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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Six Years Later: How Blogging Changed My Life

Six years later: a look at how travel blogging changed my life.
Six years ago, on a warm October night, I lay in my bed in a century-old house, tossing and turning. Work, my 30th birthday trip to Croatia and my cloudy future in Atlanta all jockeyed for space in my mind. Yet, the only thing which kept repeating were the words “fumbling, stumbling, mumbling …” as my first night in Croatia played out on repeat in my head.

I need to write this shit down while it is in my head.

As I writer, I know all too well how quickly things write themselves in my ever-churning mind. The words appear, I can see them, feel them. I promise myself these golden sentences weaving into a story will remain in my head in the morning, and yet, they never do. Although I vaguely remember the prose which was rampant, floating in my gray matter the night before, they rarely are reproduced.

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What is Home?

What is home to you?Home, by definition, is the “place where one lives.”

As a former corporate-world-woman, long-term traveler, and now a serial expat, home has been many places and continues to morph into new and different places where I wake up.

It was where I grew up, with my family, in the middle-class suburbs of Washington, DC. It was where I spent three semesters trying to fit in and find myself in Bowling Green, Ohio. It was three years in Towson where I finished my degree and then didn’t leave because I was in an emotionally abusive — and addictive — relationship. It was Las Vegas, where I spent the bulk of my mid- and late-20s. Then, it was Atlanta, where I attempted to have a more normal (and less glitzy) existence for a year.

After that, is was the road. Hostels, hotels, trains, airports, were my home as I navigated the world doing some solo female travel. When I returned to the States, home was again (albeit briefly) with my parents, and then back to Vegas.

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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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Why I Hate Travel Quotes

A look at the best -- and worst -- inspirational travel quotes. Which is your favorite?

Here’s the deal: I like pretty photos with inspirational photos as much as the next person. Hell, I’ve got a Pinterest board that focuses on nothing but those little gems. But — and this is a big but — those inspirational travel quotes that are circulating nonstop? Can they just stop?

Before you roll your eyes at me, or close this post, hear me out.

Why I Can’t Stand the Inspirational Travel Quotes

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How I Got Fired by My Big Time New York City Book Agent

How I got fired by a Big Time New York City Book Agent
Hi Diana,” the e-mail titled with the subject “book” read. “My name is Big Time New York City Book Agent [ed. note: obviously, this is not the person’s real name] and I am the Big Time Person at the Big Time Literary Agency [ed. note: again, obviously changing]. I love your site and believe it could be the basis for a great book series. In my [decades] as an agent, I have worked on hundreds of New York Times bestsellers, and have represented a wide array of celebrity and public figure clients, as well as Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners.  All that to say, if I am not too late to the party, and you haven’t signed with anyone else, I would love to speak with you about possible literary projects.”

That was August 27, 2014. One year ago.

The e-mail had popped up in my phone as I walked through the sticky jungle heat to work in Chiang Mai. As soon as the words unfolded and solidified in my mind, I froze mid-step. Around me, the smell of Nag Champa hung in the thick air as monks clad in orange robes and barefoot plodded along the rain-soaked roads around the Old City.

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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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