29 Nov Why Not?
Insight and Wisdom from Evelyne Fallows
Interview and write up by: Maria Cometti
Have you been thinking about pursuing a hobby, finally teaching the skills you have mastered, or going on an adventure to the historical sites in Saudi Arabia? “Why not?” asks inspiring woman Evelyne Fallows. Why Not has been Evelyne’s motto throughout her journey in Saudi Arabia. This motto led her to do everything from organizing a monthly lunch club, to traveling around the country and running two semi-marathons.
I had the pleasure and honor to sit down with Evelyne who is a well-known fitness trainer, third time expatriate in Saudi Arabia, and former WSB board member. Evelyne truly has the mindset and ambition to overcome any challenges that could possibly stand in her way.
In this interview, I ask Evelyne about her journey to becoming a fitness trainer in Saudi Arabia and how other women can maximize their expatriate experience. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
M: This is your third expatriate experience in Saudi Arabia. What brought you to Saudi the first two times?
E: I originally came to KSA in 1990 and 1992 to work for a princess as a French language tutor. In 2009, I returned to the kingdom with my husband and son and spent the first 2 years working at the French school, teaching English as a foreign language.
M: You are a sought-after fitness trainer. Have you always been interested in health and fitness?
E: I was involved in competitive track and field from the age of 10 and always stayed active in various sports and fitness activities. Throughout my expatriate journey in Asia I took up Muai Thai, Spinning, Tennis, Yoga, and Pilates, among many others.
In 2006 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in Hong Kong. In my efforts to recover from the surgery, I met with a phenomenal trainer, Wicky, a Kung Fu specialist, who trained me on core strength and stability. I regained strength and confidence and a few months after the surgery, I went on a hiking trip to Nepal. The whole experience was transformational and inspired me to share my passion for fitness with other women. In 2009, I obtained my certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and began my journey of personal training. I also studied nutrition and became a certified massage therapist. I am now looking into specializing in post op recovery.
M: How did you launch your fitness training career in Riyadh?
E: I was introduced to Sally Kennedy, the founder of WSB. When she learned of my training and career ambitions, she started connecting me with Saudi women looking for a personal trainer. Word started to spread and soon I built a solid client base.
M: How did you become involved with WSB?
E: WSB Board Member Florence Hughes encouraged me to write for the WSB newsletter. After contributing to the newsletter and attending a WSB event, I was so impressed with the organization that I wanted to become more involved with the Board. I expressed my interest in getting more involved with the then director Betsy, and was offered a position on the Board.
M: What advice do you have for women here who want to become more active or lose weight?
E: Don’t let the challenge of life in Riyadh discourage you. Come to the DQ, it is empty on Fridays making it perfect to bike, walk or run (without an abaya!). The whole DQ wadi track is about 16k. Don’t become too dependent on the car, walk when you can. Try something new and find an activity you enjoy. Many compounds offer classes and new gyms are popping up in town. Food is a big part of the local culture, so make wise and healthy choices.
M: What advice do you have for newcomers to Riyadh?
E: Come with an open mind. Do some research before you get here. Be patient, flexible, and tolerant. Respect the rules and make the best of what’s available. Take initiatives, get involved. Learn Arabic, volunteer, or start a group with likeminded individuals.
M: Do you have a motto or mantra?
E: I like to learn, discover, and better myself. My experience in KSA has been amazing and I have done things I would have never done at home. I always ask myself, “Why not?” Being an expatriate in Riyadh is a great opportunity to try new things. For example, I started a lunch group that would meet up at a new restaurant every month. A Breakfast and Books group. I was on stage for the first time ever. I even trained for my first semi marathon in Riyadh! And ran my second here. I wrote a book. I was on TV. I volunteered as goodwill ambassador for an association of disabled young adults. I met amazing people, Saudis and expats.
M: How can an expat women find a job or create opportunities for herself in Riyadh?
E: There are many opportunities here for those who give Saudi a chance. Start a home business or discover self-employment through a blog or tutoring for example. I would encourage women with a skill or training to work as a self-employed consultant or tutor. There are also many opportunities to work as embassy staff. It’s important to overcome your fear to take the first step.
M: What are your favorite places in Riyadh?
The Acoustic Tea Lounge (read my review here https://www.wsbksa.com/2016/03/30/review-acoustic-tea-lounge/), try their rose latte!
Bateel café and restaurant, I’ve been so many times and have never been disappointed
Nozomi for outstanding Japanese food
Tamimi for healthy, gluten-free food, Lulu for exotic products, I love Thai food!
The DQ for walking my dog, running and biking
Luthan for my haircut and the beautiful spa
M: How can we learn more about your life journey and experience in Saudi Arabia?
E: I’m working on my second book that is pure fiction (in French) but the first one is partly about Saudi Arabia and partly my own story, in English, it will be edited and published next year I hope.
M: Thank you Evelyne for the opportunity to learn about your journey in KSA and for the helpful tips and advice. Thank you also for all your work and contributions to WSB! We are looking forward to the release of your book and to hearing about your next journey in NYC!
Follow Evelyne on Instagram evfallows