Todd started living as an expat in Saudi Arabia in 2008, when he moved there from Texas with his wife and three children.
At the time, they were looking for an adventure, an attractive benefits package, and a more convenient lifestyle for their busy family.
The idea of working, living, exercising and having their kids go to school in or around one of Aramco’s well-planned residential communities appealed to them, as they knew it would cut down the hours they spent each week commuting to and from work and chauffeuring their kids to school and various youth sports events.
Looking back now, he said their expectations were more than met.
“My wife and I had always wanted to travel. So, when the opportunity came up, we thought it was a great way to see the world and engage with another culture,” he said. “I have friends from all over the world here. My closest friends are from South Africa, Scotland, Nigeria, the Bahamas and, of course, Saudi.”
A change in lifestyle was also part of the draw.
“At Aramco, you can get home from work in five minutes, then change your clothes, and go out to golf, cycle or mountain bike right afterwards. I can easily spend an hour a day on a hobby and not feel like I am falling behind at work,” he said. “When I was in Houston, it took an hour to get to work, and then if our kids had after-school activities, we’d be driving all over the place and be exhausted at the end of the day."
Life in the Udhailiyah community was a great fit for his family.
“I had always wanted to have a good work-life balance, so when I started to think about how this setup would be good for me and my family over the long-term it began to make a lot of sense,” he said.
His kids, now at a boarding school in the U.S. for high school, went to Aramco-run schools that ran through 8th-grade with their friends from the community, which felt safer than most places back home.
“We used to just let our kids run out the front door and play outside whenever they wanted, without any worries whatsoever,” he said.
He also found that extra allotments of vacation time gave him opportunities to connect in a more intentional way with friends and family, and to see more of the world thanks to Saudi Arabia’s proximity to Europe, Asia and Africa.
Most expat employees and their kids take two to three trips a year – usually around Christmas, spring break and during the summer.
On one recent trip to the U.S., he and his wife stopped in Holland for four days to go on a cycling trip through the countryside during tulip season.
“What’s interesting is that we get to see the grandparents more and ensure that our kids get to develop relationships with them, more as expats than when we were in the U.S., because in the U.S. it is hard to get away from your daily routines. With repatriation allowances, you can have real down time for family vacations,” he said.
A former high school science teacher, Todd spent four years in Houston at Aramco Americas after his first stint in Saudi Arabia, where he worked on petroleum engineering projects. He developed his expertise in coil tubing, completions and well interventions working at oilfield services companies that provided services to Aramco in Saudi Arabia.
He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2018 because he enjoyed the work, his colleagues, and the lifestyle.
Now he is back in a teaching role, serving as the supervisor for the team of technical advisors that conduct training for all recent hires who work in upstream production engineering. He has 22 people on his team, which teaches classes and works to integrate new technologies and analytical tools into the curriculum.
He and his wife now live in a residential enclave in Dhahran and have started playing pickle ball, in addition to keeping up their other hobbies.
“If you have a family and are curious about the world, the positives of living here as an expat far outweigh any of the negatives about living away from home,” he said.