scotch egg, london tube
It appears that I am Lon-done!

With my Youth Mobility Visa expiring in four months, my time in London is coming to a close, and you all have been asking me what the future holds. Another visa to work abroad? Back to Canada? Digital nomad-ing it up around the world? What about you and bae?

Well, over the last four years I’ve been watching my friends get promotions and raises, moving up the corporate ladder, becoming doctors and lawyers, buying houses, and doing all of the things I always thought adults should do. Even my partner is moving towards doing the same (bait and switch, much? ha!). Every now and again I have a crisis: did I do the wrong thing?

follow your dreams, i did all the things that were expected of me at the expense of my freams
I found inspiration in this. I didn’t want that to be me–and I was certainly headed there.

In university, I had everything related to my studies and my career planned out. Then in third year, when the bullying and intimidation during a student election campaign left me depressed, I was able to rethink what I really wanted. I realized: I’ve been doing the “right” things my whole life and maybe I didn’t have to wait until I was retired to see more of the world. That’s when I decided to take “just a year” off to teach English abroad. And well, you know the rest:

things to do in martinique, alyssa james
There goes bae taking candid photos of me… Our “staycation” in Sainte-Ainne, Martinique

I’ve lived in the Caribbean and in London. I’ve travelled to Hungary, Spain, Germany, and more. I backpacked Morocco solo. I’m going on my first press trip this weekend to Fuerteventura in the Canary IslandsI learned to surf (which was on my bucket list). I’ve eaten more hummus than a human should consume. I met a person who has been my partner in travel and life, changing me for the better. I am running my own business.

At 18 or 21 even, it was not the life I envisioned for 26-year old me (that said, I thought it would be like Sex and the City so…I should probably take that with a grain of salt). It makes it hard to reconcile who I thought I would be with who I am, which means I constantly second-guess my life.

Now that I’ve typed that all out, it makes me see it objectively: if someone else wrote the above paragraph about themselves I would be impressed with those accomplishments. Why should I feel any different about myself?

Anyway, let’s stop there.

This is starting to sound like a goodbye letter and I’m getting a little bit emotional! What I’m trying to say is that I’ve changed and learned so much in the last four years. And this is an UPDATE post, so here’s the update I promised:

Slow or fast, change is inevitable, Natural History Museum, London
Truth – Natural History Museum, London

I’m starting a Masters!

alyssa james, university of toronto, convocation
Me at my undergraduate convocation, circa 2011

After four years of running away from Toronto, I’ll be heading to York University to start a two-year Masters in Social Anthropology. It’s a fully-funded research program which means I’ll be able to put 100% of my efforts into studying and cranking out (hopefully) first-class research papers.

I know. You’re probably thinking:

Since when does effing off to travel make for an orthodox route into academia?

It doesn’t. But I made my statement of interest fit my original degree and my experiences of living and travelling abroad. Perception is reality, and you know what I (mostly) do for a living? Tell stories. I crafted a good story about why I want to go back to the Ivory Tower.

if you can hold a fork you can go to york
It appears I have managed to convince an admissions committee that I can, indeed, hold a fork.

In fact, I plan on looking at lifestyle migrants (a more inclusive, less controversial way of saying expatriates) of colour and their experiences of integration while living abroad. It’s timely, there is a dearth of research on minorities who travel, and I think my experiences translate well to telling their stories through ethnographic research.

Also, a social anthropology degree means I get to do field work abroad 😉 Am I clever, or what?

So, I’ll be headed back to Canada in August.

marche jean talon, alyssa james, eating
Gawd, I love Montreal – me at Marché Jean Talon

I always said that if I had to go back to Canada, it would be to live in Montreal. Of course, that’s not going to happen on this occasion because studying in Montreal would have compromised access to professors who are working in my intended field of research. In fact, one of my potential supervisors wrote a book about Martinique!

It’s a bittersweet feeling. I know I’m moving forward but it feels like I’m going backwards. I’ve built this lifestyle for myself that I was just starting to feel comfortable in. I’ve been booking trips around Europe and making a good living as a freelancer so I’m a little sad I’ll be giving that up!

What about your relationship?

Some of you aren’t interested, but a lot of you read this blog thanks to my advice about living abroad with your partner and moving abroad for love, so I thought I would throw this out there.

Bae isn’t coming to Canada. 

We’re too young, independent, and unstable (in terms of life!) to compromise our careers for our relationship. I didn’t want a long-distance relationship and, despite my varied attempts, he kept putting off the discussion about our options. When he was accepted into a Masters program in London (the only place he can study the subject) I felt it would be easier to get used to being broken up over the summer rather than right before I was to start studying.

Upon returning from Morocco, I told him I thought it was best to part ways. Cue gasps, surprise, and disbelief from our friends.


After a month and half, intense reflection, and thoughtful discussion about how we could both be happy in the long-term, we’ve decided to try to make things work. I wanted to ‘quit while we were ahead’ (and maybe I was a little annoyed that he didn’t seem to want to even talk about the possibility of moving to Canada–and concerned about what that meant) but the truth is you really can’t do much besides make an effort and see how it goes. Not that I’m very good at that. I’m an anxious person, so I’m like: Give me ANSWERS! Let’s make a PLAN. NOWW!!

Will you still be freelancing and travelling?


Of course! I won’t be regularly pitching for new clients but I will certainly keep the ones that I have. Since the Masters program is full-time and fully-funded, any money I make will be allocated to travel! I’ll still be blogging but it’s likely there will be some more topics related to studying as well.

My intention is to go back to freelancing full-time after I finish my Masters and to get into consulting with companies that send their employees abroad. Maybe I could work for the foreign service? How cool would that be?! But from what I’ve seen myself accomplish in the last four years, I know not to place too much importance on intentions.

No matter what, you always end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.

4 thoughts on “Life Update: What’s Next for Alyssa (Writes)?”

  1. Congrats on heading back to do your Masters. 🙂 That sounds like such an interesting field of research – and actually similar to one I’m interested in.

  2. Ohh Alyssa, as usual you get me with your way with words and your honesty! This post came right on time for me and I see that we are similar. I really excelled in college and had a plan for my life (a bit like sex in the city but with an apartment overlooking the ocean rather than the city haha) too. Everything I did was leading up to this constructed path. But I did the TAPIF and of course it changed everything.

    “It makes it hard to reconcile who I thought I would be with who I am, which means I constantly second-guess my life.” This is painfully true for me, especially since I’ve been back home for nearly two years. I’m so tired of comparing what my heart wants with what I feel is expected of me! Most of the pressure probably comes from myself.

    I did gasp when you said you and your partner decided to break things off, glad you’re going to give it a shot! I really hope things work out for you two 🙂 Congrats on both of your acceptances into grad school!!

    Okay I’m going to end this ridiculously long and sentimental comment now and e-mail you. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Francesca! TAPIF has changed so many people’s lives and I’m really happy I got the experience. I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures in Martinique/Guadedloupe!

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