As I write this article in May 2020, I realise that this pandemic has caused huge upset and uncertainty in the world. I know that I am in a very fortunate situation because I still have my job, while many expats around the world have faced job losses and salary cuts. I do not wish to downplay the damage and disaster that this virus has caused the world in any way, so I suppose this article is my attempt to find the silver lining in what is an unprecedented and overwhelming period in many people’s lives. Thanks to the last two months of lockdown in Dubai, my time alone in isolation, working online from home, I’ve slowed down and experienced some revelations, for which I am very grateful. Here are my 6 positive takeaways during this pandemic:

1. It’s made me push myself to do things that I never thought I could do 

At least once a week, I am struck with overwhelm by how much the world has changed under lockdown. On the positive side, I’ve pleasantly surprised myself with what I (and tens of thousands of teachers) have achieved in the last 8 weeks:

  • I now teach 100% of my lessons online 5 days a week, planning my lessons accordingly and ensuring my students are engaged and learning.
  • I only leave the house once a day to take a solo walk at 6.15am, which I look forward to each day.
  • I go for weeks without face-to-face human contact, but thanks to Zoom and Whatsapp, I never feel lonely.
  • I can keep myself alive with my (once limited) cooking skills. I always felt a bit worried about how I’d keep future children alive with my lack of domestic know-how, but now I feel that I’d cope just fine! My new go-to recipes are Irish soda bread, pea & mint soup, cheese scones, cinema-style popcorn, and banana bread!

2. It’s allowed me to slow down and reevaluate my priorities in life 

I’m using this time as a period to reflect on what I truly want from life. If you have any paper and pen, ask yourself, “Where do I want to be this time next year? Where do I want to be in five years? Where do I want to be in 10 years?” Start thinking about your goals- this is something I do myself every September, but this lockdown has definitely made me rearrange my goals. Imagine- in a year’s time, this will all be a distant memory! Ask yourself:

– Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Give yourself this time frame and then you can work backwards to see where you want to be in five years and in one year. 

– Where will you be living? Will it be at home or abroad? What kind of a house or apartment do you want to live in? 

– What kind of job would you like to do? Do you still want to teach? Or work in another field of education? Do you wish to change career or work for yourself? 

– How much money do you want to have saved/ invested? This links to what kind of life you can imagine yourself living. 

– Who is surrounding you? Are you with family and friends? Are you living abroad and regularly visiting home?

What I want you to do is to visualise yourself living this best life of yours once the lockdown has lifted. Keep that image in your mind the whole time because it’s something to aspire to when the lockdown is over!

3. I am saving a lot more money each month 

Realistically I do not need as much money to live on each month (no brunches, happy hours, or travelling!), so I’ve challenged myself to send home more. Factor in enough money for your rent and bills, one takeaway treat a week, and a big weekly shop and see if you can send 70%+ more home this month. To transfer your money from your expat bank to your home bank, you can use an online currency exchange site, e.g. Currency Fair, to transfer your money to your home bank (if you use my affiliate referral link you will earn €30 when you sign up and make your first transfer!) OR you can withdraw your cash, exchange it to your home currency at a currency exchange place, and transfer it to your home bank from the same currency exchange place. 

4. It’s made me realise how strong and resilient I can be

Like you, we’ve all built incredible mental strength at this time. This will stand to us for the rest of our lives, to achieve the great things that we are all destined for. Like me, I bet you never thought you could ever cope with this, but you have just shown yourself that you are so strong and are able to overcome any challenge, unforseen or not. Of course, I have my occasional wobbly days but that is part of being human. What I always tell myself is, “This hard situation is not my forever; it’s a weird period of time before the beginning of the rest of my life,” just like Gerry Cinnamon says!

5. It’s given me time to catch up on reading

I’ve had a list of books to read/ re-read for AGES, so I’ve really tried to get up a bit earlier in the morning to fit in both my walk and my reading time. Here are some of the books which I highly recommend you read and put into practice at this time! 

Books to change your mindset towards money and being wealthy: 

  1. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  3. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
  4. Sacred Success: A Course in Financial Miracles by Barbara Stanny

Books to offer practical advice and strategies about how to pay off debt, boost your savings, and become financially free: 

  1. The Wealth Chef by Ann Wilson
  2. Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam

Books to teach you how to invest for retirement, written by a former expat teacher: 

  1. Millionaire Expat by Andrew Hallam

Books to inspire you to manage your time better: 

8. The 12 Week Year. This book shows you how to fulfil your goals in 12 weeks rather than 12 months.

9. The 5AM Club. I am currently reading this book at the moment and it reinforces my habit of dividing my time into 20 minute slots to be more productive. 

Books to learn how to live a personally, professionally, and financially rewarding life:

10. How to Be an Empowered Expat Teacher: Personally, Professionally, and Financially. Download the first chapter here for free! 

6. It’s made me appreciate what I took for granted before 

I no longer take “normal” things for granted. I’m just incredibly grateful to still have a job as so many expats in the UAE have lost their jobs or have had huge cuts to their salaries. Life under lockdown has also made me realise just how amazing my family and friends are. From our daily Zooms and Whatsapps, I now really appreciate my huge network and knowing I’ll see them eventually keeps me upbeat and motivated! I’ve also made a list of what I am most looking forward to post-lockdown. which gets longer each day! So far, I’m so excited about… 

  • Landing in Dublin airport for Christmas, being picked up by my family and going to Uncle Martin’s house for dinner and dessert! 
  • Having our annual Secret Santa meals with my wonderful home friends in McMahons on Christmas Eve.
  • Seeing my friend Shenela in Colombia, Dubai, or NYC- the location doesn’t matter! 
  • Climbing up Shantemon with Auntie Margaret and Auntie Liz. 
  • Walking down those beautiful country roads in Castletara with my Mam. 
  • Attending Christmas mass with my family. 


I’d love to hear what you think of my post- have you experienced any silver linings during this lockdown? Please share on the Empowering Expat Teachers Facebook community!

Stay strong and safe!