In search of the Holy Grail

As I say goodbye to 2016, I’m naturally finding myself  in a reflective mood. Taking stock of what this year has been like and looking forward to what the new year will hold for me. In this past year I have traveled through 4 continents and visited 9 different countries around the world. I have made many new friends through my travels and have also stayed close to the ones I left behind. I also got to spend time with family. A feat in itself given they live across the globe as well. 

While I have a lot to be thankful for, the expat life has not come without obstacles. And for that reason I am left feeling at a crossroads and wondering what the future holds for us and perhaps more importantly- where to next as I search for the Holy Grail?

The Holy Grail

What is the Holy Grail you ask? For us it is a place in the world where we can obtain a work-life balance. Inclusive of good healthcare, education and transport and complete with our favourite people and we’d be set.   However we all know this is never going to happen hence why I have coined this the ‘Holy Grail’. I know.. what we are searching for may well be a bloody unicorn. 

Looking back

I know this is a common feeling for most expats at some point but lately I’ve been having that ‘sh*t what have I done?!’ feeling. Why have I been feeling like this? I’ll get to that soon. But I guess it has left me reflecting on why we set out on this expat adventure in the first place. I will admit that I may suffer from the ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome. So this was a difficult yet important exercise for me. 

We used to live in London, England. A place I had called home for 10 years after I returned back from my expat childhood in Canada. Things were good in London. We both had good jobs, great friends and lived in an amazing world class city. What’s not to like? Well London has this bad reputation of being expensive. And while I would wholeheartedly disagree on this given the other countries I have lived in. London is expensive when it comes to transport and housing.  We could afford the life we were living, but nothing more. There was no room for expansion for both housing or our family without moving further out of the city. And that would mean commuting. We were already commuting slaves so the thought of moving further out just didn’t appeal. 

We were looking for the Holy Grail. And so we looked further afield across the channel to far off worlds. 

The desert

And then we ended up in the desert. it all happened fairly quickly. I got a teaching job with an inclusive package that supported my husband (medical etc) and we were just playing the waiting game for my husband to find work. 

Most people err on the side of caution when thinking of moving to the Middle East. With it’s Sharia laws that are, for lack of a better word, completely foreign, to westerners, it seems easy to get into trouble. But once you were aware of where the lines were drawn in the sand, it was easy to live a simple, straightforward life without getting into trouble. 

Life in the desert was slow and dusty. While my work had it’s challenges, our biggest challenge was the oil and gas market crashing and thus having a ripple effect on all other industries in Qatar. This meant all projects new and old were at a standstill and hiring was too. We waited patiently for things to change but after a year of nothing, we knew something needed to happen. 

On one salary we weren’t living the life we expected to live. We were still in a one bedroom apartment and due to finances we did less in Qatar. There wasn’t much to do for free in Doha and so we chose to spend most of our money on trips outside the desert. 

So we re-evaluated and decided that if the economy in Qatar wasn’t due to improve we would need to look elsewhere as we were more likely better off back in the UK. 


When opportunities come your way, you take it. And with that in mind, we moved further east to Singapore in August. This was a risk. A huge risk. Singapore is known to be the most expensive country in the world. And the job package was not nearly as lucrative in comparison to the Middle East. In the most expensive country in the world we now had to pay for our own accommodation and pay for our own healthcare. 

But in order to live in a warm climate, in the heart of Asia, it was worth it. Right? We could now walk outside, wear whatever we wanted anywhere and drink alcohol (although that cost a fortune so we were still stringent). 

There are a lot of fantastic things about living in Singapore. The food is delicious, the taxis are cheap to get around the city. It really is a melting pot of different cultures and it is a great travel hub for the rest of Asia. 

But… and you knew there was a but coming up… after the health scare with healthcare we had in October and our lack of savings, it’s hard to see if we are achieving our goals or any closer to the Holy Grail. 

Where to next?

So I find myself uttering the 4 words most expats end up uttering at some point in their journey (albeit in our case it is of our own accord) … ‘We might be moving‘. 

This is not because we haven’t given our expat life a chance. As we both do realise it takes time to establish yourself in a new country. However, what we were hoping for has not materialised. Sometimes the hardest part of a journey is knowing when it isn’t quite working. 

So where to next? 

Well we are fortunate to have two great options. England or Canada. And I suppose anywhere else that comes up as an opportunity. 

While my heart sometimes aches to return home to London, I have a feeling we wont find the Holy Grail there. And so the search continues… watch this space.


  1. Oh Hun I know these feelings all too well. It is so hard to live this life at times and the constant adjustments that have to be made. That moment when you don’t know whether to leave a country or just quit the expat thing all together is a tough one, we have been saying this is the “last move” for ages and still not found our forever home abroad yet. You have lived in some amazing counties but they are all so vastly different and not the easiest to transition to I’m sure. Everyone thinks that Middle East life is Dubai all shiny and perfect but the reality is something vastly different and its tough especially when you aren’t quite getting as far forward as you hoped. I really hope that this is just a moment and that you look to the new year with new abandonment and get excited about whatever decisions are made for staying or moving on. A brave and honest post.

    • haha thanks for your comments. It’s nice to know someone out there gets it. You’re so right about life in the ME. I think life as an expat is over-glamourised by good ol’ social media. It’s nice that we have the opportunity to give life a go somewhere else and that we have options to go back home as well. I’m excited about what 2017 will bring. What I won’t be doing is freezing my life, just in case we are leaving. I did that in Qatar and missed out a experiencing more of life in the desert. This time I’m getting involved with SE Asia. Because I know when I leave I don’t want any regrets. Thanks for your supportive, encouraging words! xxx

  2. Hiii! Thanks for your lovely comment in my blog, as a new expat blogger it’s nuce to know people with similar interests read me! You have no idea how identified I feel with your post! I was the same about London, we left because we refused to lived far away and commute for 1.5 hours everyday, but our tiny flat in Shepherds bush was never going to help us settle down. I miss it a lot though, and since the moment I stepped in Australia I miss it more, not really London (I got a bit tored of life there and was very stressed out), but just some shops and restaurants and walking along Southbank… so now Sydney is amazing coz we have the weather, a slightly better house (though it is almost as expensive) and a much better work life balance.. but then it’s missing culture and arts and places to go to! And then I could go back home to Spain were you have absolutely everything but no decent jobs! So yeah I think the holy grial is hard to find, but if you do pleaaaase do let me know! Haha I will keep checking your blog xx

    • Awh I’m so pleased you connected with this post. It’s been weighing on my mind for a while so I thought I’d put fingers to keypad and let it loose! You summed up everything I miss about London! The Southbank! Sainsbury’s! Sometimes I could cry I miss it so much. So silly! But my husband, the realist, is pretty good and not letting me escape down memory lane too far. It sounds like life in Sydney is already off to a fantastic start. I’m so happy for you both. Do keep checking in here and I’ll do the same. Something tells me you’re close to finding your holy grail than you think, even if it is further away from home than you expected. xx


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