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Living abroad on different continents isn’t impossible, and here to show you how fabulous it can be is Wandi, The Travel Ninja of the week. She’s a dynamic international traveler of color (who has a chance to go to Cuba! Find out how here) with a zeal for living her best life. She is so interesting!

You had a good job yet you left it and moved to Europe. Why?

My airport job had run its course.  It was an amazing experience to support the preparations for 1996 Olympics at what was already the world’s busiest airport.

What tops that?

The Olympics exposed me to an intercultural dynamic I had not previously known , but fell in love with immediately.  I found the break-neck pace of preparing the city to receive the world…addictive.

 

womens gymnastics Beijing
Celebrating Shawn Johnson’s gymnastics GOLD at the Beijing summer Olympics with colleague.

After completing a project that had consumed six years of my life, I didn’t know what to do afterwards that would give me that sense of urgency and accomplishment.  I couldn’t even remember what I was doing before the Games bid was won.  To feed that craving, I chose to chase the Games to the next summer Olympics city, which happened to be Sydney.  I chose to arrive there via England and France.

SportAccord conference in Beijing
Taking a break at exclusive SportAccord conference with owner of Carlton Tours

How many countries have you lived in and how long did you live in each?

 

I immersed myself in the culture and history of England and France for roughly a school year; cultivated a tiny art import business while living part-time in Ecuador for nearly three years; taught at universities and managed sporting event hospitality in China for about six years; and served on the organising the Doha Asian Games in Qatar for seven amazing months.

Doha Skipper
Sailing the Arabian Gulf (Doha)
camel racess2
Camel races!! Arrival to races was delayed by the Presidential motorcade, so the Emir allowed my posse executive access and we sat in HIS box seats practically within arms reach! (Doha)

 

Taliban store
The Taliban Store. Steps away from my flat in Doha.

 

You have worked for some amazing organizations/companies in several different countries. Who have you worked for and what were your job descriptions?

 

London was easy.  It was on the way to Paris and I had a cousin already living there.  Paris because of the magical allure of the Latin culture, cuisine and exquisite red wines!  I connected with an amazing community of performing and visual artists there.

I visited Quito on a trade mission and founded a wonderful little art business that kept me returning there every other month.

Yang En University, near Quanzhou (Fujian province, China) recruited me to teach business management. It was at the tail-end of the SARS epidemic and the beginning of the US economic meltdown.   I was determined to start learning Mandarin immediately, to become a complete professional in time for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Shaun Julie Sheila at USA House in Beijing
Kicking with the NBC crew (Shaun Robinson and Julie Jones) and America’s Top Designer (Sheila Bridges) at the US Olympic House (Beijing)

Teaching at universities is an EXCELLENT way to immerse oneself in the cutting-edge of all cultural happenings.

I finally had my Aussie experience when I taught at the Sydney Institute of Language and Commerce at Shanghai University.  A serendipitous call from a Qatari recruiter landed me in a Contingency Planning position at the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee.  I had never HEARD of Doha before, but I knew that the Games role was an incredible opportunity on my path to the Beijing Games.

PCI Dinner in Doha
My project management team at the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee

 

Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab (Dubai)
Madinat Al Jumeira w Marco
Madinat Al Jumeirah with best friend (an Italian living in Switzerland that I met on Tibet!) (Dubai)
DAGOC meets GAGOG2
Guangzhou Asian Games Committee meets with Doha Asian Games Committee (Doha)

 

Wandi's Birthday cake with Eman and Dana
Birthday celebration with colleagues (Doha)

After Doha, I returned to Shanghai and served hospitality management roles with the Formula One Races, the Master’s Cup Tennis Tournament and the Special Olympic World Summer Games, building credibility in China as a Games organizer.

How do you manage to get such interesting positions? What is your educational background? 

 

Aggressive networking.  Meeting as many people as I could and expressing to them my commitment to my ambition. My degrees are in aeronautical administration and aviation management from Parks College of Engineering, Aviation & Technology.

Teaching airport opns in Beijing
My students and I after class. (Beijing)

 

How do you compare living and working in America to your experiences of living and working in different countries? 

 

I have found that people everywhere are striving for a better life for their children.  In most places I’ve been, education is much more coveted than in the United States. Regarding working, I LOVED working a 35 hour week in Doha that was considered full-time.  Qataris made the workplace extremely comfortable for employees with all sorts of amenities, such as “Tea Boys” that would deliver coffee, tea and snacks to your desk at any time throughout the workday.

All the fast-food places delivered and people were generally autonomous in their work.  The facilities were quite opulent as well.  Cultural orientations could have been handled better at ALL my gigs.  I’d like to support organization that are on-board expatriates, by providing them with more comprehensive guidance for navigating the new culture AND preparing the local employees to better understand their expatriate guests.

 

Burj al Arab Valets
The concierge at Burj Al Arab. I overslept and missed brunch but stayed for tea. (Dubai)

 

MastersCup
My “House” during the Shanghai Master’s Cup Tennis Tournament

How has your perspective changed since working abroad?

My perspective on work and relationships has changed dramatically.  Career remains important to me, but MORE important is the quality of the relationships we build around us.  That’s with family, friends, colleagues….everyone. I found there was more TIME devoted to cultivating relationships when I lived abroad.  I miss that.  Dinners typically would go on for hours as friends and family gathered and REALLY connected with each other over lovingly prepared food.

 I once had a Greek flat-mate wonder aloud why I was eating alone at the kitchen sink.  She found this very American habit extremely strange.  It made me laugh.  Now I make it a point to sit down and enjoy my meals rather than slam them down my throat. Work is a means to support a lifestyle.  It shouldn’t engulf one’s entire life.  Balance is something I’ve found sorely lacking in the United States.

MastersCupcredentials

Your current projects are to return to Brazil to work the Rio Games and the other to visit space. Please explain your role in the games and what your plans are for visiting space. 

I am campaigning for a role at Rio’s Olympics.  I started studying Portuguese last year in preparation.  Additionally, I’ve earned a certificate as a Cultural Detective and graduated from the National Outdoor Leadership School.  I network as much as I can Stateside.  Last year, I took a short reconnaissance trip to Brazil.  I am keeping my eyes and ears open for an opportunity that will soon come.

 

spacebound2
Suited up for space!

 

STS-133
Kennedy Space Center (KSC) space shuttle mission 133 poster! (Cape Canaveral)

Space travel is an adventure I’m pursuing as a result of befriending the son of an astronaut in Shanghai.  Our friendship led me to witness two space shuttle launches, meet Dr. Mae Jemison the first African-American woman in space, and Nichelle “Lt Uhura” Nichols from Star Trek and an amazing array of spectacular NASA opportunities and interests I’d never previously considered.

 

Dr. Mae Jemison
Touring the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center with the first African-American female astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison.(Cape Canaveral)
space bound1
The RIGHT STUFF!
Astronaut Ed Lu & his son Alex
Kicking it with Alex and his dad, astronaut Ed Lu, asteroid hunter. (Cape Canaveral)
Shanghai brother and me at KSC
Enjoying a moment outside the KSC visitor’s center with my fabulous NASA host. (Cape Canaveral)

One of the many things I’ve learned is that a phenomenon occurs to astronauts as they observe our planet from space.  They observe earth as one organism rather than many nations and it causes a shift in their consciousness.  They return with a heightened realization that we’re all in this together.  They’ve named this phenomenon the Orbital Perspective or The Overview Effect.

 

Standing next to Shuttle Endeavours landing gear
Enthralled to be standing beneath Space Shuttle Endeavour inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (that’s the nose gear I’m leaning on) (Cape Canaveral)

 

I want to expose more of the underserved and underrepresented to the possibilities of space travel, the importance of developing oneself continuously, tolerance and intercultural collaboration.I want to encourage a consciousness about the significance of climate change and impending environmental disaster, if we continue to neglect the health of our planet.

How does your family feel about the way you are living your life? 

 

On Christmas day, an astronaut friend called with season’s greetings while I was at a family dinner.  She graciously chatted with each of my tweenaged cousins, encouraging them to live their dreams.

Later, I overheard a 10 year old ask a 13 year old how I knew an astronaut.  Without looking up from her texting on her cellie,the 13 year old replied, “She’s a hippie!”

 

Kenny G & me at Special Olympics after party
Shanghai Special Olympics after-party with Kenny G.

 

Legendary Loretta Claiborne & me
Checking schedule with the Legendary Loretta Claiborne (http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/) at Shanghai Special Olympics.
Tim Shriver Special Olympics Shanghai
Taking a break with Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. (SUPER guy) (Shanghai)
Masters Cup Chefs
Chef’s team at the Shanghai Master’s Cup Tennis Tournament.

 

 

Compare buses, trains and flights

If you could give someone advice that wants to work outside of their country, what would you tell them? 

Plan, plan, plan!

Prepare!

Network before you go!
Learn the language and culture of your host country and spend some time learning the stages of culture shock so you’ll have some understanding of the feelings that you’ll inevitably experience.

Transitioning to the rhythm of the host nation is much faster (albeit challenging) when living amongst the locals, but know where to the expats are.

 

Lantern lighting ceremony at the Ritz Shanghai
Lantern lighting ceremony at Ritz Carlton (Shanghai)

 

Chillaxing at Special Olympics w colleagues
Chillaxing with Chinese and Brazilian colleagues at Shanghai Special Olympics

 Have you worked abroad? Isn’t Wandi fascinating?

http://delnsb.com/staff-member/wandi-steward/

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Some people travel. Roni IS travel. For over 20 years she has been traveling the world and now shares her unique insight with her worldwide audience on her blog, www.RoniTheTravelGuru.com. Whether you have never gotten on a plane or are a seasoned traveler, the expertise and insider knowledge she shares on her blog will help you make your travels an adventure. No where else can you find the uniquely helpful ins and out given to you by someone who has lived overseas for 4 years, speaks fluent English, French and Spanish, and works for a major airline. And guess what? She’s also a licensed elementary teacher and has an MBA.

31 COMMENTS

  1. this was a great piece! It is one of the things that continues to motivate me as I plan my journeys around the world and potential expat life!

  2. Great write-up! A real renaissance women, you are; a personification of Satchel Page’s comment “Don’t look back, they may be gaining on ya.” You are an inspiration for those, especially young Black girls, with aspirations of greatness.

  3. Thank you everyone for the kind words!
    The journey has been FULL!

    Someday we’ll gather ’round and trade adventure stories!!

    Wandi

  4. She has accomplished so much in so many countries! She is the role model for what networking is all about! Being part of so many Olympics and being able to experience all those different cultures Ian’s learn the languages is amazing! Good luck with Rio! And I like the Orbital perspective. If only we could all view the World and each other that way!

  5. An amazingly well written article for a well-traveled and insightful woman. Thanks for sharing your profound experience!

    How fantastic are your journeys 🙂 Keep learning, growing and providing a view of the world through your lenses with each of us.

    Glad to know you!
    fes

  6. Amazing journey Wandi! It is so inspiring to know that you have accomplished all of these things so early in life! I am proud of your achievements and know that you will be sharing more insanely incredible stories very soon!

  7. You continue to inspire all who come in contact with you. I am so fortunate to call you both friend and family. I remember when you told me you were leaving your US 9 to 5. You never faltered, instead you hit the ground running and never looked back. I know an opportunity in Brasil will reveal itself soon, and i am just waiting for your liftoff date so I can watch you rocket into space. Continue to live life to its fullest! Continue to be fearless! Continue to be “The Great Wandi”! XOXO

  8. Wow. Wow. So impressive. I’ve traveled abroad to 3 continents but never considered living abroad. I love how Wandi is fearless and goes forward with her dreams. Thank you for truly enjoying every minute of LIFE. I wish more people could be this way!

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