That makes it sound like I’m freaking out! Don’t worry, I’m not, well maybe a little, as I have this opportunity ahead of me to do something different and I kind of want to get it right! It isn’t all sun beds and lazing around, being a lady of leisure isn’t really what I came out here to be, so I need to do something, but what? Moving to a new city is always hard – so what can you do?
I did this as I wanted to reassess my life, I am in my thirties and was spending my time teaching others how to design whilst the creative bug nagged away at me. I really loved being a teacher, don’t get me wrong, but I just wanted to be free to create. So moving to Malaysia gave me the opportunity to be free, I got to quit my job, with no prospect of another one.
You see I didn’t love who I was, I was constantly distracted, couldn’t enjoy the moment and always striving for more. More material things, more experiences, more ways to make me feel happy, only I wasn’t really. I was anxious, uncomfortable and quite socially awkward. Not being creative and free turned me into a bit of a mess really. So I did this to get out of my own head and change my priorities. To experience a different lifestyle so I could become less uptight and more relaxed.
I felt I hadn’t done enough, the fear of not having seen enough, experienced enough or having lived enough, overwhelmed me regularly. The fear of getting older and not being satisfied filled me with dread; I needed to experience a different lifestyle/country/outlook if I ever hoped to feel totally settled. Sounds like a mid-thirties crisis to me!
Has it worked so far?
Yes. I am more relaxed already, I feel more free. Now opportunities to meet new people isn’t something I dread, but instead look forward to, yes I’m still a bit nervous but that’s ok, I’ll always be a bit nervous. I have 7 books on the go, I was the person who took 3 months to read a short book and now the freedom has taken away all the preoccupation and I can just read.
Living here, even in this short time has changed my outlook and approach to life. I do things here that I wouldn’t have done in the UK, even if you’d paid me handsomely. I talk to strangers in shopping centres (they come up to me, just in case you think I’m losing it), I play tambourine in the street and I just try to enjoy every opportunity. I’ve come to accept who I am and am slowly becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Something I never thought would happen.
What am I going to do now?
So I’ve had some time to adjust, I have settled in and feel ready to do something radical. Try something new. Making jewellery, writing, drawing, painting and exploring the world around me for inspiration are top of my list at the moment. Baking is always on my mind; I love the science of it and the creativity of changing recipes and decorating. Without a work permit I obviously can’t sell work here but I can prepare myself for when we return to the UK next year.
It’s tempting to teach out here, maybe through volunteering. I really love working with young adults, it is magical at times, and here it’s a different prospect – No OFSTED changing the goal posts every week! But I have to get the work life balance right, after all I moved here for a change in lifestyle – I don’t want the back to school dread to creep in. In the UK I felt like I was wasting my life, self medicating with booze and making up for tiredness with food, just not really getting the balance at all right.
What have I learnt so far?
Leaving home was the hardest part, I spent years building the perfect home, a retreat from the world, and leaving it along with family and friends was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Yes I’m homesick at times and I’ve certainly shed a tear or two but a bit of space has changed how I feel about home. It isn’t walls and a pretty garden; it’s the people you love and how being close to them makes you feel. Soppy I know, but this move away from materialistic preoccupation has really put things into perspective.
It’s taken a long time to adjust, on out last visit back to the UK I think it was obvious we didn’t feel settled here, but coming back and making some radical decisions (more of that here) has helped us to really appreciate how lucky we are. We have this short time to really get to know Malaysia and live a different lifestyle and we owe it to ourselves, and all those who would love to do this but can’t, to really enjoy it.
My tips for survival
- It takes a long time to really adjust, don’t freak out if in 3 months you still feel odd living in your new city.
- You will feel homesick, at the weirdest of times it’s totally normal to miss your old life. Not a sign that it was a mistake.
- Get out there. Go find out everything about the city. Fall in love with it, get frustrated with it and try meet some people who have lived there a long time.
- Sign up to blogs/sites like Time Out if your city has one. Opt for the newsletter and you’ll find out what’s going on in the city that week.
- Similarly look for local groups to join on social media, a group I’m in on Facebook helps me keep up to date with what’s going on locally. This has helped me feel connected to my local area.
- Read to local news. They are plenty of apps with news articles on them, find a local one. I use Newswav here in Malaysia.
- Have a look at Meetup app. It has lots of things you can go along to meet people. As a resistant expat, I prefer this to attending expat events.
- Find a coffee shop/bar/place to hang out and get to know the staff over time.
- Just enjoy it. It will soon be a memory, so enjoy the experience.