time than I had! But hey, at least I have a good story of how I royally screwed up the most basic of greeting ever!
Learn about new cultures and meet people from around the world. This one I feel I have accomplished and yet barely scratched the surface. There is so much to the Cantonese culture and traditions, but I have learned a lot. And while I have been blessed to work and live near people from many parts of the world from South Africa to Brazil, I feel I could have gotten out even more.
And one of my biggest hopes for moving abroad… to start a family. It just wasn’t financially feasible for us in the USA and I needed some fertility treatments that again, just wasn’t feasible for us there. Being here, even without health insurance, we were finally able to start our family. It may have been an annoying experience at the hospital, but it’s all worth it in the end and I’m so thankful I had my maternity leave.
You can read more about my birth experience here.
Things to keep in mind if you feel stuck in a rut :
Life doesn’t have to be stagnant. It’s ok to change directions and explore new possibilities, to push outside comfort zone. Just like Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don‘t take.” In other words, you can’t succeed unless you try. And that means you will have to take a leap of faith. It may not mean you want to become an expat, it may not even mean you want to travel full time, but if there is something in you that needs to get out, some change, then it’s time you make it happen.