My current (personal) reading list and recommended readings on overseas life.

Below is a reading list of interesting books aimed at those inclined to live overseas.  They are available on Kindle, PDF, ebook, print formats.  Unfortunately, I don’t provide the links for these (otherwise, it will just be free promotion) but feel free to take a look and hunt these down!

Currently reading: Creating Freedom – Power, Control and the Fight For Our Future

I picked this up in Oxfam in Notting Hill. The book is pretty much new and only for a few quid.
I’m really interested in reading more on topics around freedom (or what we think freedom is), choice, logic, reason. It’s the reason why I am now finishing off this book called Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio.

Third Culture Kids – Growing Up Among Worlds

In London, I had flatmates that the book would consider ‘third culture’.  I’m not one, but I really wanted to gain an insight into this particular group.

Expat Women Confessions – 50 Answers To Your Real-Life Questions About Living Abroad

I bought this book when I left London to go back to Australia after living there for two years.  I was pretty upset at the time since I wanted to continue travelling but couldn’t and made the decision to go back to gradschool.  It ended up being a good decision.

I remember finishing this on the plane and on the final leg of the journey, got changed from my comfortable UK clothes into comfortable Australian-weather friendly clothes.  I still remember the old couple sitting next to me in the plane if I have done this before.

Your Career Game – How Game Theory Can Help You Achieve Your Professional Goals

After deciding to go back to Australia, I was really immersing myself in a lot of career-oriented books.  Partly due to guidance, but also a lot of the time it was for motivation.  During the time I must have read about five different books. This book takes on an interview format, interviewing corporate executives.  Some of the assignments that they have taken on involved overseas stints.  I wanted to gain some sort of insight as to what my life would be like if I went down this road and what I can do to mirror lessons learnt from their overseas stints.

The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat

While preparing to go overseas again while back in gradschool, I was also studying a financial certification (Claritas Investment Certificate) and was also studying CFA Level 1. I wanted to seek out personal finance books written from an expat perspective and this was one of them.


I have a number of other (printed) books that I want to share but I don’t have the titles with me right now since my library is at home in Australia. But will post a follow up entry once I can!

On taking travel for granted, on circling back to places

In Seattle back in 2010

Do you remember the first time that you travelled as an adult?

I sure do.  It was back in the winter of 2010 to 2011 when I went to Canada and travelled all the way from Victoria on Vancouver Island right through to Quebec City, as well as day stop in Seattle which was my first American city.  Most of the time was spent in Vancouver.  I had a big adventure with my bag (and passport and wallet) stolen in Toronto.

Interestingly enough, it would only be five years later where I would later go to North America again – this time living in Vancouver and Toronto and spending one week in Seattle.  And most interesting of all is that I have a pending application for permanent residency in Canada.

I like to circle back on cities and places that I have already been to, to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.  Knowing that I can ‘circle’ back on these places is a bit comforting, I guess, less pressure to run around and going to all the sights in one go.  Cities change all the time, you can live in one city like London for years and there is still something new to see and do.

At the same time, circling back to the places that you have been to puts you in a comfortable position.  You’ve been there, done that.

I feel that I am taking travel in these ‘circling-cities’ for granted, and taking the new experiences for granted.  For example, when I was in Vancouver, I barely went outside the house.  A lot of the time was spent, surprise-surprise, in front of the laptop and typing away at who knows what.  Back then, I was really stressed out juggling a freelance contract that was in a different timezone as well as looking for work-and-a-career-change in a foreign country.  I decided to spend the time on side-projects, not wanting to take on board full-time commitments for 3 to 4 months.

Part of taking things for granted has been due to trying to continue to be a digital nomad, while also maximizing my savings rate as much as possible (with some shopaholic induced fails).

Living in Toronto, I was in a complete frugal-living phase and was determined to set some savings goals and meet it (which I did).  However, I went too overboard with the frugality, leaving very little time to do a lot in and around Ontario other than two trips.  If I wasn’t frugal, I was travelling to the USA with a total of six trips in the time I was living in Canada. Some lessons were learnt and I later noted that there is such a thing as being way-too-frugal.  I felt that I could  have spent more time exploring Canada and Ontario some more while I was there.  I don’t regret taking that many US trips, though, considering the climate that we are in this year.

In Dublin, again, I was taking my time there for granted.  The first reason was that I already travelled throughout Ireland back in 2012.  The second reason why was that I was sick for about half the time, while also starting a new role.  Therefore, the last thing on my mind was to go around exploring Ireland.  Again, there were familiar sights which lends my sense of comfort and familiarity with the place.  Maybe familiarity breeds laziness, perhaps?

Berlin seems quiet different, though I don’t know if it’s because I am living in a completely different culture now or because I have never been to Berlin or perhaps both.  However, I am not really heading out and exploring the city and culture as much as I wanted to.  And now that it’s the beginning of these colder months, the cool spring and summer Berlin that I have first been introduced to is now gone and will be for a long time.  Maybe..just maybe…I should try to find the balance between not taking my situation for granted, to relax a bit more, and not be so fearful and risk-averse of the future?

On consumerism

Ah, the magical Dior hot air balloon hovering over Galleries Lafayette.  It provides an ironic metaphor as to how my pursuit of things continue to weigh me down.

Other than a trip to a town in Germany, I am settling in Berlin for at least a few months with no other travel plans.  I have been seriously considering going to Venice in November for the Biennial and witness the wonders.  It’s still up in the air.  But, we’re not talking about travel plans.  Instead we are talking about things.

Being a shopaholic…

This has been a complete ire of mine.  Despite my best efforts at being frugal and minimal, I just keep on buying and collecting and receiving all sorts of things.  Things that are no more after being used like the mountainous collection of hotel amenities.  Things that are hard to get rid of like a new Chanel bag.  Things that are seriously not necessary business expenses like two expensive room perfumes that I bought from Harrods, each at the cost of designer perfume.  Also, books.  I love printed books as well as the electronic format.  When I left London I spend who-knows-how-much on a small bookshelf worth of books only to give it away, including books I bought from art fairs now sitting in a friend’s parent’s basement.  And my most conundrum of all – make-up.  As someone who travels around and works from home I have ungodly amounts of makeup.  And bandages, I have a lot of bandages.  And let’s not talk about clothes.  I’ve donated a few things yet after doing a mental check, I managed to have with me five coats, two jackets, three cardigans?! Why so many?!  And, even though I work from home and my time outdoors is largely spent in jeans, I have something like ten stockings and multiple dresses that have only been worn once this year.

…and being shopaholic a digital nomad…

This is what happens after accumulating stuff for over three years since my last digital nomad / expat break to pursue a Masters.  I’ve had far more that I’ve had to shed and I still have some more to go.

The reason why I am in this state of mind is that I am looking at what my options are to store some items while I go to Asia / Australia sometime for about half the year next year.  Bringing everything with me is not at all practical – as I would have books, some ‘household’ items (somehow, I feel like I’m going to miss all my efficient German cleaning products), all my bulky winter clothes, all my electronics (somehow I wound up with two printers – I gave away one to my neighbour) and more to stash away.  If I go down the route of a self-storage solution, I would have to consider the costs as well as make a pit-stop to Berlin from wherever I am to where I am going to pick it up. A bit inconvenient but far better than trying to haul everything across the world and back again.

When it comes to buying and owning stuff I am faring better now in Berlin than before.  But I am still failing.

Ok, so I still have purchasing fails*.  Like the Welton London candle, Cochine room perfumer, the three Chanel skin care products, the massive Lancome skin care set, the leather Ecco shoes, the Chanel skirt that doesn’t fit me but I am keeping it anyway, the crappy YSL sweater that I later gave to my sister, the YSL wallet, the Bottega Veneta wallet that I don’t use, the 20? makeup brushes that I own.  Ok, that list of purchasing fails is still completely embarrassing.  But, I guess it was better than last year in 2016 where I bought and bought way too much skin care, makeup, clothes, designer brands.  At some point I must have had 40 or so face masks, bought from TK Maxx because I was so damn bored.  Much of the shopping has been via sheer boredom, escapism, YOLO, caring too much about impressing people, caring too much about what other people thought of me.  I feel that last year, I must have gone through some odd phase in my life where I felt that I needed to buy these designer brands, either to impress others, or for myself, or just because YOLO and I can.

I really wish I could just be minimal, be more frugal, just being able to resist the shopping and the brands.  Once, I went for weeks (or even months) where all I ever did was check online shopping sites and watch make-up YouTube videos.  Now, I just have personal finance blogs open and I’ve just finished an entire gameplay of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus series.  When it comes to spending, I have two triggers.  One, is my online triggers.  I no longer feel like I want to go shopping with the haul and makeup videos that I watch, although I am watching less of these now.  I occupy my time moreso around studies, personal finance blogs, bumming around Netflix and if/when there is a new video game on, binge-watching a lot of walk-throughs.  The next is offline.  A lot of my shopping purchases have happened while I am either out travelling on holiday or when I am about to travel.

Time to double down on my personal finance.

I have my February savings goals written in a piece of paper, right up high on the shelf so that each time I look up, I see the figure. When I am more comfortable about embracing frugality with more aspects of my life, I want the following for myself:

  • Continue to be in LCOL areas, even further push limits of LCOL.
  • Double down on side-income streams.
  • Stay away from anything considered the ‘L’ word.
  • Go through and sell off my things both accumulated from the few years that I’ve been overseas and the things stashed away at home in Australia.
  • Inject more money into my investments.
  • Clean up some leftover paperwork back in Australia.

So yes, I’m still cozying it up in Berlin and withstand the German winter, then will be heading back to Australia for a short while before I head back to Europe again.

Tips and Advice for a better Remote Work Life

When I first started working remotely, I was already ‘used’ to the rythm and self-discipline of working on your own having been a Masters student (distance education, as my university was in another city) for a year.  I had also moved in a new city and in a new country, and pretty much had little to no professional contacts in the city that I was based in.  Not only that, but the rental that I had chosen was far away from the city centre and it would have made the job search far more difficult.  It seemed that a lot of cards were not stacked in my favor, when I decided to apply for a job that I found online on Craigslist (yes…Craigslist).  A week later, I had landed my first full-time remote job.

Biggest difference in remote work is how you communicate

One of the biggest difference that you will notice in remote work is communication.

  • You log into a chat software to show that you are now present in ‘work mode’, and also communicative if you are away, looking into an issue and so on.
  • You can add notifications to changes to documents to be passively informed.
  • A lot of communications and knowledge transfer is dependent on what is left behind – comments, articles, reviews, wiki, guides, tickets, and so on are crucial.
  • What you write is important – be succinct but also be more informative in your thoughts.
  • Get over the fear of sharing processes, ideas.
  • Respect that people need uinterrupted work times, decrease noise (email, notifications, pings, and so on).

Introducing yourself

I found that the ‘getting to know you / me’ stage in remote work companies tend to happen at rate that is ‘usual’ for the company.  For example, you might arrange meetings to chat to the rest of the team on your first week, or wait until your first month or two.

In this way, I find that having a blog is a way to introduce myself to the team.

Dealing with conflict and difficult conversations in a remote work environment

One of the challenges of a remote work environment is how one can deal with conflict and difficult conversations.

The issue with asynchronous communications that includes conflict is that the issue will remain an issue so long as it is not being addressed.  In this way, you need to determine when it’s time to switch to having real-time conversations, such as voice conversations.  This is going to be the case when you need to troubleshoot with someone over an issue, or if it is best to do a ‘live AMA’ over chat.

Learning on the job and independent study

Remote work involves a lot of learning on the job and independent study.  You don’t have the advantage of being in a room with your team and have that natural way of collaboration.  Therefore, collaboration and asking for help needs more of a push online.

Work and life balance

It is really up to you to make sure that there is a proper work/life balance.  I’ve come up with a number of workarounds.  It can be small changes like changing my email settings so that I do not get work email on my mobile devices, to adding filters against work-related resources (you can develop a habit of just automatically typing in a Github link!).


A walk down Brick Lane and Shoreditch

You get out of the Shoreditch High Street station, only to be met with street art to the likes of Berlin’s graffitied utopia.

You wander around the streets, to find yourself drawn towards a parking lot.  No, not just any parking lot.  This one has two cars stacked above shipping containers, flanked with colorful furniture and industrial bins that looked like it was added there thoughtfully to add a block of color.  One of the cafes is pumping out music, you’re not sure of the genre but it sounds pretty cool and laid back.   A CRYPTOPARTY LDN catches your eye, you wander through a door thinking that it was an art gallery only to realize it was an office space.

People are staring at you.  But, they’re not really people though.

You stop for a moment to adjust your backpack.  You look behind you and notice a shop.  The colorful art and black clothes draws you in.  You go inside and admire a giant, leather hoodie dress that was handmade by the artist.  A man wearing a black collar and paper crows smiles as he explains the designer’s work.  You meander down the stairs to find yourself in an art gallery space filled with the most profane things ever drawn.

Leaving the stores behind, you cross the street.  Up ahead, a figure in graffitied and clad in gold.  You are not sure if this figure is a real person standing very still or a sculpture.  You stare unable to look away, looking for signs of life.  This was not a real person.

Shoreditch is both a creative and also a tech hub.  An ominous warning by the tech gods is posted on the walls.

Welcome to Shoreditch!

A visit back in London after 3.5 years

First impressions

It has been 3.5 years since I last left London.  I was really excited to see what the city was like after living there for two years.

So much memories have come back to me, prompted by the little things.

I remember the first time I walked up the stairs of Kings Cross St. Pancras – it was the first time going ‘above ground’ after braving the Underground for the first time wearing heels and lugging two pieces of luggage with me.  I was both tired from my long flight from Australia and delirious that I had finally made it in London. After a bit of wandering around, I stayed at a nearby hotel, had breakfast and I remember my first jetlagged ‘night’ waking up at midnight.

When I walked down familiar paths, I remember thinking that the image I had kept in my memory was different to the real thing.  I remember the first time walking to work at Regent’s Park after my first night in an apartment in St John’s Wood, with the sun shining through, giving the nearby apartments this dreamy, creamy colour.  And yet, as I traced what would have been my usual path from my old workplace back to my old apartment in St John’s Wood the reality of it had changed. There was the traffic to contend with, the walk was longer than I thought going past blocks of apartments and there was none of that dreamy, morning light as it was late in the afternoon.

My visit to London felt like it was just a visit, as if it had not been that long since I left.  There were some new sights, but nothing much has changed.  I think that the major changes have all happened within me.  The way I experienced London on my recent visit was just so different to how I first experienced the city nearly six years ago.

My visit in London was pretty low key.  I didn’t really have any particular agenda but I was pretty happy that I was able to see the city again after a few years being away.

Would I move back to London again?

I wouldn’t cancel moving back to London entirely out of my mind, but I am not really in a rush to go back.  The situation in the city today is completely different to what it was like when I lived there.  The biggest one being Brexit.  I’d rather just wait and see to see how things play out.  One thing that has changed is that since I was renting an apartment in Notting Hill, catching public transport and not really doing a lot of ‘tourist’ things I got an idea of what it would have been like to go back and live there again.

Frieze Art Fair 2017 and sculptures in the park

Unfortunately, I arrived on the last day so I was not able to experience Frieze London and Frieze Masters again. However, I saw in the programme that they now have sculptures in Regent’s Park which was an excellent way for more members of the public to view the works.

Day trip to Oxford

I missed out on visiting Oxford so decided to go again. You can easily catch the GWR which is part of the National Rail network and walk to Oxford Castle and the various colleges that are part of Oxford University.

The various things that have been bothering me and random thoughts on solo travelling

No we don’t have an urge for doing what you are doing [which is travelling around]

I want to know what we have in common though.  Maybe we don’t have certain things in common, that’s fine we are different.  But, what do we have in common?

Don’t you want to settle down?

What is the definition of settling down?  Is it having a large house, with a partner and 1 or 2 kids, parents near you, having friends that know you for 5, 10, 15 years and owning a lot of stuff?

That type of life has no appeal for me.

First, I don’t see the appeal of living in large houses.  Sure, it looks interesting on the outside and you can cram a shitload of useless things inside.  But, you have to take care of it.  You have to fill it with stuff and people.  When you’re on your own, it gets pretty obvious that you’re on your own.  And surely we live in a society where we don’t really need large houses with backyards and swimming pools.

Second, yes it would be nice to have a partner and kids (if it comes down to that).  But, you have move with partner and kids and there are plenty of expat families, stories of third culture kids that gives me hope that this is completely feasible.

Third, no there is a high chance that I won’t be near my parents.  And there is a high chance that my parents won’t be near me.  They take international/overseas vacations at least twice a year.  They have their own interests.  They have properties in two countries.  They have their own plans, and I have mine.

Fourth, yes I have heaps of friends that I’ve known for a while.  But, they have their own lives and I have mine.  If/when we cross roads then yes, we might catch up and see each other again or we might not.  Sometimes, my memories of past friendships are better since they are my friends then and probably not today just because we have gone down different roads.  Another thing is that I have more appeal in having a wide variety of friends from all sorts of walks of life from many different parts of the world.  And sometimes, I am happy just being an outside observer.  In fact my favorite phrase in my teens was bête noire.

And fifth, I don’t see the appeal of owning a lot of stuff.  Big houses and being settled makes you want to own stuff.  Makes you want to talk about owning stuff.  Having a garage makes you want to own a car, which then makes you want to upgrade your car, and so on.  Having three rooms makes you want to fill those rooms.  Our world is filled with so much useless crap.  I mean yes, I’m one of the culprits (I buy fast fashion brands) but I am not that bad compared to people living in McMansions.

You need a better work/life balance and stop working weird hours.

To be only in ‘work mode’ for only six hours a day and having to not be in ‘work mode’ the rest of the time feels forced.  But, I need to be a lot more motivated to divide my work and personal time.  I have too many things to do in my personal time.  And I need to be a lot more disciplined in dividing this.

I was working weird hours simply because there was at some point in my life were working from 11pm to 2am was the only way for me to sit still long enough to concentrate.  Any other time there were too many distractions, to the point that, if I had let these issues affect me I definitely would not have lasted this long.  Therefore, I basically had no choice but to force myself to work those hours.

Random thoughts of solo travelling

Being dependent

Being a solo traveler since I was in my 20s, I find it ludicrous coming across people who make excuses not to travel solo.  They have to wait for their husband’s approval for time off (like, from a family relative).  Or they depend on someone else’s wallet to pay for the funds (like, an economically dependent partner).  Or, they just have no interest in learning budgeting or organization skills that they depend on someone else to organize for them (like, a family relative).  I think that a valid excuse would be if they feel unsafe travelling solo anywhere, or simply not comfortable stepping into a foreign city on their own.  I don’t know.  Maybe all this time, I think that solo travel is common but the reality here is that it’s uncommon and I’m the weird one.

Safety and tips

Being a female solo traveller, I probably am more conscious of safety.  Instances like, strangers sitting right next to you on a semi-empty bus.  Getting catcalls when I had my hair out and noticing the number going down to zero once I wore a hijab when I was travelling in a Muslim country.  Once I was standing in Quebec City in winter and someone came right up to me and started inviting me to his house for tea and he was very insistent about it – I ended up walking away and hiding in a chocolate shop to see if he was stalking me.  Having guys come up to you and start greeting you in a number of languages or guessing your ethnicity.  And what’s up with people who you meet and one of the first immediate question is “Are you alone?”.  And so on.  Even groups of females get this treatment, one of the worst culprits being New York City.  So yes, it frustrates me when guys put forward their ‘travel tips’, I say ‘no thanks’ and they still insist that their tips are perfectly valid when my personal safety alarm is ringing yellow to ‘no thanks, you can stop giving me your advice now’.

People are nice

People are a lot more nicer than you think.  The first night/day that I arrive I am usually on the edge.  Then I relax after that.

Exploring is better but you need to be deliberate

Sometimes, I just don’t want advice or know what to expect and to see and do.  I would rather explore.  I check in, get a map to get an idea of going to and from (the best advice I’ve ever had was in Marrakech – you must always know how to go from A to B with A being your accomodation) the hotel then I start walking towards the nearest landmark. Then walk to the next landmark.  Then when I feel like I am walking away from anything interesting, I check my map and recalibrate.  Then I keep on walking.  I don’t really like to have a checklist.  For me, the best way is through exploring and to be surprised by something.  It was like that when I was in Cluj-Napoca which is why it was my favorite city to have travelled in Romania.  I knew about the main sites, but there were plenty of things that I had discoverd for the first time.

Paris 2017 after four years!

It has been four years since I last visited Paris in 2013.  It was a cool April where I was still wearing a winter coat.  Back then, I was a lot more spontaneous and unplanned with my travels.  I booked one of those ‘secret hotel’ deals only to be pleasantly happy that I was staying just minutes walk to the Eiffel Tower.  I was there for Art Paris Art Fair and PAD Fair, and simply referred to a map for the big tourist destinations.  I remember wandering around Montmarte shops and cafes (though at the time, I didn’t realize it was the area), Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre.  I was only there for a very short amount of time, before going back to London.

This time, my stay was a lot longer.  I was staying in a lovely apartment in Montmartre furnished with art deco furniture and a number of paintings.  I could tell the occupant was into the arts with numerous books lined up the bookshelves and original works of art everywhere.  I actually had a daily itinerary this time around to help plan the trip.

Paris was a lovely, beautiful city filled with so much history, culture and the arts.  However, it was a reminder as to why I probably would rather be a visitor rather than as a resident. As much as it is a lovely city, I missed going back to Germany after my trip!

A few other (food-related) snaps from the trip…

France 2017 – Exploring Provins, a UNESCO world heritage medieval village in the Île-de-France region

Having been to UNESCO heritage villages before, I really wanted to see what Provins was like.

Getting there

I bought a return ticket from Gare d’Est station and waited almost an hour for the train to arrive.  The trip in itself will stop at a few villages before arriving at Provins.

Walking to the village centre

Outside the station, you’ll be on the edge of the village which is both retail and residential.  Cross a small brook and walk along its narrow streets and you’ll eventually make your way to the village centre.

There is an option to take a taxi or to catch a small tourist bus.  But I think that this ruins the experience of walking through the small town.

I didn’t have a chance to walk around the village that much.  But, there is an amazing French patisserie place that’s opposite the city hall.  They have this amazing chocolate dessert that had chocolate ‘pop rocks’, and inside some chewy caramel bits and just full-on chocolate.

Getting your bearings

Eventually, you’ll notice the towering cathedral and keep.  There is also a bell tower near the village centre which I used as a visual guide to get my bearings.

Making your way to the medieval church and keep

Eventually, you will see some signs alluding to this area.  Just follow them.  There is a steep uphill walk though.  When it’s time to walk down, it’s worth walking downhill from the road that runs around the church (not the road leading out from the keep).  In this way, you will see some wonderful sights above the village.

Medieval church and keep

The church is free to enter, but the keep has an entrance fee. After some exploring, there is a small business from one of the side streets between the keep and the church.  It’s catered to tourists, but has the best local Provins rose jam!