Bangkok Air

Should you become an expat?

Please don't stand under the propellers, sir.
Please don’t stand under the propellers, sir. [Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand, 2016]

I’m regularly asked about moving to Thailand (and now I’m being asked about Cambodia). There was a point when I was emailed so often I considered creating a standard reply, but in the end laziness reigned supreme. Interestingly, I’ve made friends though these initial inquiries. I’ve met up with a few and one time I even received a beautiful pair of earrings as a gift!

But as time has whistled by, I find myself feeling wary about giving advice. Here’s why:

// There are almost always unforeseeables. A family member back home becomes seriously ill and the newly expatriated must return home. The job you got turns out to be a nightmare, but your visa is tied to your employment. The country you are living in suddenly has a military coup, and you watch as friends are asked to leave for xyz bullshit reason. Welcome to the Jungle…

Wires on Sivutha
Wires on Sivutha Road [Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2015]
// Living abroad can create a strain or challenge on personal relationships. I don’t think anything really prepares you for this either. If I had known that moving to Thailand was going to break up my 6+ year relationship, I’m not sure I would have gone. Of course, you can argue that it would have happened anyway, but I don’t think so. We were fairly cozy. No regrets though. That’s life. (And don’t think for a minute, please, that my relationship was the only one. Many couples break up overseas.)

My friend K brought her two teenage kids over and one of them took to Thailand really well and the other just holed up in their house playing video games. He hated it. And so, you have to be okay with this kind of possibility.

All-purpose moto pit stop [Siem Reap]
All-purpose moto pit stop – cause sometimes you need it. [Siem Reap]
// Being an expat just means you are living life, but with the additional work and trials that come with thriving in a foreign land. Obviously, this can be very exciting and life-changing, but it is also stressful as all hell. You won’t believe the amount of things you take for granted back in your passport country. Simple tasks like buying a towel or getting Internet hooked up can become an Amazing Race without the million dollar prize.

// Integrating back to your home country might be your biggest heartache yet – or you might get stuck living abroad. I was terrified when I learned that there were expats who were unable to financially return back home. Then there are those who have used expatriating as a way to “escape,” but now, the U.S. government has the power to revoke passports. Suddenly, you don’t feel as free as you once did.

I’ve also heard stories from former expats having a damn hard time finding employment back in their birth country. Given the economic climate, many find work abroad only to return and face the additional burden of not having any connections + a CV that looks like you played “hooky” for a few years.

Going nowhere [Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2014]
Going nowhere [Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2014]
The longer I live overseas though, the more impossible going back seems. Apparently, US expats are giving up their citizenship in greater numbers. Many are fed up with paying taxes for two countries (as America is the only country that taxes its overseas citizens). I’d consider giving up mine, too, if it wasn’t for my mom and the exorbitant price it now costs to do so.

Then again, I made the decision years ago to not return. Here’s why:

// Life’s an adventure. Sure, there is monotony and the droll of routine and work, but there is also the wakefulness and jolting awareness that you are living in another country. Every expat seems to go through this, “I live in ______” epiphany moment. It’s like a shot of “I’m alive!” that runs through your body and you can’t believe where you are at.

(And trust me, you need these moments of gratitude and wonder to offset those days when you experience great antipathy for your foreign environment.)

Yes, finding a place to eat becomes an endurance test, but each day holds the promise of a cultural encounter, a language breakthrough, and a beautiful awakening. You’re living in the NOW because sleepwalking is almost an impossible poor second choice. You have to pay attention or you might step in that oily puddle of kitchen waste that looks like solid ground (true story).

// Relationships, relationships, relationships. OMG! Never in my sexiest dreams could I have known how many people I would meet from all over the world. America, for all its melting pot ways, is not a hotbed of international individuals. Yes, there are exceptional industries and communities, but for the most part, you’re not going to be working + meeting Brits, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, French, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, South Africans, etc., etc., not to mention fellow Americans from all over, on a day to day basis.

It’s magic.

Back in 2009 when I first started this crazy expat journey, I met Pat and Yui (and attended their wedding). [Chiang Mai]
Back in 2009 when I first started this crazy expat journey, I met Pat and Yui (and attended their wedding). [Chiang Mai]
Now, we are still friends. I saw them last month and they have have adorable twin girls.
We are still friends after all this time (which in expat yrs is like forever). I saw them last month and they now have adorable twin girls. Love you! [via Facebook] ❤
// Being an expat brings out the best and worst in you. There’s something about travel and living abroad that tests every fiber of patience in your body. It’s easy to be enlightened when everything is easy. But when existing feels like a s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e, you GROW. Okay, you have mini-meltdowns, too, but you have to push to survive and thrive.

You also learn what’s important to you. (Do you like to stand out or fit in? How much living space do you really need? Are you okay with eating local? Can you be vulnerable?) You’re perspective on what you need and what you want gets shaken and stirred, and just when things feel like they have settled, they get shaken and stirred all over again.

All those trite sayings about how expanding your horizons make you a better person start to be part of your inner playlist – and it’s a song that can change the way you see yourself and the world.

Finding serenity and bliss [Mae Gnat houseboat, Thailand, 2011]
Finding serenity and bliss [Mae Gnat houseboat, Thailand, 2011].
// Where ever expats end up, the people, the culture, the language and food are sure to be a massive part of the reason why they are there. Learning another language gives you exciting and playful insight into the way people think and view the world. Living side by side with folks so unlike you allows for more barriers to fall away than the opposite (which is radically different than what the media wants you to think). I’ve learned more about my own culture, too. It’s crazy how much we are the products of our culture and how boxed in we can become in our thinking as a result.

At the end of the day though, choosing to be an expat can be another rite of passage, a birth into adulthood (or childhood), but it ultimately depends on you.

What do you think?

Chiang Rai new year

12 ways to enjoy Chiang Rai

Over a year ago, we moved to Chiang Rai and I started this “12 things” series because I wanted to be cool like Lani at Pointes of View. I love her lists on Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

It’s been a good challenge to write about Chiang Rai because CR is a small town that often gets overlooked for bigger brighter Chiang Mai. But now that I’m days away from leaving, I can reflect and appreciate that I’ve lived in both Northern cities, and say I lived here and it’s been a great experience.

Let’s toast to CR with a last “12 things” list.

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Tips for getting a good Thai massage

Tips for getting a good Thai massage

tips-for-getting-a-good-thai-massage

I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I’ve been getting Thai massages for years and I’m always on the lookout for THE ONE. In case you’ve missed it, I’ve already talked about all the wrong ones you are likely to meet so I figured it was high time that I write about the practical and good sides.

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12 things I’ve learned from traveling around Thailand

Bangkok wires
A bundle of joy [Bangkok, 2015]
Recently I’ve been traveling around Thailand and it’s driving me batty because I’m such a homebody, but I love seeing new places, too. I know, I’m so complicated. And even though I no longer live in Chiang Mai, I’ve had to return there several times to go to Chiang Dao, Ubon Ratchathani, Lamphun and then I went to Bangkok. So, here’s this month’s “12 things” list.

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chiang rai

Happy New Year from Chiang Rai, Thailand.

@ the 75 Anniversary Flag and Lamp Park, Chiang Rai, 2014
@ the 75 Anniversary Flag and Lamp Park, Chiang Rai, 2014

I have been waiting in anticipation for the unveiling of Chiang Rai’s Flower Festival at the Flag and Lamp Park (which is located downtown on Thanalai Rd). For about a month, I want to say, they have blocked it off, surrounded it with a high green wall of tarp and have been digging away with backhoes.

Continue reading “Happy New Year from Chiang Rai, Thailand.”

Cimelo: Antique shop and coffee

One could argue that Thailand’s coffee culture started in Chiang Rai with the original Doi Chaang Coffee shop and restaurant opening here. It certainly helps that coffee is grown locally. Lee’s Akha Ama Coffee is grown nearby, as is his apprentice’s – Tu’s from Nangnon Coffee.

So it’s little wonder that interesting coffee shops have gained popularity and have cropped up in Thailand, specifically in a town as small as Chiang Rai. Now, I certainly have not gone to all of them here, but I feel lucky to have found one of the cutest ones. Located just off of Honglee and Rathotya, I’ve enjoyed my time hanging out there in the very cold air conditioned rooms with a lovely treat and coffee.

I am gumdrop toys, tin robots, a movie reel and a glass table top.

I am tricycles climbing up a house, hot coffee and Saturday morning cartoons.

I am dessert on a swing.

 

12 things I’ve learned about Chiang Rai (food shopping edition)

Mae Kok Noi, 2014
Mae Kok Noi, 2014

When we first moved here and I took a look at our neighborhood, I thought, “Dear God, we are going to have to go far to look for food.” But as it turned out, this was not the case. Where ever you live in Thailand, a local market or store is never too far away. Often times though, the store is run out of a house or in front of a home and this is where you can find some basics like produce, dry goods, drinks, etc.

Continue reading “12 things I’ve learned about Chiang Rai (food shopping edition)”