I've been in a long distance relationship with the love of my life for almost three years now, and my deepest wish is to see him for more than six months out of the year. I've had an even longer love affair with the country of his birth--Jamaica--having visited since I was 19 and having extended family ties there. I literally long for the day when the beaches of Westmoreland or Ocho Rios are my backyard and when I can jerk my own chicken and pick mangoes, avocados, and coconuts outside my front door.
Now, with global quarantine orders and borders closures in place due to COVID-19, many of us have had to put any plans of traveling on hold almost indefinitely. But no worries wanderlusters.
Below, 4 women share why and how they relocated abroad, how the current events have affected their everyday lives, and--when things are back to normal--how other women can realize their dreams of moving abroad, too:
China: Karina Henry, Teacher And Model
Image via Karina Henry
How have things been for you abroad, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic changing our way of life?
In January, I returned home to visit since I had a month-long vacation for Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, due to the airline restrictions and border closings related to Coronavirus, I've been stuck in the States. I'm hoping China reopens their borders soon and allows foreigners to reenter so I can get back to my life in China!
How did you transition into working in China?
In 2018, I convinced my job in the States to approve remote work from Thailand for a month by submitting a 7-page-proposal. (To this day, I am still shocked that they approved me working from another country because they rarely approved people working from home!)
While in Thailand, I met a young lady who was living and teaching there. She told me how easy it was to find a teaching job in Asia and that I should apply. Of course, I shrugged it off and returned home to my regular job. Weeks after returning home from Thailand and settling back into my normal life, I realized how miserable I was and how much I missed my life in Thailand. I was beyond depressed. I cried everyday!
That summer, I decided to begin looking into teaching abroad and stumbled upon an awesome opportunity in Suzhou, China. I nailed the interview (which wasn't very difficult) and began preparing my documents for my visa.
In September 2018, I boarded the plane with my one-way ticket to China to begin my life abroad. I've been enjoying my life abroad ever since! I am a foreign language teacher at a privately-owned kindergarten in Shanghai and this is my second year teaching in China. Though most people find international teaching opportunities via websites like TEFL.com or Teachaway.com, I truly stumbled upon both of my teaching opportunities.
Image via Karina Henry
What resources have helped in being an expat?
When I began to consider teaching abroad, I turned to social media as a valuable resource. I joined a Facebook group called Brothas&Sistas of China, and it's a wonderful group for people of color who live or have lived in China. I began asking questions about teaching opportunities and life abroad. Because China isn't known for being very friendly to black foreigners (you wouldn't imagine how many times I've seen "only interested in European teachers" when I was job searching), I was most interested in working for a school that had already hired people of color.
I received helpful leads and reached out to schools because of referrals I received from people in the Facebook group. One of the things I love most about living in China is that opportunities are easier to find and they often fall in your lap.
In addition to teaching, I also model for a wholesale company that is based in Shanghai. How did I land that gig? I was out with a Chinese friend, stuffing my face at a restaurant, when I was approached by two representatives who asked if I'd model for them! This has also opened other doors for me in China and back home.
I recently started a YouTube channel called Karina Worldwide to document my life as a teacher, plus-size model, traveler, and black woman living life abroad!
Ghana: Maame Adjei, Actress, Producer & Creative Entrepreneur
Maame, who attended undergrad and graduate school in Philadelphia, has Ghanaian roots and decided to moved to Accra, Ghana to pursue a healthcare career in 2013. Her interests shifted when a friend suggested she try acting, and the following year she landed a starring role in the critically acclaimed show An African City. She also hosted a travel show showcasing the beauty and diversity of Ghana called Girl Going Places, and has since collaborated with other actors and creatives on the continent. Here's her story of moving abroad:
What led you to take the leap?
I've been moving "abroad" all my life. I've lived in the UK, in the US, and in Ghana. I was born in Ghana and I consider it home, [but] I left at a young age. When I finally decided to move back 7 years ago, it was like moving 'abroad' or to a new place. I had been living in Philadelphia for over a decade, so moving back to Ghana was a leap, however, it was something I had to do.
I came to Ghana on a quick 2-week vacation, and by the time I was heading back to Philadelphia, the mundaneness of my life hit me so hard.
I realized how unhappy I actually was with my life and my work and just felt an overwhelming need to shift the path and try something completely new. My family had all moved back to Ghana, and it just felt like if I was going to re-start my life with a goal to pursue happiness and passion, it was the best place to start. So I did.
What was the process to do what you love for work?
I'm a creative, and that's saying a lot in Ghana! My background is in healthcare finance and that's the field I was in before I moved to Ghana, but since I made a conscious decision to find my passions and pursue them, I took the first year of being here "off" and just traveled and lived an Eat, Pray, Love life. I had cashed out my 401k, so I had the money to just "figure it out."
In the midst of that, I started working on my own travel show. Then a friend reached out to me about a TV show she was working on, An African City, and really, my creative life began from there. So, my work found me and not vice versa.
What were the first steps you took to officially move?
Thankfully, I was moving to a country that I knew well. I had lived in Ghana as a tween, I had visited during Christmas holidays, and I had a family here, so the transition was certainly easier.
I do suggest that if you're planning on moving away from your home base, research, research, research. [Look into] work visas and how long you can stay.
Germany: Zoie-Marie, Tech Professional & Vlogger
Image via Zoie-Marie
Why did you choose to live abroad?
I am originally from New York and now living in the Stuttgart region in Germany. There are a few reasons why I decided to move abroad. During my college years I did two study abroad semesters, one to Austria and one to Germany. Those two semesters abroad really opened my eyes to travel.
Before that time I never went anywhere--never went on family vacations (outside of the country), never went on solo vacations. I was just a homebody. After those two semesters, I had a nasty bite from the travel bug.
It was so easy and affordable to travel from one place to another within Europe! To top it off, I had met so many amazing individuals, and I had the most romantic and exciting experiences which I will never forget. After that, I decided I wanted my life to always be an adventure. I wanted to make travel an essential piece of my existence which led me to the grand idea that I should move abroad officially and at least give the idea a try.
Image via Zoie-Marie
How have the quarantines and all that is related to COVID-19 affected your life?
The Coronavirus has hit me hard! My personal life is more affected than my work life. In my job, I am normally able to work from home once or twice a week, so I am not new to that. I am very fortunate that my job and my role was not affected by this virus. Outside of my job, my personal life has been halted. My main purpose of moving abroad was to travel, have experiences, and meet new people. The virus has eliminated all opportunity to continue to do that at the moment.
COVID-19 has canceled an important training trip I had to California and also a special mother-daughter vacation which I planned for Greece. I haven't seen my mother in-person since January. Further, since I moved to Germany on my own, I have no family here or nearby and due to social distancing, I cannot meet my friends or co-workers. I am home and alone 24/7. I am missing human interaction. It's extra lonely, and quite frankly all my travel plans for the year have come to a shattering and lengthy halt.
What do you do for work abroad, and how did you find job opportunities?
I am working in the artificial intelligence industry, and I was able to attain my job through LinkedIn. Before that, my two jobs in Germany did not challenge me for long and as a result, I was very unhappy with my situation. I went on LinkedIn every other week applying for jobs for over a year, and many were, in the end, not a right fit until I landed my current position.
My suggestion for anyone who wants to move abroad is to be vigilant, and if the social sites like LinkedIn are not helpful, you can try to network via Facebook groups or friends and friends of friends!
In Germany, there are numerous expat groups online where many people list or forward job openings from their companies. I even applied to one or two jobs via that channel.
Image via Zoie-Marie
What are the first steps you took to move?
First, I needed to find a job. I did extensive research on what I could do in the field of English in Germany (which is an easy field to find entry work anywhere abroad). Once I secured a job abroad, I needed to save enough money to support myself for the first few months abroad. I worked two jobs in the States, 7 days a week, and saved every penny (literally).
Before I officially moved abroad, I did research on what was needed for my work visa. Since Germany is included in the Schengen Agreement, Americans with a U.S. passport are allowed to enter Germany for a maximum period of 90 days. This allowed me to enter the country without a work permit.
As soon as I landed in Germany, my immediate task was to apply for my work visa as it was now time sensitive and the clock was ticking. I could not start my job without it [so] during that time I just relied on my savings.
My advice is to be very vigilant in getting this process started as soon as possible because the processing time could be anything from 1 to 2 months. On top of that, you will need to consider the additional tasks that must be completed before you can even apply for the permit. This includes signing up for health insurance, opening up a bank account, and finding accommodation which could take up a chunk of that 3 months.
France: Latrice Shepherd, Educator & Travel Consultant
Image via Latrice Shepherd
Latrice is from California, and after working in New York, decided to act on her dream to live in Paris. She launched her own travel site, Penniless in Paris, where she shares insights on places to go, live, and shop and where expats can find support and community. She also helps others reach their expat goals and feed their travel bugs. Here's her story:
How has life changed for you as we all face the issues of a global pandemic?
I am currently abroad in Paris and the Coronavirus has affected my life tremendously. More than ever before I wish I was home with my family. I know that I live far, but these past few weeks on lock down, I actually feel far. Additionally, as an expat, your friends become your family. Being separated from friends during the quarantine is also very difficult.
I consider myself to be an avid traveler and I'm usually exploring a new place every 90 days. Due to the lock down, I'm also unable to pursue my passion of travel. Nonetheless all is not lost.
My French neighbor and I have forged a bond during the quarantine. She's around 55, and like me she's single and lives alone. She's across the hallway, and she and I shoot the shit over a bottle of wine every other day. We remind each other that this too shall pass and talk about all the things we intend to do when the quarantine is over. We get 6 weeks of vacation in France---one of the many reasons I'm still here! When this is all over I intend to frolic in the South of France as I do every summer. There's a fabulous jazz festival in Nice in July---the largest of all of Europe. I'm also looking forward to spending the month of December at home with my family.
What sparked the final decision to move to France?
I'm originally from the [San Francisco] Bay area (yeeeeee!) but before I moved to Paris, I was living in New York. Fun Fact: The day I moved to New York, I told myself that once I was finished with New York I would move to Paris. I believe that my move was literally a stepping stone to prepare me for my relocation to Paris.
While in New York, I had been laid off from my retail management job. It was the middle of a recession and finding a job with a comparable salary was impossible. As a result I returned to university to finish my bachelor's degree since I already had an associate's.
I studied international relations, and as part of my degree program I was required to learn a second language. I chose French and studied abroad in Paris for two months during the summer to help me master the language.
After returning from Paris, I decided to pursue a second degree in French and embarked on a one-year study abroad program in Paris. I moved to Paris January 2014 for my program, and I literally never returned!
Image via Latrice Shepherd
What were the first steps you took to officially move and enjoy life in a new country?
Because I moved to Paris with my university I had to obtain a student visa for a year. I argue that a student visa is the most hassle-free visa to obtain for anyone looking to move to Paris and have the ability to work part-time.
I also significantly downsized my life before my move. I rid myself of unnecessary material things because I knew I would be gone for at least a year and I didn't know what my future held. I wanted to be able to transition to any situation smoothly and that's difficult to do when you have a lot of things in tow. Parisian apartments are very small and there's no way they can accommodate the things that we Americans tend to acquire in the States.
I arranged for all of my financial responsibilities to be managed online. I set up a checking account with Capital One 360 which is basically an online banking account with no foreign transaction fees.
I also prepared myself to integrate to another culture. Paris is not the U.S., and French culture is not American culture. It's pointless to compare the two. If I want to maintain a positive experience and a happy life, it is necessary to adapt.
What do you do for work in Paris?
I'm a tenured English lecturer at a private university. I acquired my current position through a liaison that my university uses for study abroad students in Paris. Before becoming tenured, I was working under the table (or 'au noir'), and making roughly 300 euros a month (about $330 today).
My first two years in Paris were very bare bones. I was literally surviving on scholarships and grants received from my university. Additionally, I taught English on the side. I also started a small business helping people plan trips to Paris or move abroad. That small business has since turned into a full-fledged website aptly named "Penniless in Paris." If anyone is interested in moving or even traveling to Paris, please check out the website. Au Revoir!
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Featured image courtesy of Latrice Shepherd
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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In the vibrant heart of Atlanta, the dating scene received a stylish upgrade courtesy of the dynamic Dr. Stacii Jae Johnson. I recently witnessed her matchmaker extraordinaire skills live in action at a speed dating soirée with a Mr. & Mrs. Smith twist. This event wasn't just an opportunity for singles to mingle; it also set the stage for Amazon Prime Video's buzzworthy new series coming in Feb 2024, adding a cinematic flair to the evening's potential connections.
Stepping into the world of speed dating for the first time, I couldn't shake the mix of nerves and excitement fueling my anticipation. The idea of meeting new faces in a fast-paced setting felt like the dating version of a rollercoaster ride—thrilling yet slightly nerve-wracking. Little did I know this night would spark a newfound eagerness to dive back into the dating pool.
Navigating the curated world of speed dating under Dr. Stacii's guidance, I found myself captivated by the creative ambiance and Mr. & Mrs. Smith theme. With Amazon Prime Video's collaboration, the evening not only held the promise of potential romance but also stirred anticipation for the upcoming series, creating a unique conversation starter among attendees.
As a 28-year-old navigating the dating landscape, this experience marked a turning point. The allure of speed dating not only melted away my initial reservations but also ignited a sense of hope and curiosity about what the future might hold. The event acted as a stylish nudge, prompting me to embrace the dating adventure with fresh enthusiasm, regardless of my past lack of serious relationship experience.
In an exclusive interview with Dr. Stacii, we delved into the world of dating advice for single Black women navigating the modern dating landscape. Dr. Stacii's wisdom, honed from years of experience, promises to be a beacon for those seeking genuine connections in a world saturated with swipes and fleeting encounters.
“The small talk is amazing. It's a great starter. But what I liked about this speed dating event hosted by myself in partnership with Prime Video for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, it allowed for real conversations to happen and real connections to be made,” emphasized Dr. Stacii.
“One of the things that I even stated was to keep your mind open. That's why we pushed so much with questions that were intriguing and questions that then can open the door to a level of thought that would not probably have been in the conversation with a normal speed dating event.”
Keeping an open mind is key in today’s dating scene. Dr. Stacii and I were able to chat about the struggles of being on dating apps and how social media is starting to alter people's perception of dating, where we should and shouldn’t go on a first date, and what's acceptable and what's not. She also gave some great advice for singles looking to still make meaningful connections, how to approach dating with steps to find out what we really want, and how to articulate that when we're looking to date.
“I think online dating is a great starting place for men and women and, of course, speed dating events like the ones that I host that come with loaded questions that can add to real connection,” Dr. Stacii responded. “Online dating for men and women is an opportunity to connect to more people than we would on a daily because we're all working, some of us taking care of children, and all of us have bills. It’s an opportunity for you to meet people quicker than you would normally.”
For some women who are still working through past traumas from previous relationships or even situationships, Dr. Stacii touched on how they can navigate dating while still healing from these experiences. “All of us were given the blueprints that our parents, caregivers, community, social media, or even trauma gave us. But none of us were really given a blueprint of what works for another individual and what doesn't. Online dating and dating in general is not something where you work through severe trauma, depression, or anxiety that you have over dating. You do that in therapy.”
In the modern dating scene, a lot of women have become comfortable shooting their shot at men they are interested in. I’ve personally slid in a few DMs myself and sometimes try to come up with clever, catchy sayings to really get their attention. Dr. Stacii and I discussed how women can operate in their feminine energy and gave tips on giving signals to men while in public.
Dr. Stacii Jae Johnson
“It's totally OK for a woman to shoot her shot. After you give a man a clear point of entry, you're letting him know that you're interested without a shadow of a doubt. After that, you allow him to receive you and then take the lead. I don't think there's anything wrong with initially sliding in someone's DMs, but women need to make sure to do their research and look thoroughly at the guy to make sure they don't see them involved in any relationship. Also, look at the character of the individual so it’s not just being led by a handsome picture of the guy or a car. These are all things that mean nothing to building healthy, romantic relationships.”
Rejection plays a huge part in the process of dating, and sometimes you have to learn how to “charge it to the game.” Dr. Stacii noted that men often take rejection harder than women. “Sometimes men want to approach but more times than not, they don't because some men are way more sensitive than women to rejection. Sometimes rejection from a woman to a man may be a little bit more harsh.”
It is a common aspect of dating and women who shoot their shot definitely experience it as well as men. Dr. Stacii gave some great tips on how to navigate rejection gracefully and maintain a positive outlook for the next time you want to take a swing at it. “Use dating as an experiment. Even how you shoot your shot. Asking, ‘What did I say that time that maybe didn't get a response or the response that I would have wanted?’ Use each encounter as a way to learn. A lot of times with women, they don't remember that there is a marketability in dating. If you are not acting as the woman who is in the market for the man that you want, then what can you do to get that marketability aspect that may be attractive to him? Make sure your marketability is in alignment with what that type of man would want.”
As I reflect on the whirlwind experiences—the dynamic "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" speed dating event and the insightful conversation with Dr. Stacii—I can't help but feel equipped with valuable insights for the dating landscape in 2024. Dr. Stacii's advice for single Black women navigating modern romance has been both enlightening and empowering, providing a roadmap for personal growth and connection.
Armed with this newfound wisdom and a renewed sense of enthusiasm, I'm looking forward to applying these lessons to my dating journey. Dr. Stacii's book, "Date Girl! 143 Reasons Why I Believe Women Should Date Multiple Men," is now on my must-read list, promising a deeper understanding of the complexities of dating.
As the countdown to February 2nd begins, I'm eagerly anticipating the premiere of the Amazon Prime Video series "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." With its promise of romance and espionage, both on-screen and in real life, I'm ready to embrace the twists and turns that the year holds for me. Here's to a year of growth, connection, and the exciting journey that awaits in the realm of modern romance.
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