rainbow umbrellas in penang malaysia

For what feels like the first time since moving to Siem Reap, I’m attempting to sink into it and accept it. Part of the problem is I’ve been telling myself that this move to Cambodia was only a temporary situation, and well, it’s been almost 2 years now.

Sometimes it looks like as soon as I make an effort to like living here, challenges are thrown up like traffic cones and obstacles, but then I realize things are not as bad as they first seemed.

It was kind of strange, that moment, when I was pushing open the doors of work and having the audacious thought, “What if I try to enjoy living here?”

Look, it’s not like I haven’t had really lovely moments: swimming at a fancy hotel, laughing with colleagues and students, savoring a good meal, sightseeing, but Cambodia has been hard for me. There have been extenuating circumstances, for sure. But extenuating circumstances don’t feel like it, they just feel like you are not handling life as well as you should be.

You know, once I figured out Thailand, it was easy, but here hasn’t felt like an extension of Thailand at all. It’s been its own set of tests and trials with the added burden of (what was then) 5 years of living abroad under my money belt, so I felt like, “Damn it, shouldn’t it be getting easier, not harder for me by now?”

The crazy thing is I see the rewards. I’ve been gaining great experience teaching IELTS test prep (it’s one of the tests that students take in order to study abroad or get a better paying job), and I’ve been teaching higher English levels in general. (This is opposed to when I was in Thailand teaching mostly beginner English classes. I like to think of Thailand as the Mississippi of English proficiency out of the ASEAN countries. Now, this could be changing, but I remember hearing ASEAN had to push back its date for English comp standards because Thailand was lagging behind.)

So, it’s nice that I’ve been challenged professionally. And I’m getting paid more here, too.

In about a month, I’ll be returning to Thailand to meet up with my mom. It will be a good chance to decide if I want to return to Thailand in the future. So, that’s been part of the reason I’ve been in my head too much. Should I stay or should I go? The problems of Thailand are still there, but so are my friends. And who knows? I might decide to go someplace completely different.

Of course, nothing needs to be decided today or even tomorrow. And sinking into today might lead to staying her longer than I ever imagined.

You know transitions can take up to 5 years. It’s hard to put a time frame on it.

In the meantime, I need to…

  1. Practice being mindful. What am I jibber-jabbering about when I’m not paying attention?
  2. Try new things, new foods to cook, new restaurants, new bike routes, etc.
  3. Get domestic and nest, nest, nest. Nothing like making your home, the best home possible.
  4. Read, write, relax, repeat.
  5. A priority is figuring out how to get better sleep. This has been an ongoing problem made worse by external noise and crazy work schedules. And thinking too much.

(Part 1 is here)

  1. Taking the time to congratulate myself on little victories. For example, all that minimalism stuff I was raving about before? Yeah, well, I’ve reached this nice point in my life of buying only when I need something. Wanting something is not really an issue for me these days, and it’s nice.
  2. I’ve been listening to more music. It’s really amazing how much music affects your mood. It’s funny, one of my students picked up on Sugar by Maroon 5 being blasted from another classroom and whined, “Why don’t you play good music like the other teachers instead of classical music?” Somehow her “insult” felt like a huge compliment, and I simply smiled at her.
  3. Be available. I’m not particularly good at this, especially these days. It’s tough because I waver between wanting to be social and wanting to be alone. I like being alone. But I like being helpful, so I think there is where I might find my balance.
  4. I spent the part of the night awake regretting getting rid of an old couch. This morning I’m ready to be patient with the extra space and see what we come up with.
  5. Remembering the nice moments. It seems like I forget this kind of stuff. For example, when I come home from work and share my day with my bf, I talk about the struggles, the traffic, but I totally forgot about this really lovely compliment I received the other day. Another teacher was telling her class that they would be having a substitute teacher because she’d be gone, and the students said, “Can it be teacher Lani? We want teacher Lani!” So sweet.


How do you stay sane?


21 replies on “10 ways I’m finding my sanity this month

  1. It sounds like you have good reasons to stay in both Thailand and Cambodia. Good to hear things are getting better in Cambodia and you have a lovely bunch of students to work with, which would make you look forward to going to work.

    I’m like you. I like my alone time and if you were to ask me to go on a trip or holiday by myself, I won’t mind at all. Like you as well, I haven’t been getting good sleep. After coming home from work to an empty house after a long, draining day at work, all of a sudden I’ll feel energised and awake by my space. And probably that’s why I don’t sleep well..

    …which I think is also what keeps me sane. Taking each day day by day, I feel more immersed in the present and learnt to let go of expectations of the future. Sure, I’ll have goals but I don’t expect ever to achieve them. Just enjoy the moment 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesh, but I’ve been good so far about not thinking or fretting about the future. I might start to panic a bit when my time to go to Thailand on holiday gets closer or when I’m there thinking about what I want to do, but for now, I’m alright with here.

      Did I read that correctly? You have goals, but don’t expect to ever achieve them? No. That can’t be right. Right???

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You read it correct. I have goals but I do not expect to achieve them. For a long time, I set goals and set up plans to achieve them, only to be disappointed in the end. So these days, I have goals and work towards them but never expect anything to come out of it – and so, I let myself to be more experimental and if I leave my goals behind, I won’t feel guilty.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hmmm. I know what you mean. It sucks when you don’t hit that high, and so you wonder if you should even bother again.

        For a while I swore off goals and focused on intentions. Now I’m back on the goal bandwagon, but taking baby steps. For example, one goal a day – like have a nice day. Yup, that kind of stuff. But I keep my eye on the bigger stuff too, but I try to not stress myself out with a timeline (that really bummed me out before). Reminding it keeps me going, but we’ll see how it works out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes I wonder IF I keep sain😉😃. Lack of sleep is baaaad for sanity. Lucky I get more of it now.

    I am social but I also like being alone. Being alone, I have been missing it while kids have been small!!! I seem to get more of those opportunities now, and I enjoy it. But I’ve been trying to create small moments for me, like I’ve been always walking/riding my bike to work since I had kids, that gives me a moment of just me and my thoughts.
    I also try to have more unscheduled time. Time to be outside and exercise when we feel like it as a family. Means I see less friends but… it feels good. Also, exercise is great for sanity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes. Exercise is so good for you in so many ways. I feel somewhat blessed in that I like to move around. I think this is why in the mornings I do chores because it wakes you up! Although, I have my lazy sloth days too. Reading and relaxing are two of my favorite things!

      And as much as traffic drives me insane, riding my bike feels good. I like the exercise, so I’m not ready to give it up – just yet in lieu of the taxi.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Noise is brutal. Apparently noise you can’t control is at the top of the list for making a person’s life miserable. As there is currently massive construction across the street, I heartily agree. Jackhammers suck.

    So noise canceling headphones and earplugs if you got ’em. And then you can play your own music! Which you are so right about. I love quiet, but nothing like music to perk you up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww yeah. Got earplugs and noise cancelling headphones, but they help only a little. So far, we’ve had a quiet week and if we plan on staying here, we’ll consider looking for a new apt that is quieter. (If such a place exists in SE Asia!!!!)


      Liked by 1 person

  4. You have a nice list there. I think the last one is very important, focusing on the positive. I also feel the “bad” parts of the day are the first thing one mentions when having a conversation at night, and complaining and focusing on the negative can become a downward spiral. I’ve been working on changing that for a few months!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good for you. It feels like a constant battle, but one that I pays off. Right now, I’m enjoying life, so that’s good news 🙂

      Sending you good energy, too. xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I find your life quite fascinating and cannot imagine in my wildest dreams living as an expat with as much courage as you. Of course from the inside it’s just life, right? I don’t think it really matters where you live or what you’re doing life is just life. It has its highs and lows good and not as good but our attitude and desires for life is really at a the heart of things. Your love of teaching and the inspiration that you obviously have with these students must be so rewarding but regardless of where or what you teach a good teacher would have these moments, I think….. in fact any job done with love and joy. It’s good that we question where we’re at in life because it helps keep us centered, grounded, and in forward-moving direction. From an outsider it does seem that you embrace your surroundings. I see so much of this on your Instagram. Anyway, enough preaching. Enjoy the journey…… ( and I think you are). 👍💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thanks. It’s true, on the inside we’re all pretty much the same regardless where we live, we have similar struggles and dreams.

      To be honest, I’m in disbelief that I live here, and that I’ve resisted it for so long. Although, to be kind to myself, those extenuating circumstances were no joke – and I forgot that by moving to a new country, I was starting over again. Sometimes these kinds of moves are smooth and other times, great learning experiences. I have no regrets (so far :P) living here.

      It’s tough at times, but eye-opening, and I do feel blessed to work with Khmers. They are such great people.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed your post! 🙂 Your life in Cambodia sounds intriguing, if not always pleasant. What a different world from Pompano Beach, Florida (where I now live). I’d like to go there. And it is very cool that you are in demand as a teacher and that students think highly of you!

    Thanks for describing your tips for staying sane. As you know, I’m always seeking ways to stay sane, beyond just taking my antidepressants and quitting Twitter. I think being mindful is good advice. I’ve been meditating every day, if only for ten minutes; I think it helps, at least for the time I’m meditating, but my hope is that if I start to freak out about some stressful event, I can summon my “meditation mode” and find a “calm center” which will allow me to cope. I haven’t tested it enough to know if it works but I love the idea.

    You’ve motivated me to write my own list of ways to stay sane. If I discover any useful ones, I might write my own “staying sane” blog. Maybe if enough of us pool our ideas, there will be hope for us. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha. Love it. Yes.

      Yeah, I don’t think I’m calmer and all that Zen stuff just yet. I feel pretty much the same, but maybe these things are much more subtle. But I like the idea, like you, of carving out quiet time, reflection, focus and trying the practice.

      Hope you are healthy and happy. Let’s us toast to sanity! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wishing you Zen peace, Lani. Like you, I listen to music (baroque classical), read light magazines, bike (but not now in -23 degree C winter snow!) or do some art.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your list of ten is very ambitious. We could all learn from it. I like your #6, congratulating yourself on small victories. (Big victories are few and far between.) # 7 and #10 are very nice: listening to more music and remembering the nice moments. I’m always amazed at what music can do for me, especially when I’m standing up and can move or dance to it. We all try to get the balance right between alone and social time. Good luck on getting more good sleep. It’s important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It certainly helps that I don’t have to rush off anywhere in the mornings now. So, if I don’t sleep well, then at least I can sleep in!


  9. “Part of the problem is I’ve been telling myself that this move to Cambodia was only a temporary situation, and well, it’s been almost 2 years now.” I understand this all too well. Been there …. in some ways, still there. 🙂

    I hope you’re able to make a solid decision in the months ahead, but whatever happens, sticking to your action plans, especially point 10, should land you in a good place, mentally. All the best, Lani.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, right now I’m not too concerned with what will happen mid-year when a decision needs to be made. Just floating in the moment. xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

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