Life After Being an OFW

Five years ago today, we moved back to the Philippines after almost 15 years in the UAE.

In 2018, after years of feeling restless and dissatisfied with what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to quit my job altogether and go back home.

My husband supported this decision (o baka wala na lang sya magawa dahil alam nya na hindi ako nagpapapigil), and on May 31, 2019, after packing dozens of boxes and suitcases, we flew back to the Philippines.

How was life after 5 years?

I won’t sugarcoat it. There have been highs and lows.

The first year was easy. We had savings. We were excited to roll out our plans. We set up businesses, enrolled the kids in school, furnished our home, and bought a car. Exciting times!

Our second year coincided with COVID-19, and suddenly the world stopped. Our second year in the Philippines was truly humbling. We lost our businesses, my mother-in-law passed away, our savings were depleted, and we had no stable income.

It was scary. Very, very scary.

And this is where I want to be honest with you. The excitement is probably the reason why you’ll go ahead and make that major change in your life. Sure, you’ll have doubts if you’re making the right decision, but the excitement and the thought of all the possibilities will push you to just go for it.

But what if the excitement wears off? What if the plan doesn’t pan out?

When I decided to move back home, my Plan B in case our businesses didn’t succeed was to go back to work. I was quite confident in my experiences and skills.

But when it was time to look for that job, I cried.

I “retired” because I didn’t want to be an employee anymore. I wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. I valued my freedom.

But during that time, our finances can’t afford my desired “free” life. I couldn’t be choosy. So I started applying for jobs online.

I won’t repeat the story of how I started VirtualWork PH because I’ve shared this story many times (if you’re new here, you may visit my Facebook page). What I’ll share are the five lessons I’ve learned throughout these five years of being home.

These realizations helped me navigate the many changes that happened to our family since we moved back to the Philippines.

1. Don’t make decisions based on emotions

Emotions are what make us human, and you should feel them and acknowledge them. No shame in that, but making major life changes requires planning, logic, and sense. Are you doing it because you’re just happy or sad? Do you have a Plan B or C? What if it doesn’t work out?

Besides, making a choice doesn’t mean doing something extreme. If you’re an OFW who misses her family and thinks that going back to the Philippines is the only option, have you thought of bringing your family with you? Make sure you’re aware of your many choices.

2. Just do it

I know, I know, this advice is 100% contradicting my first point, but hear me out. Bonnie Ware, a palliative nurse caring for dying people, shared the five regrets of the dying. The most common: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

The number one regret of dying people is that their dreams have gone unfulfilled. It’s not about making a mistake but the regret of not trying at all.

3. Embrace the many seasons of your life

Not until recently did I fully understand that life has many seasons. To truly enjoy life, we have to embrace the current season we are in.

Maybe you’re in your child-rearing season. Maybe it’s now time to go back to work. You might be in your season to take it slow and recalibrate. Or the season to focus on your business or work and earn, earn, earn.

While in your current season, there might be some regret or guilt. You might wish you could take care of your child, but you need to earn a living. Or you might wish you were earning money but really want to take care of your child.

You might be in a season of being sad and dissatisfied, Feeling that nothing in life is going well.

But what if it’s just not the right time? You can’t expect a flower to bloom in the fall.

And if you can accept the fact that your current season is supposed to happen, oh, the clarity! There will be no chasing, no rushing.

4. Don’t feel like a victim

Hindi ka kawawa. You’re not a victim of life. You’re not being punished. You’re not stupid. This is not a consequence of your bad decisions.

Going back to point three, whatever happened was meant to be. You needed to experience it.

Be the hero of your own story. Don’t wait for someone to rescue you.

If things don’t work out, allow yourself to cry and be depressed and feel all the emotions, but please don’t stay in the dark hole for too long. It was a season. It might be a longer winter or a longer fall, but know that these seasons will end eventually.

5. It’s okay to start again

I resisted the idea of joining the workforce again, but I needed to earn, so be it! I needed to set aside my pride and surrender to the fact that some things are beyond my control. It was humbling.

You might start again from the bottom.
You might need to change direction.
You might need to ask for others’ help.

And that’s okay. At least you’re not giving up. You understand that you’re not a victim. You have experienced it and learned from it. You now know better.


Do I regret going back home?

Nope. Not at all.

I miss Dubai because I spent more than a decade of my adult life in that city, but I don’t miss the life I had there. It was an experience that I’m grateful to have. We’re planning to visit next year, Inshallah!

Of course, this can’t be my post and not share helpful details – what is our source of income now? The same skillsets that made us earn well in Dubai are the same skillsets we’re monetizing right now.

My husband and I realized that a traditional brick and mortar business is not for us. We tried few and weren’t successful. We got good work experience and skills so better to focus on those experiences and skills. We now provide our services (think like a contractor), but without the stress of working 9-5.

After that realization and acceptance, money flows.

Gibson worked as a recruiter when he was in Dubai, and he’s doing the same thing currently. The company is based in UK so he gets paid in British pounds. He works fulltime and earn commissions which makes me a happy wife.

I was an Office Manager / Executive Assistant / HR Generalist when I was in Dubai, and I’m now a freelancer Virtual Assistant. I currently have 2 clients and earning both in GBP and USD. I don’t have a time tracker. My timing is flexible, and can sleep for 8-9 hours at night (this is my definition of freedom!)

I’m a home manager, my kid’s tutor, the chef, the ultimate stay-at-home working mom.

All my work experiences gave me the idea to teach others how to become a Virtual EA, too. That’s how VirtualWork started. It’s a source of passive income for me.

We were able to afford travelling again, staying in hotels, eating out in nice restaurants, and giving back.

Starting again can feel daunting, but it is often the most courageous and necessary step we can take in our journey. Besides, you don’t want to be that dying person with regret, right?


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