Whether you’re an expat in Hong Kong, Honolulu or Helsinki there is always going to be something you have in common with other expats around the globe. While some countries present more challenges than others, for some expats the challenges present an opportunity to do something completely different. We talk to Polish expat Marek Lenarcik about life in Myanmar and his book on the topic.
How long have you lived in Myanmar and what took you there in the first place?
I visited Burma (sic) for the first time in 2011 as a tour leader of a group of Polish businessmen on their well-deserved holidays to Southeast Asia. A year later I’ve found myself with a job in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with which I wasn’t very happy with. I e-mailed a few people I met during my time as a tour leader and offers from Burma (sic), Cambodia and Ecuador followed. I chose a role of a Product & Marketing Manager at a leading tour operator in Burma (sic) as the country has just started to open up to international tourism and investments. It sounded like a challenge and adventure.
What has been the most challenging aspect of life there?
I have difficulties choosing between outdated infrastructure (no proper public transport, shopping, entertainment among others) and working with people who can be very sweet, but completely unprepared to face the challenges of the modern world (both educationally and experience-wise) due to growing up in a closed society strictly controlled by military junta.
What do you love the most about life in Myanmar?
Generally a very sincere and genuine approach to foreigners especially when they realise we are not a threat, but very often creators of opportunities, employers and teachers of what the modern world is all about. Being a witness to a rapid pace of changes the country is undergoing is a fascinating experience as well.
Is there anything from your home country that you really miss?
I’ve left Poland more than 10 years ago and worked all over the world since then. As I am usually a quick adapter, I can’t think about a single thing I really miss.
Have you found a permanent home or will you leave one day?
Burma (sic) has become an easier place to live than it was let’s say in 2012 and earlier. It will probably be even easier three years from now. For now me and my partner, who happens to be from Colombia, have work obligations to fulfill which would probably keep us in the country at least until the end of next year. We both have itchy feet, however, so if the right opportunity knocks to the doors, we might pack up and move somewhere else one day.
About the Book
In January 2011, just before political reforms in Myanmar ended a decades-old military regime, writer and travel expert Marek Lenarcik arrived in Yangon on a short-term work assignment. Little did he know then that a broken heart and dwindling savings would lead him to pursue a dream career working for one of the country’s top tour companies. On duty as a travel product manager, Marek traverses the country by trains, planes and automobiles to experience stunning landscapes, ruins of empires, exotic food and unique cultures in search of the best that the nation’s budding tour and hospitality industry has to offer. With stories from the emerald shores of the Andaman Sea at Ngapali beach to the mountain peaks of Chin State, Burma Lost & Found brings humour, vivid description and insight to his adventures and encounters with an eclectic cast of characters including an eccentric monk, dodgy expats, charismatic guides, gracious hosts and many more.