beach in sihanoukville cambodia

Expat Living: fate is responsible for my becoming an expat

When I was growing up, the thought of becoming an expat never crossed my mind. I lived in a fairly prosperous community and planned on finishing college and finding a well paying career. That was the path most Americans aspired to at the time. I never thought of deviating from the “American Dream” path until fate interceded in my life.

Things changed when I started meditating. For some reason, meditation worked extraordinarily well for me. After just a few weeks, I quit a job that didn’t pay well, but made up for it with great tips. I delivered liquor. On weekends, I delivered kegs of beer and cases of liquor to parties and often got $10 tips. Even average customers gave me at least a dollar.

After I started meditating, I no longer wanted to work in that environment and took a job at a bookstore. The pay wasn’t good, but I loved working there. The owners became friends and I always had a job to come back to. They put me in charge of ordering metaphysical books. Other than that, I just worked behind the counter and dusted the shelves when no customers were around.

Love's Body by Norman O BrownAt the end of the summer I went to the University of California at Santa Cruz. By my second quarter, I could only think of one reason to stay in college. I didn’t want to get drafted. My advisor, Norman O. Brown (author of Love’s Body), told me not to worry. I wouldn’t get drafted. Why? In his opinion, going to Vietnam wasn’t part of my personal myth. He was right. I didn’t get drafted.

That was the first time I stepped off a cliff and let fate be my guide. Fate led me to a yoga retreat in the Sierra Mountains, about half an hour’s drive from Nevada City on San Juan Ridge. I didn’t get paid, but I got to stay for free in exchange for teaching hatha yoga classes. It was the perfect place to immerse in yoga and meditation. I did that for two summers, but became disenchanted with the retreat. I went back to the bookstore, saved money and made an overland trip to India. I got hepatitis the first time, but spent nine months in India the following year.

Nevada City
Nevada City California

An Expat in Australia

After that, I lived on a small commune in the Sierras. By the time I was 28, I hadn’t had a well paying job and didn’t know what to do with myself. Fate led me to a cabinetmaking job in San Francisco. Eventually I started working for myself and made okay money. My wife was Australian. We couldn’t afford to buy a house in San Francisco so we moved to Australia and found a cheap house in a beautiful beach suburb that also had good waves.

I would never have found that beautiful village if fate hadn’t intervened. I had looked in every beach suburb in Sydney and come up empty-handed. Then I told my story to a guy who served me a cappuccino after I had tried the northernmost suburb in Sydney.

“Did you like Palm Beach?” he asked.

“It was beautiful, but far too expensive for us,” I said.

“Check out Avoca Beach on the Central Coast,” he suggested. “It’s just as beautiful, but far less expensive.”

I did as he suggested and we found an affordable house in Avoca Beach. Everything else fell into place, too.

Surfing became my passion after an almost 15 year layoff. I was still working as a cabinetmaker, but only enough to make a living. I frequently took time off to surf when the waves were good. They were good somewhere on the coast almost every day.

Avoca Beach, my first expat destination
Avoca Beach, NSW Australia

As far as I’m concerned, fate took me to Australia. Everything just fell into place. I stayed there for 22 years. I was married for 20 years, but my wife decided she was in love with another man and wanted a divorce. I stayed another two years to look after my daughter, who was still in high school. I was bitter about it for a while, but fate led me to a Balinese healer who gave me a spiritual healing. When he was done, I couldn’t even resurrect my anger. It was gone, replaced by hope and confidence that everything would turn out okay. It’s turned out more than okay.

An Expat in Cambodia

It might sound like I have let fate be my guide throughout my life, but I sometimes fought with fate. While I was looking after my daughter, I took an ESL (English as a Second Language) course with a view to becoming an ESL teacher. I got a job in Australia, but discovered most overseas language centers were looking for younger teachers.

I learned this in Bali. Stuck for ideas, I happened across a tarot card reader in a cafĂ© near Legian. I didn’t really believe in tarot card readers, but:

  1. She was beautiful and
  2. I had nothing to lose.

Her reading sent me in two directions. One was the path of the Fool. The other was the path of the hoarder. The Fool’s path had a happier ending and he looked more appealing than the man hoarding his wealth. I chose the Fool’s path and elevated fate to goddess status. I called her Serendipity. She looks like one of these goddesses:

My goddess Serendipity made me an expat

I sometimes slipped up and tried to be the master of my fate. I tried to find an affordable house in Australia. The first one I found was falling apart, almost completely consumed by termites. I found another house in northern New South Wales and almost bought it. The real estate agent talked me out of it. He told me there was a lot of crime in that area and I might not be a good fit. It was an idyllic looking location, but no, I didn’t want to worry about getting robbed or mugged.

That’s when I gave up trying and let fate be my guide. In the back of my mind I was thinking I’d like to live in Vietnam, Thailand or maybe somewhere in India (Goa, perhaps?). Cambodia didn’t even cross my mind. I would pass through Cambodia, but I wouldn’t stay.

Fate had other plans for me and led me to my next expat destination. I checked out Sihanoukville “just for a few days” and have been here for over 10 years.

Sihanoukville Cambodia, my second expat destination
A beach in Sihanoukville Cambodia

Sihanoukville got a bad rap back then, but I loved it. I could easily avoid the worst parts of town and found quiet beaches and lovely rural settings just outside the main part of town. I started my Sihanoukville Journal to promote the better parts of the area. It became quite popular for a small blog.

How fate made me an expat

So, how did I become an expat? It was never a plan. Fate had more to do with it than I did, but I have no regrets. I loved Australia and now I love it here in Sihanoukville. Time will tell if fate has other plans for me, but right now I’m more ready to let fate take the reins than I was when I was younger.

When I look back on my life, I have to laugh. Every time I came up with a plan, it backfired or fizzled out. Fate had better plans for me. Yes, I had to listen and act when fate took me somewhere, but it always took me to unexpected places. Fate’s plans have worked out better for me than anything I could have come up with. I’m glad I took a chance and dropped out of college. If I had stayed in college, I probably would have followed a career path; led a rather boring life; and would never have become an expat. I’ve never been rich, but my life has been rewarding in so many other ways. I have my personal goddess Serendipity to thank for that.