Since you’re with me at the beginning of this journey, I want to take some time to sketch out the borders of this site and the paths we will journey together.
My basic premise is this: It is possible to be of meaningful service to the world in its most challenging environments without sacrificing your health and happiness. I’ll go a step further: in order for you to be of service over the long-haul, you must be healthy and happy. Together, we’re going to explore how to do that.
Expat Backup is for people in positions of service, professionals or volunteers, who are living and working in what I’ll call “developing countries.” The term is imperfect, but it communicates what I mean: challenging environments where most people are much poorer than you are, places where most people lack access to affordable health care, quality education, clean water and adequate sanitation. In short, we work in countries or communities where people struggle to live on very little, sometimes as little as a dollar a day.
If this describes the environment where you live and try to make an impact, you’re in the right place. And congratulations. Your work is important–very important–to the world. And I have good news: you can do this all-important work without giving up your health or your happiness. If putting your own wellness before the well-being of the people you serve is a bit uncomfortable right now, don’t worry. Remember that the people you serve need you to keep doing the work that you’re doing, so it’s your job to keep yourself in a position to serve them. Burn-out and cynicism are nobody’s friends.
Through a series of free emagazines, blog posts and other resources, Expat Backup is going to explore how aid workers can optimize their lives to be happy and healthy. Happy and healthy aid workers are productive, sustainable people giving back to their communities and the world. I believe in the work you do. I want you to keep doing it for a long time.
I know the toll that service work in developing countries can take. I’ve lived most of my life “abroad”–a tricky concept, considering I’ve barely resided in my country of citizenship. In addition being an aid worker, I’ve started successful and sustainable businesses in developing countries that help lift people out of poverty and encourage them to think–and work–for themselves.
My yoga teacher certification translates into over 500 hours studying how we respond to stress, and how to transform those responses on a physical, mental and emotional level. My MPH includes months of study with thought leaders revisioning how we approach management and leadership. And I have a great lifestyle as a consultant that gives me the freedom to start “other” projects and businesses, and work where–and often, when–I want. I’m healthy and happy and I intend to keep on making the world a better place. And I’ll never apologize for my idealism.
So, that’s a little about me and what we’ll be covering. My approach is going to be different from traditional blogging, though, so I’m going to explain the different communication tools of this project so that you early-adapters can get in on all the action.
As I learned on Anonymous Country, my writing has grown to a place where I don’t want the more intimate things I publish publicly to be immediately accessible to just anyone on the web. I want the people reading my more detailed and in-depth work to be invested in me and Expat Backup. Weeding out the first layer of superficial Google searchers will bring us closer to being a tight and supportive community.
I will publish in-depth explorations of Expat Backup topics as free emagazines roughly every couple of months. This gives me an opportunity to write quality content at length, and adequately explore issues in a way that you just can’t on a blog. Expat Backup emagazines are free, attractive, standalone resources for our community.
The first one will be about living well in Monrovia, since a lot of people from Anonymous Country write and ask me questions before they move there. Future issues will explore non-geographical topics like avoiding burnout or how to start a small business in your host country, although I may publish other geographical guides from time to time.
As a supplement to the emagazines, I’ll be blogging here too. But since I’ll be working on producing and publishing high-quality content in the emagazines, that’s where most of my focus will be. Because it won’t be constantly updated, I recommend subscribing to receive email updates of new content so that you don’t miss anything. You can subscribe by entering your email in the text box on the top right corner of this page. (For those of you receiving this as an email, I’ll be improving the formatting as we go. I’m new to this and am grateful for your patience!)
Over time, the email list will receive more in-depth content, advance copies of the emagazines, and other cool stuff, but for now I’m keeping things simple as I get started and while I’m building the new site.
Expat Backup Issue 1: “Living (well) in Monrovia” will be available for free on 16 May, and I hope that you will share it widely. After all, it’s almost intern season and lots of newbies will be arriving in Liberia, not quite sure what to expect. It’s our job to help make it easy on them.
For those of you who aren’t living in Monrovia, thanks for staying tuned! I’ll be writing more about the Expat Backup project over the next few weeks and I know you’ll find lots of good ideas about how to stay healthy and happy.
If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it widely! And keep on saving the world.