Category Archives: Asia

The Travel Revolution: Moving Abroad: Hong Kong

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Do you ever find yourself staring out of your office window on a rainy day, daydreaming about moving far away to the sun, sea and sand? Have you ever wondered how feasible it would be to create your ideal life in a completely different cultural plain? How would it feel to be in a new and exciting place which brings alive every sense - mind, body and soul. Sound unrealistic? It doesn’t have to be – and here’s why.

There’s no such thing as unresourceful people, only unresourceful states. In other words, most of life’s seemingly ‘tricky’ scenarios are as easy or as difficult as you make them – and the difference between easy and difficult often hinges, quite simply, on how you exploit the resources around you to propel you from where you are now to where you want to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to France, Spain, New Zealand, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the tools you need to tackle the big questions – taking you one step closer to making your dreams a reality. 

So without further ado, get ready to transport yourself to Hong Kong! Over to you, Ainslie

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

Hey there, I’m Ainslie and I’m 30 years old. In my past life I worked in Marketing and ran a designer handbag business in Australia. That all changed in October 2014 when I moved from Sydney to Hong Kong! I’m now following a new and exciting path as a Travel and Lifestyle blogger and a Life Coach in training!

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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My husband and I moved to Hong Kong predominantly for his career. This coincided with my sister and my business musings about moving the manufacturing side of our designer handbag label from Sydney to the South of China – so it all made sense at the time! As an aside, I’d travelled to Hong Kong many times for both business and pleasure and I’d always said that if I was to live abroad, I would want to live in Hong Kong!

How Did You Manage The Change?

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I’ll admit that it did take me a while to adjust to living in Hong Kong. I left a gorgeous Spring/Summer in Sydney for a grey and quite cold Hong Kong Winter (I don’t deal well with the cold!)

I also found it difficult to settle in as I was in between working on my handbag label and starting my blog and my life coach training – so I felt a bit lost.

But as soon as I started getting out there, connecting with like-minded people and embracing my new life, everything turned around and I now really love my new home.

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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This is a tough question! I have had so many highlights! Personally I love the fact that I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and I have grown so much as a person. I have also made so many amazing friends from all over the world who I really love!

The best day I’ve had in Hong Kong was participating in the Stanley International Dragon Boat competition and paddling with the Australian Association of Hong Kong Team. We ended up second in the Mixed Gold Plate Cup much to our surprise! 

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Often I struggle with the environment here in Hong Kong. The pollution can often be quite bad and it’s not naturally beautiful like Sydney or other parts of Australia. But there are some really great hikes if you get out of the concrete jungle that is Hong Kong’s Central area.

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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There are so many things I love about Hong Kong. I love the convenience of everything (there is a 7/11 on every corner!) and the public transport is fantastic….nothing is too far away.

There is also so much to see and do here. Eating around the city is a non-stop affair; you could spend the whole day wandering the streets of Soho; visiting random temples in multiple neighbourhoods; venturing to remote islands by ferry and enjoying the amazing light show every night on Victoria Harbour.

Hong Kong is also a fantastic base for travel around Asia. Since living here I have been to Thailand, Vietnam, Macau, Singapore, Shanghai and multiple trips back home. Nothing is too far away and Hong Kong airport is so efficient!

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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Sometimes I get “Island Fever” and feel claustrophobic, which means I need to get out. Luckily, (as I previously mentioned), it’s easy to travel all around Asia from Hong Kong.

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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Thankfully I found it really easy to make new connections and form friendships in Hong Kong. But the trick is, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. Just five days into my new life in Hong Kong I attended an Australian Association of Hong Kong event so I could connect with others (now I’m on the Association’s Social Committee). I also joined lots of MeetUp groups, including an Art Jam class, so I could widen my network.

Thankfully friends from home also put me in contact with their own friends here in Hong Kong and my friendship circle grew even wider. 

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I would start learning the local language a lot sooner. I plan to start Cantonese lessons in the next month! You can definitely get away with speaking English here in Hong Kong but I want to learn some basic Cantonese so I can converse with the locals and be respectful.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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Be open to everything that comes your way and make the most of the amazing experience that living abroad offers you. When things get hard, (and it often does), practice gratitude and know that the challenges will pass. Being pushed out of your comfort zone is highly worth it!

What’s Next For You?

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I’m currently half way through my life-coaching qualification and writing my book on how to travel with style and spirit, which I’ll be releasing on Amazon. I also have a few short vacations planned around Asia before the end of year!

How Can We Contact You?

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I would love you to visit my blog Starting With A where I help spirited women boldly step up and step out of their cozy little comfort zones so they can live the life that they truly desire. Sign-up to receive my e-Book Wanderlust – Enhance, Enrich & Expand Your Life Through Mindful Travel and check out my Hong Kong based adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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To See Hong Kong Come To Life, Check This Out…

What Nobody Ever Tells You About Moving Abroad

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Any of you who have been through one of those really difficult, almost soul-crushing transitions in life – whether job, relationship or geographical - those tough times that nobody really talks about out loud, unless they’re brave – like really brave – will fully appreciate this interview with the lovely Aussie life and wellness coach at Practise Glow, Sarah Tamburrini.

On a mission to help gorgeous women unleash their glowing self through ditching diets,  eating and enjoying food again  (dessert included)  and breaking up with their inner Skinny Girl, it’s not surprising that this is one of the most honest, heartfelt interviews I’ve read in a long time. Sarah’s openness about the testing emotional challenges that she faced moving from her native Australia to a country so different from home will warm your heart and soothe your soul.

So if you’ve ever thought of leaping across an ocean and want the full story (the good, bad and the ugly) or if you’re feeling the loneliness traversing through one of life’s big transitions at the moment, this advice-packed interview is a must-read.

Over to you, Sarah…

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Tell Us A Bit About You…

Hi there, beauties! I’m Sarah – a talkative, high energy Virgo, who’s wild for the sounds of the ocean, unleashing my creativity in the kitchen and travelling the world. I’m crazy (in a great way!) about food, especially avocados, fresh coconuts and cashew nuts. Oh and I love nothing more than munching away on a delicious raw vegan ‘cheesecake’ with friends and cuddling on the couch with my partner watching a good documentary (or a rom com!!)

My biggest passion of all is working as a life and wellness coach. I’m a diet rebelle + body love warrior + food freedom seeker and my work centers around guiding and supporting women to stop being crazy about food, so they can enjoy a kick arse life.

Whether through my 1:1 coaching, unapologetically honest blog posts or my upcoming ebook, I love creating spaces where women can ditch food fears, stop fad dieting and learn to accept and unapologetically love themselves now. 

Tell Us About Your Move Abroad, Sarah. Where Did You Move To And Why?

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My partner and I moved from Sydney, Australia to Singapore in April 2014. I will never forget the day we were joking about moving to South East Asia, mainly for my partner’s career prospects, but also because we thought it would be fun to be more central. I had never really lived too far from the ‘nest’ though – moving from Melbourne to Sydney for my own career was a significant move for me! But let me tell you: words have power, because it wasn’t long until we actually did move to Singapore.

When the time came to move, I remember being far too busy packing up my life, my house and saying goodbye to my friends and a city that had stolen my heart to fathom what exactly was happening. I had no brain space to process where I was moving to nor get a feel for what to expect (I didn’t even know that Singapore was one of the most humid countries around – just to illustrate how unprepared I was)!

Almost 18 months on and we are still in Singapore, with our sights set on the next part of the world we will add to places we call ‘home’.

What Were The Hardest Aspects About The Move?

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I can honestly say that moving abroad was one of the hardest and most painful times of my life. It made me feel incredibly vulnerable, fearful and scared. For many people, these reasons alone explain why this kind of move just isn’t something they would do.

Moving abroad was the catalyst for some pretty radical lifestyle changes that I hadn’t foreseen.

To paint the picture properly, I was in the midst of getting help for disordered eating, which was being carefully managed by my supportive nutritionist and naturopath. But when I moved to Singapore I felt like I was hit with a sand bag: many of my favourite foods just weren’t around (or if they were they were incredibly expensive – I like to call this extra expense the ‘expat tax’!!) I didn’t realize just how much this move was going to crack me wide open (especially when I didn’t think I could crack open any more!)

Every little thing, even the seasons, were different. It’s one long, hot day in Singapore, so rituals I was used to like snuggling up under a fluffy doona with an electric blanket, exercising outside with a crisp breeze, splashing away in the ocean, suddenly disappeared from grasp. I felt naked.

But what really hurt – aside from the food, the weather and the creature comforts – was feeling so segregated from my friends and family. I could no longer just jump on a plane and be ‘home’ in a matter of hours. It was only then that I realised just how much my emotional regulation and happiness is dictated by things external to me. So when I found myself in a position without these things, you can imagine how raw and vulnerable I felt.

What Caused Such Bad Homesickness?

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I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been a ‘homebody’ and have really enjoyed staying ‘safe’ in a predictable environment. Clear rules, clear boundaries and a heck of a lot of control. I come from a very involved family and I suffered knowing I was so far away from them.

Going through disordered eating helped me to break free of control, predictability and rules and to learn how to live life without the need for these ‘rules’. So my issues with eating proved to be one of the greatest teachers in my life – helping me to apply what I was learning to ‘unlearn’ some less helpful habits that I’d developed.

How Did You Handle The Homesickness?

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At first I didn’t do this too well – simply, because I wasn’t ready to. And that was ok. It took me a long time to realise that it is perfectly ok to lean into my emotions and to have the space to grieve. There were many things to be sad about – missing out on seeing friends’ newborn babies, being there for my grandmother when she was in hospital, even being at my friends’ weddings.

As my coaches said to me, fear is put in its place through action. So action is one way I was able to positively move forward – in my own time (which I don’t feel guilty about). I was so lucky I had a supportive partner who watched me cry, who showered me with positive love and praise and who delicately heard every single word of complaint or otherwise with open ears and a loving heart.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Really Missing Home?

I strongly recommend the following:

Get Support

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Whether a coach, psychologist, counsellor or kinesiologist – whatever floats your boat. You do not need to go this alone. 

Prioritise Self-Care 

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I discovered that I didn’t have to do monumental things in life to feel good. In fact the smallest and simplest activities were often the most impactful. Like enjoying good quality chocolate, drinking a herbal tea in the sun before heading to work, rolling out my yoga mat and practicing in the stillness of the early morning or rubbing a gorgeous coconut oil body butter on my skin after a shower. Whatever it is you love, do more of that. It seriously works.

Be Gentle On Yourself 

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Lean into your emotions and don’t be afraid to cry, to hurt or to be angry. I found that when I stopped suppressing my feelings and ‘felt’ them without trying to cover them up and play ‘happy’, I was able to finally start to make traction out of the stuck position I was in.

Find Some Friends 

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I did all sorts of things to find friends from meetup.com, to facebook groups, to going to conferences and meetings… but all in good time. First I had to work on opening my mind up to the changes and adjusting before I could meet other people. So when you’re ready, be creative and take advantage of any social opportunities you can.

Work On The Ego 

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I really had to work on the FOMO (fear of missing out) that was building up in my head around what was happening back at home versus what was really happening. When I travelled home I realized that all the action that I thought that I was missing out on wasn’t actually nearly as fast paced and vibrant as I thought.

How Have You Grown From The Experience?

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I have certainly realised that my happiness is now not as heavily dictated by external things as it once was. I feel so much more comfortable, self compassionate and loving in my skin now. The experience of being stripped bare and ‘returning’ home has made me so aware of my potential strength. I see this experience as a courage reference point by which I now have this incredible array of evidence to look back on and say ‘look at what you have busted through’. And if I can do it once, I know I can most certainly do it again and again.

How Has The Experience Changed Your View Of Life / Future Plans?

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I can hand on heart say that I value and appreciate travel so much more now. I love getting out and about, exploring and living in a more central location has certainly fed that appetite. I am really looking forward to living in other countries in the future and experiencing more that this beautiful world has to offer.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I honestly have never pondered this question because it just isn’t an option. I prefer to ask myself ‘what have I learned that I can apply to the next similar situation’ – to which I refer to previous comments on knowing that having moved once and survived, I can certainly do so again. Being a creature of reflection, I can certainly go into future moves now with a road map of sorts around what worked and what might need a bit more of a ‘do it differently’ approach.

The main thing that I would do differently is to take a few trips beforehand to suss the place out – work out a hip area to live in and certainly have a say over the apartment (my lovely partner hasn’t a forte in selecting visually pleasing décor!!)

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Someone Thinking Of Moving Abroad, What Would It Be?

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Understand that there will be difficult times and that is ok. Life is not all about having a ‘chin up’ approach. Be kind to yourself and take simple action to make your life that little bit brighter and more self loving.

And If You’d Like More Where That Came From….

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Sarah’s Free Ebook ‘Be Free- A heart centered guide to changing your relationship with food and your body’ is now out, so jump onto her mailing list to get your copy first!

Moving Abroad: Singapore

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Do you ever contemplate moving abroad but don’t quite have the confidence to take the leap?

With such a variety of options to choose from whether Europe, Indonesia or Australia, considering a move abroad can feel like a minefield. From assessing the cost of living, sounding out new job markets or wondering about the likelihood of making new friends, upping sticks can seem as scary as it can exciting. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to France, Spain, New Zealand, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to travel where your heart takes you.

Next stop, Singapore! Over to you, Sophie

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You? 

My journey thus far has been quite a winding road, involving many changes in direction! This includes going from studying degrees in History of Art to Graphic Design to Chinese Medicine and the varied jobs in-between! I soon realised that I was not suited to a linear office job. The decision to embark on a Chinese Medicine degree at last began to satiate this longing I had since a girl to have a deeper understanding of the holistic nature of the world we occupy.   

What Inspired You To Move Abroad? How Did You Manage The Change? 

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Having spent a good deal of my twenties based in London, I moved to Singapore with my boyfriend, who was transferred for work. At that point I was working for an organic company and having finished the Chinese Medicine degree, I was also practicing Acupuncture. On the one hand I thought it could be a great opportunity to live in Asia, the home of Chinese medicine! On the other hand I was anxious about leaving behind a growing practice in London. In the end I took the plunge for our relationship and the adventure. The change has been exciting, insightful and at times, frustrating!   

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight? 

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Most definitely the people I have met. I’ve made some really special friends out here; it’s quite strange to think I didn’t know them a year ago!  

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge? 

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It turned out that the Singapore Chinese Medicine Board has a good deal of red tape in store for expat Chinese medicine practitioners! To be granted a license to practice acupuncture, a degree from Singapore or only certain Asian universities is required. So I have essentially had to put that career pathway on pause for the time being. The first 6 months I was helping out at a friend’s alternative shop and now I am using the time to develop my creative interests and build a small company myself. It is easy to arrive in Singapore and be dismayed by the ‘corporate cloak’, however there is opportunity for expats who aren’t in corporate fields. The creative market is not saturated as in places like London, where competition is fierce, so there is actually more chance to stand out.    

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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Singapore is a gateway to Asia – the perfect platform for travel. I have managed to travel to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bali, Malaysia and Hong Kong thus far! Singapore boasts a clean, green, safe and smart habitat. Although it can be seen to lack character compared to other Asian cities, there certainly is character when you really look. The ease of living here is rather dangerous and it will be a shock leaving if one gets too accustomed! The lower taxes are another plus. 

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country? 

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In certain areas there are shopping malls spreading like fungus! I choose to mostly avoid them! There are also many interesting old areas of the city to shop and explore.

The living costs are also generally rather high. I would say we spend more money here than we did in London. Even though taxes are low there are hidden taxes lurking in Singapore; import taxes can be huge and so certain products are shockingly expensive. You can avoid these costs if you don’t need a car / wine every night! / flash apartment, for instance! Expats do tend to pimp it up out here though. My Singaporean friends, on the other hand, tend to be more frugal.   

What’s The Biggest Difference To The UK? 

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I’m going to go ‘hippy’ on you now! Energetically I feel much lighter here than I did in the UK. I love London for its culture, but it can weigh quite heavily on a sensitive soul. The weather is generally a plus here (G & T on the balcony anyone?!) but the lack of seasons can mess with your perception of time and the humidity can sometimes be stifling. Although I’m not complaining – English winters are far too long in my opinion!  

Did You Have A Stereotype Of The People In Your Mind And How Did Reality Reflect This? 

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I have visited Singapore several times over the years before moving out here. I would say that the expats living out here have become more eclectic. It used to feel quite heavy on the male shipbroker front and had a reputation for nurturing young bachelors at the beginning of their careers or for being a safe place to bring up a family.

There are now more single women choosing to move out here and also more creative types of roles. It is fast becoming a more exciting place to live as well as offering a comfortable lifestyle. 

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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We already had several friends living out here and the rest is a snowball effect. I think because everyone is in the same boat in an expat community, people are generally incredibly open and go the extra mile. When you meet someone at a party who you click with it is standard to ask for their number and actually follow up. I have made friends here who I know will be friends for life.

I think widening your circle of friends is one of the main advantages to moving abroad; throwing your net in different waters and being open to different companionships and insights.  

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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There are different types of passes and it can seem quite confusing at first. I have a Long-Term Visit Pass, which I was eligible for on the grounds that my long-term boyfriend works here. In order to live in Singapore, you (or your partner) need an Employment Pass, which your company will issue if you are being transferred out here for work. 

People are generally transferred from their company or are transferred between companies out here and interviews mainly take the form of friends putting you in touch and informal coffee chats! If you do find work out here, the company will apply for an Employment Pass, which needs to be approved.

What’s The Foreign Job Market Like?

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For those looking for work outside of banking, insurance, law, ship broking, and recruitment, it can be tricky to find a job in Singapore ‘off the boat’. Traditional ways of finding work through recruiters are difficult for expats in lower paid or alternative / creative roles.

There is also a drive from the government to recruit locals where possible.  As a result, many expats who have moved here for partners and find it hard to carry on with their career tend to set up small businesses themselves. For example, I have friends who have set up businesses in Interior Design, Photography and Floristry.  

How Much Does It Cost To Fly Home?

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On average an economy return flight to the UK will cost around £800-1,000. It’s a 13 hour flight direct. Although, if booking well in advance and at less popular times, particularly with indirect flights (for example, via Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka, Mumbai), it’s possible to find cheaper than this.  

How Much Of An Issue Is Homesickness?

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On the homesickness front, Singapore can be quite a bubble so once submerged within the lifestyle, your old life back home can seem like a dream!

Having said that, I do miss my family and close friends along with fresh air! Although Skype is such a good simulation of ‘almost being in the same room’ which makes the distance less tangible.

I also enjoy writing and drawing cards to stay in touch. The main frustrations are the different time zones, the lack of physical contact and sharing experiences and key events in loved ones’ lives. I try to fly back for key events where possible though!

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back? 

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I would jump straight into research towards setting up a company out here and implement action sooner. It’s easy to procrastinate and potter along. It is tough to go back to the drawing board on a professional level and my ego was taking a bashing, so inevitably doubt and indecision has crept in.

However, sometimes when you feel like you’re moving backwards, you’re actually moving forwards. Through initially working for this ‘fringe’ shop I gained invaluable contacts with an undercurrent of interesting Singaporean Creatives, which is hard to access as an expat. Working there also offered me routine when I first arrived whilst I was exploring what I could do long-term, as well as insight into setting up a business out here.    

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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If you feel stuck where you are, then why not give it a whirl?!

I would also say, though, it’s important to think about whether the move is part of a deeper exploration of your life or an escape from yourself. I am reminded of the title of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s meditation book ‘Wherever you go, There you are.’ In other words, the novelty of changing scenery will wear off soon enough, leaving issues once again exposed. That said, I do believe certain people and surroundings can provide a needed catalyst for deeper introspection.  

It is important to really sketch out a timeframe and to prioritise goals to make the most of your time and really analyse whether you are capitalising on your skill set. Sometimes this is complicated – areas of our life can wax and wane at different times and I suppose patience is important! If you have moved for a partner then of course compromise is key! It’s just getting the balance right and knowing what is nurturing your growth overall.    

What’s Next For You? 

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I am now looking to open a small ethical clothing line and am currently designing cards, commissioned by a shop. Also I am in the process of launching a holistic blog to share thoughts and finds, from practitioners to creative workshops to finding organic food and everything in-between!  Painting happens in the background and we will see whether that drums up any interest! With the coming and going of expats, there are certainly many white spaces needing filling so I would like to have a small show when I get a collection together that I am happy with! 

Overall, I am attempting to move forward with more courage and to stop worrying about whether something will work or not. I tell myself: “Get over yourself as well as other peoples’ expectations and play with your creativity!”  I think we need to feel the fear and challenge ourselves to live an authentic life! 

How Can We Contact You?

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By email - sophiecrawley33@gmail.com

What’s Your Favourite Quote? 

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There are too many inspirational people to choose from!  Two of my mantras of the moment are above ;) 

Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You…. 

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I look forward to a time in my life when I have enough green space around me to grow my own vegetables and the companionship of a cat, dog, chickens, goats and a horse!     

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