The other night at dinner, my friend Hank asked me if there was anything I regretted about moving overseas?
In seven years, no one has ever asked me that.
I think we are so busy living life, living in the present, that we don’t often take time to think about regrets – which is a good thing. Plus, I’m a pretty happy person, so dwelling on then crappy bits gets me nowhere.
However, the question made me think.
I pondered it for a while and quietly answered, Absolutely.
Then, after dinner and plenty of drinks were shared, I left Hank and Mark chatting away and slipped away to write this post. I know I am not the only one with regrets, yet I’ve never shared it here.
Until now, so keep reading…
Moving Abroad Regret #1
I regret selling Feisty Kitten Showroom before we moved.
I rarely write about my past life because why bother, it’s passed. But I owned a wholesale clothing agency called Feisty Kitten Showroom. We represented 10-12 clothing lines from around the world and sold to boutiques and big box stores throughout the Midwest.
It was a small business, but we did a good business. It was my baby for 10 years, something I had built from scratch in the fashion world. An industry I had always wanted to be in and what I initially went to college for.
At the time, I thought moving abroad meant choosing one life over the other. Having a foot in each country meant not having my heart in either. Little did I know that it would have been totally ok to have my heart in both.
I thought selling everything and starting fresh seemed like the smart thing to do, so we wouldn’t feel a pull to go back to the US when it got hard. Which is why I sold Feisty Kitten.
However, I sold it to someone I trusted who turned a million-dollar business into dust. While that has nothing to do with moving overseas, that has everything to do with our lifestyle.
I counted on the monthly buyout money as a good faith cushion to live off until we figured it out here. She never paid me, shut the doors, and basically slinked out in the middle of the night owing lots of people money and destroying something that meant so much to me.
Thankfully she didn’t ruin my reputation, but it broke my heart.
Lesson Learned: If I could do it over, I would have stayed on as a consultant, but taken the payment upfront, not as a monthly buyout.
Which leads me to another regret.
Moving Abroad Regret #2
I wish we moved to a country where we could legally work. Let me explain…
We can work in Malaysia if we are hired by a company that wants to get us a costly visa. Or we could start a business and apply for business visas – which we did (more on that below).
But just showing up and getting a job here, especially on a tourist visa, is illegal.
On our current 10 year visa, working locally is a no-no. We can work part-time online, but we can’t take a job from a Malaysian, and rightfully so.
However, there are many countries where we could work legally, and getting the correct visa to do so is easier. When we left, I figured naively, that as the Raccuia Team, we could do anything, anywhere in the world. And I still believe that. But honestly, I thought it would have been easier.
Lesson Learned: Starting over isn’t easy. Do your research and choose a country where working is an option. Have a plan B.
Moving Abroad Regret #3
I regret not having a better plan for making money.
I remember telling Mark that no matter what, we’d figure things out. No need to have a plan, we can play life by ear. Not having a master plan is one of my best and worst traits.
I’m a spontaneous butterfly. I flit from one thing to the next, following the next glittery object like a cat being teased by a laser pointer.
But on the flip side of that, I rarely make goals and future plans.
Without a plan for work, we floundered around trying new things and sinking money and time into visas and a business that neither of us wanted. We started a medical tourism business which sucked. It sucked our money, our time, and left us wishing we never started it.
Plus, it tethered us to Malaysia, and our masterplan was never to be tethered to another country. We wanted to be mobile and live anywhere, everywhere, but having a biz here prevented that dream (which we are still working on).
If we had taken the time to build some online skills, we could have worked remotely from day one.
Reinventing myself as a writer, social media manager, website design auditor, hasn’t been an easy path. I’m not afraid of hard work, but it would have been easier to have started online work before we left.
Lesson Learned: For anyone planning to move overseas, figure out a way to work remotely. Having a job earning USD could have made our lives sooooo much easier from the start. Don’t play it by ear as we did. It doesn’t work, at least not very well.
Moving Abroad Regret #4
I regret moving to a place that makes it nearly impossible to get home.
However, I don’t regret moving to Penang. I just wish I could pick it up and move it off the coast of Panama – about 15 hours closer to the US.
I would not change moving to Malaysia for ANYTHING. I mean that. Penang is my happy place that has given us seven years (and counting) of a lifestyle we love.
I’ve met some of the best people, period, full-stop. And my life is measurably better for knowing them. Even though most of them have since left Malaysia, they have left an indelible mark. Victoria-Amy, you know who you are. 😉
If we moved to Costa Rica, our original plan, would we have been as happy? Would we have fallen in love with our adopted home and it’s people – expats included?
It’s impossible to know.
However, as much as I love Malaysia and the gifts it has given me, it’s so damned far away. Getting home is a two-day affair, which conversely means very few visitors. There is no way to go home for an emergency. We can’t attend a lot of friends and family milestones, which makes me feel a little less connected.
Lesson Learned: If being able to jet home somewhat quickly is essential to you, choose your adopted country wisely. I don’t want to live in the US, but being able to fly back within 10 hours would be great.
The Wrap Up
I get that hindsight is 20/20, which is exactly why I’m writing this. If I can prevent someone from having the same regrets, or making the same mistakes, then mission accomplished.