Photo Credit: Courtesy of Meisha Tami
The Black Expat: 'I Have So Much Free Time And Disposable Income'
Meisha Tami is not afraid of change.
She left her native Jamaica as a youngster and grew up in South Florida, just 30 minutes outside of Miami. Originally, her plan was to be a journalist. She studied the craft at university and spent a few years in the industry.
But she was unfulfilled.
Instead, she turned to a career in teaching Montessori. However, the low salary coupled with the high cost of living made her question that decision as well. A conversation with some co-workers would provide a spark of inspiration.
“One day, we were talking about where a teacher goes to make a decent living,” Meisha remembered. “When I Googled it, everything that came up was in Asia. I started to really look into it because what I was reading sounded kind of too good to be true. At the time I had a friend from university who was actually in Beijing. I didn’t know what she was doing there, but I thought of her when I read the articles and I contacted her and she told me that everything I read was true. Within two months I accepted a job in China and I was on my way.”
Meisha wound up in Shanghai, teaching at a traditional school. And China was even better than she imagined.
“Life in China was super easy,” she gushed. “The cost of living was incredibly low and everything is so accessible and literally at your fingertips. I lived in a big city for the first time when I moved there because I had never lived in the city before that. So it was my first experience with public transportation and things like that, which of course is incredibly efficient. It was one less thing to worry about. Not having to drive and figure out logistics for a whole year was really nice.”
As taken as she was with her new home, Meisha wanted to return to her passion for teaching Montessori. Once again she went online and found a school in Phuket, Thailand which seemed more aligned with her goals. So far, Thailand has not disappointed.
“I love the quality of life the mostly because I didn’t really realize how much I was so into this Western mentality of the hamster wheel until I really got here. I realized I don’t have to work hard, stress out and worry about bills. I can just live my life and have so much free time and disposable income. It doesn’t translate very well into US dollars because it’s less pay, but based on how much things cost here, I can save a lot more than I would save in the US, even though I lived at home. I live alone in a three-bedroom house, with a pool and a nice view.”
Sandwiched between her moves, was a month-long trip to India for a deeper immersion into her yoga practice.
“I’m absolutely in love with India. It’s one of my favorite places, which is interesting because I was afraid to go there. I had a little bit of Western conditioning in the sense that it’s scary, especially when you’re a solo female. I realized that they’re the nicest people on the planet. So it didn’t take me very long to acclimate. That was a really amazing experience.”
Another memorable moment was when she climbed the iconic Great Wall of China, which she acknowledged was incredibly tough but worth the overnight stay to see the sunrise. It’s memories like these that make her reluctant to return to her former life.
“I don’t have any desire to move back to the US,” she admitted. “I would always love to live in Jamaica, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So at the moment, I’m trying to find a middle ground between Asia and the West in terms of my career, because the school here is a bit disorganized for my tastes and I would also like to be closer to family. I feel if I could move my whole family here, I’d probably never leave. I do come from a big family and I miss being able to be a part of their lives. So I’m trying to find a way to get back there without really getting back there, you know?”
She’s not sure if it was the multiple trips she and her family took together in her youth, but Meisha says there was never any trepidation about making such a drastic life change to a continent she had never been.
“Maybe I was in shock or something,” Meisha laughed. “I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what I was doing at the time. It was just kind of like, okay, I’ve accepted a job. They provide so much for you that you really don’t have to worry about anything; your flight, accommodation, everything is taken care of. So I just kind of looked at it like I’m accessing a job just like I would in Florida. It probably wasn’t until the day of the move, when I was on my way to the airport, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never been there before!’ So I had no idea what to expect really, but I guess I was just so ready for a new experience that I didn’t let any of these fearful thoughts even approach my consciousness.”
Follow Meisha Tami across Asia and on her yoga journey on Instagram.