Expat Entrepreneur: Krissa Curran
Entrepreneur, Yogi, Digital Marketing Consultant and (Adult) Third Culture Kid
By Alison Cavatore
Born in San Francisco, CA to a Filipino mother and Scottish father, Krissa Curran moved to the Philippines when she was a few months old and lived there for 11 years. She has also lived in Singapore for two years, Hong Kong for seven years and the Caribbean for six months. She holds citizenship and residency status in the U.S., Philippines and Hong Kong. Now living back in Hong Kong, Krissa, 28, has traveled extensively to over 25 countries, including Morocco, Peru, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Germany, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Australia, and more.
But Krissa is much more than an enviable jetsetter. A straight-A student, Krissa graduated from Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2009 with a First Class Honors, Bachelors of Arts degree in Media and Communications. She was also the youngest person to win and be published at the age of 14 in Imprint, an anthology of short stories printed annually by the Women in Publishing Society of Hong Kong. She started her career by working at digital marketing and production agencies in London, managing accounts in London, St. Lucia and Sydney before being sent to work for six months on-site at a client’s 5-star resort in the Caribbean. In 2012, Krissa began her entrepreneurial adventures, got her official Yoga Teacher Training certification and hiked the Inca trail in Peru.
She currently teaches yoga part-time, consults with companies for digital and online marketing strategies, and expands her entrepreneur endeavors. Global Living Magazine’s editorial director, Alison Cavatore, asked Krissa about her expat life, travel experiences and how these two things influence her work.
What stands out most about your first experience living abroad?
I’ll talk about my move to Singapore, as I was actually old enough to remember that. I’d say what stands out most was the culture shock. After the excitement of moving overseas wore out, it took me about six months to acclimatize and settle into my new ‘home’. I think my parents and I severely underestimated just how big a change it would be. I was going from the Philippines, where I was surrounded by a legion of family, childhood friends and extended family 24/7, to Singapore, where my support network suddenly shrunk to two. It was also the first time in my life a mirror was held up to the way I was living, and I realized there are many other ways of doing things. Suddenly there were dimensions to the world. Everything stood out. The way people looked, how they dressed, what they ate, how they spoke, the cleanliness of the streets, the sometimes overwhelming/dizzying smell of the cabs (too much air freshener!), the accents, the pulse of the city, etc. For the first time in my life, everything I experienced was not Filipino, not American, not Catholic – some of the identities I related to most at the time. There were Singaporeans, Chinese, Malay, Indonesians, Indians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs… Color was spelled with a ‘u’. It was a big wake-up call. But I’m so glad I had that.
What sort of things have you learned from living in various countries that help you adjust each time you expatriate?
Roll with it. Be open to new people, new experiences, new environments, new scenarios. Take the time to appreciate what’s different, and adopt and take with you what you like. You become a richer person this way – a wonderful mosaic of all the places you’ve been.
Life is what you make it. Be responsible for your own happiness. If you like yoga, go find the nearest yoga studio. If you like to dance, go find where the music is. If you’re a runner, get a membership to a gym or look up some running groups or city routes. In other words, do your research. Come up with a list of the things you love and what makes you ‘you’ and go find those people, places and things in your new setting. Realize that the life you’re leaving/missing was there because of your presence; you made it happen. And you can make it happen again wherever you are, so long as you put your mind to it.
Find/maintain a healthy support system and network. The world is so connected these days and there’s really no excuse not to hop on the phone, email, Skype, and Facebook to keep in touch with people who know you and can remind you who you are. Yes, moving can be scary for some people, and unexpectedly difficult, but I find having a good support system early on, whether local or abroad, makes a huge difference.
And finally, realize that nothing is forever. If it’s really that bad, none of the above suggestions are working, and you’re still ill at ease… maybe this wasn’t the right move. But you also have the power to make a new change. Try something new, some place new.
Do you think identifying as a (Adult) Third Culture Kid has helped or hindered your experiences moving around the world? How so?
Helped, for sure! While we find it hard to locate ‘home’ and belong to any one particular place, we are united in this confusion, this identity crisis, and we actually bond over it. We find it easy to make new friends and spark up conversations because we’re so used to just being thrown in the deep end and getting on with things. We’ve learned, after moving around so much, that a simple hello or a smile can go a long way. In terms of dealing with change – or more like being ready to accept it – I find a lot of TCKs have this malleable, robust, independent, go-getting sort of attitude and mentality. Re-establishing ourselves? That’s just something we do. There’s also safety in numbers. Part of being a TCK is having this international network of friends, family and friends of friends who are never too far away to help you out in some way.
What has been the most memorable (positive or negative) expat experience you’ve had so far?
Coming back to Hong Kong after all these years, as a grown-up and expat in my own right (not a dependent of my parents) has been the most amazing experience. I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. And it’s been such a thrill seeing how much it has grown up, evolved, matured – how much more it has to offer if you know where to look.
What general advice do you have for someone considering moving abroad for the first time?
Think of it this way: anywhere you go is a playground, a blank canvas, with a bunch of tools and experiences at your disposal. Find out what this place has to offer: people, housing, schools, jobs, recreation, transport/mobility, etc. Map out in your mind what you want your life to be like. Then go out there and make it happen!
Tell us a bit about your marketing consultancy, project management and entrepreneurial work.
My background is in Media & Communications. I graduated with a First Class Honors, Bachelor of Arts from Goldsmith’s College, University of London. I then started my career working at a few digital production houses and agencies in London, with clients based in the U.K., Australia and the Caribbean. I’m very lucky here in Hong Kong because, while it is very technologically advanced, funnily enough people are just starting to take digital marketing seriously. So that’s what I do part-time. I help some pretty well-known brands with things like website-building and revamping projects, digital marketing, SEO and social media. I teach yoga two nights a week. And I also have a couple of new projects up my sleeve. One is a travel start-up. The other: a specialist insight and recruitment agency. I also have a cool veggie diner concept, which has gotten positive feedback from people I know in the industry here, but it’s just not the right time to do it. I want to focus on something in the travel industry first. And hopefully through the success of that I can move on to this!
In what way, if at all, do you think your expat experiences influence your entrepreneurial endeavors?
Well, for one thing, it was my TCK and expat upbringing that inspired my first travel start-up, Friends of Friends Travel, or FOF Travel for short, in the first place! We did pretty well with that in terms of market and press validation. TIME magazine picked up on us; so did the NY Times, The Times newspaper in London and CBS News in the U.S. We also managed to partner with some of the best youth travel brands in the industry, like STA Travel, Hostelworld.com, G Adventures, Rough Guides, and more. Our database of early adopters wasn’t bad also, considering we had such a small marketing budget. We had 4,000+ people sign up in over 108 countries around the world! Unfortunately, the technology we were using at the time failed us before we could scale properly and take it to the next level. And then my visa ran out in the U.K. before my business partner and I could make the switch. So we’re actually in the middle of winding that company up. I haven’t given up on the travel industry though. There is definitely something there. I just need to figure out how to translate the opportunities, benefits and experiences I’ve gained through this nomadic lifestyle in a way that makes it really easy for people to latch on to. So until that happens… keep watching this space!
Where do you consider ‘home’?
Home is wherever I am, and wherever the people I love/care about are. Right now that’s Hong Kong.
I’m a pretty casual, straightforward and open person. Everything else you want to know about me is/will be on my personal website: www.krissacurran.com. It’s mostly done, and I’m pretty proud of it. But I’ve yet to add a list of the blogs I’ve created and snippets/previews of the projects I’m working on, in case people are interested and want to back us or work with us in the future. You know what they say: for every 10 ideas you have, one will succeed. So I just need to keep at it and I’m sure my time will come!
For more information on Krissa, visit www.krissacurran.com.
[Photography by Nicolas Ludvigsen]
If you enjoyed this article, please SHARE it with your friends by using the social media buttons below.