When people travel and live lives abroad, they tend to post only their most interesting and glamorous photos. I know that my Instagram is filled with photos of me bathing elephants, taking motorbike journeys through jungles and exploring exotic locations. I wanted to remind everyone who is considering a life abroad or just admiring the life style, that the day to day experience is often thrilling but also down to Earth and sometimes challenging. Whether you’re interested or not, here is the low down on a week of my life living in Thailand.
• Woke up at 6 am and appreciate the view of this world famous city and mountains from my 14th floor balcony. Grab my $2.50 dress acquired from the local market and get ready for work.
• Take the pumpkin and coconut milk lunch I made out of the fridge, grab my bag of red dragon fruit and head out the door.
• Hop on the motorbike, head to work and count about 12 Buddhist monks walking through the streets on my way.
• Get to work and teach my lessons for the day. Write a story for my blog in my free time and try not to laugh when my 8 year-old student tells me that she, “gets angry when my little brother kicks my ass.”
• I realize after a trip to the toilet that eating red dragon fruit will make your pee turn pink. A conclusion that I came to after sweating over something being really wrong with me.
• The school driver took me to get my official work permit which cost me about $100. Super budget buster! Bummer.
• Stopped at the market on my way home to pick up mangoes and scored a huge bag of edamame for only 30 cents.
• Listened to a podcast to learn Chinese while jogging at the gym and immediately bought freshly baked rosemary bread and pure passion fruit juice at the weekly market in my building after.
• Chatted with a travel blogger/youtuber on her first day in Chiang Mai, felt inspired and then went to bed.
• Swerved around chickens in the road way too many times on my way to work.
• Started reading The Alchemist and don’t want to put it down, even to teach my classes.
• Resumed doing some freelancing work since I had been on a break.
• Received hugs from my students who I previously punished and realized that kids hardly ever hold grudges.
• Stopped at a pop-up market on the way home but it was all the same old fried insects, fresh fruit juices and elephant print pants so I left without making any purchases.
• Felt so homesick that I cried and put myself to bed early.
• Woke up and put on my traditional Lanna style shirt. Fridays in Chiang Mai are the days that professionals and many school children can wear traditional clothes.
• Drove to work and counted about ten monks.
• Realized that the old man who I pass every day on my commute, the one who always waves to me, is gone. I wonder what happened to him and hope he is OK.
• Someone brought a kitten to school and it nibbled my hand when I played with it. I spent the next 30 minutes convincing myself that it’s unlikely that it has rabies.
• Went to the gym
• Went with Josh and Orla (the sister of our friend, Ciran who is currently in the hospital in Chiang Mai) to get some Indian food. It was the last night of her visit after three weeks of staying with us and we took the food to the hospital so we could all eat one last meal together before the two of them went back to Ireland.
• Ciran gave me his yoga mat and I gladly took it since I have been needing one for months. I had given mine away when I left China and had ended up needing it along my journey. It reminded me that I will always receive what I need and want if I put it out into the universe enough.
• Left the hospital and went to a local bar to listen to hip hop and eat French fries before meeting friends at another bar where we danced, drank and listened to an impromptu hip hop show delivered to us by an expat from Chicago.
• Left the bar and used my little knowledge of Thai to successfully order a vegan soup from a street stall.
• Passed out in bed.
• Got a late start to the day but had a delicious Mexican lunch and a lot of laughs with a new friend who is also from America. She gave me a couple of good resources for my freelance writing too.
• Worked out my alcohol from the night before at the gym.
• Got ready and headed off to a hotel pool party to meet friends, dance to house music, try to spot the lady boys and look at the incredible view of the mountains.
• Got a coconut from the night market and went home to get some sleep.
• Woke up nice and early to meet our friends for our usual weekend road trips.
• Josh planned out a nice route and we hopped on our motorbikes to drive an hour and a half up into the mountains to have coffee in a tree house café.
• Our friend’s bike couldn’t make it up the hills so they parked it on the side of the road and Josh shuttled us each up to the café one by one.
• Walked over the suspension bridge to a unique and adorable café within a gigantic tree and had fantastic conversation as usual.
• Drove back down the mountain and Josh lost his main brake on our bike. As we pulled off on the side of the road, a Thai man came out of nowhere, told us which brake was affected, what the problem was and what to do, all in English. Then, he disappeared. The universe helps us again.
• Stopped off at a restaurant by the river for lunch and I accidentally ordered a slice of cake instead of the plate of rice that I wanted. Apparently my Thai is better when I am drunk.
• Headed home but stopped off at a cave to check it out. It was huge, filled with Buddhist shrines and had no gigantic spiders.
• We ended the day by finally seeing wild monkeys and thought it was incredible that we had only just been complaining a few hours prior that we never get to see any. Ask and you will receive.
• Got home, noticed my passion fruits had maggots in them after eating about five already. Wondered how many I had accidentally eaten and if they would continue to grow inside my stomach. Proceeded to order delivery Indian food to make myself feel better before bed.
• Got a smile from a monk today on my way to work and saw so many chickens cross the road that I couldn’t get the old joke out of my head.
• Received the opportunity to freelance teach online from a co-worker who has been doing it himself for a while. This is something that I wanted to do and have looked in to for a while. It will really help me transition from a “regular” job to working for myself at home and saving enough money to keep traveling after Thailand (two of my main goals at the moment.) This instance is an example of my belief that if you surround yourself with people doing what you want to do, you will eventually get there.
• Cooked dinner, went to the gym and fell asleep by 8:30. Glamorous, I know.
• Woke up at 4:30 am to drive to the immigration office and get in line to apply for my work visa. It’s extremely busy and a lengthy process so people line up about three hours before it opens. I chatted with my co-workers and read The Alchemist so the 5 ½ hour wait didn’t seem so bad.
• Before driving back to work, I stopped at a vegan buffet that I’ve been meaning to go to but is only open during the hours I am at work. It cost me 15 cents for a plate of food since the place itself is a non-profit. They even require you to pitch in and clean your own dishes when you finish.
• Went back to school to teach my lessons and had to stay an hour later than usual to oversee homework club. This week is review week and I am running low on energy so I put on Despicable Me and gave both myself and the kids a break.
• Went home, cooked dinner and went to bed early again, dreaming of the weekend!
Well, there it is, in all of its boring, introspective, glamorous and eventful glory. For all of you contemplating a life abroad but worrying about the actual reality of it, here you are. It’s really not so scary and different as it may seem.