Quite often I’m asked a variety of questions about my lifestyle and how it is that I came to live it. And more times than not, I give the generic, “I teach in the Middle East which makes travel super affordable.” Although true, I think people need to hear the raw and real Tia lifetime story answer, “I got here because I f*$ck*d up…A LOT!! Some of you may be looking at your screen like “Say what now?” But what I’m saying is honest and quite frankly the most transparent I can be when I share my story. So, kick back, scroll on down and walk through this journey with me.
Around April 2015 I was experiencing the “terrible three’s”. Before you go into a deep research dive I don’t have kids. This terrible three phase is all about a jacked up 3-year relationship I told myself would last forever. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the guy, he was a genuinely good dude and we had “presented” a dope life to the world. But as far as us together, nu unh, all types of wrong. So, after several bouts of giving him his engagement ring back, breaking up, getting back together, and big time, embarrassing fall outs I decided to call it off and end things. This all happened while I was applying to move abroad for work. Some have questioned if that was the downfall of the relationship, maybe, maybe not but I love and believe the cliche term “All things happen for a reason.”
Not only did the terrible three’s deal with a bad relationship but this particular year it coupled with me questioning my position as a teacher (only my second year in the game), trying to juggle a new business I had started, all while handling the demonic world of ADULTING! So when the opportunity to teach abroad came I immediately felt relief and could see some light at the end of the tunnel we call life. The job offered free flights home two times a year, free housing, health care benefits (I live for some benefits), and my favorite, increased, TAX-FREE SALARY! As you can imagine I prayed hard for this job and thank God, I got it.
Literally, in a months time, I had applied, interviewed, and gotten a job offer. (You can check out how I chronicled my time leading up to moving in some of my previous posts. Don’t judge my writing, God wasn’t and still, ain’t through with me.) Due to the turn of events in my life, I decided to put my emotions and experiences down on paper, well blog spot. I figured I couldn’t be the only one to take this journey and I was sure that my story could help someone going through the same process or someone who may apply in the future. Four months later I uprooted my entire life with $800 to my name, Sally Mae in my voicemail box and no concrete plans for the future. I had plans to move across the world to find myself.
This year was a transitional year. Granted, I had changed my entire life in 2015, everything was more of a moving phase then. I had to get adjusted to my new environment, time change and learning new people as if we were in college all over again. So, 2016 was when I actually started to settle in and be able to enjoy myself and take it all in. By this point in my life, I realized I had traveled to more countries than states I had ever been to and decided to set a goal of visiting 30 countries before I turned 30.
Travel was always important to me. When I was a kid my mom used to take my sister and myself to the beach every single summer and when we stopped going, you couldn’t tell me it wasn’t the end of the world. From that early age, I have always had the travel bug and wanted to continue to feed it. That year, I traveled to 5 countries! You couldn’t tell me sh!%.
While I traveled I had to learn some harsh realities though. Number one lesson of the year! Don’t go to pet sanctuaries! Sheesh, the internet loved me then spit me out over this one. I thought I’d retire from even taking pictures of my journies following that. But still, I rise.
During this year I started the final year of my work contract with plans to return home in the summer. When I first moved to Abu Dhabi I knew that my teaching contract was two years and that is what I expected to teach. Nothing more, nothing less. Once my first year was up my plans didn’t differ too much. I knew that I loved Abu Dhabi and that moving home would change my travel frequency and salary but I figured all things come to an end and I anticipated the move back.
At the top of 2017, I was able to pay off my credit card debts!! And still till this day I am shocked by that. I mean, teachers already get paid towards the bottom of the occupational pay pools on top of paying living expenses and other bills that you have, its damn near impossible to come out on top. So I am super thankful that God found a way for me to win! But unfortunately, as quick as the Lord giveth, we are fools and make it get taken away. After I felt like I had come up on top and could start spending money again how I wanted, I invested in a product that did absolutely nothing for my portfolio. I literally lost money by falling for the stupid tax. And as my favorite tv judge Lynn Toler explains “The stupid tax is paying for things that you can ultimately avoid spending money on.” For example, don’t park in a no parking zone. STUPID TAX. Don’t break your own property. STUPID TAX! I played the game of the stupid tax and I’m here to tell you to keep you from playing it too.
Moving forward, I signed on to teach another year in Abu Dhabi. By this time I figured I could use this second go-round to save up money and continue to travel. I ended up picking up blogging again (if you can call sporadically jotting down words blogging). I even snagged a boyfriend. Read about it! And let me just say, finding a mate, overseas, in a population where you are the super minority is not easy. Read About it
As crazy as this year already was I didn’t think it could surprise me anymore. That’s until I got deported from India. Yes DEPORTED! Check It Out! Literally one of the lowest points of the year. I lost money on flights, hotels, tours and more. And this time it wasn’t the stupid tax. I mean it kind of was and kind of not. I like to chalk it up and call it dumb luck as some folks would say…or lack thereof. But! SPOILER ALERT!! I ended up going back and actually getting in.
The year didn’t end on such a bad note though. My friends turned family RTOAD (Real Teachers of Abu Dhabi) and I went semi-viral (on Facebook) doing rap video we recorded earlier in the year DOPE TEACHER RAP. The rap chronicled our experiences teaching abroad. We got viewed and shared several thousands of times and inspired a lot of educators and young students to dream big and look into teaching and traveling. Because travel is my passion I literally couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year. It made all of the downfalls worth it.
Moving closer to the present day, 2018 was sort of an equilibrium kind of year. I had my equal share of ups and downs. My first major blow happened when I unexpectedly lost my teaching gig and was forced to find another job IMMEDIATELY! Let me give you some background information. Government schools in the UAE has a yearly “termination/non-renewal” period. This simply means A) you have been fired or B) they will not renew your contract for another year. So, this particular termination/non-renewal period came and I went into work thinking, “It sucks that you have to check your email before you start your day to see if you have a job anymore.” I logged into my email and there it was.
Dear Tia Mills,
Thank you for your service to our company. We have valued your service for the past 3 years. We will, however, not renew your contract for another year.
Or something along those lines.
I was heartbroken. At this point in my life, when people asked: “How long will you stay in Abu Dhabi?” I answered, “Until they kick me out.” Welp, the day had come, they were kicking my butt right out the door. But Tia being Tia, sucked up the tears and immediately got into fight mode. I applied for every job from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah (Northern Emirate) and ended up landing one a couple of weeks after I got the non-renewal letter. I should add, the job I got was a higher position, one that I didn’t think I would get until my late 30’s or 40’s. It was literally an act of God.
Following that hiccup and pick up, I was offered my first paid sponsorship, something I felt like I had been dreaming about for years and constantly telling my friends would happen one day but often times losing faith in my own words.
I went on to receive my 2ndpassport. A goal I never actually set for myself but when it happened I was ecstatic. In all transparency, I should tell y’all that the 2nd passport is/was a temporary one. If you don’t know, a temporary passport is a 6-page passport book that you can use if you lose or damage your original or if you need a passport fast. And I needed a passport. Fast!
I was traveling to Lebanon for a holiday and only had 3 free pages. Two weeks after Lebanon I was scheduled to go to France & Belgium. Well, France requires that you have two blank pages before you can enter the country. I knew that with my luck one of the immigration officers would stamp one of the free pages leaving me hanging high and dry for my France trip. I researched tirelessly online what solutions there were for this and I read about applying for a temporary passport. Already long story shortened, I applied at the embassy and got the temporary passport the same day. Hence, my 2nd passport!
What joy and pain that little book brought me. Because of it, I got deported from France. Yes, deported. AGAIN! That story I’m holding close because I have yet to tell it, but look out soon because it’s coming.
Moving on to more recent events.
This year clearly is still being written but so far I have:
Received my 3rdpassport book. An original actual factual passport book. (I will not be deported eva again!)
I renewed my teaching contract for yet another year. (The UAE hasn’t kicked me out just yet! And I’m thankful.)
I’m on my 29th country, planning my big 30!! (I will take any and all suggestions.)
And I’m currently working on launching my travel apparel company. (So save up your coins so you can support.)
2019 has treated me decently. Granted we aren’t even halfway through. With that, I expect life to throw me a couple of curveballs to make sure that I can still catch.
The ink is not dry on my story. All of the events that happened in my past, good, bad, scary or self-inflicted have brought me here. Now, I am nowhere close to where I am destined to be, and I never will because the limit for me is limitless!
I wouldn’t trade any of my heartache and stress. If I did it wouldn’t make me the Tia that I am today and I don’t know about you but I LOVE HER!! Flaws and all!
From the embarrassment of a public breakup to losing a job I thought I had secured. Being kicked out of my house with no place to go. Trust me, I have fallen more times than I’ve run across my personal finish lines and that’s ok. Those stumbling blocks were only put in place for me to be able to tell you that you are not alone and that you, me, WE can do whatever we put into the ether.
YOU ARE A BADASS AND DON’T FORGET IT!
Don’t let those unanswered doors stay closed BEAT THEM DOWN!! Go and get yours! And in the lyrics of the late Aaliyah and deacon Timberland “If at first, you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again!”
It’s our time!!
WE GOT THIS!!
UNTIL NEXT TIME,
TAKE THE WORLD!