US expats lead some of the most extraordinary lives. Rashad Pharoan was raised in Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S, and worked in banking in Florida until a dramatic experience caused him to reassess his his values and set off to explore the world. Rashad's blog www.bankerinthesun.com
has over 80,000 followers, and he has written guides to Thailand, Nepal and South East Asia, as well as an historical novel.
What inspired you to leave the US to live abroad?
I was robbed at gunpoint. I really thought it was the end—right then and there in front of my house. All my dreams, all my aspirations, everything seemed to mean nothing any more. I’d never taken the leap and traveled extensively when I had the chance. Thankfully, the robbers ran off and I got a chance to change all that. After the court case (the robbers were caught) I sold my car and my house, and bought a one-way ticket to Jakarta.
For how long have you been living abroad?
I’ve been away from the U.S. for five years now. Time just flies. I’m planning on soon returning to Florida to visit friends, but most of my family doesn’t live in the U.S, which makes it easier to stay abroad. I spent three of those five years in Saudi Arabia, where I worked in a bank. I’ve been full-time on the road now for the past year and a half and don’t regret it the least bit. It’s taught me to have faith that all will work out when it’ll work out, so no need to worry. Just travel, do what you love, and enjoy today.
What do you like most about living abroad?
The freedom, the challenges, and the new friends you make. Being in places like Thailand or Japan may sound like a dream—and it is when you’re only there for a week or two—but living in those places long term is a different experience altogether. You have to make new friends. You have to survive. Your support structure back home is good as useless when it comes to every day life abroad. It’s basically you taking on the world, not that the world is against you, but it definitely poses significant challenges in terms of loneliness, love, and money.
What do you miss most from the US?
I miss paying for things in dollars! I miss the road trips, my friends, the hospitality, the service, the people, the place—everything! The Wizard of Oz nailed it when Dorothy said “There’s no place like home.” There really isn’t. As much as I love all the places I’ve visited, nothing beats sitting in a diner in New York City with my friends, or cruising along the coastal road from LA to San Diego. I love everything about the US, and being abroad makes you appreciate what you have, instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself about living abroad before you becoming an expat?
Stop stressing. Don’t overplan, just go with the flow. Don’t follow set itineraries or follow a crowd, unless you’re traveling with them! Just do what you want to do and enjoy today. Don’t carry a camera or smartphone and start snapping pictures as soon as you get some place. Enjoy the beauty in front of you, not through a lens. You can do all the photography, selfies, and media sharing tomorrow. Just enjoy today. Get a good book, and read in cafés in foreign places, amidst foreign faces.