Hi! I’m Ruby, you probably know me from this blog, or the other blog, through Instagram, Facebook, or on Twitter. You may even know me from offline so hello hello! You guys probably know that I work full time, and have been for nearly 11 years. However, did you know that I have been working full time with one company for the past 10 years, or that I was an expat for several years before I moved full time to the USA?
Those of you who know me offline (either as friends, acquaintances or AirBnB guests) probably know exactly where I am working, but hey, I’m here to tell you that life is great, and no, you don’t have to leave your job to enjoy traveling the world and enjoying it’s many pleasures even while tied to a desk job. You can *gasp* work remotely or get assigned to different places too, all with a steady paycheck that comes in every month as you’re trying to build your side hustles (Read: other sources of income). They even cover your medical bills if you are abroad through a travel medical insurance, specifically suited for expats so you don’t have to worry about the cost of healthcare while you’re out and about. So, I’m here to tell you about…
My Expat Journey Through the UK and the USA
I was originally born & raised in Manila, Philippines – which you probably heard of by now because of a president that is super trending and well, viral. You probably have heard of my country’s beaches, and wonderful people, and the fact that it’s a third world country. You may have heard that it is very crowded, and the traffic is terrible – which are facts, coming from a local. I lived there for the first 20+ years of my life, and completed my education in the Philippines.
I lived in the south of Metro Manila – a huge suburb called Muntinlupa, and studied there and then went to the Old City of Manila for University. You see, when I was younger (high school), I got obsessed with British and Irish boy bands and wanted to go to the UK and Ireland. Heck, even live there. I was convinced that the grass was greener on the other side. And guess what? I still think it is – no regrets there. So, at the tender age of 12, I made a goal to myself. I goal that I would eventually move abroad and make my life a bit better. Granted, my life in the Philippines was not bad. I lived with my parents in a comfortable home, I had everything I could want, but then my curiosity peaked — and I wanted to see the world.
So, before I graduated from university, I made a pact with myself. I wanted to make sure that the companies I’m going to work for were multi-national companies. They had to have presence in other countries and not just the Philippines for me to even consider it. Granted, when I was applying for jobs I applied everywhere – even smaller companies but that’s a different story. I took my first part time job at a call center while waiting to graduate, and eventually I did, and landed a job a few months later at an international bank.
Seeing as I’m a Computer Science graduate (I took that because I thought it’ll be my fastest track out of the Philippines), I was surprised that a bank would hire me – but turns out, they were hiring people for the graduate program they had. When I was interviewed, I was impressed by the building and was hooked. I knew that place was the company I wanted to work for, and they offered me a job on the day I got the interview and did my exams (which I passed).
Yes Ruby, this back story is boring, now tell us how you managed to become an expat?
Spoiler Alert (aka the summary):
- Find a multinational company with multiple locations around the globe.
- Work for company & do your best! Try to impress people & network, you’ll never know what opportunities may be reached out to you.
- Set your goals and don’t be afraid to tell them to people — the more people know about your goals and know that you are taking steps to make it happen then the more they will support you.
- Be very specific about what you want – if you turn out to be the 1% of humans who know exactly what they want to happen within a specific set of time, the more that people gravitate towards you and know you’re serious & the real deal.
- Surround yourself with people who are positive and can help you in your goal. Try to distance yourself away from the negative naysayers.
Still here? Oh, and you want to know the back story. Okay, here it is.
2008: London, United Kingdom
All right, within a year of working with this company, my boss (at the time) was offered a job in Singapore. It was an offer he cannot refuse, so he had to go. It turns out there was an assignment for him to go to the UK, which ultimately went to me. Why? Well, because nobody in our team was left to take it on – and the guys I was working for in the UK apparently liked what I was doing despite the fact that I was only a year in the company (and fresh out of college, might I add), I was told I was going to the UK.
Before you get too excited, it was only for a month and a half. But please – for me it was like a dream come true. I was going to my favorite country in the whole wide world, a place I vowed to visit when I was 12, and 10 years later I was told I was going there on someone else’s dime? WOW.
So in the 1st of June of 2008, I landed in London’s Heathrow airport, via Emirates business class. This started my first experience of being an expat. I was 23, knew nothing much about traveling (the only place I went to before that was Hong Kong & Singapore) and to top it all off, I had a free apartment in the city center. To top it all off, the band I loved when I was 12 had a reunion tour that same year and what do you know, their last night in London coincided on June 1st, 2008. So there I was, on my first day in the UK, trying to explore and get my bearings in the morning while rushing off to Greater London in the evening to watch a concert. Yeah. I was that crazy.
A month and a half went by and I had to go home. What did I get back from my 2008 trip? It was a colleague asking me if I had been to Santorini before as she was describing how beautiful travel was. It was an eye-opening moment for me wherein I wanted to travel too! And thus, the wanderlust in me was let out of the bag.
2011: London, United Kingdom
I wanted to get another business trip and this time, I had to wait 3 long years just to get it. I didn’t look for other jobs yet, but waiting for another expat assignment was getting annoying. I did two trips from 2009 and 2010, in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and in China, respectively, but for me those trips weren’t enough, I had to get another overseas assignment!
So in 2011, I got word that there’s another international assignment back in London, which means I’ll move teams and fly with a group of people to the UK. It was great sharing the same flight (business class again, of course), and each having our own apartments in the city of London again. While my first apartment was near Barbican, this apartment seemed to be more posh, a block away from the Tower of London and Tower Hill station, in front of a hotel. Sweet.
I stayed in the UK for 3 1/2 months this time, from June 2011 until October 2011. With this trip, I got a chance to explore Wales (Cardiff), Northern Ireland (Belfast + the environs), Scotland (Edinburgh + the Highlands), and of course various cities in England. I took all sorts of transportation: trains, buses, airplanes, metros, my own two feet, you’ve got it.
Alas, after 3 1/2 months, I had to go home – but it made me resolve that my next international assignment would have to be longer…. or would have to be permanent to make my dream come true.
2013: Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America
After I went back home to the Philippines after the UK, I decided to travel more… and when I mean more, it meant a lot. I wanted to get as many visa stamps as I can and discover Asia as much as I can. My goal was to fly all the international routes of Cebu Pacific from Manila at the time (I nearly did it), and was capitalizing on the one peso sale – where I would book extended weekend trips (fly out on a Friday, and come back on a Tuesday morning and roll in straight to work). I backpacked around Southeast Asia, I met new friends, I pretty much did whatever I can to get the travel bug out of me.
Spoiler alert: it never left.
Pretty soon Asia became boring to me. I knew there was more to life than there was to Asia so I really have to get out. In September of 2012, I decided to pack my bags and ‘live’ in Singapore temporarily for a week, to see if I will like living there, and maybe work there.
Spoiler alert: I liked that it had a airport and was a hub for international flights, and the food was cheap. There was also an international crowd that lived in Singapore and everybody speaks English. Oh, and it was only 3 hours away from Manila. Win! The downside was the island was a bit too small and too hot. But I could live with that, right?
So after September of 2012, I decided to check what’s out there: openings abroad from my job? Check. Job searched externally? Check. Anything just to get me out of the country.
My big break happened in early 2013, I was offered a job around the second quarter of 2013 to Jacksonville, Florida, with my visa being fully covered by the company.
Work in the US? Hell yeah! While not exactly in my list of things I want to do (I wanted to live in England), I jumped on the opportunity. I read up on the city (nothing much happening here), and what city is close (the house of the mouse – Orlando) and I realized, hang on, this is great!
And so, I found myself living in Jacksonville. But funnily enough, I ended up deciding to stay here for good.
I fell in love with Peter, I got married, and well, I’m definitely not going home now. Together we have made Jacksonville our home, and we are making plans to build our own businesses while working full time and traveling a lot on the side too. A great feat, yes, but something we would definitely want to make happen.
How to Do it Too:
So, if you want to become an expat, I’ll break it down into five parts:
- Find a multinational company that has presence abroad – Not to belittle small businesses and local companies but your best bet to going abroad is by getting employed by a multinational company. It is actually going to work out in your favor if there are projects abroad that will need your expertise or if there are any opportunities that can open up to you. This is exactly how I managed to get my expat stints abroad.
- Do your best – You have to do good at a company to be known and to have a reputation. Once you have a reputation of being a good worker and can be relied upon to do projects abroad then more and more opportunities will open up to you!
- Set your goals and don’t be afraid to tell them to people – Goals hold you accountable to what you want to do in life. Your goals need to be SMART (Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic & Time-Bound) in order for them to become actionable. Write down your goals, don’t just think about it. It has been proven that when you write down goals or other things you’ll need to do, you tend to remember them and commit to them more than those that you just keep in your head. Also, telling your goals to other people helps you to be more accountable for your goals. It will be embarrassing not to achieve your goal after you told it to 500 other people, right?
- Be very specific about what you want- once you figure it out, voice them out – Let’s face it: 99% of people don’t know what they really want to do in life. Be the one who’s different and will know what exactly what you want want in life in terms of career, goals, and other factors. Once you know what you want, voice them out to your managers (but make sure that they are supportive and you trust them enough as a friend) – they may be able to help you reach your goal and attain the thing that you want!
- Lastly, surround yourself with positive people – people will always doubt you and what you want. Of course you’ll also get a lot of gossip sometimes. Just don’t mind the naysayers and stick with the positive people. Know that you are good and that you can actually achieve your goals and dreams and that yes, you can have a support group that will always be there to cheer you on!
If you managed to stay this long, I thank you for reading this article. This has been my story (so far) and how I managed to move to a first world country from a third world country by myself and without needing to marry someone else (I actually met Peter at work, after I moved to the USA). I’m here to break down common connotations and hopefully this article helped or inspired you in some way!