Quicksand economies, medical crises, personal blows, you name it, there’s no shortage of external and internal factors that can cause us to reevaluate how we live our lives. A couple of years ago, I had a wake up call when I realized, like really realized, how much my mom and I are different, how our values could not be more far apart.

I even created an image and as I look back at it nothing’s changed.

I still hold these things to be dear. So why bring this up now? Well, even though my values are the same, I’ve changed, the world has changed, and I feel the intensity of how much my values mean to me. If you’ll humor me, I’d like to talk about each one in turn briefly to possibly get you thinking about your values, too.


For too long I’ve compromised on beauty. I’ve chosen (by circumstances, yes) to live in cities that do not share this same value. I badly want to do something about this. I mean, as much as I can make my home a space of visual peace, I want to be able to walk in nature again. We’re increasingly okay with ugly landscapes, products, even slovenly dress, but I think it does more psychological harm than good.

In defense of beauty

Does beauty need to be defended? Yeah, well, if those spectacular concrete jungles are any indication of the direction we are heading, then yes, I believe beauty does need to be defended. I like to joke that in another life, I would have been a city planner because I think we have lost some of…

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“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


The trade off though is I live in a safe city. Thailand’s pretty free of crime. It’s the kind of place where you could accidentally leave your bag, someone will chase you down to give it back, or you’ll find it where you left it. The news gives off a different vibe. We also don’t engage in risky motorbike driving or late night shenanigans. Funnily, I used to think that I didn’t live in that safe of a place. Hello, seasonal pollution, but 2020 changed my mind. We’re alright.

Safety became a priority for me when I moved to Ecuador – until then I took it for granted. Sure, Thailand’s traffic is sketchy, but amazingly, it usually works. Here every expat has a motorbike (or car) story, but in Ecuador it was a mugging. So as much as it’s a beautiful country, I wanted to go back to Thailand where I felt safe walking at night.

Thailand vs Ecuador

An American I met last night asked if I noticed any similarities between Thailand and Ecuador. Having been here only 6 days I told her I had. I made the move from Chiang Mai to Cuenca because I wanted a change. I hadn’t been living in CM for very long, just under a year, but…

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“Safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless.” ― Author Unknown


I’d like to think that because I revere and respect creativity so much that this has allowed me to never run out of ideas, whether it’s in writing, work, or even cooking. But I think creativity cannot be isolated, it works together with cultivating independent thoughts and in conjunction with self-development.

I’m also a big problem solver. As soon as an issue hits, I’m spinning out idea after idea on how to fix it which sounds great, but in relationships I’ve had to learn that sometimes the other person just wants you to listen. But creative thinking is related to finding solutions and I’m a big believer in creativity to change the world for the better.

“The creative adult is the child who survived.” — Ursula Leguin


My choices has centered around this value a great deal. I don’t have heavy responsibilities (mortgage, children, a managerial position), but I know that I’ve missed out on what profound things those responsibilities can bring, too. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had more time to second-guess my decisions and wonder ‘what-if’, but right now, I’m okay. I’m more of the “eccentric aunt who knits a sweater out of dog hair” than a “Judy with a van full shopping + kids”. [You see what I did there? I put shopping ahead of the kids.]

What is home? (a nomad reflects)

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. – Matsuo Basho I’ve done a lot of moving in my life in attempt to discover where I belong. I’ve moved from Portland, Oregon, down to Chico, California, then further still to Oceanside, California. And when we were fed up with the West Coast,…

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“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – Charlotte Bronte


If there’s one thing that I did right in my twenties, it’s educating myself to be a more forgiving and mindful person. One of the perks of a challenging upbringing is a strong desire to be different than your circumstances. Now, I don’t quite feel like the enlightened monk on the mountain top while the world burns, but I enjoy some moments of deep peace and happiness throughout my days. Stepping up my meditation practice has recently helped.

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.” ― Henry David Thoreau


This has been the most difficult to achieve financially. No one’s going to take care of me unless I do it myself. And while I’ve started a teaching online side hustle, have self-published my own book and audiobook, and try to submit to paid writing gigs, it’s still not the cozy thousands that allow me utter freedom from 9 to 5. On the other hand, independence can mean mental and physical independence, too. I can proudly say I have those. I think plenty of introspection and self-development prevent me from too much tribe-think.

But actually I don’t know what it is. Perhaps we’re then shading into nature versus nurture. Perhaps most of our adult decisions are unconsciously made during childhood. My mom’s the family rebel. My grandma divorced her abusive husband and gained custody of their son which in 1960s China was practically unheard of as men traditionally got the children. So maybe it’s in the genes.

Working with zombie energy, not against it

After I returned from the Great Marathon Race to Laos, I noticed that I fell out of my routine. That is to say, I was starting to have one. I think expats can easily sink into the quagmire pit of: drinking Chang beer at the Freedom Bar all day, sleeping until high noon, and slinking…

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“To find yourself, think for yourself.” ― Socrates

Taylor Pearson has a great post on values and a long list to help you choose yours. My friend Daisy also recently wrote about her process here. Finally, have a look around the web, there are plenty of lists out there to help get you started.

What are your values?

41 replies on “What do you value?

  1. I loved reading about your values and how they’ve changed your life. It was interesting to see how I valued many of the same things, though to different conclusions, such as having a family and a mortgage, haha. That said I really struggled in the “concrete jungle” we lived in when we were first married, and I’ve since decided that I just don’t function well in highly urban spaces and probably won’t move back to one unless we really need to. (I mean, the inside of our house is a different story…. ha). But I agree, our physical surroundings and space makes a big difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! So glad you can relate! Home is a different story, isn’t it? It’s our sanctuary and hopefully something that’s under our control.

      It’s what makes me fear being a homeowner, not being able to control my immediate surroundings of peace, quiet, beauty. I totally understand why folks live without neighbors 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very thought-provoking — thank you. I definitely need to run through some exercises to define my values, especially now when, as you said, the world is changing so drastically. I think many of mine are the same as yours. I live in a very unsafe city (comparatively speaking), but I think living in a place with lots of crime has made me think about and value safety in a way that I never would have otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes. I took it for granted when I was in the States, having grown up and lived in small towns and small cities.

      This all changed when I moved abroad because I became hyper aware of my vulnerabilities as a foreigner. As Thailand’s middle class has grown, petty crime is low. But living in Ecuador (and Cambodia) really got me thinking about how important feeling safe is to me.

      Hope you have fun checking out some of the lists! Cheers. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post Lani. I think that although we live very different lives, we do share many values. I know that I’ve come to value the natural world much more In recent years: probably since I became a mother and realised that my son carries part of me into the future and I want that future to be a good one.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Beautifully said. Yes, I do feel things shifting a bit as I age. I think I could tolerate living abroad better when I was younger, but these days, I so miss nature. It’s been too long with lockdown and all that, no holidays that kind of thing to help offset the city I live in. But I’m optimistic about the future now that I’ve honed in on how important this is for me this will help make the decisions for the next step. Cheers!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post, and food for thought. I think it’s the perfect time to look deeper at our values. While it’s easy to point out the faulty values of others, we often don’t take the time to really look at our own and acknowledge who we are and want we want in this fast-paced world. COVID-19 has definitely slowed things down as well as kicked up the dust on many divisive yet paramount issues. I’m taking a free course on Future Learn right now re: global citizenship. It’s fascinating and very insightful. And now while on the job hunt, I’ve had to make time to explore who I am, what I’m capable of and what I want, and not just in the job world. Lovely to read your list. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad it resonated with you. And yes! to pointing out the broader perspective which I kind of mentioned at the beginning but forgot to say again.

      I think that’s part of the problem with govts versus people, conflicts between countries, couples, etc. We have different values and we don’t know that’s where we’re coming from because we assume they share the same values as us. Look at China vs the US, big conflict because of our value and belief systems. Thanks again, Anne-Julia!


  5. I admit I laughed a little that you’re binge watching America’s Next Top Model. 😛

    I totally relate with all your core values. My own are quite similar. Especially freedom and independence. These two values are what I work for – not depending on anyone and being able to do whatever I want. ☺️

    This is such a great post. I think I’m going to do some deep thinking and create my own list. Keep updating it every 5 years and see what has changed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah. I’ve watched every season of ANTM. 😛 I was so smitten with Nyle that I follow him on IG and I don’t follow celebs at all. I’ve also watched some international ones as well. I love the behind the scenes stuff.

      So glad you liked the post! Wheeee! High five for independence and freedom. So important. Maybe that’s why we’re nomadic, eh?

      Have fun with your own list. Makes me want to redo mine again! xxoo


  6. So interesting, Lani. I do think growing older and moving away (if not geographically than in emotional–and of course material–dependence on parents) helps to forge a real identity and help us understand our values. Not as products of our parents, only, but products of the environment and relationships we want to have influence us. I’m going to be thinking about this great post for a while. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I often resisted my mom’s good intentions and advice. Now I wonder if I was simply being contrary, but it’s probably a bit of having to forge my own identity too.

      I’m happy to hear that you got something out of this. I hope you enjoy the process of ruminating over your values. Cheers! xo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Critical thinking, resilience, creativity, and finding joy amidst the struggle are mine. I love how you interwove your older articles into this piece and the different ways you took the conversation about core values from Daisy’s post. Beautiful. I greatly admire how thoughtful you’ve been given that life is not as full of choice for us as we would wish. Wishing you well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I’ve been playing around with the new block editor. When I first saw Daisy’s post, I have to admit, I panicked because I was getting ready to post mine and didn’t expect anyone to post the same thing, but then I was reminded that we very often have different takes on the same thing. And no surprise, we did!

      Thanks for sharing your values and for your kind words, take care, xo

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You’ve given me a lot of food for thought. I don’t know that I’ve ever verbalized what my values are, but I did find myself nodding quite a bit as I read through yours. Safety was one that especially resonated. Over the years I’ve taken for granted how safe Seoul is.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s a really nice feeling, isn’t it? I probably could write a whole post on that one.

      Happy to get you thinking, I believe you will enjoy the process of pouring over lists of values and finding the ones that resonate with you. Enjoy, xo

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a big move, from Thailand to Ecuador. I admire how brave you are. I’d love to read your future posts on life in Ecuador.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. If you do a search option on Ecuador on the blog I’ve written a few posts already. It seems like another lifetime ago…


  10. Safety is a definite necessity, yes.
    I grew up in a small town, so I had a balanced life – to say the least. And it was safe and sweet and mostly everyone knew everyone else.
    It was as I began to explore the world that I realized I had been in a cocoon and there were many things to consider as I looked at things.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. I understand how you feel. Even though we were warned as children of kidnappers and horrible men who tried to lure you into vans with candy, we were pretty safe and sound. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Goodness Lani, we share so many of the same core values.
    The one that struck home at the moment is the thing about wanting to fix other people’s worries in a relationship. I struggle with this I must admit – having a partner who is very anxious about the current situation and being unable to help is very frustrating.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I understand. I’m trying to be a good listener but it’s hard sometimes because he really gets into the news, and I’m too sensitive and take it the wrong way. We’re getting better about understanding each other though.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Most likely you are less attached to assets. But like you I value creativity and independence in terms of self-expression and growth.

    And we all need beauty, natural beauty.

    I also value peace…quiet places. I don’t mind the distant hum of city. That’s all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I value peace and quiet too. It’s actually really important. Can’t say that I like city sounds, even as background. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  13. At last I found the time to catch up on your blog, Lani. What a lovely post. I am so with you on the value of beauty. I find that I yearn for beauty, and simplicity in my life more and more as I grow older. I want less stuff, but more beauty. I am definitely going to have a look at the Taylor Pearson link to see if my values have changed over time or if they have changed their order of importance in my life, as I suspect that might be the case. These lists are so useful as there are often things on them that I never even thought of as a value.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the question seems daunting or a little overwhelming until you have a tangible list to sift through. I fee like I should have more, but I like not having some great list of ten that I feel like I need to be aware of. Everyone’s different, but like you, I’m all for simplicity. Glad you liked it, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I like how you linked each value to a post that was related to it, Lani!

    Many of your values are similar to mine (like beauty, safety, and creativity) but in the end, they were my nice-to-haves and not my core values. I love how you mentioned your life situation has changed over the years but the values have stayed the same.

    It’s so interesting to me that evaluating our values doesn’t lead to the same conclusion but the common values underneath mean we get similar fulfillment from very different life situations.

    Thanks for sharing my blog post and Taylor’s resource too! It’s helpful to see different approaches to our values and comparing where they’re different and the same.

    Also, I mentioned it before but my core values are awareness, effectiveness, contribution, connection, and well-being. I felt it was important to choose principles to live by too (faith, love, and perseverance are mine). I see principles as timeless while the definitions of values can be subjective depending on the person. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I like having both come together to inform my decision-making.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I can tell you already you’ve thought about it way more than I have. 😛 It was a fun and insightful exercise to help steer the ship, so to speak, and get my bearings straight. Beyond this, I haven’t done the work. I suppose for me it has to do with having a good balance between head and heart – I have a tendency to over or under think, right now I’m trying to work on listening to my intuition.

      Thanks so much, Daisy. Glad you liked the post 🙂 Great minds think alike! xo


  15. How come every time I visit your blog I’m left with more homework on my pile?! 😉 Now I really have to think about that list of values of mine, it feels odd that I’ve never taken the time to even phrase them. 😕 But I have a feeling they will greatly overlap with yours, Lani, with creativity obviously being one of them. 😄
    Compared to other countries, and even, or especially America, I live in a relatively safe country. But the last years showed that sadly this is about to change (I’m talking radicals).
    At least it’s still a beautiful country with lots of nature to admire, even in the cities for which I’m grateful! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I am so glad that as a teacher I’ve got such a good student 😛

      Yeah, the world is changing so fast. It’s CRA-ZYYY. I imagine during this pandemic many folks reevaluated what was important to them and what was not.

      For better or worse, my nomadic overseas lifestyle has forced me to do all this heavy lifting for many years now.

      Stay safe! xo

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I love this piece. It really made me reflect on my own values and what they mean to me. Thanks for writing this. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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