In debt, with a high cost of living and a social life in London only adding to my dire financial situation, I decided I had to make change - so I applied for a job in the Middle East.
Unsure that I would get it or even take it if it was offered to me, I went through each stage of the recruitment process and somehow found myself being offered an impressive salary with fantastic benefits. With the prospect of a tax-free life and the chance to pay off my debts quicker than in the UK, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go.
The expat community in the Middle East is surprisingly large and well established, which made me feel at home straight away. The cost of living was slightly higher as I was based in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE and where good property was hard to come by, property prices were on par with that of London.
But with my tax-free, impressive salary that shouldn't have been a problem, my debt could soon be melting away under the Middle Eastern sun.
But there was a small problem - I was offered the chance to live like a king.
I had a pool and access to five others, along with a beach and four gyms. I was living the high life, uploading photos of my stunning life for everyone back at home to see - but I felt like I was living a lie. I still had a lot of debt and I was only paying if off at the same rate I had been at home. I had incurred a good few expenses when I moved into the apartment (furniture, appliances, etc) and my credit card took a massive blow in the first few months as I tried to settle in.
The lifestyle I wanted to lead took over from my desire to pay down debt. A luxury apartment, a nice car and relaxing weekends at the golf club or beach were all affordable. I was enjoying a lifestyle I had never experienced before and that I wanted to keep.
I did miss friends and family, but the daily sunshine kept me going. Knowing that when I woke up, I could go for a swim in the pool before work or hit the beach after sitting at a desk all day was the highlight of the relocation.
One day it all caught up with me though and I finally sat down and saw the reality of my relocation, which was exactly the opposite of why I moved there. Knowing that my financial situation wasn't improving as much as I wanted, I moved back to the UK.
It was very difficult to go back and settle in. A shared flat, no sunshine, no nice cars and no beach to enjoy, it was safe to say I had landed back in the UK with an enormous bump and a big bruise on the bank account following my adventure.
It could have been even worse - expats in the UAE don't have credit ratings and banks are willing to offer you big loans. My friends and colleagues had told me stories of people who left the UAE, tens of thousands of dollars in debt, knowing that the government would struggle to catch up with them although they would have no chance of returning.
I didn't want to become a runaway convict so I politely declined the pestering sales people and high loans, knowing it was the best decision I could have ever made.
Looking back now, I certainly do not regret of doing it. The experience I gained was so much more than I could have experienced in the UK but I knew in my heart that I couldn't have lived there forever. I would have come back at some point and the sooner I did it, the easier it would be.
I fell back into a usual routine but longed for the sunshine. I took a good, hard look at my finances and set up a debt repayment plan and am still working hard to pay it off to this day.
Was it all worth it? Definitely. While my debt was not cleared, the experience made me even more determined to get out of debt and earn the money I need to live a lifestyle like that again.