Frantzces, a 37-year old Haitian woman who grew up in Boston, worked for years as a social worker until she became burned out. She decided to spontaneously quit her job and make the move abroad. She now lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she teaches English to high school children in a private school, co-hosts a podcast, and does freelance work.
We had the chance to speak with her about her experience as a black expat in Asia.
Travel Noire: Why did you make the move abroad?
Frantzces: I moved abroad because I needed to try something vastly different from what I was doing. I never traveled overseas. I became an empty-nester, and it just felt right. My son was off to college, and I started to think about what was next for me. And honestly, I only had intentions to just travel more, but then I found myself researching TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) programs and buying a one-way ticket to Asia. What makes the States beautiful is what some people in the U.S. are trying to eliminate—which is diversity. I knew there was more to experience throughout the world and being comfortable in the States wasn’t going to lead me to where I felt at the time I needed to be.
TN: What challenges do you face as a black expat in Asia?
Frantzces: I think for me the most significant challenges aren’t being stared at, the colorism issues, or even learning the language—the biggest challenge has been sustaining connections. This whole travel the world thing is a revolving door. You meet people, and you have to learn to accept people coming in and out of your life. You have to learn to accept and embrace the moment for what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. I’ve definitely gotten better at it. But that could be frustrating for some people.
TN: What is the best part of living and working abroad?
Frantzces: The best part about living abroad has been connecting with the locals, experiencing the culture, eating all types of delicious foods and the ease and affordability of traveling to neighboring countries. For a roundtrip ticket back to the States I could probably visit five countries alone.
TN: How does life abroad compare to life at home?
Frantzces: My life abroad has been great. The quality of my life has improved leaps and bounds. I’ve been able to work through my depression and anxiety. I have easy access to healthy and affordable food and great affordable medical care. I’ve learned to slow down. In the States, I was a rat on a hamster wheel; now my life is filled with adoration and appreciation. It doesn’t mean things are perfect. It just means I’ve learned not to become immobile when things aren’t perfect or when things don’t go the way I expected.
Traveling and living abroad has taught me a lot about myself, about life and other people. The cost of living in Asia is incredibly affordable, so I believe it’s a great place to test the waters. I’ve lived in both Japan and Thailand with a brief stint in Indonesia. Even with Japan being more of an expensive country my quality of life was still better. Japan has the freshest food I’ve ever seen and universal healthcare. And the people are incredibly polite and considerate.
TN: Do you see yourself returning stateside? If so, when?
Frantzces: I have zero plans on returning to live in the States. However, I do have plans to move a little closer. Those 24-30 hour flights are a bit too much! Plus I’m really curious to live in either a Spanish or French speaking country so I can practice my French and Spanish.
TN: What advice would you give to those looking to move abroad?
Frantzces: The number one advice I can have for someone wanting to live abroad is to have zero expectations. Next, is to join some Facebook groups and reach out to people. Expats living abroad understand everything that I just spoke about. You can create some great connections and have a support system.
Yes, do your research but don’t let it cripple you. Someone’s experience isn’t going to be like yours. So yes, get as much info but don’t become attached to the information.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to say “hello.” When I visited Tokyo, I said hi to a young Palestinian guy who became my travel bae for the following two days. I pretty much attached myself to his itinerary. But we had a great time. If I didn’t say hello, I wouldn’t have had those experiences. Just enjoy the journey, adjust as you go and if you find out that living abroad isn’t for you, it’s no biggie. You could always move back.
I can answer any questions via social media: @chronicals_abroad on IG.
Source: Travel – Travel Noire