“Do it! You’ll regret not going or wish you had gone sooner.”

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Today, Maya, an LA girl, is living with her husband in Singapore and expecting her first child. But Maya has not always had a companion on her Expat adventures. Indeed, a few years ago, right after college, young Maya left the US to teach in the Philippines, satisfying an urge to live abroad she’s always had. In an interview to Expat.com, Maya tells us all about her expat adventures and her blog Maya the Explorer.

Tell us about you, Maya !

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Growing up I didn’t have the means to travel, so it wasn’t until I went away for college that I really started to see the world.  As an undergraduate I was able to study abroad 3 times and once more as a graduate student. These brief experiences of studying in another country made me want to live abroad. I didn’t become an expat immediately after college, but after a few years of working full-time I eventually got the courage and the opportunity to move abroad.

Moving abroad alone is never an easy decision. What was the urge?

Living in the US, I felt like I was in a rat race and I was anxious to feel differently, have more financial freedom and personal enjoyment.

I had been wanting to move abroad for a long time and when I found the right opportunity I knew that I had to take it. So even though I was moving alone I had faith that I’d be supported in the position that I had accepted and that it would extend to my personal life and well being.

How did your entourage react to that?

My immediate family and close friends saw it coming. I’ve always been an avid traveler so it came as no surprise to them. For the most part everyone was really supportive. Those that didn’t know me as well expressed a lot of concern, but also curiosity.

Did the concerns make you reconsider?

I trusted in myself and didn’t listen to any naysayers. After all, why would I take advice from people that hadn’t actually tried to do what I was doing?

Did the fact that you were alone and a woman weigh in on where you wanted/could live?

I ended up moving to Manila in the Philippines. I had a great apartment, walking distance to work and I felt very safe. I felt safe leaving the city as well and traveling throughout the region.

I think that you can get into trouble anywhere in the world. You have to exercise good judgement and common sense, especially as a woman. While living abroad I’ve seen some horrific things happen in the news, all over the world, but some particularly disturbing news from the US. I’m sure that some of those same people who had concerns about my moving abroad now have their doubts about living in the US, with its current political and racial climate.  

Would things have been easier if you had had someone with you?

I can’t say that things would have been easier if I had someone with me, but they certainly would have been different. When I look back on the years that I was alone it was such a period of personal growth. Traveling alone and even more so living abroad alone really pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to be independent unlike never before. I found being a single woman during that time to be mostly a lot of fun.  I had lots of girl trips, nights out on the town, brunches, shopping days and of course, visitors.

What is your favorite thing about being a solo expat?

I’m no longer a solo expat, but when I was I loved the freedom of it. Whether it be my next vacation, weekend plans or even my next country as an expat, I was free to go wherever the opportunity or desire took me.

When and how did the idea of becoming a teacher in the Philippines crop up?

Teaching abroad was something that fell into my lap so to speak. I was a teacher, but I wasn’t really aware of the possibilities of teaching abroad until I was introduced to someone teaching in Africa. From that point I started openly looking for teaching positions abroad. I went to a job fair with representatives from schools all over the world, one of which was the Philippines, and I was able to secure a position through this job fair.

Maya The Explorer

Would you recommend teaching abroad as an expatriation avenue?

Overall, I would say teaching in general is an excellent way to see the world. Living in the Philippines and Singapore just happen to be my experiences, but teaching can take you anywhere. In fact, I think if people are open in terms of location it can be a fantastic life as an expat.

My job really taught me a lot and allowed me to grow as a professional. I got the opportunity to interact with some amazing students who in many cases were themselves expats or veteran travelers with a wealth of experiences.

I absolutely recommend teaching in the Philippines. I don’t live in there anymore, but it was an incredible opportunity to teach there. After three years I decided that I wanted to move to a new country, and I found a position in Singapore.

Tell us about the Philippines...

It is a gorgeous country with friendly, welcoming people and a rich culture. It’s paradise for someone who loves to travel because of it’s location (you can see a lot of Southeast Asia using the Philippines as a base) and because of the over 7,000 Philippine islands to explore. Cost of living is low, but expat salaries generally allow you to have a high standard of living.

How about Singapore? Was it much different to the Philippines?

Singapore has a much higher cost of living, but it offers things that the Philippines doesn’t have like a very efficient public transportation system and a world class airport.  Whereas the Philippines had so many islands to explore, Singapore is more or less simultaneously a large city and a tiny country. However, there are plenty of opportunities to explore.

For example, Singapore has an amazing food scene and lots of trendy neighborhoods and attractions to explore. Singapore also has lots of expats which can be viewed as both negative and positive. You can find many people from your home country, but you may have to be more hands on to find authentic experiences to interact with non-expats.

Where would you say is home to you?                                                                        

I would say home is both Singapore and California. When I’m homesick, I long for the US. But I’ve created a home here in Singapore. My husband is here, our lives together are here and we’ve purchased a home here. I think it’s a fluid concept as we don’t see ourselves staying here forever, but for now Singapore is home too.

Do you often travel back to your home country?

Yes, I still travel back to the US about every 6 months or so to visit my family. I don’t stay there for very long when I do go, but I make it a point to get back to visit.  

When did you start a blog and what is your blog about?

I started my blog back in 2015. By that point being an expat was normal for me, but then my brothers came to visit and pointed out how different life abroad was. My older brother in particular really encouraged me to write about my experience to inspire others. My blog essentially highlights what life is like as an expat and encourages others to think about taking the leap. I also share my tips for travel, including how to save money while doing so.  

What message do you want to send out to women who might be hesitating about going abroad?

Do it! You’ll regret not going or wish you had gone sooner.

Is this where you settle now or have you got your eyes set on another destination?

I would say as an expat you never know where life will take you. My husband and I purchased a home here last year and we are just about to welcome our first child. We would like to stay for a while, as Singapore is a great place to raise kids, but we would also like to turn our sights towards retiring in Latin America.