Three years ago, if you would have asked me about a future in Chiang Mai, I may have gone all glassy-eyed and distant. Chiang Mai was a dream to me three years ago. The elephants were a dream to me then, too. I lived in a world where I was not satisfied with my existence. I lived in a world, three years ago, where despite my (mediocre) efforts, I had fallen unhappily back into a world I didn’t want to be in.
Nearly fresh off my career break/solo travel through Europe, there I was, sitting at my parent’s home in Maryland, waxing melancholy at my choices and desperately trying to sort out how to rearrange my life to make it one I was grateful for again. (Note: I wasn’t not grateful for my life, it just wasn’t what I wanted).
I dreamed of Thailand travel. A world exploring Chiang Mai. Bangkok. Being surrounded by elephants and fighting for their well-being.
Come to Thailand, she had written.
With not even a moments hesitation, that is exactly what I did. I traded in my life in Las Vegas for a life as an expat in Thailand.
For more than two years, Chiang Mai has been my life. It has been my home. It has been my world.
Here, this jungle paradise of northern Thailand has been my salvation. It has opened my eyes to a world I never imagined. It has made me far more grateful for life than I ever have been before. It has made me grow up in ways I never could have fathomed three years ago.
In Chiang Mai, I have lived. Truly. It has never been easy. But, every moment has always been worth it.
I have lost loved ones.
I have been on elephant rescues. I have cried more than I ever thought I could. But, I have also laughed more than I ever imagined. Loved deeper than I ever thought possible. And lived more passionately and happily than I could have ever dreamed.
Which is why it breaks my heart to leave this world and this life.
A few weeks ago, after returning from my second trip to London in six months, an old friend (who used to live in Chiang Mai) sat down with me and spoke frankly.
“Diana,” he said over a vegetarian meal down at the local shop, “You have to leave Chiang Mai before you hate it.”
For more than two years, I have lived and breathed SE Asia. Its beauty. Its quirks. Its heartaches and passion.
And on Dec. 25, I am starting another chapter. Because I love Chiang Mai. It is my home. I never want to hate the city where I became a grown-up. I want to protect it. To wrap it in bubble wrap and make sure it always has that special place in my heart.
So, it’s time to go …
On my favorite American holiday of the year, please, be grateful for all you have.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at why I am leaving Chiang Mai, the realities of life as a western women expat here, and my plans for the future.