A tuk tuk driver races down the street in Chiang Mai

“You’re moving to Thailand?”

It’s been since February when I knew my future would take me to Thailand and I would become an expat. For nearly five months, my life has been in this stop-wait-move pattern.

Stop. Wait. Move. Stop. Wait. Move.

It gets tiresome after awhile. And severely emotionally draining.

Five months is a long time to know your future is right there, staring at you, banging down the door … and yet there is nothing to do but wait, wait, wait.

In March when I quit my job, I knew Thailand was coming down the pipeline. I just didn’t know when. Then, in April, everything was solidified. I had an offer at Save the Elephant Foundation. For those of you who are new readers, last autumn I spent a week at Elephant Nature Park and fell in love with the organization. In an instant, I knew I wanted my life to take me back to Thailand and back to the elephants.

Then, it was going to get my visa in April. Booking my flight for July 11.

It seemed like another lifetime until that flight.

Then, life became a whirlwind. A poorly-timed (yet awesome) trip to Sweden, followed by a move, followed by a drive across America, followed by two weeks to prepare for my new life.

Never did I pause. Never did I stop to think about … well … anything.

“Aren’t you scared?”

I have no idea how many people asked me that. Whenever I announced my plans, people would stop. They would stretch their eyes wide with a look of disbelief on their faces.

Scared? I am living my dream.

I never gave it much thought beyond knowing I was doing what I wanted to do. I was following my own set of rules.

My response would always be something to the extent of “No. I am not scared. I am excited. I am ready. I want to leave Las Vegas. I want to chase that dream I had back in September and actually use my talents to do something good. Something helpful. Something that will educate people about elephant tourism in Southeast Asia.”

“You’re so brave.”

Throughout all of my travels, that one statement has always echoed in my ears. From my friends. From people who don’t know me.

Brave?

It is really about being brave?

I’ve never thought of myself as brave. I try to steer clear of adventures. The bravest thing I have done is get naked in Sweden and that … well … it’s definitely not the same as jumping from a plane.

I tend to think bravery isn’t really what flows through my blood, but more of a passion. A desire to follow my heart. To live life the way I want. I am not settling for what the American culture tells me to have. Instead, I am going after what I believe in.

 The full moon rises in Maryland

And yet …

Tonight …

After the bags were packed, after my last dinner with my family … that bravery thing kept repeating in my mind.

I’m not brave. I’m not brave.

And then, I stop. I think. Is this being brave? Packing up a life, putting it in storage, saying “see you soon” to everyone I know and love and hopping on a long-haul flight to the opposite side of the world?

I wonder.

Tonight, my brother called me to say he loved me and to wish me luck. As we spoke, suddenly, I was overcome. Tears welled up in my eyes.

There is just so much emotion I haven’t even touched the past few months of my life. So much feeling I packed away because I just couldn’t … couldn’t think about anything but the future.

Be brave, D.

Even a few weeks ago, when I was learning more about my position, I emailed a friend of mine in a slight panic. Know what he told me? “Go. Be brave.”

It’s such a weighted word.

And yet, as I sit in my bed, on my last night living in America, it hits me.

Maybe I am?

I don’t know.

All I do know is I am giving it my all. I am giving myself the best chance I know to live my life with no regrets. To live for the now, and not for the happily ever after.

Am I scared?

I don’t think so.

Right now, there is so much adrenaline. So much happy. So much awe at the chance of possibility I don’t think I am scared.

Am I sad?

YES.

Without a doubt.

I forgot how nice it is to be with family when I lived in Las Vegas because I was so caught up in my life. To be home, to be with the people I love … to spend time with my parents … it makes it so hard to say goodbye.

The plane waits for passengers at Dulles

This is the end of this chapter of my life. From here on out, it is all new. Beautiful. Awesome.

Now, as I type this, I will be on a plane in less than six hours. Embarking on yet another journey.

Fear has never crossed my mind. I have full faith everything will work out exactly as it should.

And yet, I want to cry. To bawl my eyes out. To grab my parents, my brother, my niece, my friends, and make them all come on this journey with me.

But, that’s the thing about life: it’s mine.

I am moving to Thailand.

A year ago, if you asked me where I would be, I would have shrugged my shoulders.

Funny how life changes.

Funny how we adapt.

Here’s to the next chapter. I hope you enjoy the ride.

57 comments

  1. Oh D, I sure know how you feel. 🙂 When I sold/gave away/packed up everything and moved to Australia everyone told me I was brave. I didn’t feel brave though. I felt excited and scared and sad and homesick, but I KNEW it was right, it was me, it was where my heart was meant to be. So I did it. And I cried and I fretted but mostly I grinned and thought, “I can’t believe I did it.” I see now that it was brave, that I was brave. And you are too. Because it’s hugely brave to do what our heart wants. Hugely. Wishing you a fantastic journey. 🙂

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  2. The process of moving abroad took well over a year for us and boy did it drag out. Plans changed, things took forever but I did the same as you – didn’t really think about what we were doing as I was so focused on the goal.
    Here I am, 2 years later, 2 continents later and the more I think of it, the more I believe it is brave. Brave to leave all that is familiar and brave to take a leap of faith into something you know you have to do even though it will be difficult.
    Best wishes to you as you make Thailand your home.

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    1. Thank you so much, Jay. The process was SO long. Once I arrived here, it still didn’t hit me the magnitude of what I just did. After being here a little more than a month, I have definitely thought long and hard and think there is definitely bravery in making a decision like this. Two years and two continents? I LOVE it!

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  3. I get that a lot too – “You’re so brave!” I never really thought of myself as brave either, but over the years I have come to agree with them. It *is* brave to leave all the safe and familiar things behind, your entire life that you have spent so much effort building up – up-rooting all that-, and moving to somewhere entirely unfamiliar. No matter how much I wanted to go, it was still putting myself in an unfamiliar, and thus uncomfortable situation. But you still do it, and you manage to adapt to your new environment. And it’s fantastic.; it is, as you said, your life. So be proud of yourself, you’re doing something which most people only wish they dared – following your dreams. Best of luck, I am sure you won’t regret it 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much!! I loved reading your comment. I have a feeling whenever I start to doubt myself, I will come back to this post and read it, and all of these comments. ❤

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  4. I love this post Diana!!! It brought back memories of when I first moved to China nearly 3 years ago. Everyone thought I was 1. Weird for choosing to move to China a country in their eyes a crazy communist country and 2. Brave.

    I could never understand why they thought I was brave, I didn’t feel brave and like you I felt excited about my life ahead, a new adventure in a new country, a chance to learn about how I could live my life in a different way. And it never felt scary!

    I also really relate to you finding your passion and purpose and moving to another country to pursue that. I’ve only been back home in Australia for 6 weeks with just 3 weeks left until I move to Laos. My family and friends just can’t understand why I want to move to yet another country and why I’m not content with just staying in Australia. But for me it’s easy, I’m following my passion and purpose and at this stage in my life that has led me to Laos so why wouldn’t I go! It’s not bravery, it’s not even crazy, it’s just my life!

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Sasha! It makes me feel good that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this. It just always seemed like it was just the direction my life was taking me, not being brave. I’ve been very lucky that my family is so understanding. They echoed my excitement, my tears, my happiness. Some friends understood, some looked at me like I was nuts. I don’t think I can ever be content being stationary in America. Let me know when you get to Laos, we will be neighbors!

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  5. Sometimes when I read your posts I wish I could have written it first, you have such an amazing ability to put exactly how I feel into words that no matter how many times I try to write it down I never feel like my writing captures my emotions. You are such a wonderful, talented and brave girl! hugs!

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  6. Geez, if I wasn’t already traveling, this post would give me the final push i would need to book a plane ticket!

    love this post but really love the ending – “But, that’s the thing about life: it’s mine” 🙂

    this is my new favorite quote!

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  7. I’m so happy that you have followed your dream to move back to Thailand! I know you have many more stories to come and I hope our paths cross again soon 🙂

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  8. Funny everyone kept asking you if you were scared, because when I was getting ready to move to Germany, everyone just thought I must be so excited. Yes, I moved here to be with the love of my life, but that doesn’t mean it was 100% exciting. I was definitely scared. I guess because I was moving for a different reason, people just thought I didn’t have a reason to be scared. I was so freaked out I started breaking out in hives for a week before I got on the plane, and it continued for my first week here.

    You are definitely brave to give up one life for another. Staying in the Vegas would’ve been the “easy” choice even if you knew all along it wasn’t what you wanted. Leaving that behind and going after the life you want, even with all its risks and unknowns, is brave.

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    1. Thank you, Ali. I love reading stories like this. I can’t believe you broke out in hives! I was moody and prone to crying jags for months. I would drive down a street and just start bawling. I wasn’t scared … I don’t think it ever really hit me what I was doing since it was such a long, drawn out process it never seemed like I would actually get to July. It didn’t hit me until I got to Chiang Mai, but by then, I was so excited to be there, I kind of skipped over the fear and went straight into honeymoon bliss.

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  9. People love to say that living abroad is brave, and in many ways I guess it is because you’re choosing to step out of your comfort zone. But at the same time when you just know you need to make your life somewhere because that’s what’s going to make you happy, it doesn’t feel particularly brave – just like the right decision for that moment. Best of luck as you start expat life!

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  10. Embrace your new life with open arms and it will all turn out all right. Personally I am so jealous. You get to work with the elephants. How much of a awesome job is that? You get to help save them. You get to give back to our world instead of being someone who has to rely on it. Congrats is the word that I think is appropriate at this time.

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    1. Oh, thank you so much Natalie!! I do love what I am doing … and knowing that I can help make a difference is just an overwhelming feeling. I think you will have to come and visit the Park one day!

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  11. Being scared is good for you! I am terrified of things every day… If you weren’t being challenged anymore by your life here (and trust me, I know you weren’t lol), then GO! Fly, my friend! I miss you dearly though.

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  12. I think jumping out of a plane versus packing up your life to move to another country by yourself are two completely different types of bravery. I think anybody who follows their heart is brave. 🙂

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  13. Go D! I’ve been there, exciting/thrilling/scared/anxious, occasional doubt peppered with anticipation. The good moments are sheer optimism and the doubting moments you may question yourself. But in the end, it is YOUR life and you are doing what YOU feel you should do. For that you deserve huge kudos as most of us may end up just doing what is comfortable, eons away from our own ideal, if even in our native surroundings. I have twice made it living abroad and eventually landed back in the USA. Working my way back out again, I think…..Your article is inspiring to me and I look forward to your next one. Best wishes! -T

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! Where are you now? Where do you want to go. I am glad you found inspiration in the post. Thanks for sharing your words of encouragement!!

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  14. You are brave, there are so many people who just talk about going for their dreams but never get around to making it happen. Cheers to getting through the tough part and to the next chapter!

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  15. I remember the night before I left the US as an expat as well. Well the night before I left home anyway. I spent it in an empty apartment with a bottle of something or other and my laptop watching youtube videos. Despite being so sure this was a wonderful decision, I needed that to just get through the last few hours.

    I definitely got the “You are so brave” and also didn’t really understand it. To me, somehow there was nothing really frightening about leaving the country and wandering without friends or a job. I had no real plan or clue and it was ok. More of a welcome challenge and excitement than fear. To me in order for me to be brave, there needed to be fear to be brave in the face of. There really wasn’t fear, so I didn’t feel brave.

    I remember a line that comes up every so often in life. “What people say to you is often more a reflection of them than of you.” So by wishing you bravery, perhaps others are admitting they would be frightened.

    Anyway, congrats on taking the step to moving on your own path and finding what you are passionate doing.

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  16. I totally get this! People always told me I was brave. When I was 19 and moved to Costa Rica, 21 when I moved to Guatemala (that one got a lot of ‘oh you’re so braves’), when I was 23 I moved to Germany and got it all over again and England in 2006, too. I just never saw it. Is being brave not really committing to a career or a life? I thought buying a house was brave, committing to a career was brave. Saying okay, I am mature enough to know I am going to stay in one place now and commit to this one thing. But you know what? Everything has come full circle now, and I actually do feel brave. After traveling now for so long, I feel like we are brave enough to say this is my life, and I am going to live it exactly how I want….if that’s what everyone always meant, then yeah, we’re brave! 😉 Great post!!

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  17. People told me I was brave too, as soon as I decided to chuck in the “safety net” of a corporate career. I was never really sure how brave it was, but I think you are right, making a major life change is a scary endeavour to undertake, and bravery is the only word to describe the way to tackle it.

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  18. Reading posts from youthful travellers makes me feel very old but rekindles memories of my travelling days of yore. I’m now happily retired in Thailand, passing the time writing novels and screenplays.

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  19. im leaving for Thailand next week and I am bombarded with the same question. aren’t you scared? and the same statement, you are so brave. but the thing is dont know how I feel and I dont feel brave. I feel like me about to embark on something new an adventure.

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