Why I’m grateful for Chiang Mai

Why I'm grateful for Chiang Mai
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.

And then, just like that, those dreams came to life with a single e-mail from Lek Chailert, the founder of Save Elephant Foundation, the rescue organization I longed to work for.

Come to Thailand, she had written.

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Chiang Mai Moments: The moto ride

Welcome to a new series on d travels ’round, Chiang Mai Moments. This series will profile small moments in time during my life  as an expat in Chiang Mai. The moments which normally would get pushed aside for the bigger picture of life, but deserve more. There is no schedule for these posts. There is no format. These are just stories flowing when they flow and moments happening when they happen. I hope these Chiang Mai Moments give you some insight into the beauty which exists in this country and the experiences gifted to expats who choose to make this city home.

riding a moto bike in chiang mai

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20 things I love about Chiang Mai

Today is Sunday, July 13, 2014. Two years ago today, I changed my life. I hopped on a Trans-Pacific flight to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, to begin anew. To work with my hero, Lek Chailert, and help raise awareness about responsible elephant tourism with Save Elephant Foundation.

Lek Chailert and elephants

A lot can happen in two years. And, there are plenty of lessons I’ve learned as those 24 months have come and gone and left me, standing here, marveling at how quickly time passes. At how much life morphs and grows and condenses and grows again. It’s been two years of ups, two years of downs, and two years of sheer beauty in a place that draws awe from those who come in contact with it.

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Celebrating Passover in Chiang Mai

Rabbis clad in the Orthodox suits stand upon chairs, clapping their hands with smiles on their faces as our makeshift congregation of travelers and expats clap along.

Celebrating Passover in Chiang Mai

 

“Day-day-enu, day-day-enu, day-day-enu, dayenu, dayenu, dayenu,” we all sing together, accents melting into the chorus of the Passover song.

It’s the first night of Passover, the first seder, and instead of being with family or friends or out reveling in Songkran, which takes place simultaneously this year, I am sitting in a ballroom of the Centara Hotel in Chiang Mai’s red light district. I’m surrounded largely by Israelis who have come together on this special night to bring in Passover together.

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The blessing of Chiang Mai

Living in Chiang Mai, I am constantly treated to spectacular visual beauty, thanks to the hundreds of temples and religious activities which regularly occur here. Any given morning, en route to work, I get to see people praying to monks and offering alms to them to bring back to their respective temples.

The beauty of Buddhism is constantly on display in the city I call “home.”

Today is no exception.

Chiang Mai monks making pilgrimage

The first of 500 Dhutanga monks enters the shot.

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Questions to ask before becoming an expat

Making the decision to become an expat isn’t an easy one — there are many factors to consider when deciding to live away from your own country.

I have met so many people who tell me they wish they could be an living as an expat. While being an expat is amazing and life-changing, it is important to give this big decision some very serious thought. And, if you are going to become an expat without putting some thought into it, you will find yourself stressed once you touchdown in that foreign country of your choice.

Simply making the conscious decision to pack up and move abroad is not enough for long-term life as an expat. Before you take that leap — and yes, you should take that leap — it is necessary to really think about the logistics of becoming an expat and whether you are prepared to do so. Personally, becoming an expat in Chiang Mai was the best decision I have ever made.

Before you relocate, consider the following questions to ask yourself before becoming an expat:

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Breaking up with booze

The Comfort Zone Project and my quest to not be “fat” in Thailand are leading me down a path of mindful eating, five-day-a-week workout sessions (three of which are with a personal trainer) and breaking up with booze.

OK. So, not really “breaking up,” but more like “we’re going into a very restricted relationship. Almost like a break-up, but from time-to-time, we can still hook-up and remember how much we loved each other.”

Cause, yeah … I’m not ready to quit you, sweet red wine. I just need more time for me than you.

Expat Life The Comfort Zone Project