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Confessions of a non-conformist blogger

March 16, 2017 11 Comments

It’s time for another personal post!


With my husband leaving after his whirlwind visit, I realised how quiet my apartment was again. Everywhere I would walk, I would find something of his- his boarding pass from a flight, a lonely forlorn sock or the chocolates we bought together but never ended up eating. Although I I did feel sad at his departure, I was overcome by the stronger feelings of happiness that we actually did get to spend some blissful time together.


But these thoughts, and others, have led me to writing this blog post about the most difficult part of my life abroad which isn’t actually living away from my husband. Oh no, not at all! The most challenging aspect of living abroad are the QUESTIONS and MISCONCEPTIONS I face on a regular basis. So I thought I would share them with you, my devoted readers.

Here are some of the things I often get asked either online or in person:

1. If you’re serious about seeing the world, why don’t you quit your job and go traveling?

I get this question a lot and it confuses me.

Uh… Why would I do that?


After all, I love what I do; and I don’t mean teaching at the particular school where I’m currently at. I’ve taught at 4 different schools and I’ve realised that I genuinely love teaching.

I don’t sit in a dim cubicle under flourscent tube dreaming of the day I will retire. Everyday in my classroom is a new experience! I believe that adventure comes in many forms and there is adventure to be found in everyday life. So again, if I’m not unhappy, why would I stop doing what makes me happy?


I love stability. That does sound slightly blasphemous? Here she is, blogging about her travels to exotic lands yet she says she loves stability. But seriously, I really do enjoy the feeling of coming “home”. Walking through immigration and not having to worry about what the visa requirements are because I have my residency permit in my passport. Having my favourite restaurants, knowing where things are and having a routine which allows me to work, blog, gym and socialise with familiarity. Meeting new people everyday, blogging from different devices on various beaches and constantly not knowing where things are or how things work are all right for short periods of time. But I really do need my own bed, in a familiar place, to relax and rejuvenate before and after my travels.


2. But you are married! How can you do things/go places without your husband?!

Of course, long distance relationships are difficult and laborious. However, if both parties are content with the circumstances of their marriage then why does everyone else need to interfere? I didn’t move abroad to sit in my apartment and hoard my salary and Fox knows that. Hey if I was that kind of person, we wouldn’t be married. I moved to Kuwait to have new experiences, new explorations and new adventures. Would he rather have a miserable wife who stays home all the time or a happy wife that enjoys life? I think we can presume the correct answer here.


Look, I know that not every couple can do long distance successfully and even Fox & I struggle sometimes. But Fox and I are both firm believers in having outside interests and friends both in common as well as outside of our marriage so it isn’t as difficult for us as it would be if we were constantly together.


Newsflash to every person that is constantly on my case about how I should spend every waking moment on Skype with Fox: When you have your own life, you control your happiness and are more content!! I believe that Fox and I are in a win/win situation: We enjoy time together and we enjoy time on our own. I feel relaxed and enjoy my marriage both when we are together and apart; I am able to let things flow, knowing that we are together because we want to be, not need to be.


Personal fact: Fox and I just celebrated 12 years since we first met… that’s twelve years of love, growth and more importantly, shaping our lives to complement each other.

Of course I miss him all the time, the same way most expats miss their loved ones. But I am not alone, just lonely sometimes and on the whole I think I’d rather be happy in my long distance marriage than unhappy in a marriage where I have to see the misery-causer everyday!

A pic from our pre-marital days in snowy South Korea!

3. You are from where? But you don’t sound or look it!

Now, forgive my ignorance but I myself am not sure what South Africans are supposed to sound or look like. Being in a diverse country with a rich cultural, racial and political history, has ensured that South Africans all look very different. Unless we hear each other speaking, we, ourselves have no idea where the person is from!

ALL of these people are South African!

Which brings me to my next point- with 11 official languages in South Africa, we all sound VERY different even when we are standing next to each other. Sometimes we hear each other speaking and even we can’t tell which part of South Africa the other people are from! I know it’s weird for people from less diverse countries but it’s true. So if you met a South African man yesterday who is from Cape Town, has Dutch ancestry and speaks Afrikaans as his first language, or the person you met the day before- the black lady from Johannesburg who grew up in Alexandra and speaks isiXhosa with her family,  please don’t make a comparison when you meet me as I spoke English growing up in Durban and have Indian ancestry.

Special mention to the person at work who recently asked me if I speak Indian? Indian? Well… do you speak American?


4. Why do you blog/put such effort into your blog? Aren’t there better things to do?

I love to laugh inwardly when I get this question. You, person who asked this question, are clearly a person who has never pursued a passion relentlessly; you have never lay in bed and planned your day according to many hours you can spend doing something you really love. You have no idea how it feels to touch the lives of people you will never meet simply by tapping keys on your laptop; to paint a picture of your experiences with mere words and simple pictures; to inspire people to make life changing decisions when they don’t even know your first name.

You, sad and annoying person, are the anthesis of a Word Wizard like me… you are a MUGGLE.


Seriously though, what do you mean, why do I blog? I simply love recording and sharing my experiences for anyone who takes the time to visit my site. When you are going on holiday or even just out to eat, I am sure you do a little bit of research. And isn’t it more refreshing to read someone’s firsthand account of their experience than facts on an official website? And with pictures too? Yes please!


I am obviously not in it for FAME or MONEY as my name isn’t plastered all over this blog and most of my followers wouldn’t recognize me if they passed me on the street. Originally I started this blog for people I know to keep track of my adventures but it has expanded beyond that . It has inspired others to find the everyday adventure in their lives and now, it serves as a reminder to myself to keep on adventuring.  I am utterly surprised and delighted to have a readership, and more than that, people to whom I’ve connected as a result of my writing, their reading, and our subsequent online, sometimes even face to face, and voice to voice, conversations.

5. Why are you always traveling? You should save your money for buying a home/having a baby/retirement!

If you are going to have opinions about my life than I can assume you will be paying some of my bills.


Look it’s very simple. Before I did any traveling, I only wanted to see the world.

Once I started traveling, I fell in love with it. I love how it opens my eyes. I love how it gives me a fresh perspective on things. And I love how it educates me about different cultures and histories around the world.

In my experience, traveling leads to  de-conditioning. In a new place you see a way to eat, commute,  socialise, work and laze which is different from what you have been  used to. You get distanced from  your habitual wants, needs and desires and even from your religion or morality. You realise they are not absolutes. They are just  perspectives. And that they change with geography. Since this knowledge is new every time you travel, you feel renewed. For me, its like a re-inevention of myself every time I go somewhere new.


Even history has instances of people who travelled in order to broaden their horizons.  On returning from South Africa, Gandhiji chose to travel the length and breadth of India for a year before actively plunging into the freedom struggle.


Realising how big this world is through traveling helped me to think beyond my tiny comfort zone. I stopped complaining about small issues and holding grudges against people. Instead, I now aim for bigger goals in life. I have wilder dreams, and I am always grateful for what I have. No disrespect to those working hard to buy their home or have kids… but as humans we are all different and therefore, all have different goals in life. Side note: In September 2015 Fox and became  homeowners and oh my retirement annuity was set up years ago… babies may come in time, hey who knows!


I hope this didn’t come across as a rant and rather, challenges the way you think about bloggers- people that seem like far away characters in a distant sitcom yet, are living breathing people with feelings too! I believe that if you don’t know something, just ask (don’t assume). If you don’t agree with someone, just accept their opinion (don’t judge them). Life is difficult enough without people offering their unsolicited advice.


All of us humans are very different. Therefore, our reasons for doing things and the way in which we do them are also very different. I blog as a hobby; a way to keep a record of all of my travels and to share some of the things I learn with people who might like to know. To share photos, stories, advice, where I ate the best meal or had the best experience. I love to post about the adventures I’ve had, in a way I feel like I want to. I love and appreciate the connections I have made through this blog especially with bloggers who live/ have lived in the Middle East, just like me.

Let me know in the comments what are your most asked questions even if you aren’t a blogger 🙂

Peace out pandas car


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  • JerseyGirl March 16, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Great post and you tapped into so many of those questions we get asked not only as bloggers but as expats! I constantly get asked when are we going to stop this nomadic life and settle down!? Settle down, I am settled, married 10 years and stable. I’d rather have the unconventional life we have then to settle for “normal”. In terms of blogging it’s always questions like why bother when you make no money? Does anyone really care or read it? In both instances I don’t care, I do it for me as a record of this adventures and as a way to get creative and it’s very therapeutic. I have learned you will get judgement in life regardless so let’s just do what we love.

    • Expat Panda March 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Couldn’t agree more! I think people believe that if you live where you weren’t born, you’re on an “extended holiday” no matter that you work, pay bills and have struggles in your country of residence. Nevertheless, I say, let them believe what they want; as long as we are happy!

  • Bharti Chopra March 16, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Another great post Panda. I’m surprised you face these questions, I always thought that its because I come from a conservative and not so adventurous society that I have been asked similar questions. Guess it doesn’t depend on what country or town you come from, you will be always be judged.

    People around me are so judgmental that I don’t share what I do in my personal life..nobody has a hint I blog or have hobbies. My colleagues and most of the relatives say we can travel because we don’t have kids and have double earning(Indians are still getting used to females working in main stream and earning equal to males).

    When I think about how many times and the way I have been judged about what I like and do, I can’t stop laughing. If I would have written a daily log abt this, it would have been a 500 pages book by now .

    I can see we will have fun narrating these poking nose incidents when we meet in person.

    Till then my friend, Do what you love and love what you do.

    • Expat Panda March 16, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      Ah yes we will enjoy that conversation very much! I think you’d be surprised at how similar the world is in terms of societal expectations no matter how diverse or progressive the people around you may seem! I think at the end of the day, if we are happy with the lifestyle we have chosen, then there is no reason to worry about what others think!

  • carolanneb March 16, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Another fantastic post! I think that when we let go of societal expectations that we become free. Can’t help but also smile at all of your pictures 🙂

  • Nafisa March 18, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Loved this post of yours… Sorry, only read it now cos I was travelling 😉 I can relate on a lot of your points. I travel fairly often for work/my blog and people always ask “what about your husband?” (i’ll be married 13 years in July). You know, because it’s impossible that my husband is my biggest supporter and tells me not to turn down opportunities. Also, from earlier on in life, I didn’t care much about what other people thought of me, or my choices. There are 7 billion people in this world, can’t please everyone – haha!

    I love your blog, and please continue posting about your travels… and carry on doing what you love; what makes you (and your husband) happy.

    If you are ever in Johannesburg, let me know, would love to meet!

    • Expat Panda March 18, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      I might do a special trip just to meet you in JHB when I am in SA (haha-stalker vibes) but with our luck, you will be off in another corner of the world! ! 13 years of marriage is verrrry impressive; I am sure the old aunties who look through their curtains (the same ones who are so concerned about my fertility or lack thereof) just cannot fathom how you and your hubby are content being apart frequently! Anyway thank you for your feedback, I am still a newbie at the blogging game so I absolutely appreciate your kind words 🙂

  • frannnelli March 19, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Great post!!! Thank for sharing the details of your personal life like your marriage and personal passions! I think it’s great you and your husband support each other’s individual goals!!! My husband would love to visit South Africa and especially visit the Indian communities 😬😬

    • Expat Panda March 20, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Thank YOU for your feedback! South Africa would love to have an curious mind like yours over for a visit 😊

  • Zama July 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I am a South African teacher who dreams of working in the Middle East one day, I just discovered your blog and I enjoyed every minute of it. I slept at 3am reading your blog -I kid you not. I am also married (7years) and will be leaving hubby behind because he runs a business.
    I also have a friend who is going to Qatar in August to work as a Grade 2 teacher, I will share this blog with her – she will thank me!

    Keep blogging and thank you so much ❤

    • Expat Panda July 18, 2017 at 11:53 am

      Hi Zama! I am humbled by your sweet comment. I am so glad you are enjoying the blog… the whole reason I created it was to inspire other South African teachers (even though it evolved into something so much more). All the best to you and your friend with your upcoming move 🙂

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