How exactly did I get to be where I am?
It is a question worth asking and also worth answering. I am American. I am an artist. I am a teacher. Yet, I live in the Middle East and I am able to travel. How exactly have I managed this circumstance you ask? Patience, assertiveness and a little bit of luck. A bit more detail may help you decide if this lifestyle suits you.
The economy is driving people to re-evaluate their lives. What is important to you? Does your lifestyle allow for everything you hope and dream Are there different choices you could be making to allow you to realize those dreams? I am fascinated and completely supportive of the new minimalist revolution taking place. I have read so many news articles, blog postings, etc. that all discuss how having fewer “things” have allowed freedom to travel and pursue personal life goals that most people save until “maybe” when they retire. My question to you is…WHY WAIT?!
I cannot admit to a totally minimalist lifestyle, but I am paring down my life. And my current lifestyle also allows for this simplicity. What matters to me? Travel, time with friends and family, my art, education, fitness, and financial security. Dubai has given me many of these things. And I am a school teacher! Trust me, just because I live in Dubai does not mean my salary is significantly different than my counterparts in the United States. HOWEVER, teaching “overseas” allows for other additional benefits that appeal to many.
As an international teacher, many schools offer either housing allowances OR actual housing. Yes, I do not pay for my housing. I pay for water, gas, and electricity. Period. As a single lady hired into the teaching world, I have a one bedroom apartment in Dubai. For free. (Just want to make sure you caught that part). So, while my salary is actually a bit lower than it would be in the US, I have minimal housing costs. And, the apartment given to me was basically furnished. I received a refrigerator and washer, in addition to couches, tables, etc. Now I can’t say I always like the furnishings I receive, but THEY ARE FREE! And I have managed to add my own flair to the space with my art and the fabric accoutrement I purchase.
(2) Dubai is tax-free.
While I make less than I did in the United States, Dubai does not charge me taxes as an expatriate. And since I make less than 85,000 USD per year and my residency is in the United Arab Emirates, the United States also does not charge me taxes. One must be careful when looking at teaching overseas when it comes to taxes. For example, I looked briefly at a job in London prior to my job offer in Dubai. The salary was 100,000 USD. I researched the job further and found out there was NO savings potential living in London despite the salary offered me. They give you that large of a salary due to cost of living. Yet, even though I would have no savings potential at the end of the year, I would also have to pay taxes to the United States since my salary base was over 85K. So, moving to London in that circumstance may have actually garnered debt! In some countries, like Germany, I would have to pay taxes to both Germany AND the United States due to my salary. Something to think about when I want to prioritize fiscal responsibility. I do not get to contribute to a 401K and I would like to retire before I am 85.
Since I chose to work at an American school in Dubai, I have the same kind of schedule I would in the states. In fact, I have MORE vacation time than I do in the US because of Islamic holidays! What to do with all of this vacation time, you ask? How about traveling?! Since moving to Dubai I have been to: Sri Lanka, Jordan, Germany, Oman, and Egypt (not to mention the once a year visits home and now my visits to Canada 🙂 ). My colleagues have traveled nearly twice as much as I have, but once again I am trying to prioritize a balance of finances and travel. I would never have these opportunities had I not moved here. Just this week, I have been to the F1 races in Abu Dhabi where I got to see Kanye West, Linkin Park, and Prince (not to mention the car races). A few weeks before I went to Fujeriah, an Emirate near Dubai for a beach weekend getaway. And soon I leave for Oman for 4 days. As if that wasn’t enough, the following weekend I fly to Egypt for a wedding. Talk about the high life!!
I am a teacher. I love education. I teach a curriculum I absolutely love. I teach a subject I adore And I have the most diverse, interesting students because of my location. We must have over 60 nationalities represented at my school. How COOL is that? We have Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Mormons, and I am sure I am missing a few. At a time when the world’s media is promoting such fear of those DIFFERENT from us, it is an absolute gift to be in a place where teenagers and their families all create such an accepting community. Last week I had parent/teacher conferences and of the 20 something parents that visited, every one thanked me for what I do. So not only do I teach in a diverse environment, I am appreciated. The behavioral issues I had with students in the states are nonexistent. I just look funny at my kids and I get a “sorry miss” straightaway.
All of these things are allowing for the lifestyle of my dreams. I have loads of free time to make art and promote my art. I also have time for fitness: playing squash with my man, or going to yoga (my new fitness adventure). All of this on a teacher’s salary. (The one caveat to living in Dubai was I had to purchase a car. I came with the impression I could use public transport, but this is a relatively new concept to the country and rather difficult to use).
Really, I could probably fill pages with my experience and the details of making it as an educator overseas. The reason I share this with you today is I hope it provides some background on how I am able to live my dreams. I truly want you to find yours.
How can you achieve this too? I suggest you research Search Associates or The International Educator or International School Services. All of these are legitimate, quality resources to investigate the world of international teaching. [Please note: while these institutions are legitimate, not all American curriculum schools are…please do your homework! While my lifestyle is pretty good, I have heard of a few horror stories of teachers who had the opposite experiences.] If you are not a teacher, consider internship opportunities where you only commit for one year and gain some teaching experience to see if it is of interest to you. I hope you found this helpful.
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BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Take some time and make a list of those things you truly wish to prioritize in your life. What really matters to you? What are goals you wish to achieve in your lifetime? Make a bucket list of wishes. Then look at your current lifestyle and see if it really allows you to do those things. If there is a discrepancy, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your lifestyle. Go minimalist, teach overseas… find whatever it is that will help you prioritize what matters most!