Today marks seven months of being an expat in Thailand. To say my life has been a blessing these past seven months is not an understatement. From exploring Sri Lanka to blissing out in Bali to rescuing elephants and all of the beautiful moments in between, I have loved nearly every moment.
What have I learned about life as an expat?
Ask for help
When I first arrived to Thailand, I had no idea what I was doing. Visas, work permits, medical care, even the best place to go and get a massage, I was clueless. I solicited people who had lived here to help, locals, social media and more to figure everything out. Don’t think you can just go and have instant perfection (which doesn’t exist). There is a learning curve for life as an expat, and you’re not immune. Even if you think you are.
Get a strong support system
Being so far from the life I know isn’t always easy. There are days where I long for my old life, a more normal and routine life. Having people by my side has been instrumental in getting me through these seven months. There are some people who only come into my life for a short time, and others who have been by my side since the beginning. All of them play roles in my life. I never for a moment thought I could go this alone, and having that support system of people I love, and who love me, is my saving grace for when I get into one of my funks. Speaking of …
A funk is a funk is a funk
Sometimes, you just have to have one. They are unavoidable. Don’t become an expat because you think it will change you. As my friend used to always tell me when I was struggling with depression and contemplating more long-term travel, “everywhere you go, there you are.” Being an expat does not excuse depression, it does not change who you are inside. While I am not depressed anymore, I still have those occasional moments of funk when I want to curl into a ball and cry, or fly home and get a Mom Hug. They are OK. So long as I can come out of them. Whenever I get into one of these funks, I have learned the best thing I can do is just take time for myself. Whether it means going to hang out with elephants or Mr. Lucky, or something as simple as taking a walk and drinking in the beauty and charm of Chiang Mai, it gets done.
Pharmacies are good, doctors are better
Many people come to Thailand and stock up on the prescription drugs you can’t get at home without, well, a prescription. I’m guilty of this, thanks to the ridiculously cheap pills like birth control. But, I don’t abuse it. When I get sick, I go to a pharmacy and tell them what ails me, and they hand me over magic pills of better. But, that isn’t always the case. A couple of months ago, I got really sick and decided I would self-diagnose myself because I didn’t feel like hauling it to the hospital to get a real examination. Thanks to some google searches, I confidently went to the pharmacist, announced I had bronchitis and then asked for antibiotics. Easy, right? Good? Not at all. In a conversation later that day with a doctor friend, who informed me it could be pneumonia and antibiotics weren’t a good idea for me to take unless I knew what I had. Short version of this story: go to a doctor if you get sick. Skip the pharmacy.
Don’t lose touch
With social media and all of the apps you can download to smart phones, it is really difficult to lose touch with the people I love the most. Which is good. There are people in my life who I count on to call me out on my bullshit, give me advice and remind me not to sweat the small stuff. Most of them are on the other side of the world.
Home is where the heart is
I come from Maryland. I lived in Vegas. Home to me is both of those places. But now, home is here. It’s weird when I am out of Thailand and people ask me where I am from. My automatic answer: Chiang Mai. On my little street, in my little slice of Chiang Mai, I have made a home. I walk down this street every day and see my new family here. When I need a smile, I head to Ciccia’s House for some wine and laughs with my new family. Sure, it isn’t my mom, dad or brother, but I have created my own version of “Cheers” here … and sometimes that’s all you need.