Tag Archives: expat life

S&S ABROAD with Debra Barrett: Salon/Spa Owner and Bridal Consultant

The women I’ve been interviewing since May for my S&S ABROAD expat interview series keep blowing me away. I hope their courage to live on their own terms and to pursue their passion inspires you to go out there and do the same.

An American who left California to create a brand new life abroad, Debra Barrett is a nurse turned beautician extraordinaire. Her office is the beautiful backdrop of Jamaica, where she uses her talents to turn women into princesses on their big day or on any day. After taking the chance of moving to Negril to work at a resort-owned salon, she opened her own, manages yet another salon/spa for a hotel and launched a”mobile bridal” business – traveling wherever she’s needed for weddings on the island. Pretty cool life, eh? From her amazing beauty skills to her fun, lively and positive spirit, Debra is truly one of a kind.

Here’s what she offered to share with us – thanks Debra!


NAME:  Debra Barrett


OCCUPATION: Beautician, Salon/Spa Manager at Negril Escape Resort and Owner of Scissors Salon and Queen Bee’s Mobile Bridal Services



Where are you originally from? Did you grow up there also?

I’m from a small city 35 miles south of San Francisco, called East Palo Alto. I also grew up there.

Did you always know you’d be a beautician?

No, I actually went to nursing school but I was always very fashion oriented.

When was your first trip to Jamaica? What did you like about it and what kept you returning?

My first trip was in 1989, right after Hurricane Gilbert. To me, Jamaica was like the closest thing to Africa, without going to Africa. It was so relaxing and just paradise.

You moved there permanently in 1999. How did that come about, and did you have an idea of what you would do for work?

Everything in my life was changing, and I had no control over what was happening. The one thing I could control was my own destiny, so I chose to get my life in the order that was good for me. I sat for 4 months looking out from my veranda and one day a friend came and took me with her to meet the General Manager at one of the all-inclusives in Negril. I was introduced to the spa manager and the rest was history. I worked at that spa for seven years.

What was that like, going from visiting to working day to day and living there?

Very different, but I got used to it. You learn what’s important in life and that a lot of material things are not necessary to be happy.

Was it difficult adjusting as a solo female? Easy to make friends? Did you have any kids and did they move with you?

It wasn’t difficult – I was so into trying to heal myself at the time, that the difficulty of being female was not even a thought. I made friends easily, I’m a people person. My kids are grown, but they do visit.

Photo by http://jtbportraits.com

How long was it before you opened your own beauty salon, Scissors?

I went back home to California for a year to decide what my next move was. While in Jamaica I had met a man and I came back a year later and  >> Continue reading »

An Argument for India (Special Guest Post)

Today, I share a guest post that wasn’t intended as a guest post.

It’s an email I woke up to last week, from one of my new readers. I get notes regularly (and love them!) but this one caught my eye and woke me up even before I had any coffee. I really couldn’t make this up if I tried – I may not have 20,000 site visitors yet (tongue-in-cheek) but I have the best readers, ever!

Daniel felt inspired to write me after seeing my “Where’s Home, Anyway?” post, asking for ideas on where to move in 2013. He shared his own story and how he ended up being an expat in India. And why I, too, should try it.

On an otherwise normal Tuesday morning, he made me smile, laugh out loud and inspired me with his own leap of faith. And by the way, India was so on my “must-visit” and possibly “try-it-out” list  – and I had been watching a travel video on it the night before – how did he know?

Daniel has kindly allowed me to share his email on my blog – thank you, Daniel, for being so awesome. And you do make a great case for heading to India, as an expat or a visitor.

Have any of you been there or dream of going? I’d love to hear of your experiences.


Silhouettes at the Taj Mahal, India - © Le Radiateur (Flickr Creative Commons)

“Dear Miss Lily,

My mother recently forwarded me your blog post “Where’s home, anyway?”, and I really enjoyed reading it. I sympathize with your decision to leave the US and live abroad for a year, and I wanted to offer my thoughts, in the hopes that they help you with your decision (or at least your peace of mind). I also wanted to make a case for you moving to India.

I better say something about myself first. I was lucky enough to be born and grow up in Dangriga, and lived in Belize pretty much full time, until I hit 17 and headed off to Carleton College in Minnesota.

Before heading off to college, I had only visited the US a couple times to see my grandparents. When I arrived at college, I learnt that the school offered several partially funded off-campus programs, and so I was lucky enough to visit a bunch of different countries while doing research, including Ecuador, Tanzania, Taiwan and England.

After graduating, I wanted to spend a little more time in a foreign country, so I headed to Ohio to work at a nature center (Ohio is not Belize, so it counts as foreign). Suddenly, out of the blue, I got an email from one of my classmates: “Want to come to India and start an organic farming company with me?”

In about 5 minutes, all the fears and complications that you mentioned in your article ran through my mind. India? You mean the country on the other side of the world? Where foreigners get diarrhea all the time? Where they hardly speak English and eat raw chili peppers at every meal?

I didn’t speak a word of Hindi, I didn’t really have health insurance, I was not qualified to start a company… I could go on and on. Then I thought “Well….what else do I have to do?” Three weeks later, I had Continue reading »