This Toronto native has made some big changes over the past few years, both personally and professionally.  However, she hasn’t let the change in environment stopped her from keeping the healthy lifestyle she developed at home.

Where were you raised and how did you end up abroad?

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Outside of a few trips to the States and the Caribbean, growing up, traveling was never a major focus for our family. At 27, I was comfortable. I owned a condo in Canada, had a great social life, and had amazing family and friends. I was content. But, there was always something missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but I knew I needed more. After digging deeper into this feeling, it became very clear that I was BORED. I was content, but bored with being comfortable and complacent. Annoyed by Canadian winters, tired of the routined rat race, and irritated with the status quo, it was evident I needed a change in scenery. Two and a half years later, I made that change.

Tell us about the adjustment. 

The adjustment has been a tough one! Amazing, but tough. I had barely traveled to Asia (had only visited Japan in the past), so picking up and moving to Hong Kong  was quite the risk.

Moving 12,000 kilometers away to a brand new place that I had never even visited  created a lot of anxiety. My move was sudden so there was no opportunity to test it out. The business had an immediate need, so I was on a plane within a month after my confirmation. I remember I was in tears of fear the entire fifteen- hour plane ride. My first month here, I had no idea where anything was. My work was a five minute walk from  my hotel, yet on my first day it took me 25 minutes to find the office.  I had to Google everything including: how to use the metro, where the bank/grocery/drugstore was, how to find a realtor… Google and expat forums literally saved me. While there have been hardships in this transition, a year and a half in, I can definitely say it was the best decision I have ever made. Ever.

What is your current profession and how did it lead to Hong Kong?

For the past seven years I’ve been in Human Resources. I did A LOT of research and I realized for a smooth and secure move abroad, it would have to be with a company. I looked at my current employer and knew I just had to leave. It was a great company but, a Canadian company. And I wanted out of Canada. So I started looking for a new job! One that was global and promoted international moves!

In short, I took a leap of faith and moved to a global company in a contract role! I was determined to take a position with international relocation possibility. When I joined the company, I expressed my interest in positions abroad. I worked my behind off and successfully found a permanent international position!

Image: Tameika Gentles

You also have an amazing following on social media based your health/weight loss story.  How do you maintain the healthy goals you set at home while abroad?

Well, it was hard at first. I found when I came to Hong Kong, due to the excitement and lack of knowledge, I put on ten pounds within the first three months, which for a five foot two inch frame is quite a bit! I was caught up in meeting people, social activities, and drinking more than I normally did. Overall, it got out of hand! So, once the honeymoon stage was over, I decided to get to work. Found markets with local farmers, found organic restaurants, cut back on the drinking, and basically, I found my groove. Got back into the lifestyle I promote and love. That was over a year ago, and almost 20 countries and 25 cities later, I’ve been able to maintain my goals while traveling, exploring and having fun!

While traveling, I always let myself live a little more than my “normal” eating habits – within reason of course. I’m always active when I travel, because I truly enjoy being outdoors and moving. For food, I follow parameters depending on the length of the trip. It may be one cheat meal per day, or one cheat meal per two to three days – it really depends on the length of the trip. I just try to be smart with my choices overall.  When I get back to Hong Kong after travel, I get back into routine. I’ve been striving for balance for a while, and I can proudly say I’m more balanced than I’ve ever been.  

What has been the relationship between your adopted home and your identity as a black woman?

Thankfully, I have found an amazing community of strong, intelligent, successful black women here in Hong Kong. So to be honest, it hasn’t been that difficult feeling like I belong. My friendships – no, my family – keep me going. We are a unit. The typical, surface level challenges include finding hair products, salons, makeup, and ethnic food. Although, it’s funny how you really adjust and realize some stuff just doesn’t really matter. And you make it work. Always.

What has been the most unexpected thing you’ve learned as an expatriate?

I’ve learned more about myself in a year and a half than I had in the last decade. Most importantly, I’ve learned I have potential, which I always knew existed but was never able to exploit. My strength, flexibility, and openness is so beyond my years. I didn’t know how great I could become until I was challenged to stress my limits and exceed my expectations.

What’s a must-have experience while in Hong Kong?

For me, it’s the hiking! I was never, ever an avid hiker before, but since moving to Hong Kong I’ve grown to love being outdoors. Hong Kong has some wonderful trails. It’s crazy how one minute you can be amongst hundreds of the tallest buildings you will ever see, and the next minute you can be on a thirty kilometer hiking trail. It is truly a magical place!

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