Globetrotting expat Becky Wright explains how moving overseas inspired her and her friends to adopt new, healthier lifestyles
In my case, and in the case of many of my expat friends, when I made the decision to move abroad I saw it as an opportunity to start anew and leave behind many of my bad, unhealthy habits.
It was not only a chance to give up the monotony of my predictable 9-5 routine, working as an executive assistant, but also make my embarrassing weekend binge drinking sessions a thing of the past. Instead, in these new exotic places I was now going to call home, I wanted to focus on trying different things that would make me feel good and improve my quality of life.
I certainly made more of an effort to eat local foods. When I lived in Bermuda, where I moved to take up a job in a gym, this meant eating lots of fresh fish and going to the local farmers’ market.
In Saudi Arabia, where I was a personal trainer to a Saudi princess, it meant sampling every variety of date and seeking out the best tabbouleh salad.
In Thailand, where I am now, running my online fitness coaching business, I eat spicy seafood and papaya salad and drink fresh coconut water almost every day. There’s just no way I would walk into a supermarket out here and grab a ready meal from the chiller cabinet.
When I first moved abroad to Bermuda, I found that I was moving out of my comfort zone and away from everything I knew. I have to admit, as confident as I may have appeared, I also found the whole experience a bit daunting. So naturally, I sought out things to help me integrate socially and feel less isolated, and getting involved with sports and fitness seemed like good choices.
Language is rarely a preventative barrier when it comes to sports, and with everyone everywhere understanding good sportsmanship (at least usually!), joining teams was a fun experience that helped me form many new friendships.
Thailand attracts people from all around the world who want to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle. There are lots of opportunities for this in Phuket, where I am based – everything from Muay Thai to yoga, weight training, swimming, tennis, golf, Zumba and even salsa dancing.
As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I committed to learning salsa, so I’ve been going along to the Green Man pub in Phuket for lessons. The class is instructed by a Russian expat who speaks mainly Russian and the tiniest bit of unidentifiable English. Most of the other students are international – those I’ve partnered up with have been British, Russian and Italian.
The class is a great way to get a workout, but more importantly it’s a lot of fun, and it doesn’t matter if like me you haven’t got a clue what the instructor is saying, because everyone can understand the universal language of dance.
Similarly, I’ve met lots of ‘yachties’ – Brits, Australians and New Zealanders who work seasonally on the big super yachts and also choose to spend their time off getting fit in an environment with other like minded people.
Some expats I’ve met who live here all year round initially just came for a few weeks and had no intention of staying. However, they got hooked on the simpler, more laid back lifestyle of Thailand, the healthy food and dare I say it, they even fell in love with working out daily.
In fact, one of my friends from Saudi Arabia who used to work in Riyadh as an architect, initially came here on holiday, but loved it so much that he changed the entire course of his career, quit his job and moved to the island to start his own wellness retreat.
These attitudes aren’t just limited to Thailand. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Melbourne from the UK eight years ago. In the last couple of years they completed building their dream home in which they included a small home gym – this makes me laugh, as they weren’t really into fitness when in the UK. But my sister-in-law is now very active – she not only goes to the gym, but is part of a walking group – which mainly consists of other expats. She also took up karate, initially as a way to meet new people, but now she has her black belt and is also an instructor.
Obviously living a fit and healthy lifestyle isn’t reserved exclusively for expats, but I would say that your average expat tends to be more on the fit and healthy end of the spectrum than most. I think this is largely due to the attitude expats have towards self improvement, for wanting to be better and a keen desire to experience new things and enjoy a better quality of life.
WHAT MOTIVATES PEOPLE TO MOVE ABROAD?
- Searching for a new adventure (56 per cent)
- A better work/life balance (40 per cent)
- I always wanted to live in that country (32 per cent)
- Better weather (37 per cent)
- Better career opportunities (17 per cent)
- Better health care (16 per cent)
Source: a multiple-choice online survey of 463 expats conducted by market research agency Atomik on behalf of AXA PPP International in Dec 2015
Interestingly, a lot of the people who come to Phuket to get fitter are actually expats living in other countries and not Thailand, so it’s a real melting pot of open minded people with a sense of adventure. I’ve met many Irish expat engineers who work on the mines and oil rigs in Australia, who get long holidays and choose to take their time off working out in Phuket. via telegraph.uk