How Not To Get Bored With Your Work Overseas

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities”

– Shunryu Suzuki


Dec 20 2010 I stared outside my window into the smog clouding the skies in China. I was about to celebrate my 4th year being in this country but I wasn’t looking forward to spending another year filling my lungs with Teflon flavored smoke from the factories and marking endless essays from my students.

In other words I was stuck.

I felt I was going nowhere with my teaching career in China. Teaching wasn’t what I envisioned myself doing in the long term and I kept doing it year after year because it was safe, it was stable, it was damned good money.  I felt if I lost it, it would be hard to find another job. But I wanted something new. I wanted to experience what it was like to be a professional writer. I wanted to live and experience another country that wasn’t China.

Sept 20 2012 I stared outside the window at the snow covered peaks of the Andes Mountain Range of Santiago, Chile. After 6 years of doing the same thing, I finally quit my job and moved to Chile and enrolled in a university to study Spanish. It wasn’t stable. I had no job. I had no steady flow of income. It was scary.

But quitting that stable career opened me to many possibilities too. Finally writing projects fell on my lap.

I’ve copyedited and helped designed a marketing brochure for a Chilean wine brand. I’ve created marketing and public relations materials and website content for an American start-up called Scholaroo in Chile. I also did some copyediting for a travel magazine called Patagon Journal. I wrote direct marketing emails for a client (due to a NDA- I cannot name the identity). And recently, I won a scholarship for a Business Writing course and a free month membership at the Writer’s Den in Carol Tice’s popular writing blog.

I also met brilliant and inspiring people who were into entrepreneurship, graphic designing, start-ups, tech, neuromarketing, microfinancing, nonprofits and yes, even elephant sanctuaries.

All because I opened myself to a new environment.

Which brings me to a topic my uber-wonderful friend Leslie taught me about Convergence and Divergence for an international career. Let me put it this way-

Divergence – means a sky’s the limit all you can eat buffet of ideas. It’s a state where you’re all over the place. In projects, this is the brainstorming stage. In writing, it’s mind mapping. In travel, you’re backpacking all over the world. In careers, you might be at a transitional point where you’re experimenting with different jobs.

Convergence– means you’ve browsed the selection of food at the all you can eat buffet, salivated over the goodies and realized that you can only eat so much. It’s about filling your plate with what you can handle and then eating it.  It’s about refining your ideas – selecting what’s best. So if you’re in a team, you choose the objective and the best strategy to implement it. If you’re writing, this is the time you edit. If you’re traveling, this is the time you choose a sweet spot and settle down for the time being. And in careers, this is the time you settle on a job or a more straightforward career path.

I’m currently on a divergence point after so many years of convergence. I’m trying different projects of writing and seeing which ones I like. It’s exciting to be freelancing and seeing if I like it. Eventually I have to converge and settle on a niche or a job that involves a specific writing task. It all depends on the person how long he can spend diverging and converging. I think in my case convergence would be the longest – 2 years tops before I find a way to diverge again.

Divergence and Convergence are like Yin and Yang. It’s a balance and it’s a sequence. One comes after the other and they should never be performed at the same time.

So if you have a good paying stable job and still wonder why you feel bored and stuck, it’s your inner divergence calling. It wants something new and fresh. It wants a challenge. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s perfectly natural.



my friend Seamus dancing to the beat in India

Try  something new. Like a new hobby like Vietnamese cooking. Or getting a part time job on doing what you like. Enroll in a new class offline or online – there are tons of free course on the internet. Volunteering or doing an internship in another country. Embark on a new project. There are many things. You have to get those going so you won’t feel bored.

What I should have done was after 2 years in my job was to try an internship for 2 months. Or move to another city in China. Or take a part time writing job. Anything to break the monotony of the stability.

By doing so, you look at things in a brand new light, your mind gets fed with fresh ideas and best of all, you open yourself to many new and wonderful opportunities.

By the way, my friend and fellow blogger/traveler/freelancer Leslie Forman will soon discuss more about convergence and divergence in your international career in her blog soon. It’s going to help fellow travelers, expats and those thinking of a new career path overseas. It’s going to be a movement.

Photo by: The Fertile Unknown


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