Six Ways to Write About Your Life Abroad

[pullquote align=”left”]Many people decide to go and live abroad and of those, many also harbour dreams of writing a book about their experiences. With Julia Roberts in the title role of the film of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, books about people doing stuff overseas have never been more popular.[/pullquote]

I call this genre expat memoir, and I wish Amazon would catch on.  If I  search Amazon for expat memoir, it displays a paltry 29 books. Conversely, key expat memoir into Google, and you’ll get over a million results. So, while we expat writers bemoan the fact that Amazon still has a long way to go, the rest of the world is doing okay.  There is a market for this kind of book.  And, if, like me, you live and work in the international community, then you may have considered writing your memoir some day too.

The bottom line is that, whether they live abroad or not, people are interested in other people and in people who are similar to them.  They love to find out about people with whom they can empathise or through whom they can live vicariously.  If you have expatriated, other people will find your experiences fascinating.  If you have ever thought of writing a book based on your experience overseas, then maybe now is the time to start?

By moving to another country, you are able to compare and contrast the places you know well.  You begin to see things more clearly, and things to write about start to jump out at you.

Check out Jo Parfitt's book on Amazon

One of the great things about writing a book these days is that you can do everything involved with its creation and distribution without leaving your desk.  You can take classes online, work with a writing coach or mentor, liaise with editors and designers and even printers from the warmth of your own four walls.  I myself run a business helping expats to write books and articles and have clients based all over the world from Brisbane to Bangkok and Brooklyn.  The Internet can provide access to everything you need.  And then, once you have written your book, you have the potential to make money through online sales, even while you  asleep.

There are many kinds of book you could write based on your life overseas and not all of them are in the memoir genre.  You have several options.  Maybe you want to be inspired by your experiences, and to share what you learned, but not share all your personal details?  If so, there is a book for you.

Six Types of Books

A Ripping Yarn

Sure, if you have had an exciting time overseas, have battled with a few grizzly bears, spiders, or skeletons in your closet, then you will likely have a compelling plot and a super story to tell.

But if your own life story is unlikely to keep your readers awake at night turning pages, then what else could you write?

The How To

Do you know to do something that others do not? Can you build a house, cook with local fish or rice noodles, survive without money, grow an Internet business?  Then you could teach others how to do the same.

The Culture Book

If you have been living in Bangkok for a while now, and know the ropes, how to buy a house, sell a car, set up a business, and understand the locals, then you could write a guide for others who also want to live there.  Culture Smart, Vacation Work, Lonely Planet, and Rough Guides are just four examples of publishers who are always looking for books just like this.

The Knowledge

If you have been abroad for a while and don’t mind sharing some of your stories, then you could support and inspire others in your position too.  So, if you have adopted children overseas, brought up teenagers, learned how to speak a language, experienced and survived a divorce, a mixed marriage, or moved multiple times, then you could write a useful book that would help others in your situation.


If you are not exactly brimming with ideas and stories yourself, you might be able to compile and edit an anthology of other people’s writings.  Short stories maybe? Or poetry, or first hand experiences of living in Asia or building a business, or being married to a local?  Providing your anthology has a theme or focus, this can work well.


If you live somewhere where there are tourists, then you can write a book and sell it in the local market. In fact, if you can produce a book for your own market, you will find it easy to sell those books in large numbers—because you are there!


Stick to the Rules

However, there are a few rules to follow in order to determine whether your idea is a good one:

  • Does it have a focus?
  • Does it have a clear market that you can access yourself?
  • Are you prepared to do some marketing on and offline?
  • Do people need your book? Does it matter? Will it make a difference to others?
  • Do you have access to a good editor?
  • Are you prepared to ask for advice and feedback?

If so, then I urge you to take the next steps, take a course, join a writers’ circle, or just get in touch with me for some honest feedback!

Pick up your free copy of How to Write Your Life Story – The Inside Secrets at 

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