From the Philippines to Belgium: I am Aileen
My name is Aileen Adalid and I am the creative mind behind the travel blog ‘I am Aileen’. I was born in a small island in the Philippines called as Batanes and when I was 21, I quit my corporate job in the country’s capital to follow my dreams and travel the world. Today, I am staying in Antwerp, Belgium and it has been almost a year since I got here!
1. Why did you move abroad?
Mainly because of my desire and hunger for adventure. I have always wanted to explore the globe so that I can get acquainted to different cultures, customs, and people that are outside my home country. Now this actually used to be a plan that I wanted to achieve through the company that I worked for, but then I realized that I can achieve those dreams by myself through a kind of work that I really loved. So I quit and I absolutely don’t regret my decision at all! I first started exploring countries in Asia, but eventually, I ended up staying here in Belgium with my partner as we try to figure out if we’re going to stay here or move to another place again after a couple of years.
2. How do you make a living?
I make a living by being a digital nomad wherein I work as a…
— Virtual Specialist. I offer services online such as web design, graphic design, marketing, and SEO.
— Blogger. I get paid in return for my articles (most of the time I get all-expense-paid trips too)
— Entrepreneur. Fortunately, last 2014, I managed to set up a business (Adalid Gear) of my own when I was inspired by the business of one of my online employers!
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Almost every day — technology makes it easy to do this! Besides, I am on the internet almost all of the time, that I always catch some of my friends and family members online. Other than Skype, I mainly use Facebook for communicating to people back home.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Belgium?
The fact that I get to discover, experience, and learn so many new things for almost every day. In fact, I find joy in learning anything, no matter how insignificant it may seem (e.g. how Belgians do their shopping). Apart from this, my favorite thing about living in Belgium is its location. It is a central part Europe and a member state of the Schengen Area so I always have that option of arranging a sudden day trip to nearby countries like Netherlands, France, Germany, and more!
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Belgium?
The fact that it can be pretty difficult for a third world passport holder like me to have the liberty to stay in a European country like this for a long time. I am absolutely happy that I managed to get a student visa for my stay here, but the fact remains that the start of all these visa processes can be pretty nerve-wracking to go through. I know that it’s a requirement and that it just has to be done, but that extra scrutiny that is given to people like me from third world countries can be really daunting.
6. What do you miss most?
First would be the food back home in Asia! Of course there are Asian restaurants and shops here, but nothing can really beat the authentic taste and ingredients from back home. Second would be the stunning beaches! Belgium has wonderful beaches too, of course, but it’s somehow just not the same (especially when I happily dip myself into the water, only to find it ridiculously cold!) I guess I’ll just have to venture out to the southern countries if I want some serious beach time, so this wouldn’t be much of a problem at all.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It was fairly easy since this is my boyfriend’s hometown (we ended up here since after years of traveling, he started to miss his family and friends, and I absolutely didn’t mind staying in Belgium!) Other than that, I also managed to meet people online through the blogging communities that I am a part of, and I am also going to meet a lot of people as I go through my Dutch lessons in school. Ultimately though, the Belgians as a whole are very easy-going and warm so it wasn’t a problem at all for me to integrate myself into the community. Plus, society here functions better than the chaotic system that we have back in the Philippines so it’s a really nice change!
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The fact that they don’t eat as much rice as I do… haha! Kidding aside, there’s nothing that I find too strange really… but I guess that’s mostly due to the fact that I am dating a Belgian for almost three years already! Then again, since my boyfriend is not a beer person, I do find it strange how most of the people here would drink it in the early hours of the day as if it’s just coffee or tea.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That it is a boring country, when it’s absolutely nothing close to that at all! If you know the places to go to and the things that you can do, Belgium can be such an exciting place to live in. (And hey, with all the sinfully-good chocolates, waffles, and fries that they have here… I can bet you that this might just be a country that’s close to heaven!)
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Definitely higher! Like I’ve been saying, I did come from a third world country, so surely, there have been lots of times that price tags will make me gasp. I’ll be all, “But Jonas! This is like 4 times cheaper in Manila! Nuh-uh, I won’t buy this!” and he will just laugh. But I’ve managed to cope with it for as long as I keep a close eye on my budget. Anyhow, there are two things that I’ve discovered to be cheaper in Belgium and those would be gadgets and rent — which is great! For the rent, it makes sense since most of the houses/apartments here are old, whereas in Manila it’s not.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Mind the taxes especially if you are going to set up a business like we did or if you are going to work here. As early as now, you should know the fact that Belgium is one of the countries in the whole world that has the highest tax rates so be prepared and informed about this. As for meeting people, if you are totally new to the area, try to join classes (yoga, language, etc.) and join online communities like Expatica or InterNations to meet locals and fellow expats. Simply be open to a lot of (new) things, do your own research (especially about the country — the government, rules and provinces can be pretty confusing), and you’re sure to have the time of your life in Belgium!
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in 2008 but it was more of a personal diary at that time. When I started my travel lifestyle back in 2013, I decided to be more serious about it so I relaunched the website as a travel blog with the following goals in mind:
— To inspire others to take the same kind of leap that I did (if that’s what they wish to do so)
— To show that a life of travel is not only for the rich and that it is absolutely possible to explore the globe in a sustainable manner as an unmarried third world passport
— To share the joy of traveling and the joy of doing what I love to do
Aileen's blog, I am Aileen
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