3 Months On the Road: It’s Been A Wild Ride

Hey there,

I know it has been a while since I last checked in, but, if I am being honest, I have simply been having far too much fun wandering to take a breath and write.

As of today, I have been on the road for 3 months…I am almost at the conclusion of what I like to think of as phase 3 of my life abroad.

I am not usually one to count off the number of stamps in my passport as a badge of traveler’s honor, but for the sake of updating you, here we go…in the last 3 months I have visited 5 new countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) and enjoyed another two weeks as a tourist back in Thailand.

Over the course of 90ish days, I have spent over 100 hours on 20+ busses, more than 15 hours on 7 flights and over 20 hours on 10+ ferries, plus countless hours riding in taxis and vans and on motorbikes and waiting at bus stations and airports.

I have slept in hostels, hotels, homestays, airports, on overnight buses and in bunk beds, twin beds and Queen beds. I’ve made friends with a cast of characters from all over the world, including locals and fellow travelers from the US, Canada, Germany, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, France, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovakia, etc.

I have trekked rice terraces, mountains and volcanoes; canyoned down cliffs; scuba dived off the coast of several islands; and motorbiked around a national park. Some days have been devoted entirely to sightseeing, touring or in transit, while others revolved around eating, reading, swimming and napping and even the occasional Netflix binge.

It has been a wild ride indeed.

When I started this blog, I was pretty bored teaching in Thailand. My schedule was absurdly light and easy, so I spent a majority of my week sitting at my desk, thinking about my experience thus far and reading travel blogs…both of which made me want to share my own thoughts. I also figured a blog was a good way to keep in touch with people back home and that when I started traveling I would update it every few weeks or after each country.

Well, something unexpected and yet fantastic happened…I found that once I started moving around, my desire to stop and write essentially vanished. You see, with the constant stimuli of newness that backpacking provides, I have been far too busy having a grand f**king time to stop and think about it.

Because that’s what the last few months have been. A grand f**king time.

I’ve heard from family and friends either directly (via emails and texts) or indirectly (via comments on social media) that my travels look amazing/unreal and that I am living the life. I will not lie or beat around the bush here…most of the time, it has been absolutely amazing/unreal and I am loving it.

But as anyone with a social media account knows, things are not always as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat will have you believe. We all present carefully curated versions of ourselves and our lives on the interwebs.

For instance, I didn’t post about my week-long battle with bed bugs in Indonesia and my pictures cannot convey that in order to capture that amazing (yet still, filtered) volcano sunset photo, I had to endure a grueling 8-hour hike up that god-forsaken mountain…Oh, and that’s also when I discovered the bed bugs. On top of a mountain, overlooking a volcano.  With no bug-free clothes for another 20ish hours.  When I got off that mountain I looked like I had the chicken pox.

I also partially did not feel like writing because I recently read some articles highlighting and condemning the privilege that exists within the travel industry, especially among young, white, western backpackers.  Some authors feel that there’s a certain level of entitlement and expectation we bring to the table when we brag about our life-altering experiences online, not considering the expense many local people and places must endure for the sake of tourism.

It is a controversial topic I do not care to get into right now, but it made me uncomfortable and feel as though I have no right to sit here and write (brag) about my own entitled experience. I am still unsure how I feel about continuing to blog, but I also do not want to not share. Maybe I am contributing to a problem within the travel industry – but I am also a pretty good and self-aware person who acknowledges my absolute privilege to be able to do what I am doing. So I will consider those moral implications later.

But for now, at the end of phase 3, after 3 months on the road, I’ll leave it here.  Just wanted to send out a quick hello!

I will write again soon when I take another break.

Until next time. Stay tuned.

A Letter to My Nephews

Preface: My family was blessed with two beautiful baby boys, Jordan and Nate, in the latter half of 2015.  Most of the time I am OK being away from my family.  The occasional pang of homesickness does hit, sure, but it passes.  I try not to dwell on the fact that I am currently 8,000 miles away.  But every now and then, I see how much my nephews are growing and realize how much I am (or how much I feel I am) missing.  Being away from them is one of the hardest parts about being away, period.  So, when I do get sad, I imagine reading them this letter…

Dear Jordan and Nate,

You’re too young to notice, but I am not around right now.  In a few months or a year, you’ll still be too young to remember my absence.  But I will remember that I was not there.

Sometimes it is terribly difficult to be away from you.  And the fact is, I do not know when I will be back or if I will even move home.  You see, my sweet boys, before either of you were on your way, I chose to leave home for a while to live abroad and travel in another part of the world.  One day when you’re older, I’ll tell you all about it… 

I always knew that being your aunt would be one my life’s greatest joys.  I love my siblings dearly, probably more than they know, and being a part of your lives was going to be hugely important to me.

Jordy, last January when your mommy and daddy told us that they were expecting you, I cried the sweetest tears of joy.  I laughed and smiled and hugged your mommy, who immediately turned to me with a big grin and asked “So now you’re not going to Thailand, right?” While she meant it as a joke, she was half-serious too.  Because you see, little man, I never planned to be away when you arrived, nor did she.  I was always going to be the aunt who did everything I possibly could with you.  I was going to feed you, change you, bathe you and babysit you.

We were going to be buds and have special alone time to bond and to give your mom and dad a rest.  You were going to grow up with me right there with you from day one.

And luckily, I was there on day one, five months ago.  I was at the hospital when you finally decided to make your appearance.  And then there you were – teeny, tiny and pink.  


I touched your little hands and belly and when you came home, I held you countless times over the next 5 weeks.  

Your mom and I think you arrived a month early just to meet me and make the most of our limited time together.  I am so happy I got to know you and hold you and kiss you. You got to hear my voice and feel my touch and we took many pictures together that I brought with me along my journey.

You were the first baby I really cared for.  With you, I performed my first feeding, diaper change and swaddle.  You were perfect.  And part of me did not want to leave just so I did not have to say goodbye to you.

Nate, I was not there when you arrived three weeks ago.  I went to bed on a Monday, woke up on a Tuesday and just like that, we added a family member – you.  

Before you were born I missed you already.  I didn’t know your name yet but I loved you like crazy.  Last May when your mommy and daddy told us that you were coming, I again cried the sweetest tears of joy.  We hugged and kissed and laughed a second time.  

And then my tears of sadness came.  It dawned on me in the most selfish way possible that I would miss out on your early days.  I knew then that while I would almost certainly meet Jordan before my departure, I would not be home when you arrived.  I realized I wouldn’t meet you for I-don’t-know how long.  

I wouldn’t change your newborn diapers or hold you while you fell asleep.  You would not know my scent, my touch or my voice except through the speakers of an iPhone and the voice recorded book I left behind for you.  My solace is that I’ll likely come home before you’re too big and hopefully I will not be too much of a stranger to you.  

Part of me really wants to be there with you both now, watching you grow by the day, doing all of the things I planned to do.  But I can’t be.  I am not with you beautiful boys and it hurts when I really stop to think about it.  

One day, I will explain to you that I was not there in the beginning because I had an itch I could not help but scratch.  This itch I tried to deny and avoid and pretend was not there but I couldn’t because it was always nagging at the back of my mind, begging for attention.

One day, I will tell you that this itch was to simply, go.  I will explain that there is a big wide world out there and I wanted to see a piece of it for more than a two week stretch of vacation time.

I will describe how I was young and carefree and lucky in some of the best ways a person can be lucky.  I had a strong desire to do something different and the privilege of opportunity.  I wanted to take advantage of my youth while I had it and the freedom my American passport afforded me.

I will explain that while I had a good life in New York, I was not happy.  I had to go so that in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years I would not be asking “what if?” wondering what would have happened had I had the guts to try.  I needed to leave home to appreciate how wonderful it is.  I needed to go in order to want to come back.  

I will explain that it is important to learn about other cultures beside your own and to see how other people live.  It will show you just how big and small your life can be.

I will describe to you the amazing friends I met and lived with along the way, the students I taught and the hospitality I received from perfect strangers and new friends.  I will tell you about the sights I have seen, the steps I have taken and the many planes, trains, motorbikes and buses I have ridden.

I will teach you about the importance of adaptability and resilience, of not being in control and going with the flow and letting go.  I will teach you about loneliness and fear. About how some days you will feel invincible and confident in every choice you make and other days you will feel crushed by your own self-doubt and anxiety.  I will share how I learned again and again not to run from the inevitable challenges and accompanying negativity – hard times are to be expected, but they always pass.

I will explain how important it is to challenge yourself and test your limits, to prove to yourself how capable you are.

One day, I will tell you all about my adventures and I will encourage you to take your own.

But until then, know that I love and miss you.  And as much as I want to see you again, Jordan, and meet you for the first time, Nate, we will have to wait a little longer.  Because for now, I am eagerly accumulating a lifetime of stories to share with you.



Happy New Year!  It has been a while since my last post, almost a month to be exact.  I have a folder full of ideas and draft blog posts, but to be honest, I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to write about.  And since the theme for this blog is to share my “musings and wanderings,” I chose to focus on my wanderings for the reminder of December and wait to share my musings until I found something I really want to write about.

So, here we are on January 10th.  And I would like to talk about some recent decisions I have made, or rather, the indecisiveness that lead to the decisions.

Indecisiveness is a disease that plagues the very best of us, those of us who see the glass half full for a variety of situations and therefore have difficulty pulling the trigger and taking any one path over another.   

Indecisiveness is not new to me.  I am often (cough cough, always) conflicted about the best course of action, usually driving myself crazy in the process.  While considering the pros and cons to a decision is a rational and logical way to deal with the outside world, it can create issues.

I have gone to war with myself a lot when considering what decision to make.

Which is where I found myself until today regarding two decisions: whether or not to write a New Year’s post (a benign decision that does not affect anything) and what to do with my life come March (arguably, a bigger decision).

I could not decide whether  or not to write a goodbye 2015/hello 2016 post, because in truth, I generally find New Years posts to be overdone and terribly trite.

However, 2015 was a pretty big year for me – the best year of my life, dare I say –  and it feels like a disservice to myself not to acknowledge the highlights of the last year and few months.  Because my big year started last October, I will start there.  So, here we go.  In the last 15 months…

  • I acknowledged and came to terms with the fact that I wanted to travel and work abroad.  This was huge, as it took two years to leave my comfortable place of denial and admit that I was unsatisfied in my life and needed change.  Not just a change in jobs or living situation, but life-changing change.  This realization lead directly to the following…
  • I ended a four and a half year relationship with my college boyfriend. This was also huge.  And complicated and a source of major indecision in and of itself.  He is wonderful and we had some great years together, but ultimately, it was the wrong relationship for me and ending it set me free to follow my dream across the world.
  • I chose to move to Thailand to teach English.  Going from the theoretical “I want to move somewhere abroad” to actually choosing to teach and then picking my program and location took a few months and a lot of research, in addition to stress, anxiety and a rejection from the Peace Corp.  And I could not be happier.  
  • I quit the only “real” job I have had post-college.  This was tough not only because I was leaving the security of a steady paycheck behind, but also because I loved the people and the place so much.  Saying goodbye was hard, but I have yet to look back.
  • I became an aunt.  TWICE.  While this has nothing to do with anything I accomplished this year, it has everything to do with big happenings in my family.  Both of my nephews are beautiful, happy and healthy and I could not be more thrilled for my siblings and their spouses.
  • I became a scuba diver.  A few years ago, a new colleague joined my department and he happened to be a scuba instructor.  He offered to let anyone try it out.  Naturally, I jumped at the chance.  And I loved it.  But I figured I would wait to get certified until I had an opportunity to actually go diving.  Two years went by and no such opportunity presented itself.  Until I chose to move to Thailand, a country that offers some of the best diving in the world.  I completed my PADI certification in September and my first ocean dive in Phuket over New Years weekend was amazing.
  • I got my spark back.  In the last few years after college, things were OK.  I had a good job, a long-term boyfriend, great friends and my family close by and I paid no rent while living at home (thanks Mom).  I had birthday dinners and weekends away and I took a cruise to Bermuda and I grew my 401k.  But there was something so vitally important missing from my life and it took a very long time to come to terms with it.  As my mother so painfully expressed to me, somewhere along the way, I had lost my spark – my zest for newness and adventure and excitement for my own life.  I was stuck and unhappy.  But last October, when I stopped denying how badly I wanted to travel, I finally felt like myself again.

It has been one hell of a year.  And at the risk of sounding cliché , I expect 2016 to be even bigger.

Which brings me to my next major point of indecisiveness: what to do next.

When I chose to come to Thailand, my intention was to teach for one semester and then start traveling, backpacker style (except with a rolling combo suitcase because a backpack is heavy and that is very unappealing). I said that if I fell in love with teaching and wanted to stay, I would.  I gave myself the flexibility to change my mind (you can imagine where this is going).

For the last few weeks, I haven’t been able to make up my mind.  

Here’s why: A few weeks ago, I boarded my usual Friday afternoon bus to Bangkok to visit friends for the weekend.  On it, I met a group of young travelers from Vienna, on the tail end of a 6-week trip, mostly spent island-hopping and in and around Bangkok.  Because I am me and I talk to everyone, I struck up a conversation with one of the girls and we spoke for a good hour about our respective experiences here.  While chatting with her, I realized that I love the fact that I live in Thailand.  I am not a backpacker or tourist, but a resident with a job, a school, local friends and a town I feel at home in.  I love the little life I have here and being immersed in the Thai culture in a different way than if I was passing through in a matter of weeks.  I love visiting friends on weekends and hanging in Bangkok, a city that has really grown on me in the last few months.

Since Christmas, I have spent all day, every day, mulling over my options: (1) stay at my school for another term; (2) stay in Thailand but move to a different region and school; and (3) finish out my contract and start traveling indefinitely.  

I have spoken to several friends who are struggling with the same decision and others who are certain of their choices – some are leaving while others are staying.  I have tracked when and why I change my mind and I have made pro/con lists, multiple times (big thanks to some of my amazing friends in Thailand – you know who you are – for dealing with me this last week and helping me work it all out).

I have asked and answered the following questions:

Am I ready for this special experience to be over?  Is 5 months enough time?  Did I accomplish everything I wanted to?  Why rush to travel when it will always be an option later?  Why NOT stay another term?

However, only in the last day or so have I been able to answer the most important question and the ultimate deciding factor: Do I want to keep teaching?

Being a teacher is pretty cool.  The title comes with a lot of respect and admiration from students, colleagues and neighbors.  Being in front of the classroom is daunting but so much fun.  I love working with my students and if they comprehend what I am saying or they are able to better articulate their thoughts and feelings as a result of my time with them, I consider it a victory.

However, I’m not going to lie, being a teacher is also limiting.  I cannot travel for as long or as far as I would like to most of the time.  I cannot visit friends in other part of the country during a regular weekend and time off is mostly reserved for in between semesters.  Teaching is an anchor to one place, and while that one place might be filled with many great experiences and local friends, I am not so sure I want to be anchored for another 5 months.  I am a little too hungry for more new experiences.

So, after some serious debating, I think I am finally ready to pull the trigger and choose my next path.  

I will stick to my original plan and start traveling when my contract ends in February.  Klaeng and Makudmuang School have been very special to me, but I am itching to get out the door and explore the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond.  

Maybe after a few months I will miss teaching and the friends I have made here and wish to come back.  Maybe I will miss living in Thailand and find another job elsewhere in the country.  Maybe one day I will teach in a new place, like Vietnam or South Korea or Spain, or find work along the way at a beach resort or a dive shop or get my work holiday visa for Australia and hang my hat there for a while.  Maybe after 3 months on the road I’ll be ready to come home (doubtful but I’m sure my family would love it).

I really have no idea.

So as it turns out, in the course of making several other decisions in early 2016, I have inadvertently made another one: to accept that I don’t know where I’m going or what the next phase of my life abroad looks like, but I am ready to find out.

I Live Here

A recap of my life in the Land of Smiles from Chiang Mai to Klaeng and everywhere in between…


As of tomorrow, I will have lived in Thailand for 11 weeks.

While the time has certainly flown, it also feels as though it has been MUCH longer since I left.  Those tearful goodbyes and farewell dinners seem like eons ago.  So much has happened, it is hard to believe it has been only a few months.

You know how in your normal life, days, weeks and months can flash by as if you’re on autopilot?  One day turns into the next and before you know it the daily grind of work, life, family and routine have carried away the seasons and time itself?  At least it did for me, which explains how three years of post-grad life flashed by in an instant.  It is also one of the reasons I decided to move away – to take advantage of time before any more of it escaped me.

Well, moving to a new country seemed to have the reverse affect – it slowed the passage of time, intensified every emotion and made each day a unique entity.

I left New York on September 23rd.  I experienced a really phenomenal travel high during my 27 hours in transit from New York to London > London to Singapore > Singapore to Chiang Mai.  This feeling of euphoria continued until I arrived at Noppakao Place, my hotel/residence for the next month.  Because the minute I entered my room, the high wore off and the gravity of my situation finally hit me.  So I broke down.  As I knew I would.  The intensity of my high from the international flights was met with an equally as intense low in the form of panic.  To put it mildly, I freaked out.  And the questions and doubt crept in: “What have I done? Did I really leave my life to come here?  Can I handle it?  I miss home.  I miss my family and friends.  I don’t know if I can do this.  When was the last time I was this homesick (answer: when I was dropped off at college and had a similar panic attack)?”

I got myself off the ledge by messaging my sister and a few friends, crying it out, taking a few deep breaths and starting to unpack.  It was at that moment, crying into my unzipped luggage, that my roommate Mahreen, a former nurse from outside of Toronto, walked in.  I was an emotional, jet-lagged wreck and she was a kind-hearted caregiver – we hit it off right away.  Mahreen was there for me during my most vulnerable time and we’ve been best friends ever since.

That day, which began with a rocky morning, turned out to be amazing. After chatting with Mahreen, I met a few others from the program who had also arrived early.  Introductions were followed by 11 am beers on my new friends’ balcony, a group trip to the bank and some questionable dinner choices.


(First day crew: Anna, Elizabeth, Brian, Me, Brian and Mahreen)

That first day in Chiang Mai felt like a week.  I may have been jet-lagged, but I swear, I felt the intensity of every moment as if it was in slow motion.  The next few days before orientation, and the official kick off to my TESOL program, felt like a month.  And so began the now all too familiar phenomenon – time feels different here.  In reality, I had only known these new friends for hours or days or weeks but the amplified emotions (both positive and negative), culture shock and adjustment to this new place, instead made the time feel like months and years.

If you cannot already tell, I loved my first month in Chiang Mai.  It was filled with great times, incredible people, new friendships, a few panic moments and a certification to teach English.

Although I could write a novel about those four weeks, here are the highlights:

We began the month with a few cultural activities, basic Thai lessons, lectures and an introduction to the TESOL course.  Most importantly, it was a phenomenal bonding time with my program mates.

What else was I up to?  Well, I…

  • Visited Doi Suthep and Wat Umong
  • Hung out with elephants (just fed and bathed them, elephant riding is a really abusive tourist attraction) at the Elephant Nature Park
  • Demonstrated my lack of artistic skills at a Thai painting activity
  • Kicked ass during a Muay Thai class
  • Climbed waterfalls at Buong National Park
  • Spent I-don’t-know-how many hours riding in Songtews, red taxi trucks, to and from class daily
  • Explored various markets around Chiang Mai where I ate tons of great food and bought several pairs of elephant pants (lightweight cotton sweats that became a uniform among both guys and girls)
  • Visited Pai, a hippie backpacker mecca north of Chiang Mai
  • Survived two days of English camp at a local school
  • Graduated with a TESOL certification and the apparent ability to teach

Our days were spent mostly in class and nights were spent hanging out, eating, drinking and enjoying the city.  I ate tons of fried rice and noodles and drank my fill of Chang beer.  I wish this month did not have to end.  It felt like college, studying abroad and every travel group I’ve ever done combined, but better because I’m 25 and it validated my decision to leave my life at home for something different – the risk was already paying off.

However, reality came knocking, and on October 27th, I left Chiang Mai and after two bus rides and 17 hours on the road, I arrived in my new home, completely alone.  I live in Klaeng, a town in the Rayong Province, about 4 hours southeast of Bangkok.  I was picked up and delivered to my apartment by one of the other foreign teachers and left to my own devices for a few hours before a Thai teacher, Noo, picked me up for some shopping.  And so came another panic, an emotional release of everything I felt  – from sadness over leaving my friends and a city I love to straight up fear and discomfort over starting to teach, as well as the most crushing isolation I have ever experienced.

My room, located in an old apartment building at school where the other foreign teachers lived, was, as I affectionately refer to it as, a Shitbox.  The Shitbox was very dirty, smelly, covered in bugs and spider webs and lizards and lizard poop.  The Shitbox had not been painted in 20 years and the mattress seemed just as old, the bathroom emitted a terrible odor, the sink was on the balcony and the shower had no heater.  Apparently, the English teacher who lived there for a few weeks last term (before ultimately leaving the school altogether) called it a “prison.”

Mai pen rai, right?

Things vastly improved after Noo, and her sister, Nid arrived.  Firstly, they surveyed the room and decided we would go to Tesco (a large department store) to buy cleaning supplies, sheets, pillows, etc.  Secondly, within 30 minutes of being together they told me I should consider myself their new younger sister and they wanted to take care of me.  Instantly, my feelings of isolation, fear and trepidation subsided and things started looking up.


While the three of us did a decent job fixing up The Shitbox, I decided it was not the best living situation for me.  I actually made peace with the lizards and their poop, the cold showers and the balcony-teeth brushing. However, the school is 2 miles from town and there are no options for food or shopping within walking distance and I wanted to avoid buying a motorbike (too many friends have gotten into accidents – no thank you).

So, my second week, I moved to a hotel/residence in Sam Yan, the downtown area of Klaeng.  And I could not be happier, except for the cockroaches who love my room, but hey, its Thailand, so there will always be roaches.  I’ve also avoided getting a motorbike because Thai’s are the nicest people in the world and a few friends are willing to carpool me to and from school.  Sam Yan is a fun neighborhood with lots of shops, cafes, restaurants, markets, and even a gym, which I happily joined after my sprained ankle heeled.  I’m usually the only farang (foreigner) I see walking around, but the stares I get are always followed by smiles from curious onlookers.

I work at Makudmuang Rattachayalai, a secondary school with 1,000 students.  I teach 28 classes, or roughly 800 teenagers ages 13-18, once every two weeks.  Now, if you’re thinking that that does not sound like much in-class time, I would agree.  Seeing my kids only twice a month leaves little room to really TEACH them much of anything.  However, I’m rolling with it.

We learned in TESOL that our primary job as English teachers is not to drill the kids with vocabulary or grammar – they have Thai English teachers who do that.  My job is to get them comfortable speaking the language and allowing them to hear my lovely native English-speaking accent.  Though teaching is hard and can be a daily challenge, I am having a blast.  I’m finding my groove and enjoying myself in the process.  Walking in the hallways is like being a celebrity – I get about 300 hundred “Hello Teachaaa” and “Good morning/Good afternoon Teachaaaaa” greetings a day and even some claps and giggles of delight when I walk into the classroom to teach.  I really love hanging out with the students in class and seeing them around town.  In the last week I’ve run into half a dozen students on the street, on my way home from the gym, at markets where they help their parents in the evenings and buying food.

The teachers at my school are incredibly warm and welcoming and I could not feel more at home.  I have a lunch crew I eat with most days, I play volleyball with a few teachers occasionally and socialize during staff parties (sidenote: Thais love drinking beer and singing awkward karaoke, even at “work” parties.  It is an experience.)  I also love running into coworkers at Tesco or the market (both of which happened within the last 3 days).  It makes me feel like a legitimate part of the community.

A huge perk is my town’s location.  Klaeng is located about 20 minutes from a decently touristy beach, meaning in addition to dipping my toes in the sand and ocean, I can easily find western food (at great expense to my wallet).  Even sweeter, is that another 20 minutes away is the ferry to Koh Samed, one of Thailand’s lesser known islands

I travel every weekend, mostly to visit friends in and around Bangkok.  I have also been to Koh Samed twice and to Korat, a city 5 hours north of Klaeng, for a Friendsgiving reunion with TESOL friends.

After 11 weeks, time is actually no longer standing still like it was in Chiang Mai.  I’ve acclimated to life in Klaeng, teaching and seeing friends on weekends.  In fact, settling into the routine of working again and traveling once a week, has made time speed up.  At this rate, I expect the semester to fly by.

So, to recap my recap:  I am having an amazing experience thus far, from Chiang Mai and Pai to Klaeng and Koh Samed.  There are many ups and downs to living overseas, but I love my town and my school, my TESOL and Thai friends and I really enjoy teaching.

My new challenge is trying to stay in the moment and enjoy the rest of the semester before my wanderlust kicks in and I can move on to the next phase of my time abroad, TRAVELING.

Oh, I should also mention that my name is no longer Sarah…it is now officially Salaaa or Teachaa Salaaa.  I think it has a nice ring to it.


IMG_0622As of yesterday, I have been in Thailand for two months: one month in Chiang Mai and one month in my home for the semester, Klaeng.  Has it really only been two months?  It feels like six… (I will do a proper recap of my time here shortly, stay tuned).

Today (or rather tomorrow in the States) is Thanksgiving.  I do not usually like the “What are you thankful for?” question my mother always poses at the dinner table.  It is an important question of course, but it always feels forced and awkward.

But this morning, it feels appropriate to share a few reflections.  In this moment, I am reminded of how thankful I am to be in Thailand.  I miss my family and friends at home and will likely shed a tear tomorrow morning when I video chat to say hello during their holiday dinner.  And while I may slightly regret missing this family affair, made even more special this year by the arrival of my first nephew and the impending arrival of my second nephew, there will be many more happy holidays to share with them in the future.

My family.jpg

Today, I am keenly aware of how special and unique this Thanksgiving is, precisely because I am not at home or in my country to celebrate.  Instead, I was lucky enough to witness and participate in Loy Krathong over the last two days, a festival holiday in Thailand during which locals pay respect to the water goddess, ask for forgiveness and make a wish for good things to come.  To me, it translates to a combination of atonement and thanksgiving – how appropriate.


I am so thankful to have celebrated this holiday in Sam Yan, the downtown of my city, Klaeng.  I felt like a local walking through the festival and launching my Krathong (floating basket made from a banana tree and leaves, flowers, candles and incense) among my students and the many families of Klaeng.  It would have been lovely to celebrate in Chiang Mai where you can also launch lanterns into the sky, but that regret left me as I realized how special it was to celebrate in my community.

Ever since I decided to leave home for some time abroad, my emotions have existed as if on a pendulum, constantly swinging back and forth from very high highs to very low lows.  I will elaborate on both in later posts, but suffice it to say, I have experienced many ups and down since arriving here in September.  The highs have certainly outweighed the lows, but sometimes during the toughest times I have had difficulty seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of the suck.

Well, after a rough few weeks (extended culture shock, catching a cold, waging war against the cockroaches taking residence in my room, etc.) the pendulum has swung back in the positive direction and today there is a clarity I have not felt since earlier in the month.  I am elated to be here.  Or perhaps content is the right word.  When I arrived at school this morning I felt very at peace.  Instead of going directly to my office to get ready for class, I took advantage of my morning off and walked around the grounds.  I took stock of how beautiful my school is.  I visited the large golden Buddha by the front entrance and watched the students mill around waiting for classes to begin.

I also joined some friends on a coffee run.  We went to the same restaurant/coffee shop one of the women took me to on my first morning in Klaeng, a refurbished gas station with an Italian flare.  To be terribly cliché, it felt as though I have come full circle.  During that first visit to the coffee shop I was out of my element and reeling from my move to this lovely but unfamiliar town.  Now, a month later, it feels like home.  Today is mostly definitely a “high” compared to the “low” I experienced last week.

IMG_1673IMG_1671.JPGA friend just told me about her and her boyfriend’s Loy Krathong experience last night – they stumbled upon a festival near a lake by their apartment, where they joined in and were brought up on stage to dance in front of the town.  I laugh because that is so Thailand…you never know what will happen and it usually pays off to simply say “yes”.

So today, on Thanksgiving and Loy Krathong, as I sit here writing in a gazebo in the courtyard of my beautiful school, I say yes to this experience, yes to the highs and the lows and am ever grateful for the opportunity to be exactly where I am.

Another First Blog Post

I’ve written and rewritten and rewritten this first blog post a half a dozen times in the last year.

I came up with a brilliant one while running a half marathon on my 25th birthday in March all about not being ready for things (as I hadn’t really trained for the race but signed up on a whim – BIG mistake) but persevering and pushing through obstables.  It included lovely, flowery language inspired by encouraging tokens of wisdom I told myself when my music stopped working and the pain started at mile 3.  Well, by mile 6 that “post” went right out the window with a “f**k, this sh*t hurts.”  I somehow finished the race but forgot what I had mentally written.

I wrote another post on the morning of my last day of work, the day I left my job of 3 years, the only job I have held since graduating college.  That one was, again, lovely and inspirational.  I had pre-Thailand stars in my eyes – it was all about stepping out of my comfort zone and it mimicked many wonderful stories I’ve come across in the travel blogosphere about leaving home.  “I’m scared but I’m taking the plunge, I’m jumping in with both feet..I don’t know what is coming but I’m ready to not be ready.” While true, it was also far too trite.  That would not do.

So why did I not, at any point in the last year since I decided to move abroad, publish these or other inaugural “first” posts?  Well, because I did not start a blog.  Why did I not start a blog? Because I am an excellent procrastinator (my family could tell you some stories) and it stressed me out too much.  I was worried about what people would think and that I would not come across the way I meant to.  It is one thing to journal or email people back home to update them on life, but publish those ramblings on the interwebs?  That is a different animal.  Judgment is a bitch and worrying about it can be paralyzing.  Also, what the hell could I say that other real writers have not said already or said better for that matter?  What do I have to contribute?  The truth is, probably not much.  Also, why would anyone want to read my musings?  Beats the hell out of me, but you’re here, aren’t you?

Anyone reading who is a family member or close friend, or even an acquaintance or passing stranger I chatted with while waiting in line somewhere, knows that I LOVE to talk.  And talk.  For hours.  And repeat myself.  And tell absurdly long stories with seemingly little point to them – or by the time I reach the point I’ve lost my audience.  I admit that I ramble.  In person and in print, as evidenced by what you’re currently reading.  Leading up to my departure and since arriving in Thailand I’ve been talking some people’s ears off at home about my life here and writing novel-length emails to a few friends in the States.  But I find myself wanting to talk even more – to share more and with more people. In addition to the many travel and lifestyle blogs I follow online, a few friends in Thailand write blogs and I am consistently blown away by their honestly, candidness and bravery in putting themselves out there.  I find myself relating so well to their words and I often wonder if others might relate to mine.  So, here we are.  I’m taking a page out of their books, biting the bullet and starting this thing.

This is for those of you I have not had a chance to catch up with who want to follow along with me and yes, for me to step out of my comfort zone in a new way.  This blog will serve as a virtual bank of sorts to chronicle my many musings and ramblings as I wander across the world for I-don’t-know-how-long.  I am only two months in and, so far, it’s been a wild ride.  I can’t wait to start sharing.  Thanks for reading!