Because Sometimes You Don’t Realize It’s Love Until It’s Gone

Sometimes you don't know love until it's gone. A look at returning to Thailand, a former home, after being gone. A personal essay on loving a place and leaving.
My heart races as the cab driver pulls up to the International Terminal at Madrid. I’ve been here before, but this time, it’s different. This time, I’m not hopping on a short flight to London, or heading to the States to procure my Spanish Visa. This time, I’m going back to Thailand. The longest place I have called “home” in what seems like a lifetime.

I stand outside, looking at the cloudless blue sky and the barren hills which line the airport.

In 20 hours, my view will be a tropical paradise.

I’ve flown in and out of Bangkok more than any other airport in the world, and yet, on this occasion, I’m not flying to my moat-encircled city in the north of the country. I’m not returning to my Thai house. To the elephants. I’m heading to Thailand to speak at an event, and with that comes a tidal wave of raw emotions.

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Thailand: That Old, Familiar Smell

Have you noticed that Thailand has a distinct smell? Thoughts on the scent and returning to what was once home.
“There’s a smell,” the man seated next to me explains as we circle the airspace above Bangkok. “I can’t describe it … but … it’s this smell. It’s distinct. It’s Thailand.”

I smile at him, weary from traveling for 24 hours and not looking forward to an overnight at the airport.

“Ah,” I remark half-heartedly. “I’ve never been.”

“Well, you will know when you step off the plane, it’s unmistakeable.”

When we step off the plane a few minutes later, it’s hard to get a whiff of anything as we move slowly from the jetway into the massive airport. But, when I step outside, it hits miss.

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The reality of elephant tourism in SE Asia. An in-depth post on the truth about riding elephants, shows and more in Southeast Asia.

The Truth About Riding Elephants

The reality of elephant tourism in SE Asia. An in-depth post on the truth about riding elephants, shows and more in Southeast Asia.

I watch, happy tears swelling in my eyes, as the first of two rescued ex-trekking elephants walks off of the truck, backing out slowly and cautiously placing her hind legs, one-at-a-time, on the ground.

It’s pitch black, save for a few flashlights and one camera light. Around us, cicadas, frogs and crickets all compete to pierce the oh-so-still night.

She walks softly, crunching dried grass, as we follow behind her. Slowly, slowly she walks. To freedom. At the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.

From this moment forward, she will never have to strap a 200-pound bench to her back. From this moment forward, she will never have ropes cutting into her. A bull hook threatening to slash her ear, forehead or neck. She will never have the weight of a person on her. But, most importantly, she will never again be exploited for a human’s need to cross “riding an elephant” off of some bucket list or posing atop her back for a selfie.

Even though I no longer live in Thailand, I receive emails from readers regularly who ask: Should I ride an elephant? What’s the truth about riding elephants in Thailand and the rest of the world?

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5 Things to Do in Chiang Mai: a Mini Guide to Chiang Mai

A mini-guide to Chiang Mai that covers elephants, food, massage, coffee shops and more!Sweet, gorgeous Chiang Mai. Located in northern Thailand, this city is everything Bangkok is not: it is peaceful, relaxing and blessedly less crowded.

It’s easy to just get sucked into the city when traveling and decide to stick around longer. With so many affordable hotels and guest houses in Chiang Mai (we’re talking under $10 a night, folks!), plus cheap street food to devour, this city is a travelers dream.

There seems to be a never-ending list of things to do in Chiang Mai and so many things to love about the city.

So, if you cross these major tourist attractions off of the list, what is there to do in Chiang Mai?

So. Much.

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The Story of My Thai Street Cats

Thai street cats
If you would have seen me the day I dropped of my two cats, Keeley and Jezebel, at their new home, you would have thought someone I loved had passed away.

Seriously.

I hadn’t cried like that in a long time.

There’s something exciting about starting a new life as an expat. A thrill. That ‘world is my oyster’ feeling. But, being an expat comes with sacrifices. Namely, having to part ways with people and animals you love.

Initially, I had considered bringing the cats with me to Thailand. But, everyone talked me out of it. And, thank goodness they did. Being a new expat, in a country in SE Asia with no home, no idea of what kind of resources were available, would have caused a lot of undue stress. Not to mention the stress for the animals I loved with all of my heart.

So, I left them in good hands and embarked on my journey.

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Chiang Mai health and beauty guide

Chiang Mai Health and Beauty Guide
When I first arrived in Chiang Mai, I had no idea where to start in terms of becoming a healthier person (and a well-coiffed one, too). It isn’t difficult to find places which cater to expats or western travelers in Chiang Mai, thanks to its ridiculously huge digital nomad scene, and its unending supply of english teachers.

But, the key is to find the places other expats/travelers recommend.

It took me years of living in Chiang Mai to discover all the city had to offer in terms of health and beauty.

If you’re planning a trip to Chiang Mai, or living/looking to live as an expat, here’s your Chiang Mai Health and Beauty Guide.

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The House Hunters International experience

Chiang_Mai_Fair_Lady_House_Hunters_International_Experience
If you haven’t been following along lately, I recently filmed an episode for House Hunters International — Chiang Mai Fair Lady — which airs tonight. If you’re new to d travels ’round, welcome! I hope you find this as the place to motivate you to get up, follow your dreams and see the world (or at least live vicariously), and to take a stand and help Asian elephants.

My goal with this site is to share my experiences traveling the world solo, shed light on life as an expat in various places I rest my head, highlight cool and off-the-beaten-path spots that are worth checking out, and promote responsible tourism.

Keep reading to learn more about what it was like to film House Hunters International, as well as for a look at life as an expat in Thailand, my push to make people more responsible tourists, and what’s next for me.

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