Medical education is now a global enterprise, with many medical educators working internationally, either for short or longer periods or even permanently. In parallel, many medical schools are now involved in collaborations and partnerships with schools in other countries. With this in mind, we set out to explore what motivates, supports and inhibits medical educators who wish to or might work outside their "home country". This article reports on the pilot stage (in specific organizational contexts in Middle East) of a longitudinal project aimed at canvassing medical educators on a broader global scale, using reflective accounts and a questionnaire survey. The findings from this pilot study raise interesting issues about the lived experience of medical educators who have chosen to work in a different culture from their own. Respondents identify many advantages around skills, personal and professional development. Three main issues emerged in terms of educators' experiences: the academic environment, medical practice in a different cultural context and personal matters. Adapting to the local culture, gender segregation and the impact on learning and teaching was an overarching factor. We introduce an explanatory framework to explain the development of international educator identity, a cyclical process in which, through experiences and reflection, individual world views and perspectives are continually modified and developed. This pilot study tested the methodologies and developed a new conceptual model that will be used in a wider study across different cultures.