MY PERSONAL JOURNEY

Expat, Immigrant, Digital Nomad & Single Mom

Mostly An Expat ... Sometimes A Digital Nomad

“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.” 

– From The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

EXPAT

The easy-peasy common path to becoming an expat is being assigned overseas by a company from one’s home country.  I’ve always done it the hard way. For India, China, Hong Kong, and Malaysia I was relocated by a local company there (mostly start-ups). In the case of Mexico, the 1st time I lived in Spain, and Indonesia I simply rolled up and manifested a new life.  

DIGITAL NOMAD

Since my 1st job in a California startup in 1996, I’ve worked in digital marketing. So after my daughter moved from India to the UK to begin her university studies, I was well equipped to head off and live as a digital nomad in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia (Bali & Batam). The first time taught me rough lessons that I was grateful to learn early on.

SINGLE PARENT

I became a single mom after my daughter’s 1st birthday, with an ex who never paid child support. I refused to play the victim and instead used my situation as incentive to climb the ladder faster. My daughter is the greatest joy of my life and it was a gift to live on 3 continents and adventure across 11 countries with her. 

My Personal Journey (1992 – today)

1992 | Mexico

 Illegal Immigrant

[Total stay: less than 2 month]

Moved from Newport Beach, California to Puerto Vallarta in my Jeep at the age of 21. While it lasted, it was a dream! I worked 1 day a week, driving foreigners for $20 each to a secret surf spot. It was a chilled life with local friends (no expats).

– Lived illegally on a tourist visa

– After almost being raped and shot at, I returned home

2014 | China

 Expat

[Total stay: less than 3 months]

Moved to Beijing for a job with a travel company that didn’t work out.

– Learned huge lessons on protecting myself in employment contracts
Lost a ton of money setting up home, more lessons learned

2016 | Malaysia

 Expat

[Total stay: 2 1/2 years]

Moved for a chief marketing officer role that didn’t work out. Was offered new roles by several startups but salaries were too low. Started up my freelancing business, helping hospitality and tourism brands to grow online. Had a couple good friends but didn’t integrate much into life there.

– 1st experience with wrongful dismissal and having to force a company to behave ethically
Fell into depression and gained a lot of weight out of pure unhappiness & financial stress
Had my 1st medical emergency abroad and was without health insurance
– Fully transitioned from blogger to vlogger with my YouTube channel WanderwithAngela

1993 & 2003 | Spain

Illegal (1993) & Legal (1994, 2003) Immigrant

[Total stay: 12 years]

I bought a 1-way ticket from L.A. to Europe and ended up in a beach town called Sitges, just south of Barcelona. I was a go-go dancer at a  disco the 1st summer, then a bartender, which is where I met my ex-husband. We had a daughter. She and I moved back to L.A. in 1996.  We returned to Spain in 2003, I was now an expert in startup marketing & branding. I climbed the ladder from manager to director in 4 years. My daughter attended an International School for GCSEs.

– Married and divorced a local
– My daughter was born in Barcelona
2004 – 2011: best time of my life (our crew was a mix of locals and expats)
– Laid off in 2010, then couldn’t find work after economic crisis

2014 | Hong Kong

 Expat

[Total stay: 1 year]

Worked short-term for an architectural firm and a 3-month contract role for the Chinese pop star G.E.M., helping to setup her U.S. tour.

– Didn’t integrate with the expats and found it challenging to make local friends
– Started side hustle gigs

2016 & 2019 | SE Asia

Digital Nomad

[Total time: 7 months]
In 2016 after losing my job in Kuala Lumpur, I had to make a decision: pay for my life in KL or pay for my daughter’s life and uni expenses. I vacated my condo and took off as a digital nomad for 6 months.  I did it again in 2019 when I needed an adventure, which has thankfully led me to my new life in Indonesia.

2011 | India

Expat

[Total stay: less than 3 years]

The chief marketing officer job I moved to Bangalore for didn’t work out so I ended up freelancing. My daughter attended International School for IB, graduated, and moved to the UK for uni.  I began blogging, vlogging, writing for magazines, and I had a newspaper column. I also launched my own startup that was funded.

Toured with Guns N’ Roses in India as the head of digital & social media
– Had wonderful local friends (very few expat friends) + a very active social life
– Was deported 2x
My daughter and I were under police scrutiny due to an admin error and I was ultimately blacklisted for 5 years over it, losing my company and our cats from Spain (long story!)

2015 | Bali

Digital Nomad

[Total time: 2 months]

I was hit with Empty Nest Syndrome very hard so once my Hong Kong visa expired, I flew down to Bali to try and get back to being “me” again.  Experienced digital nomad life for the first time. 

– Learned a lot about time management
Challenges began quickly with no bank account (non-residents are not allowed to keep a Hong Kong bank account)

2019 – present | Indonesia

Expat

[Total stay: ??]

During a trip to the Riau Islands, I decided to leave KL and start a different kind of life: one that feels purposeful and brings value to others, while generating free time for myself to write a book.  

– That WOW was born!

LIFE IS ALWAYS AN ADVENTURE

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  • The 1st time I moved abroad I was 21 years old. I was at university back home in California and had just returned from my 1st solo travel trip to Mexico. On the drive home from LAX, I decided I wanted to live an exotic, culturally diverse, and exciting life ... everyday! So I dropped out of UCI, packed up my Jeep, and moved from Newport Beach to Puerto Vallarta.
  • Since then I've lived in Spain & India as a single mom with my daughter. Then when she flew the nest for uni, I relocated to China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and now the Riau Islands in Indonesia. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
  • Life is a never-ending holiday & enriching in ways that 21-year-old me couldn't fathom back then. 

Today I prefer to eat with my hands, to take my shoes off before entering someone's home, live as one with nature, and hope to never wear (corporate) work clothes or heels again. ~Angela

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