In the world of travel, there are a few great ways to get "free" travel. One of most underrated ways is to travel for work. Expats, or people who work in another country, have grown a lot over the last few years but many people still do not know about the many opportunities out there. I had the opportunity to see Dubai twice because a longtime family friend was a teacher in the United Arab Emirates.
26-year-old travel enthusiast Cedric Hutchison (@cedinthecity) shares his experience traveling the world and being an expat overseas.
How long have you been traveling? What are some of your favorite destinations?
At this point, I would say I’ve been traveling consistently for over three years, with the last two being overseas. When I lived stateside I tried to take a trip monthly to different cities and states. Some of my favorite locations would be; The Gili Islands (Indonesia), The Maldives, Busan (South Korea), The Phi Phi Islands (Thailand), Santorini (Greece), Tokyo (Japan) and Rome (Italy) to keep the list short. However, I could name about 15 places that I really love.
How many countries have you visited?
Thus far I have visited 29 countries. I’m currently in the process of deciding on where I want to go for #30. I’m thinking either India, Myanmar or Laos.
How long have you been working overseas?
August will mark 2 years that I have been working overseas. Currently, I am living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’ve really been blessed with jobs that have allowed me to explore different countries with reasonable time off to take frequent trips. Some of my friends haven’t been so lucky. Haha
What made you decide to take a job in another country?
I think I decided I wanted to work abroad when I was maybe 20 or 21. I set this goal during undergrad, but I never thought I’d actually do it. Having a film background and a passion for education, I wanted to somehow combine my talents and I figured what better way than to teach abroad. I knew this would give me unremarkable experiences that I could document and later turn into films, which is what my ultimate dream is.
Growing up I was spoiled, I didn’t like being away from my house often to spend the night with friends or relatives so taking that leap of faith abroad was a big deal for me. I was one of those super seniors in college that enjoyed the experience so much that I took longer to graduate. For my graduation trip I did a Euro Tour and visited a childhood friend who was currently living in Amsterdam and after seeing how she was making a living abroad I told myself that if I was going to do it, the time is now. Three months later I was off to China.
Other than the traveling, what are some of the benefits living overseas provides?
Outside of traveling some of the benefits that living overseas has provided are broadening my horizons, strengthening my network and realizing my potential as well as self-growth. Self-awareness has to be the greatest thing I’ve gained abroad. A lot of the time I’m alone and I often travel alone so I’ve learned so much about myself, my strengths and weaknesses while living abroad. Things I thought I wouldn’t or couldn’t do I’ve done. I also like experiencing different cultures and the way people do things around the world. As humans, we get so used to doing things our own way and thinking anything other than that is wrong or ‘weird’ (I hate this word), but it’s so enlightening. I can easily say I’ve learned more in these past two years than I did in all my years of structured education.
Were you an active traveler before this job?
Yes, I actually was. It’s funny when I look back on it because I’ve always been that friend that organized trips or tried to encourage my friends to get out and see the world. I think I became this way because of my older sister, Ashley. When I was 17, I won one of the top honors at my High School and as result, my sister who was 22 at the time took me on my first trip to the West Coast. She also traveled a lot during college and I always admired her for that. Fast forward to college when I was in Atlanta amongst my friends, I’d organize the spring break trips, cabin trips, trips to New York, Miami, Los Angeles, etc. I’m not sure if you recall, the old airline AirTran used to do this thing called AirTran U where if you were between the ages of 18-22 you could fly on a standby ticket for $40-80 one way. I used this program to travel when I was in undergrad until the airline was dissembled. This was an awesome way to travel stateside. My motto was “If I have a place to stay, I’m down to go.” Meaning, I’d go to undesirable locations like Cincinnati, Ohio just to say I went if I had a place to crash.
What are some of the differences in traveling while overseas versus domestic travel in the U.S?
Traveling stateside is EXPENSIVE!! Actually, everything about the states is expensive. Of course, you don’t realize it until you’re away and everything is pretty much cheaper everywhere outside of America. For example, when I was living in China I found tickets to Thailand for $30, from Thailand I went to Malaysia for $45, from there I went to Singapore for $60 and I ended up in Bali, Indonesia for $45. $180 to travel to four countries. That’s cheaper than traveling from one state to the next. Please tell me which 2 cities I can travel to for less than $180 that isn’t on Spirit Airlines, I’ll wait. Don’t get me wrong, traveling stateside is cool and there are many different landscapes but most places in the states mirror each other outside of places like Wyoming, Iowa and Kansas and who really travels to these places? Overseas I honestly feel like a celebrity, I often get stares or people who are fascinated with me because I’m a black American. In the states, I’m essentially just a number. I love the language barriers, I love having to communicate with people who I normally wouldn’t. These are experiences I don’t get while traveling stateside.
How do you go about finding your next adventure?
Honestly, google flights is a game changer. Whenever I have time off or feel like traveling I just explore destinations on there. I usually go to the cheapest destination that I haven’t been to yet. Secret flying and Sky Scanner are a couple websites I’m a huge fan of as well. Another technique I use is to decide exactly I want out of my vacation. Do I want to go somewhere cultural heavy, relaxing by a beach, somewhere with friends, somewhere that is known for the popular sites? I also communicate with other travelers to find go to locations.
What was it like when you first moved to a different country?
It was nerve-wracking but I was excited. My move abroad was really a test of faith. I was moving to a place I had never been, to work for people I hadn’t met face to face. My nerves were on 10. What if they screwed me over? What if the company wasn’t reputable? What if the living conditions they put me in weren’t acceptable by my standards? These were the thoughts I had prior to moving. When I arrived there was definitely a culture shock. Metro Atlanta has a population of about 5 million people while Beijing had a population of 23 million people at the time. I remember feeling claustrophobic everywhere and the smog was definitely apparent. After I arrived I didn’t see another black person for about a week. Luckily, I had a friend who I went to college with that was studying there which helped make the transition easier. I was afraid to eat anything that wasn’t western because I was afraid it would mess with my stomach.
What surprises you the most about living in another country?
I think what surprises me the most about living in another country is how similar people everywhere are. White, Black, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist we are all similar in more ways than we realize. Also, how kind and selfless people around the world are. For example, the people in Indonesia, Thailand, and Maldives are easily some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I feel you don’t really get a lot of that stateside. When someone is too nice in America, we feel they have ulterior motives but abroad I’ve realized there are really some selfless, genuine people that have no problem going out of their way to help you without there being an ulterior motive. I think living abroad has restored my faith in humanity because America will really have you walking around on eggshells because of the color of your skin, but that’s a completely different conversation. LOL
Any advice to people who are looking to move to another country for work?
My advice would be to do research. It’s 2018, and I’m sure any questions you have can be found on google. Find someone who’s already living abroad and ask them how they went about it. Depending on your field, start practicing a new language. Do research about the type of location you want to live. Don’t follow the money, follow the experience, and follow your heart. The money will work itself out. Research the do’s and don’ts of places you’re considering moving to and make an informed decision. I will definitely say I think everyone should spend a year abroad and out of their comfort zone. At 26, I’ve met hundreds if not thousands of expats who are living abroad and loving it. Do it for you!