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Vanessa Workman: A Fresh New Start

by Vanessa Workman 21 Sep 2015

Vanessa Workman is a sand-and-sea girl through and through. Moving to the north of Malaysia from a job in Singapore, she found her home and now writes about her experiences as an expat on a tropical island.


I have found that one of the beauties of being an expatriate is that a person can actually become anyone they might want to be. Embrace an entirely new persona, chameleon style, if you will. Unless one’s new expat personality and lifestyle are strongly connected with a particular career move, ‘reinventing’ yourself overseas has endless possibilities!

Of course, this is probably why so many con men and con women are often quite successful at their particular games. Land in a location where no one knows them and voila, they can charm their way straight through people’s bank accounts and then some; wheeling, dealing and sometimes romancing their way across the planet.

But on a more positive note, having a fresh start can certainly be empowering. Just find a comfortable new locale to shed one’s tired old skin and begin a new life with a clean slate. Or perhaps enjoy the opportunity to captivate a new and willing audience with tales of the glorious golden days.

Islands must be an especially popular location for folks seeking a new life because I have met quite a few local island-dwelling expats who have, indeed, reinvented themselves. However, some are much more creative and successful than others.

Advertising executive-turned-hotelier, housewives creating mini guesthouses by turning spare bedrooms into Airbnb rentals, cruising sailors becoming sausage makers and even a mental health nurse-turned-‘professional’ Zumba instructor, the inspiring list goes on and on.

Some have more desperate needs and are willing to go to great lengths to succeed before calling it quits and scurrying back to their homeland.

I hired a handyman a few years ago who had boasted of his additional talents as having worked with Vidal Sassoon. It never dawned on me to inquire as to what actual role he had played in the Vidal Sassoon empire, but I assumed he was a hairstylist. Finding a handyman AND a hairstylist who made house calls? Pure timesaving gold.

Unfortunately, said handyman-hairstylist also had a pension for leaving a trail of empty beer cans hidden around my house while he ‘fixed’ things. It was also unfortunate that I didn’t delve more into his past career in the salon industry. This crossed my mind much later as I stood teary-eyed inspecting the sad mirrored image of my ‘just a trim’-turned-circa 1970s shag haircut.

Word to the wise, if you need a haircut, it may not be in your best interest to hire the reinvented handyman.

However, one expat I know gets the absolute award for reinvention as she seems to change hats every few months or so. From spa girl to spa consultant, to real estate and property management, to editor and self-proclaimed journalist to public relations and branding expert. Her list also goes on and on. How does she do it? She obviously believes in herself and believes there is nothing she cannot excel at. Or, at the very least, she is very good at convincing others of her endless abilities.

Maybe she has a loving advice-giving mother similar to mine.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, is what my philosophical mom used to tell me. It must have left an impression, as I’m more than willing to “try, try again” most anything, but certainly not willing to “try, try again” something new every few months.

Making money isn’t necessarily the main objective to these exercises in reinvention, because why indeed would someone bring total strangers into their brand new dream house for a few bucks a night?

Obviously, meeting new people is one of the benefits of reinventing oneself, but it can also be an opportunity to chase a few dreams or try on a new hat or two (or three). None of this “I’ve always wanted to…” Just do it!

But remember, there are other folks out there embracing new lives and new opportunities, so try not to step on too many other reinvented toes (or tout grooming talents you may not actually possess). There are plenty of opportunities to go around for those thinking about a fresh new start. 

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