Laura Maitland, Sapa

Who are you?

Hi there, my name is Laura and I’m 32 years old originally from Ontario, Canada.In 9 months I have volunteered and lived in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and shortly will be flying into India and Nepal. After Asia I will head to Egypt and Morocco before exploring Europe, starting in Italy and Greece.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Nine months ago I left a 10-year career in digital marketing where I made almost six figures, I gave up my waterfront penthouse condo in Toronto, Canada which I called home for six years, I got a foster mama for fur baby Gusto who I had for 10 years, I left my family, my friends and all the comforts of the life I built to travel the world doing volunteer based traveling, solo!

What challenges did you face during the move?

Leaving my 10-year career behind. Giving up the home I was in for 6.5 years. Selling as much of my stuff as I could and then moving the rest into my father’s home.

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How did you find somewhere to live?

I found a volunteer opportunity in a small community in northern China. I lived with a local who started a project helping to inspire children called Little Poems Community. I lived with 11 other travelers from 7 different countries who were also volunteering with this project.

Are there many other expats in your area?

I’m currently living in Ta Van village in Sapa Vietnam. For the past month I have been living with a local family from the Hmong ethnic minority group.

I’m volunteering, helping them with business development for their family-run homestay. Therefore there are no other expats in my area currently.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Incredible, for the past nine months of traveling I have been living with locals for the majority of my time overseas. In Cambodia I was living on an island for four months with no running water or electricity with about 20 Khmer locals. I still talk to one of my local best friends from there about once a week.

What do you like about life where you are?

I love that I have the opportunity to break out of the routine I had built in my life for so long. I now get to travel the world learning about different cultures and traditions. I learn basic words in different languages and discover delicious food. I get to develop a deeper level of empathy and acceptance. I get to focus on myself and what makes me happy.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I dislike the fact that I’m overseas and my parents are back home getting older.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new countries and life back home?

The pressures of society.

I feel like there’s a huge difference between what social pressures we have back home and what those same pressures look like out here.


What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

I absolutely love street food. I’ve been telling everyone back home how I don’t understand why the only street food options we have back home in Canada is street meat. Do you want a hot dog or sausage? Some of the best food I’ve had have been off a street cart overseas.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Be Brave.

That doesn’t mean to not be scared. When I left everything I’d built in the past 13 years of college and a career behind, everyone kept telling me how brave I was. I hated it. ‘Cause the truth was I was terrified on so many levels. But now I have come to realize that being scared and doing it anyways… well that, my friend, makes you brave.

What are your plans for the future?

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other expats? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!


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