Expats Abroad Work Abroad

Expat Sarah on Finding Her Calling in Southeast Asia

Today’s post comes from Sarah Jagger, CEO of Domestic Objects.

Please introduce yourself! Who are you?

I’m the Founder and CEO of Domestic Objects, a company focused on imaginative play for children.

I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada and had never lived anywhere else until my husband’s software company came into the picture. Steve (my husband) suggested one day that he thought it would be best for his business if we moved to Manila, Philippines.

At first, I was not super excited about the idea (I cried). We had a young toddler and a brand new baby. I had just finished decorating the nursery for our baby, and we were just getting settled into our life as a family of four. But, we decided to take the plunge and moved to Manila.

Wow, that’s a big jump. How long were you there?

We lived in the Philippines for about two and a half years before heading over to Singapore for another year and a half.

How was the journey of actually getting abroad?

At first it was nerve racking. We had landed into a foreign city, in a third world country that I knew almost nothing about. I was dealing with a different language and culture with two very young children.

My husband was off at his office during the day,  so I put my efforts into the kids and exploring. I wanted to find play groups for them, learn about the city, where the parks were, etc.

How did the kids adjust?

Having the kids was a great way to get acquainted as there were other expats wandering around the city and all were open to meeting for coffee to share notes.

For me, this was a big challenge, I’m a bit of an introvert, so starting up conversation with strangers was not my thing. But as I have learned, expats are a special breed. There is something about living abroad that brings your “walls” down.

Being an expat helped me be open to new experiences, people and things. It happens quite often that my husband and I would end up going out for dinner with new friends that we had randomly met.

When did you start to get the idea for a business abroad?

I spent the first 6 months figuring out our new life. I was exploring Manila, meeting new people and finding reliable sources for the basics such as good quality diapers and baby food (harder than it sounds). But there was a part of me that needed something more.

I’ve never been or planned on being a stay at home mom. When we left Vancouver I was on maternity leave from my job as a Cardiology Systems Administrator at Vancouver Coastal Health. This was a job that had intended to go back to, but that was impossible when the time came to go back to Vancouver, and we were still in Manila for the foreseeable future.

That was an emotionally tough time because for the first time I became a “trailing spouse.” I had given up my career for my husbands, and now I was way out of my comfort zone. Side note: I don’t think there is anything wrong with being the trailing spuce if you are happy.

We kept on enjoying weekends in fabulous destinations and my husband was determined we were going to make the most of this exciting adventure in SE Asia.  Weekending on stunning tropical islands can take your mind off things, but I had this fire deep down to do something more. Something for me. I was looking for my passion, and I just didn’t know what it was yet.

How did you finally get the idea for Domestic Objects?

Having two very young kids I decided that I’d love for them to have a play tent.  But, I was unable to find one that suited my taste and my apartment. So armed with some free time and a bit of sewing experience, I made a tent.

My kids were obsessed with playing inside their play tent, and I proudly put a picture of my creation up on Facebook for my friends and family back home to see. I instantly had requests for me to make more!

When I went home to Vancouver that summer for vacation, I had play tents ready to sell. Then I put one on Etsy, it sold! I put up two more, they sold too! That was 2014 and I haven’t looked back.

Do you think living abroad has changed you?

For sure. I emerged as an entrepreneur thanks to my time abroad. My business would not have happened without this journey, and I’m so thankful. It made me grow as a person.

Our family also grew together in such an amazing ways. Moving abroad was the best thing we ever did as a family. Our kids have seen so much. They’ve learned to play together, have come to understand that “home” is where your family is, not where your things are, and discovered that the world is a really big place. There is a lot more we need to see.

What advice would you have for someone who was thinking about moving internationally?

If you are thinking of going abroad or an opportunity presents itself  – do it. It is amazing. There is no right time. Iit is always a little akward or you might think next year would be better – but go now.

With kids, before kids, unmarried, married, whatever. I was reluctant to go and it was the best thing we have ever done.

And what about the Philippines as a destination?

Southeast Asia is a wonderful place and the Philippines is amazing. 7017 islands make up the Philippines, the water is amazing, the beaches are unmatched and the people are lovely. Definitely put the Philippines on your list.

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