I’m going home next week for the first time in more than a year and the entire thing kind of scares me.
I want to go home. It’s time. I need it. I want to see my family and friends and eat cheese and Mexican food and bake and sleep in my bed and see Mt. Rainier and go out to happy hour with friends and not sweat constantly or be eaten alive by mosquitoes. I need and want all of that. But it’s not as simple as just being able to look forward to catching up with people and eating the foods I’ve missed.
When I first made the move to Southeast Asia, I bought a one-way ticket without a second thought. This time, buying another one-way ticket home, was difficult. While originally I was also full of doubt, questions and uneasiness, there was also a lot of excitement, anticipation and readiness to go. I was ready for something different, for a new adventure and to be on my own. Now, I have different doubts and questions, along with a really unwelcome feeling of indecisiveness and being lost.
In the beginning I thought traveling and living abroad would help point me in the right direction of where I want to be and what I want to be doing with my life. Ultimately, I think it will…but at the moment I feel more directionless than I did to begin with. That wasn’t supposed to happen…
I’ll be leaving Thailand exactly two years after I originally arrived. During that time I’ve become TEFL-certified and taught English in a variety of Thai schools, backpacked through India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, lived on my own, learned to ride a motorbike, (tried to) learn a new language, got familiar with visa runs and my passport number, fought constantly with mosquitoes and cockroaches, made several friends and saw many of them come and go, showed family and friends from home my new, adopted home. I’ve gotten used to squat toilets, cold showers, eating rice for breakfast, never wearing a seat belt, riding a motorbike in the rain, nothing being on time and drinking beer with ice. While those will be easy to get used to not having or doing, there are other things that I think have changed me more and will take more time to adjust to.
My concept and perception of money is completely screwed up. Spending a couple dollars on a full meal is normal and a glass of wine is a splurge. I can get my motorbike serviced and washed for less than half of what a tank of gas will cost at home. My way of driving has completely changed – from driving on the left-side of the road, swerving in between traffic and not thinking twice about driving up the side of the road the wrong way – what will I feel like behind the wheel of a car in America?
I’m also (more) used to a completely different set of customs, social rules and behaviors. I’ve been surrounded by Buddhism instead of Christianity, holding your tongue instead of spouting off, and being patient no matter what the situation.
What’s going to happen when I get home? And what am I going to do next?
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Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
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