A few weeks ago, I passed my ten year milestone in Asia. When I embarked on my journey of self discovery so long ago, I never once imagined that I’d still be here after all this time. Going home during my first year was certainly not an option, and I had only been in China for a few weeks when I admitted to myself that I wanted more time embracing this new culture and lifestyle that I had chosen for myself.
And that’s the big thing here, I believe.
I think one of the big reasons why I’ve been so successful in Asia is because I had the freedom to choose my own life path and not one that was expected of me. No one really put any pressure on me to come home, get married, buy a house and have kids. My parents, more than anything, wanted me to be happy.
It’s hard to sum up ten years in one blog post, so you’ll have to start at the beginning of MSW if you want to learn the whole story. Or you can just have a look through the images and comments here to see which moments have stood out for me.
I moved to Changchun City in Jilin Province in northeast China to become an ESL teacher.
My family and friends have been very supportive of our decision to stay in Asia. Growing up, my parents were constantly telling us that we had the freedom to make decisions for ourselves. They also constantly reminded us to take on new opportunities, and to have the courage to follow through on our decisions, whether those decisions were right or wrong. So I suppose I owe my parents a big thank you for teaching these lessons to me at such a young age. I obviously listened and learned them well.
Everything seemed to fall in place after I had made the decision to stay on in China for a little longer. First of all, I met and fell in love with the man that has become my best friend and the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.
After the Beijing competition, I spread my wings and flew a little further and followed my girlhood dream of being a singer, and I moonlighted as that for another two years before we moved to Taiwan.
In 2005, John and I embarked on our first long-term backpacking trip. Our travels spanned three months and took us through a number of countries in Asia, including a long train journey in China, Macau, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. John proposed to me in Bali, Indonesia, and shortly after that, Caleb entered our lives.
I also became a stepmom to my favorite little boy in the world!
We moved to Taiwan.
We started working at Gram English Center in Shulin. To date, Gram is still one of the best schools I’ve ever worked for. I was with them for almost three years. It felt like we naturally progressed into the next stage of our lives together, which was living abroad for a few years to save money and see the world. I don’t think we ever had a serious talk about staying on in Taiwan, it just seemed like a natural choice for us.
My New Year’s resolution in 2007 was to start a blog, hence My Several Worlds was founded. (Note that my nifty MSW t-shirt was sent to me by Tshirtprinting.org.) I also launched a number of other travel related websites and started making a decent earning online.
We went on our first long motorcycle trip along the Central Cross Island Highway of Taiwan.
I was featured on the cover of Discover Taiwan magazine. We also found time to travel to Japan, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Then we got married in Mexico on December 10, 2008.
We spent a lot of time this year developing ourselves professionally. I started working as an editor and writer for LiveABC publishing in Taipei. I also started branching out by writing for a number of travel publications.
2009 was a bit of a rocky year for me. After ten years of suffering from mysterious symptoms, I finally received a proper diagnosis and began treatment for Ankylosing Spondylitis. My recovery was a rough one, and I wasn’t able to move around a lot that year. Nevertheless, I still found time to travel to Singapore, quit smoking and get a tattoo in Taiwan.
In 2010, I left Live ABC to pursue a full time career as a freelance writer. That didn’t last long, as I was offered a position running the day to day activities at Reach To Teach Recruiting.
I traveled on business quite a bit this year. My trip to Georgia in Eastern Europe was one place that I’d never dreamed of visiting until we landed our contract with the Georgian Ministry of Education. We also visited the Philippines for the first time.
In 2011, John and I traveled to Kota Kinabalu, in Borneo Malaysia. I participated in the Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau’s 100 Fun Things to do in Taiwan, and I ended up winning NT$18,000. (Approximately $600USD, which was promptly spent on a Canon 7D). I also traveled to Europe for the first time. John wasn’t able to come with me, but I enjoyed the time on my own and I was able to meet up with a number of friends that I met while I was in China, including my dearest friends in the world Claire and Drew. That’s us in Copenhagen below.
2012 was a tumultuous year for us that was filled with ups and downs. We started the year off with a visit from my parents, who flew to Taiwan for the first time. We were also able to take them to Bali, where we got engaged, and where my father has always wanted to visit.
John and I became the new owners of Reach To Teach Recruiting in June 2012, and we received our APRCs (permanent residency permits) for Taiwan. I flew home in Canada in August for my parents 40th wedding anniversary.
My little brother Cody passed away in September, and while I haven’t wanted to write about it, I want to mention him here because he was and is a huge part of my life, despite the fact that I have lived away from Canada for so long. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, and the only regret that I have about my choice to stay in Asia is that I didn’t know the man that he had become while I was away.
We’ve had some incredible journeys and we’ve experienced some tragedies, but we’ve come through them together in a land that we now call home. Here’s to another ten years of love, tears and laughter. And, of course, lots and lots of adventures.