New Year, New Country - Back to SouthEast Asia

My next city!

Above: Petrona Towers from above; Below: Petronas Towers from below

With only 3 weeks to go before I move to the other side of the world again, I can barely do anything to calm my excitement.

At the end of the month, I’ll be off to follow my dream again of experiencing the world through full cultural immersion. I got an opportunity to move to the capital of Malaysia!

I can’t even lie -- I’m really freaking anxious. For the past few weeks, it’s all I’ve been able to think about. I’m not *that* nervous -- but at the same time I am.

It’s not so much about being an expatriate in a foreign land -- moving to Thailand helped conquer that fear -- but more nervous as to whether this dream-like opportunity will live up to my expectations.

Will I enjoy and thrive in this job opportunity? Will I positively impact the local Malaysian community? Will I be able to uphold my resolutions, make Kuala Lumpur mine, and continue building upon my own ventures, all without completely burning out!?

All I can say is that I cannot wait to find out. I'm so ready for Kuala Lumpur.


Let’s rewind a bit because I need to release some things from off my chest, and explain how we arrived here.

2016 was a tumultuous, humbling year.

My aunt and uncle passed away within weeks of each other. My parents and I had to put down our dog Diva, my baby of 12 years. I went from living on top of the world, thoroughly enjoying each and every day of life while abroad -- to coming back home and not hitting the ground running. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It was an emotional roller coaster of a year.

On one hand, I feel a sting of guilt when I associate last year with anything other than a blessing. I wrote down every major positive moment I could recall month by month, and considering only the highlight reel, I actually had an unbelievably awesome year.

I celebrated NYE and kicked off 2016 in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan with college friends. I spent my 25th birthday island hopping in Krabi, Thailand, with my cousins and one of my closest friends I made living in Chiang Mai. I was a founding member of a community of Black travelers that literally changed my life. I spent a week treating and learning myself on a solo trip to Bali, and my blogging helped convince two of my fellow #BlackGirlsWhoBlog e-friends to also take solo trips there later in the year!

I was able to show one of my high school best friends around a new country for her first time out of the U.S. when she visited in Chiang Mai. I got to celebrate my Grandma’s 90th birthday back in the States with my whole family. I took a Memorial Day weekend getaway with my closest college friends to Deep Creek, MD -- one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken. I summer vacayed in Costa Rica with my besties. I got to experience Art Basel in Miami for the first time.

I went on for pages and pages journaling all of the experiences, relationships, and blessings that I’m infinitely thankful for. Many things happened that made 2016 a lesson-filled, transformative year. Although I don’t feel like I can adequately express the depth of my gratitude, it’s never lost on me just how blessed I am.

Yet and still. Thinking of the effect 2016 had on me overall makes me cringe. Just because someone goes on vacation a lot, it doesn’t mean their life's a beach. I can personally attest to that.

All of the good times in the world couldn’t trump (intended) the effects that uneasiness, instability, and anxiety left on my mental during the year. No other year has ever left me with such distaste. Good night and good riddance.

Let’s backtrack to when I touched down in Maryland in May.

Inside a Kuala Lumpur subway station

Reverse culture shock is a real thing.

When living in a far away bubble, you don’t have to face the complex realities that make being an American overwhelmingly bittersweet.

The constant crime, warfare, political frenzy, and racial injustices that confront us whenever we power on any form of media can quite easily drag on your spirit. When living abroad, however, you get to escape. You get to remove yourself from these things. You get to cleanse your soul.

Not to say that life abroad doesn’t come without its own challenges -- trust me, those come more often for all of us than the highlight reels would suggest. But despite travel woes, there’s a state of bliss my friends and I similarly feel being away from the madness.

Every day is exotic. Almost every day you meet someone new and interesting. Any given day is the opportunity for a fun, freeing adventure. Even walking to the mall to grab $2 Thai food is delightful! We were just happy to be living life with so few worries. (Even if we knew that was temporary).

Returning to the States was a bit like falling off of cloud 9. This summer was anything but sunny, or smooth sailing.

My parents and I spent all summer transitioning from our home of 23 years to a brand new environment in the Sunshine State -- Tampa, to be exact.

The move called for a lot of moving around, jumping up and down between Maryland and Florida -- which meant I was never able to sit still for more than a couple weeks at a time. Having to get rid of 23 years worth of JUNK keepsakes gave me so much anxiety that all I wanted to do was completely shut myself off from the entire move process. Add that to the fact that I didn’t have a solid after-Thailand plan or any more money. I was just back home and trying to figure out what in the world my next steps would be.

It was all causing me to be miserable. I’ll spare you all the details, but there was a lot going on. Weeks went by where I felt stuck in a rut. All of the motivation, discipline -- sucked right out of me.

“All the sacrifices you made for it, what do you have show for it?”

I was in limbo. I had no clue what to do. Look for a job in DC and my own place in the DMV? Move to Tampa with my parents? Continue freelancing?

The summer months were all over the place.

At some point, I made a decision: Move with my parents to Tampa. As much as I love DC, I felt like I needed to be away from home to get focused and on track.

Our September ‘house warming’ festivities consisted of hosting hella family in our new Florida abode over a 3 week span, hitting up endless beaches and theme parks from Tampa Bay to Orlando with the fam in tow. We had so much fun.

Throughout the entire time, though, I couldn’t shake the angst of needing to find a job. “I cannot be out here frolicking like I’m on vacation every day! I need to get a job, like YESTERDAY!”

This wasn’t Thailand, where I could live ‘lavishly’ on side-hustle money, savings, and income as a brand new freelancer. No, I needed a 9-5 with a comfortable salary, benefits, and security. Back to the real world.

October rolled around. I found myself ‘settled’ and at peace again. The madness had died down for the most part. It was just me, a fresh start, a new daily routine, and the pursuit of the J-O-B.

Blessings came down. I secured one of the first jobs I interviewed for. My plan was set in motion: I’d live here in Tampa with my parents for about 2 years, stack up and save as much as possible, invest in my entrepreneurial pursuits, and eventually move abroad again.

Sounds like a fantastic plan, right? Yay for 20something-semi-responsible-adulting!

cute Malaysian kids batu caves

I love KL - I do, I do, I do-ooh


And then Malaysia came knocking.

I started my new job in Tampa. Quickly realized I couldn’t stand it. I could never get comfortable there.

It wasn’t a terrible job -- I enjoyed my coworkers, my boss, and the chill work environment. I got exactly the job I thought I wanted -- as a digital marketer, with a $10k+ salary increase from my last full time.

Still, for whatever reason, I felt the burning desire to pursue something different.

When you have a clear vision of the path that’s been chosen for you -- you feel like anything that doesn’t resemble that is simply interim.

Tampa and this job were just what I needed for my transitory, 'in-between' period. In the brief months I spent here, I learned a lot about myself, got a few things accomplished that were very important to me, spent a lot of time with my family, and fleshed out several of my ideas for 2017. Overall, though, I knew this location and my job weren’t for me in the long run.

I’d been applying for various jobs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KL) on I visited KL December 2015 and thought it was such a dope city. “I could totally see myself living here.”

Most of the applications I sent didn’t even get a second look.

Then, around the same time I accepted my job in Tampa, one really awesome KL-based company said they were interested!

I took a look at the company and knew instantly that it was an opportunity I had to seize.

First, I had to send in work samples and a video cover letter (the quality of mine is just plain embarrassing but here it goes anyway), and complete a 6 part project, to even be considered for the interview.

The pre-interview project was REAL. It took me all week to finish and make sure I executed as flawlessly as possible. Next, I got contacted for a first round interview … then a second with the CEO!

It wasn’t a speedy process -- the interviews took place over a 2-3 month period. I had to remain patient throughout. However, I felt so good about the opportunity from the moment I applied. With each interview, I felt more confident than ever that the stars would align and it would come through.



I’m sure at this point you can guess what happens next -- it came through!

I got the congratulatory “welcome aboard” letter and I have not been able to stop thinking about Malaysia ever since.

My heart is so full of gratitude, and I’m really just trying to keep my many emotions at bay. I want to cry from joy and flip out from excitement, but I also want to stay grounded, keep my head down, and prepare for the amount of work and effort this year is going to take to be great.

So, here’s to beginning another passion-driven journey. For all of you who are also starting fresh this year, with new goals, new opportunities, or a renewed vision -- know I’m with you, I’m rooting for you and I’m confident you’ll stay the course.


Let’s do this.

Kristen Noelle

I consider myself a softly eccentric urbanista. I’m quiet by nature, and I’ve generally always had a mellow laid-back vibe. However, when it comes to my preferences for fun, my style, and my overall thought process, I get a bit more eccentric. I like stepping out of the box of normalcy -- but without forcing anything. I’m a thrill junkie and I live for things that get my adrenaline pumping, such as riding on top of party buses in New York City and hanging off of skyscrapers in Vegas. I spring for bold hues, colorful prints and patterns, and a relaxed look that gives effortless-chic. I like exploring new places and capturing exciting sites. I’m a creative, with a million different ideas running through my mind each day. Whether I’m designing waistbeads, imagining up new clothing concepts, envisioning my next business venture, or planning my next adventure abroad, I’m always thinking of how I can create something great. Being raised in the suburbs but not far from the city and constantly traveling, I developed a love for the best of worlds. The calm and the crazy. The easy-going and the always-buzzing. The soft and the eccentric.