In the summer of 2014, after working for more than two years in the fashion industry, I decided to quit my job and follow my bliss. Not that I knew what my bliss was, but this was not a valid excuse anymore. I booked a one way ticket to Bangkok, in search of enlightenment.
Gabriela’s perception always leads us to the detail, his words spreading sensitivity through art, landscapes, food, fashion, people… Since returning from Bangkok she hasn’t stopped traveling, developing her own fashion creations, sharing her experiences and all the beauty she founds around.
Your first expat experience was very young! Travelling from Bulgaria to Italy to start college, could you tell us why did you choose Milan, the first impressions and how that trip has changed your life?
I have been learning Italian as a first foreign language at school and the decision to continue my studies in Italy was very natural. I have always known that the city would be Milan. My elder sister studied here as well and she gave me a very positive feedback about the university. I enrolled in a Business Administration course as I thought that I would like to develop my career in the banking/management consulting sector. But living in one of the fashion capitals influenced my aspirations and by the time of my Master in Science’s thesis (yes, it took me a while) I already knew that my path will be a completely different one.
How was your professional life in Italy? Was it difficult to find a job during the economic crisis?
Even though I started looking for a job in the middle of the financial crisis I cannot complain about the employment situation in Italy. I was searching for an opportunity in the fashion industry and I found it quite quickly and easily (but also consider that there was no company left that hadn’t received my resume). The contract wasn’t the best but it was acceptable. Italians are very reluctant to offer long term contracts but in my case this has never been an issue since the duo permanent + contract literally gives me the goose bumps. For young professionals who are looking for stability the circumstances here could be very tough.
Italians are very easy going and it is not difficult to socialize. In all these years I attended many different courses spacing from salsa and yoga to sewing and I made many Italian friends which helped me explore the local culture, and what is very important for me – the cuisine. I still remember how horrified my Sicilian flat mate was when she saw me breaking the spaghetti in two before I put them in the pot. I still do it (isn’t it just so much easier to consume them afterwards?) but on the sly.
I also took the chance to explore the country from the inside out. The only place I haven’t still ticked is Sicily, but it is in my to-do list for the near future.
I cannot tell about the artistic careers in general because I don’t have the necessary observations to do so. In a less broader terms I think that, Italy, boasting a globally influential fashion industry is a fertile terrain for anyone who wants to pursue his fashion dream. Just open any website specialized in industry related job postings and you will see the large amount of announcements that are published daily. Probably one can get a better salary and contract conditions elsewhere in the world but here, in Italy, you can learn from the best.
Almost two years ago me and my boyfriend went for holiday in Thailand. I liked it so much that I promised myself that sooner or later I will return. Back in Milan I had just found a new job in a dream company that I was enjoying to the extent that I had decided to postpone my wanderlust plans and personal projects and focus solely on that career path. Luckily, some events that happened at work reminded me what is more important for me. The decision to quit was very easy. Having a routine and living in certainty was not and is still not in my top priorities list. I also had the full support and understanding of my family and boyfriend that made everything even easier.
The first thing I needed to check for my new adventure was how to stay in the country for an extensive period of time. I found out that I could study something and I enrolled in a Thai language course that I found on Google (at TLS Language School), sent my documents to the school and they took care of the visa process. After this was done all I had to do was take the plane.
In the meantime I got rid of half of my belongings and the other part I stored in my boyfriend’s garage. I was ready to leave for Bangkok with only one luggage and a backpack with my computer, total weight 17 kg!
My biggest concern was the housing. I booked a hotel for the first week in Bangkok, hoping that I will be able to find a flat in this time range. Before my arrival I had contacted two real estate agents through InterNations’s forums, whom I met as soon as I arrived. They showed me a couple of flats but none of them was what I wanted. The day after I decided to go by myself in my target area, enter the condos and ask if they have anything available. This is how I found my studio in Silom (a very central and well connected area of Bangkok), in less than a day.
The next challenge was to find some new friends, which was actually the easiest part. Bangkok has a great expat community and plenty of events are organized almost every day. In a month my social life got busier than my first year at the university.
Technology really shortens the distance in a way. We were in touch every day via Whatsapp and Facetime and they also came to visit me. However, I realized that even if I was having the time of my life in Bangkok , meeting like-minded people from all over the world, seeing new places and immersing myself in the Thai culture, I didn’t want to do this alone. I was fed up with messages like “I wish you were here”, “I wish you could see/hear/try this”…etc. That’s why I decided to return to Milan.
I moved to such a far away country on purpose. I wanted to experience something completely different and live beyond the borders of my comfort zone. Sometimes it was a little bit frustrating, especially when trying to understand why the buses go in a completely different direction of what their route was supposed to be or when I was attempting to get directions without anyone understanding a word I say. Also sometimes it was exhausting to always stay alert about scams. I discovered that the best way to enjoy Thailand (and life in general) is to absorb the ‘mai pen rai’ philosophy. This simple phrase sums up the local attitude – Don’t worry and be happy. As Buddhism teaches it’s not worthwhile to dwell on something you cannot change, because being upset doesn’t solve the problem. I also learned how to be more tolerant and that comparisons can be the expat’s worst enemy (I still have to work on the last point as currently I can’t stop comparing Milan to Bangkok, with the latter being the absolute winner).
Milan is treating me well so far. All my projects are fashion/travel oriented and Italy definitely gives me the opportunity to develop them. I sell my little fashion line in several local online and physical shops and my blog performs well too. The best part about my online diary is that it allows me to meet people that share the same interests as me. One of my latest encounters might turn into a very exciting collaboration that will give an unexpected twist to what I do now.
What I miss here, however, is the incomparable multicultural experience that I had in Bangkok. Is the best yet to come? I can’t wait to see!
If you want to know how the adventures of Gabriela continues: Chicinitié !
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