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
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.
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.
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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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!