How to Overcome Failure in Your Overseas Career

Bride carrying suitcase on country road

Say you quit your job, moved to another country and then hated it. Could you pack up your bags and return to your country to do the walk of expat shame? How could you face your family and friends again when you just promised them you’d kiss a monk, eat a live octopus or climb Macchu Picchu and you never ended up doing that?

Well, we’d never kiss monks but that’s exactly what happened to me and my fellow travel blogger, Prime of the Gypsy Gals – a travel blog of solo female travel advice and inspiring stories.

I quit my job in China and moved my savings and my sanity to Chile. Prime quit her journalism job in the Philippines to become a teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam. I hated Chile Empanada Land and didn’t really like studying Spanish and Prime hated Hanoi and didn’t become a teacher.  In the end we moved back to the Philippines and rebooted our careers.  While I traipse around Southeast Asia doing different odd jobs, Prime kept her freelance journalism business and decided to dedicate herself to becoming a lifecoach.

How did we swallow our pride when our overseas goals didn’t work out and started from scratch again?

  1. Know when to quit

For me, it all had to do with how I was feeling. I didn’t like the culture, the food, the people and the cost of living was expensive in Chile. I was miserable most of the time. It wasn’t worth it. When I realize that staying there longer would not advance me in terms of career, relationship, personal development and friendship, I knew it was time to go.

It was the same for Prime as well.  Having developed a motorbike phobia and a disappointment that there was no mall in Hanoi, her chances of staying at that place diminished especially as the bosses of the language center were very racist and passed her up because she looked too “Southeast Asian.” That was just one of the too many things that made her decide Hanoi was not for her.

Most importantly, you also get that feeling that the forces of the universe conspire against you. No matter how hard you try you just stay put or opportunities didn’t open that would enable you to stay in that country.  Then you wonder why you had to undergo that devastating experience in the first place. That’s when you realize that the universe wanted you to have a life lesson. Perhaps this experience had to really hurt so you can learn something important. I learned that I couldn’t be too far away from my Asian comfort zone a.k.a. heaps of rice, vermicelli, siomai, red peppers, sushi and dumplings.  Chile had very few of these and they suck.  I also couldn’t live in a small town which was where I lived in Chile. These are important factors to consider when I make my next overseas move.

  1. Pray, Decompress and Accept.

Prime advised praying to God for guidance. You can also meditate or seek advice from people you trust.  It’s also important to write in your journal daily to record your thoughts.

Don’t get in a rush to do anything drastic after you decided to quit and return. I stayed for a few days in HK to get together with friends before returning to the Philippines. There I relaxed for a while before looking for work. Prime booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a healing session before returning to Manila.

Finally just Accept your situation. This is very important because if you can’t accept you can’t move on. Take a deep breath and just tell your family and friends. It is very embarrassing, true but compare  a) you’d rather stay and be miserable or  b) endure a brief period of embarrassment and move on to something better. I’d take the latter any day.

  1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Prime had the forethought to not quit her freelancing and she still retained her former job as one of her freelancing clients. Thus, she was still able to keep afloat in Hanoi and in Manila when she returned. She was still able to continue to work while looking for another career path.

I however, was not too fortunate. I didn’t have a backup job or a line of work waiting for me when I returned.  I didn’t have freelancing to rely on as my former teaching work took up all my time. I also spent most of my money in Chile not having known how expensive it was.  Next time I should have another line of work going or get enough freelance clients on the side. I should also have sufficient back-up funds.

  1. Look deep within yourself and plan your next step. Know that not every path is for you.

This is the time to move forward. For Prime it was time to reflect, take action and take a different path. Re-navigate. Tap into her intuition and discover that what she was most afraid of was the path for her – to become a lifecoach. It was terrifying but deep inside she knew this was the direction for her. It wasn’t to become an ESL teacher and travel the world while developing her solo female traveler online business. That was a path laid for others but not for her.

It was the same for me. I thought I would teach ESL in South America while building a freelance writing career and then travel and live around the world. It wasn’t meant to be. I realize then you are free to make your own path. You don’t have to follow others because what works for them will not work for you.

For Prime’s path – it is to build a coaching practice, enroll in more courses for energy healing and do more business planning to make it a profitable business.

My path is more fluid as I haven’t fully discovered what it is I want to do. Probably explains why I had moved from one job to another thinking, “This is it.” I am open to experimentation and trying out what will work for me instead of plunging deep into something I haven’t tried out yet. I will stop being so hard on myself and trying to set things in stone especially since I am in transition. I will accept that the universe still hasn’t presented me an opportunity to discover my path but I will continue to move ahead- one step at a time.

You can choose to dwell in the past and your mistakes. Remain bitter at how stupid you were. Beat yourself again and again at how you could have done things differently. Tell yourself, “If only I hadn’t –.”  Or you can look back one last time at the past and then turn around and move forward.

Bride carrying suitcase on country road

Image Credit

You might also like:

Life’s Bitter Lemons: What to do when goals don’t turn out


2 thoughts on “How to Overcome Failure in Your Overseas Career

  1. Remedial Wife says:

    well good for you. there are too few expats who admit things are tough and fewer still who admit they failed and tried something else. Thanks for being brave and bringing a new perspective.

    • Kate says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! I have rarely seen posts about how expats bounce back up from an overseas failure and wanted to write one so others can learn from the experience and know that not all of the overseas life is all rosy hues

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