Insight & Reflections

How I Became an Expat Against All Odds

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When I was a kid, a fortuneteller told my mother that my destiny is in a foreign land. Of course, she didn’t believe it and took it as a sweet joke. But I believed because I was reading too many Viking romance novels and dreaming about a blonde warrior prince to take me away to the Norwegian fjords 🙂

When I graduated from college, I applied for work abroad. Reality grounded me and I ended up in a government job. My future was at least secured and I had just learned that I was chosen to be promoted just as I was introduced to a Norwegian man. Life can certainly take an unexpected turn. Suddenly, my childhood dream came through in a mature and prudent way. I was very happy. Travel was not important for me any longer. I got married and settled in my hometown, Davao.

We lived a harmonious and good life in a big house. Our plan was to stay in my hometown forever. But after two years, my husband developed a chronic irritated throat due to severe air pollution from traffic and the forest fires in Indonesia with the smoke reaching my city.

The doctors had no cure so we decided to move to a better environment. My husband traveled in advance and found a nice flat for rent in a small coastal community one hour drive east of Málaga, Spain. I traveled alone on a one-way ticket in June 2016. It was a thrilling experience because I was first denied to enter the Lufthansa plane in Hong Kong, and in Frankfurt, I was denied to enter the Schengen area. But I managed to go through.

Prior to our big move, I had many questions about everything connected to a new life abroad. Luckily, there are many ex-pat forums and online communities to explore. People share their experiences from contemplating moving, the moving process itself, arriving in a new place, and their daily challenges. Without the helpful tips and stories of other ex-pats, I would have felt very insecure.

Living in Spain

Moving abroad is life-changing for me, and the internet just made it easier. There are lots of rental and buying options for houses online. The trick is just to find the good ones; ex-pat forums are very useful. Meet-ups are very common too and a good way to be introduced to new surroundings.

I am still struggling a little to adapt to the Spanish lifestyle. Learning the language can be hard, but it is essential so it’s only to keep on trying and failing and trying again. Homesickness does happen once in a while, but Spain has so much to offer. Of course, it is not for everyone. I have read some write-ups about people returning home because of work issues and problems of adapting to the local culture. That’s why it is so important to ask questions and to be as prepared as possible.  Sites like are very good places to start and if you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate. Just do it, and participate in sewing the world together.

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