Dana Filek-Gibson dreams up a new life for herself using the power of the internet.
If we’re being honest, I spend a lot of time on Craigslist. Not because I’m searching for new apartments or rideshares but because, like all expats, I’m open to new possibilities. Rather than accept life as it is, I’ve been known to while away an afternoon wondering what it would be like to live in Manila doing customer service calls or work as a plumber in Sao Paulo. This is wanderlust in the digital age.
And what better place to imagine a new reality for yourself than on Craigslist, the scourge of job posting websites? You can visit a travel blog, sure, or an expat website, but what you get is all the pros and none of the cons. When in doubt about a city’s true local colour, the answer – good, bad and completely bewildering – lies within Craigslist’s missed connections. For me, this is how best to gauge a place from afar. Only within this dark corner of the internet do you see all the eccentricities and mental instability of a city in one uniform location.
The idea is simple: spend a few lost hours online, Googling and surfing the web for jobs and houses and all the other practicalities you might need to build a pretend life in another place. Because I am easily persuaded, all it takes is a few read-throughs of a Craigslist job posting and I can think up a few dozen ways in which I am qualified to work as a certified accountant in Tijuana or an event planner in Bismarck. Let that idea germinate a little longer and before you know it I’ve found an affordable flight, my desired accommodation and two months’ worth of activities in my new home.
For the most part, this is just for entertainment; good reading material isn’t exactly abundant in Saigon so sometimes it pays to invent your own stories. For normal, well-adjusted people, this is meant to be an exercise in creative thinking, nothing more. But because I’ve learned how to land in a foreign country with little money, limited work experience and no friends to speak of, everything seems possible. And so I file away these fake identities so that next time life gets me down and I’ve overslept myself into a feverish haze I can say: “Well, there’s always that yoga instructor/shoeshine/stamp collector position in Nicaragua/Mumbai/Palm Springs!”