Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’s Box

For nearly four years, I have been doing meditation and it’s usually in the mornings.  I imagine myself breathing in the bright blue color and letting the color swirl inside me. When I exhale, I imagine the blue color pushing out black particles which are all negative feelings and thoughts that I have had overnight or in the morning.

The colors and shapes are similar to this image that I created.
The colors and shapes are similar to this image that I created.

I repeat this several times.  Breathe in the sky blue color.  Breathe out the black particles.

My mind wandered briefly one morning.  I usually try to keep my self focused on this one task at hand but somehow, my mind wandered.

I started thinking about how it would be great to have enough money and time to visit my family and friends. Earlier on that week, I was looking through how much return flights would cost to visit them (it would be at least $3000), the logistics involved, the time constraints, and challenges it would be.  It was just too much.  On top of that was the constant background ‘noise’ of “working overseas” related issues.

Then a thought crossed my mind.  It really was just over a month ago that my family and I met up and had a vacation for two weeks flying in thousands of kilometres from three different cities.  On top of that, I was also meeting them again in a week, this time flying to another country and spending another four days with them.  Last year, we did something similar.  Last year, my sister and I were able to meet and spend time in New York.  Next year, we’ll probably do it again but this time all over Europe.

What I didn’t realize is that I was living in what I previously thought was the Tomorrow Box.  The Tomorrow Box held all the things that you are aiming for – like, more money or more time or faster airplanes.  Tomorrow, I can do this.  Tomorrow, I will get this.

The realization was that I was IN that box.  All this time, I have been able to do what I had always wanted and intended to do.  Which is to have the time and money to spend with my geographically scattered family.

Now that I realized this, my second thought was: How is it possible to forget this?

Maybe my mind has been in some sort of fog, taking me longer than usual to realize these things that I have been taking for granted.

The Case for Higher Education to enable Expats

I am a purveyor of both The School of Life and academia.

There are some cases when academia takes the upper hand – and that’s the case for the serial and serious nomads.

First of all, my education (from primary education to Masters) is in Australia so I can only speak from my home country’s education system. Some take an additional degree and many go straight to the workforce and even return to undertake higher education while they also work.

One item to note is that I am seeing ‘anti-academia’ articles being written with good intent.  I do, however, see education in a different light that is otherwise colored by my own personal stories.  Education is a stepping stone outside of circumstance beyond one’s control- such as being born into poverty – which had been the case for my family who had been able to study engineering, business and law degrees all through scholarships.  For myself, higher education was a way for me to get out of the small country town that I grew up in.  I was able to get a scholarship at my university that is only available for those that have lived in rural areas.  Sure, there are articles and various rants out there that now perpetuate university education as a waste of time and money.  But for me, it was my way out of the country town existence that I did not want.  The Bachelors education that I had helped me pave the way to where I am in a way that I probably would not be able to.

However, I did have my doubts.  On my final year on my second final semester, I arranged a meeting with the university careers coach about wanting to drop out of university altogether.  By then, I was doing at least one internship, had left my job working as a developer in order to work as a contract Events Manager for a well-known national industry chapter (and contributing as a Committee Member), doing other freelance work, I was working on building the start-up that I founded and I was studying full-time.  I was barely making it to my classes.  I was overwhelmed and really wanted to drop out.  He talked me out of it.  After all, it was the second final semester of my final year.  There is no point in dropping out now.  I could have dropped out, but decided not to.  I ended up graduating and not only that, won an award for Entrepreneurship and since then had been profiled in my university’s degree book that they send out to prospective undergraduate students.

Now on to Masters education.  From 2014 to 2015, I went back and did my Masters full-time.  And yes, this meant making it difficult to obtain full-time work, which I would have gladly done but the circumstance made it difficult to obtain it in the first place.

Undertaking the Masters level education was a bit more of a challenge because I was constantly comparing what my life could have been if I was not studying full-time. I was feeling very negative about all this and I had a non-existent life outside of study.

On a personal level, things really spiralled down.  A lot.   It really bothered me that I was actually focused on just doing the one item.  I was not travelling.  I was not being a 20-something in some foreign locale.  I did switch off as much as I could on social media though, which led to a purge in 2014 and 2015.

To help me see the light, I was looking up profiles of others who have had to leave full-time work commitments to study.  I was not the only one.  In fact, there were many others also.  I was normal.

The other item is my motivation to undertake the Masters in the first place.  I wanted to move to another industry.  Take up another type of job role outside of the one that I had initially successfully carved a niche for myself even when I was still a teenager.  Why do I have to be on the same pathway in terms of career choices?  Why not change?  I want the time and the focus to do this.

On top of the professional development, I also know that the Masters was going to help me with goals of living around the world.  Across many countries, the pathway to being on a job that is on the occupation shortage lists usually require either additional or specialist education.  The requirements also lean in favour to those that have the Masters degree – well, depending on your choice of career it would either be the Masters and/or any additional certification that you require that is suited to the target country.  I do believe that a Masters education does open up more global doors for you beyond what a foreign Bachelors degree can do. Whether it is perception with international hiring managers that are otherwise used to seeing Masters level applicants to the quantifiable ability to obtain more ‘points’ when applying for points-based visas.

International-Oriented Professional and Success Coaching

Last week, I decided to take up on an offer to begin coaching from a leadership and success coach currently in the process of acquiring their ICF (International Coaching Federation) credentials. While researching more about professional and success coaching, I started thinking about its applications to the expat community.

What is coaching?

My first session was an excellent introduction into coaching – why it is different to counselling, what to expect in a coaching session, and what the roles are between the coach and the client. As someone who has had very little exposure in coaching or even formal mentoring scenarios, the first session was a great introduction to this area.

While the coach and the session was not aimed at expats, I started thinking about what would the applications be if it was exclusively all about expat coaching.

Would there be any unique requirements and considerations to expat coaching?  The answer would be yes.

There is a niche for success and professional coaches seeking to focus on the international community on topics like:

  • First time relocations and repatriation – making the most of a relocation or repatriation.
  • Coping as a trailing family member – making the most of the situations where there are restrictions applied such as work visa restrictions.
  • Unique challenges faces by ‘Internationals’ – what are the hallmarks of success-oriented decision-making that will cross geographical borders?
  • Success in a culturally different work environment and working with cross-cultural teams
  • Aspiring expats – both for short-term and long-term assignments

What is really important out of all this is the amalgamation of unique situations that an expat find themselves in.

For example, you may have an Australian executive that has faced restructuring.  They are on an employer-sponsored visa and only have a limited amount of time to find a new opportunity before they need to move from the US back to Australia with a young family.

Or what about another 20-something Millennial in my own network. They have moved between two countries and seemed to be undecided if they would rather stay in the UK or New Zealand.

I really do believe that expats are in a very unique situation and group in themselves. Their needs are enough to warrant for dedicated coaches with an expat / international focus.  The same also goes for other professional service providers – if you need a taxation accountant, you need one versed in the target country’s tax laws.

Once you have the right tools and people with you – be it success and professional coaches that focus on expats or taxation accountants also versed in bilateral taxation agreements – you can solidify your foundation of living the type of life that you want.

What would you want to see in expat coaching?

Travel and Masters Degrees (Part 2) – four years later!

Four years ago, I wrote “Travel and Masters Degrees: Part 1“.  It’s an amusing entry about attempting at doing a Masters while pitched in a tent in countryside Ireland or moving to chic Primrose Hill in London.

In 2014 I was back on the Masters track.  My motivation and agenda has changed after my first attempt and is a future post for this blog.

I ended that 2014 entry with a note asking what the purpose is for pursuing a Masters anyway and especially in relation to my goals here.  Looking back, I don’t regret pursuing this track and it ended up working well with other personal and higher-level goals anyway.

How can you mix a Masters and travel though?

You may have come across those who have been able to be on track with a university in their target country.  My situation was different in that my university was in my home country.

By early 2015, I was considering making the move to Sweden (I’ve heard good things about their startup ecosystem there), Singapore (for finance and tech), US/Canada (I’ve consolidated these two countries under the “North America” term), or elsewhere in Australia.  Making a life-changing decision that could take place in another country is hard enough, let alone across four.

One of the perks of being a student is access to student scholarships and other student-only offers at conferences.  I applied and was able to obtain a conference scholarship in Singapore and another in the US.

Masters and international experience does not have to mean going all the way to obtaining the degree in a foreign country.

I think that people may have a notion Masters + Travel = gaining access to a foreign university.  This is one pathway, but it’s not the only one.