First of all, let me just say, Yes … I am a Bahraini. It seems like the first question people ask me when I tell them that I worked abroad, and in India specifically.

Although eat, pray, love might have had a little to do with it. But that won’t be completely honest. The truth was, I wanted to live my life to the fullest. I wanted MORE than just the simple basic life everyone says we are “supposed” to have. You know that unspoken list? It goes like this:

Graduation – Check
Work at a stable job with insurance- Check
Get married –Check
Have babies – Check
Rinse, repeat

I could give you a million different quotes about travel and “living life to the fullest” Or I could simply tell you this, how will you ever broaden your horizon if you keep surrounding yourself with the same people, have the same conversations over and over with people who share your exact same beliefs and values.

I worked in an advertisement agency in Gurgaon in 2014, which is considered to be the high-tech industrial area on the outskirts of Delhi. Next to the building I worked at you could spot the high buildings of Google and Ericsson. And if you walked further past that you will spot a place called “Cyber hub” where all the business men and startup nerds would go to sip their Lattes and Americanos and Masala Chai’s.

So why was it so great? I got to work on projects I wouldn’t have dreamt of getting in Bahrain(unfortunately). From editing videos for BMW ads and styling photo shoots for fabulous Indian over the top jewelry brands, I also got the opportunity to fly on weekends around India, I visited beautiful beach-y Goa, completely understood the hype over Mumbai, took great pictures in the colorful streets of Jaipur, among many more.

So how do you do it?

Get out of your comfort zone

I jumped on the plane to India, carrying a single book for the plane, a laptop full of Wes Anderson movies (It was a phase) and a bag of M&Ms (yellow). I did not stop to analyze, I just –quoting Nike (please don’t roll your eyes)- Did it. And it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I would have missed all these amazing experiences if I had hesitated and analyzed “the right career path”.

Broaden your horizon

Working abroad helps you not just meet different people but probably have conversations you wouldn’t normally have with others from the same religion/ culture/ background as you. While my Snapchat stories from home were filled with makeup tutorials, and everyone trying the new over-hyped cafes in town. I was having deep meaningful conversations with my Hindu colleague (who later quit to become a Bollywood actor… #truestory) or the coolest Buddhist art director I met on set, to name a few. Not only did they accept me completely but they appreciated the diversity and different perspective I brought to the table.

Read your weight in Books

That might be easier if your choice of escape was India. The “floor-to-celling” bookstores help as well. Living alone gave me the time and freedom to spend days reading, I read everything in sight, from Sigmund Freud’s theories to Murakami’s novels.

How did all this help my career back in Bahrain? I am pretty sure it did, I mean, I got more experience working on projects I probably would not have gotten to in Bahrain. I worked on ad campaigns for international labels like Cotton, created branding and identity for multiple brands, curated and managed social media accounts and illustrated book covers, and much more.

But to tell you the truth, most important than all I think is this: I got to explore and experiment who I am and what I could do. And that to me is more valuable than any “career experience” you could ever get.

Mariam AlSeba

Traveler, bookworm, obsessive list maker, self-proclaimed barista, and founder of urban Bahraini stationary brand “city and illusion” Mariam is a full time freelance graphic designer and illustrator. <a href="" style="color: slateblue;">Website</a>

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