“Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place.”
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

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Aisha Isabel Ashraf

I’m a freelance writer who’s made the expatriate leap of faith twice; first as a lifestyle choice, and now as the “trailing spouse” of a civil engineer. Currently in Canada with my husband and children, I’ve crossed geographical, cultural & religious borders in a life that reads like an Amazon bestseller. I give a candid account of the journey here on my award-winning blog, sharing experiences as diverse as censorship in Islam, mental health taboos and cross-cultural relationships.

A perennial misfit, I’m no stranger to the road less travelled but I’ve gained priceless insights along the way. Early experiences sparked a fascination for travel and psychology that still drives me today. I first emigrated aged eight and went on to overcome an abusive upbringing and a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Marriage into a different culture gave me a taste of both the riches of other traditions and the bitter poison of racism. I always wrote as a way of understanding my experiences, and what began as a creative outlet for my most recent expat adventures grew to encompass other areas of interest. When I started getting published I realised my career had found me.

I now write for mainstream print publications and online media on a variety of topics; among them, travel/expat life, mental health, parenting and cultural differences. I’ve penned articles for UK newspapers, high-end glossies and various travel & expat websites. My series “Breaking the Code of Silence” – about stigma and mental illness – led me to participate in a research study for CAMH (Canada’s leading mental health research facility and one of the world’s largest) documenting the use of mindfulness in depression relapse prevention and helping refine an online programme to increase treatment accessibility.

In-between running around after three small kids, I also write a column for Expat Focus, an established online expat resource. You can find more details on my LinkedIn profile or follow me on Twitter @AishaAshraf1.

53 thoughts on “

  1. Yes, I like your blog. Just wondered if you could say some more about Mindfulness. I’ve just started M/Meditation (Audio – Frantic World by Mark Williams) and I guess it’s too early to say what effect it’s had on me but lets hope after 8 weeks I will gain something.

    • Thank you! Best of luck with your mindfulness practice. Make it a daily habit and you’ll see the difference it can make. Don’t be afraid to experiment – it’s easier when it’s taught in a way you can easily relate to. Find what’s right for you. I’ll be posting about Mindfulness again in the coming weeks so stay tuned.

      • Thanks for your response. I’ve began working on tracks 4,5and 6 despite there are 7 tracks in total. I feel as though these tracks ‘speak’ to me. I hope I’m not doing wrong by the choices I’ve made with this. I look forward to reading your forthcoming article.

  2. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I’m also a trailing expat wife currently in Canada for a short time. Really looking forward to learning from your blog. Already as I quickly browse through your posts I can see that your many awards are truly well deserved. Cheers 🙂

    • I’m sure you’ll be amassing your own trophy cabinet soon – your blog isn’t too shabby 😉 and that’s all I can say as I’m still seething over your Lake Louise trip. As they say in these parts: Welcome to Canada!

  3. You have a very interesting life story. As expats we always think we’ve seen the world but then I always marvel how more convoluted someone else’s path has been. BTW I met a woman here in South Africa who also converted to Islam and wrote an entire book about that experience, thought you might be interested, I couldn’t find her website anymore but her name is Lucy Bushill-Matthews and her book is called Welcome to Islam.

    • Thank you for the tip-off, I see what you mean about the website being unavailable. I’ll have to do a bit more digging.
      For the record, other peoples lives always seem infinitely more interesting, and we’re always more ready to praise their courage/daring/goodness, than we are to recognise our own. Thanks for dropping by 😉

  4. TAG!

    I am very close to St. Albans and we were going to go to a car boot sale at the train station car park this morning. But typical England…it’s peeing cats and dogs. Bet it’s sunny in Canada!

    Madison xxx

    • It is but it’s minus six, so not as inviting as it looks! Thanks for the comment, a good ole car boot sale – aaaahhhhh memories! They have garage sales here – it’s just not the same! Love your blog, teacup heaven since 2011! I’ll be popping by for a dose of Britishness whenever I get homesick…

    • Pleased to meet you too Jo – I can’t wait to “take a walk” with you. And yes, “interesting” comes in all sorts of disguises and is not always identifiable at the time!

  5. Just found your blog and fell for the story about (I assume) you and your husband… Wow, beautiful. I am a dutch expat living very (very) close to your little StAlbans, which is a lovely place!

    • I’m glad you liked the story! Wonderful that you know St Albans – I do miss it’s character (and it’s Sainsburys!). I hope Jasmijn had a happy first birthday – that cake sounded delicious…

    • Wonderful to make your acquaintance Miss Footloose. I have “seen you around” in the blogosphere, and it’s nice to find out more about you. Moldova – that must be interesting! Do you speak any Russian or Moldovan? The world is indeed a fabulous place, an observation confirmed the more one travels throughout it! I envy your travel experience. 🙂

  6. Just caught sight of you on Perking the Pansies… and now following you… looking forward to reading more.

    I’m an expat from Norwich, UK – and am currently enjoying the balmy climate of Los Angeles.

    • Lovely to have you over here! Los Angeles, eh? I will have to check you out – so many questions… is everybody botoxed, is the population plastic, is the weather really that gorgeous and what prompted a move there? Will have to get to know you better. Norwich to LA; that’s liKe moving to another planet!!!

        • Hmmmm, do people people happen to look unusually creased when you travel abroad? I’m sorry, just having a cheap laugh at the expense of some LA stereotypes. It’s something I must try harder to curb as it does me no favors in my quest for global harmony 😉

  7. I envy you for living in Canada! I lived there as a young adult and absolutely loved it – I lived in Montreal. My husband and I have been expats our entire lives (look up Third Culture Kids and you might get an idea) and we now live in the UK (although my husband is actually English!) I get all teary-eyed when I hear anything on Canada and wish we could live there. Sadly, we are heading the other way to Australia, as his entire family did the typical British thing of immigrating there haha! But for me, my heart belongs in Canada. Because I’ve had an international upbringing, I have a North American accent and am constantly asked if I’m American or Canadian – I always say “Canadian”, even though I’m not. In all my travels and in all the countries I’ve lived, for me Canada is the perfect place. I hope you’re enjoying life there!

    • I have yet to find somewhere my heart belongs. Perhaps that knowledge will come with time. That’s not to say that I don’t love Canada – I do. But I do believe there is no perfect country I have yet to experience. They all have their good points and bad, it is just a question of balance – what you are prepared to tolerate or do without vs. the good stuff. I think it’s a good thing – living with what is not your ideal, teaches you a lot about yourself. I’ve found there’s more to me than I realised! 😉

  8. Cool blog! It was more than an adjustment when I moved to rural China in 2006. I was the only female “lao wai” (foreigner) and didn’t speak any Chinese. No matter what the country or the language, it is definitely an adjustment, but also an amazing adventure. 😉 Best wishes to you and your family!

  9. Hello,

    I am Erika from TravelerVoice, a new social network for travel bloggers.

    I just found your blog and I really like how you described your stories in Canada with beautiful pictures and assertive comments! It’s exactly the kind of writing we are looking for our Living abroad section, please feel free to register 🙂

    I am looking forward to hearing from you 🙂

    Cheers,
    Erika.

    http://www.travelervoice.com

  10. Glad to have you on our continent 😉 LOL. You will probably have to get use to the winters also. OUCH!!!! If you get to tired of them c’mon down and visit me in NC LOL

    Hugs!!!

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