One of the questions that I get asked all the time from people as soon as they find out that I’m Saudi is about leaving Saudi: How did you escape?!
This is why I feel the need to dedicate an individual blog post for this topic, I can then stop answering anyone’s questions in person!
If you read my story, you will know that I’ve always been a rebel and a fighter while growing up in Saudi. So it was only natural for me to make a huge life-changing decision to leave home at some point in my life. What many of you might not know is that I was 29 years old when
I left home and Saudi for good. This means that I wasn’t a run-away teenager or a misled girl in her twenties looking for a more exciting lifestyle or change. I was a mature (to some extent as I’m not a very serious personality as you may know) adult looking for a solution to my miserable and negative existence. I can explain more about my personal issues and specific reasons to why I decided to leave home for good and never look back in a future post.
For now, let me take you on the journey and process that brought me to where I am today.
The Corporate World
I was in my twenties, working in the corporate world as an IT support agent in a male-dominated environment. I was surrounded by typical, non-Westernized Saudi men in an open-space call center catering to senior oil and gas employees. It was the 2000’s, I was wearing my Abayah and veil to work every day and I hated my highly technical, mundane and rigid job.
It was Steve Job’s graduation speech video that inspired me to make the move and quit. His words were along the lines of: “If you wake up every day and you don’t like what you do, then make a change.” Honestly I can’t be bothered to look up that video now but I’m sure most of you are familiar with it.
Follow Your Passion
My second step was to figure out what exactly I wanted to do as a career. I knew I wanted to something creative, I knew I had a passion for writing and I knew I wanted to do something fun and engaging. That’s when I started to look into becoming a writer. What kind of writer you may ask. A lifestyle writer. My next career change was going to be this: Lifestyle Journalism. And I wanted it as bad as I wanted to leave home and never return.
After quitting my boring, non-rewarding, self-depreciating IT support role as a contractor employee with Saudi Aramco, I spent a whole year at home thinking of my next move. I read the Quran, Eckhart Tolle’s books and I did some research on Universities where I could take a short course to kick-start my new career. At that stage, I knew that I didn’t want to do another bachelor’s degree – my first was in Business Information Systems and I got it from the University of Bahrain (my parents’ University of choice, not mine!).
Fashion Media in London
A one-year intensive foundation course in fashion media and communication was being offered at London College of Fashion and to me, this sounded like a good first step towards a career change. What I didn’t know back then was that a) the course was really intensive! b) it was equivalent to the UK A-levels and c) I wasn’t interested in fashion to the extent that this course was going in!
More about my London chapter in another post. But for now, I’ll tell you about what happened next when leaving Saudi. I spent a total of eight months in London. I then decided to move to Dubai (which was my Plan B anyway) in April of 2010. The reason I chose the fast-paced Middle-eastern city is that as a Saudi citizen, I don’t need a visa to live in Dubai or any other GCC country. This makes it easier for me to stay away from home until I can find a permanent solution!
Still on the Run!
Fast forward seven years later. I’m still living in Dubai. I only went back to Saudi last summer to renew my passport. As such, I can officially say that I’m still on the run!
Luckily, the new passport system gives us a ten-year renewal. This is as opposed to the old five-year passport rule. So technically speaking, I have about nine years to find a Plan C. That is to keep my freedom and care-free lifestyle going!
Do you have a similar story to share about leaving Saudi? Did you leave your country because of social, cultural or family issues? How did YOU manage to escape? I want to hear all about it.