The World Traveller
Currently living in Abu Dhabi, this mum or three is making her dreams come true as she travels the world.
Being an aspiring traveller, Shana Ahmad had always dreamed of the day that she would pack her things and live abroad. That day finally came true when she had the chance to live in Abu Dhabi with her family and start a new life in the emirate. Being a survivor of ovarian cancer, Shana is an example of a fighter who wants to follow her dreams, and doesn't take no for an answer.
Tell us about yourself Shana
I was born and raised in America. My first taste of expat life was when I had the opportunity to move to Milan to model. I hated makeup and high heels but I loved adventure, so off I went to travel and have lots of fun. After the reality of hunger set in and my increased frustration with the assumption that all models are unintelligent, I realized the importance of education. I moved back home to attend college. I went on to met my amazing husband and now have 3 beautiful children. When my children finally were off to school, I went back to work and pursued my dream of teaching. Unfortunately, several months into work I was diagnosed with an advanced stage of ovarian cancer. After several awful surgeries and flights around the world for treatment options, I’m currently hoping to stay in remission.
How long have you lived in Abu Dhabi?
We are entering our 3rd year in Abu Dhabi.
Why did you move?
We have always dreamed of moving across the world. I used to watch a show that showcased families moving across the world. I came to my husband often with crazy plans and they were often turned down because he loved his job. One day, it was finally cold and miserable enough in our snowy state of Minnesota that he took me serious and applied for his current position. Sure enough, they brought us over for an interview and we fell in love!
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Why do you like living in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is a very safe place to raise children. It’s also very multicultural. I love how many exciting people we get to meet from all over the world. Most importantly, the opportunities for travel are endless!
What are the accomodation options like?
We currently live in a townhouse style floorpan built into a high rise building.
What do you enjoy doing with your time?
Travel! If I could travel every day, I’d be a happy lady. We recently took a crazy trip. We travelled to 8 countries over 4 weeks; 14 cities, 4 planes, 3 kids, 2 trains, and 1 small euro rental car- It was the best month ever! If we didn’t live here, that would have never happened.
I also enjoy anything to do with the beach, weight lifting, and all things relating to art.
What top tips do you have for anyone considering a move?
Just do it! There is never going to be the perfect time. If you start thinking about how much work it will be, you will never do it. Make the decision to go and don’t look back. It is bold and scary, but everything falls into place. We sold our home, our cars, and sold almost everything we had to start this new life. I have no regrets. That was stuff. What we have now are life experiences, broader horizons, and my children have a greater perspective of the world.
I would also suggest to go without expectations. The people I see that end up unhappy and eventually go home are the people who come here hoping to recreate their home here. It’s not meant to be like it was back home, look at that as part of the fun. Stay open minded, grounded, and positive!
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What do you wish you’d known before you moved?
I wish I had known just how amazing it would be. I would have done it years ago.
What’s the best thing about being an expat?
There are so many things I love about being an expat, but the biggest thing has to be the people. We have the most amazing expat community around us. As expats, we are an urban family. Because we don’t have our real families, we come together and become a new family. I have the most amazing, smart, and fascinating women in my life. They lift me up, make me laugh, and share my sense of adventure. When we see new people, we swoop them up and welcome them because we remember what it’s like to be new. I never knew coming here just how important community would be until I got cancer. Everyone’s biggest fear about moving away is what will happen if something goes wrong. I lived that nightmare but in the end, it wasn’t so scary. My urban family lifted my family up. I can’t possibly explain my level of gratitude for the people in our life. My children’s school rallied behind my kids like nothing I’ve seen before. My coworkers were amazing. My friends helped take care of my kids and drove them around. My husband’s coworkers kept my family full of delicious meals and love. The relationships you built with expats is different than anything else you will experience.
How do you keep a little bit of home with you as an expat?
We keep a little bit of home with us by putting a suitcase inside our suitcase when we travel home so we have an extra empty suitcase to fill up with the things we love most back home.
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Anything else you’d like to share with us about your expat experience?
My final thoughts would be to not let fear stand in the way of your dreams. This is not everyone’s dream, but it was mine. Every rational person I knew thought I was crazy for packing up my family and moving them across the world, to what people from my side of the world perceive to be a scary place. I’m happy that I had the courage to go after what we wanted for our family and made it happen. Now that I’m faced with an uncertain future, I truly look at my life with no regrets. I’ve been to places I dreamed about. I’ve met people from countries I never knew existed. I’ve been able to take my kids from this small little place in the world that we lived in to see places all over the world. My life hasn’t always been easy and it’s not always perfect. I’ve been very sick and I have had to physically overcome so many things in the last few years. But I have learned the best way to survive and thrive in this life is to focus all your energy on what is positive in your life. I always look for the light, even on the darkest days. At the end of the day, I’m so grateful for my life. I’m so lucky to be living this amazing expat life. We don’t ever talk about going back, we talk about what’s next. The world is a big exciting place and I plan to spend my remaining days exploring it and living it to the fullest.