Sarah was in a rut, living a stagnant domestic life. Then an opportunity to move to the Philippines changed everything. Sarah shares how moving to a foreign country changed her perspective and created more adventure in her life.

In Desperate Need of a Change

After living abroad for over three years, the lens through which I view the world is completely different. I’m a better version of myself than I ever could have been if we didn’t move away.

My life had become stagnant. I’d all but given up my career, choosing to stay home with my babies, which didn’t bother me so much.


Our life was great but we needed a change


It was that I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. I just knew there had to be something better.

Before my husband and I had children, our life was full of adventure. We’d travelled through Asia and backpacked Europe after our sunset wedding on the cliff tops of Santorini, Greece.

We loved exploring. Now, our life was a nice shade of beige and talk of adventure ended with ‘we will…one day’.

I’d hear travel stories and feel like a bird trapped in a cage, desperate to break free and join in.

Then in a moment, it all changed. One day my husband came home from work and said his boss asked if he’d consider moving to the Philippines. I felt myself wake up.

Two months later, we found ourselves on a flight into our new life in the Philippines, which became our home for three and a half years.

Read more: The Explorer’s Guide to Boracay – Philippines


How Being an Expat Changed my Perspective on Adventure, Sarah Schmitt, father and child on a motorbike, the philippines, street, palmtrees

We embraced every new experience that came our way!

On a Plane to a New Life

‘Every day I am grateful for this opportunity to live in a foreign country. This is a gift, even on the hard days, and I know that tomorrow will bring a new adventure’ – journal entry, March 2015

Local travel is something we’ve always loved. Immersing ourselves in a culture and experiencing its cuisine and way of life excited us.

As we packed up our home we were fuelled by the idea of this adventure. We were aware our new life was temporary, so we talked about how we’d redesign it to maximise our experience.


We made the most of everything – food, culture and a foreign country

We made a commitment to live full of intention, making the most of every moment we had to explore, discover, and experience life.

We kept our weekends free from obligations, instead using them as our travel and adventure time. We’d pack up the car on ‘Adventure Saturday’, heading out into the provinces to explore.


Every weekend we set out in search of new experiences

What I loved most about being an expat is that every day I felt so alive. Having these adventures allowed me to reconnect with my wildness, that craving for freedom and movement I’d lost.

Through the highest highs and lowest lows, my cells buzzed with excitement. There was a sense of the extraordinary as I drove down local streets, always finding something new to see and experience.

It was intriguing, and made me want to keep looking and seeing more. Every day I lived in this heightened state of emotions, riding the ebb and flow as they shifted. It was intoxicating.

As parents, watching our children experience this new way of life filled us with tremendous joy.


How Being an Expat Changed my Perspective on Adventure, Sarah Schmitt, streets, philippines, looking out from car

There were so many new things for our kids to experience

My mind is full of beautiful memories of them jumping off waterfalls and eating ‘dirty ice cream’, a delicious street food.

The sweet coconut cream would run down their tightly clasped fists, as they struggled to keep up with the melting moment.

These memories also muddy the waters between longing to be back in that world of adventure, and being satisfied with what we have in the here and now.

Time to Return Home

When it was time to return back to Australia, I wondered how I could keep my sense of wonder, curiosity, and excitement alive.

Life in Australia is nothing like life in the Philippines. Of course, there are the same moments of ‘normal life’ – school runs, laundry, and paying bills were all part of that experience too.


Back in Perth life quickly returned to normal


But in my expat life, these otherwise mundane moments became wrapped up and absorbed with the exhilaration of our adventures.

The challenge would be keeping curiosity alive and filling the gaps between daily obligations with new adventures. So I came up with three rules to live by upon arrival back home.

3 Rules for Living Like an Expat

1. Force Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone and Say ‘Yes’

Even if you don’t feel like it, say yes to invitations – this is one of the main rules of expat life. It’s how you meet new friends and find your way around the world you inhabit.

As adults, we’re pretty set in our ways with our social groups and communities already established around us. Taking chances isn’t something you tend to do when you already have what you need close by.


Push yourself and discover adventure that’s nearby


Moving to a place where you’re a stranger forces you into social situations. This is how you find your community.

It’s uncomfortable at times wandering through the unknown, but the more you do it, the easier taking a risk feels, and what you discover about yourself can be enlightening.

I learnt how tough I can be when I got behind the wheel of our car in the Philippines. In one of the world’s most congested cities, where road rules are unwritten, driving became a favourite pastime.

Nothing beats the thrill of fighting it out with jeepneys and crazy taxi drivers.

With each new experience it became easier to step out of my comfort zone, take chances and create a new life for myself when I moved back home to Perth.

2. Don’t Delay

There’s that old saying that you don’t know what’s around the corner, so don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

When your situation is temporary, you don’t often get given second chances. So moving back to Perth I made a commitment to approach life with a stronger sense of urgency.


We still try and live with as much gusto for adventure as we did overseas


Keeping our weekend adventure days has been important in living this rule, but it certainly hasn’t been easy like it was in the Philippines. Our children are older and with different work commitments, our weekends aren’t always our own.

In spite of this we still carve out space to explore, always on the lookout for things that pique our interest. It can be as simple as playing tourist for the day. Just find something visitors to your hometown do, and go do it. You’ll be surprised by what you discover.

3. Look Out of Your Window

It was only when I’d left Perth I really understood that no matter how hard I tried to show gratitude for my life, I still had my eyes closed to what was going on around me.

I realised too that when I’m feeling stressed about normal daily life, I become numb to my surroundings. Instead, I focus inwards on my mental load.

Making the space to look out from the internal battles happening within, and focusing on the moment in front of me relieves stress and anxiety.

As I drove around in Manila, I was constantly on alert and looking out the windows, wanting to capture every moment. You see the most remarkable things when you’re observant.

Australia, even with its sprawling cities, isn’t quite as busy as a local street in the Philippines, but every now and then something catches my eye, and my breath sharpens as I get that tingle of excitement.


Look around, there’s always fun to be had!


I notice new cafes, shops, and parks that have sprung up, and I make plans to visit. You never know what opportunities you’ll find to explore, discover, and experience if you just keep an eye out.

Day-to-day life isn’t a curated and filtered Instagram page, and most of us aren’t spending every day climbing mountains, living an extreme life. But life doesn’t have to be beige either.

If I learned anything as an expat, it’s to take advantage of the moment to show gratitude for the world you live in, and be open to the opportunity of discovery, even in your own backyard.

It doesn’t need to be a big adventure, just something a little different to what you were doing yesterday can add some sparkle and excitement to your life.