Unexpected Side Effects of Three Years Abroad

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  1. Sarah Shaw says:

    I love this post, Alana. Between living in Korea for 3 years and approaching year one in Colombia, I could pretty much relate to everything you wrote. Oh, and one of the cats that hangs around my host family’s house just had kittens, so I think I’m going to take one…or two. 🙂

  2. Ramon says:

    As a fellow expat in Thailand, you are totally bang on!

  3. I feel the same way about not really fitting in anywhere. I’ve also lived abroad for three years now, and while I know that Spain will probably never feel like home, things at ‘home’ change too. It’s a very strange feeling, but at the same time I’ve got two ‘homes’.

    Great post!

    • Alana Morgan says:

      It’s true that you wouldn’t want to give up the experience of living abroad just because it makes things at home a little more complicated…but it gets gets a little messy sometimes…

  4. Lisa says:

    This post feels as though it was written to me. I can relate to absolutely everything. I was living in Chiang Mai for a while and had to leave last week because I could not afford a Visa run. Feeling even more out of place being back home.

    • Alana Morgan says:

      Ah, sorry you were caught up in all that…on to bigger and better adventures!

    • I loved the post and although, I only lasted 6 months in SE Asia. I long to return. I was living in Chiang Mai also. There were times when I felt quite lonely even with so many new friends, but there was never a day, that I didn’t think to myself…Wow! I am so glad I made this decision to live here. Now that I am home, I really, really feel out of place!! Also friends have seemed to distance themselves from me. No one is interested in my adventures in SE Asia. I am just beginning to learn that I need to reach out to fellow travelers who might understand my alienation and passion for traveling and new experiences. Thanks for the post, Alana. Your site is beautiful too!

      • Alana Morgan says:

        Thanks for reading, Brian – I know what you mean about both the loneliness living abroad (but still having it be incredible) and feeling out of place back at ‘home’ – good luck with the transition!

  5. I can totally relate to a lot of this. Especially the not belonging anywhere now-I’m a Brit married to an American so living abroad is totally normal for us as one of us always has to be! I’m not really sure where ‘home’ is as we met in Korea, lived in Venezuela then Korea again then London and now Beijing. Home is wherever we are I guess!

  6. Greg Goodman says:

    What a great post, Alana. Really makes me miss the “simple life” living in Chiang Mai. I often reflect on many of the things you’ve written about… especially the part about the life of travel and tourism, now being on the road again. It’s interesting how living abroad changes your perspective on things… and the entire way your life is lived afterwards.

    Now, please go have a delicious $1 bowl of curry or meat on a stick for me 🙂

    • Alana Morgan says:

      It’s getting harder for me to just travel and be a tourist since I’ve spent so much time seeing more of the ‘real’ life in a very tourist-y place. I guess I feel like a phony of sorts just popping in and out of places… Thanks for reading, Greg – always enjoy your comments!

  7. Scott says:

    Great post, Alana! As an expat myself (in Mexico City, not Chiang Mai), I totally get much of what you’re saying – especially as regards money, passage of time, and food. Time flies doesn’t it?!

    -Scott

  8. Lliam says:

    Well done. I’m just over three years in Korea now, and I have been on that same roller coaster of feelings as well. The biggest one that I still don’t know how to process is when to go “home” because I’m not totally sure where that is anymore…

  9. Ivana says:

    Thanks for this post, Alana!
    We’ve been on the road only for 6 months, but can relate to your thoughts a lot, especially with the feeling there is no rush to discover all and quickly 🙂
    We were living in Chiang Mai for three months and would like to go back there at the end of the year, is simply a great place that allows you to contemplate, too.
    Cheers!

  10. The money point really resonated with me! Even living in the US but working in travel forever, I view the cost of travel through a completely different lens than most people.

  11. Well written! Travel is aspirational but also damn confusing at times, hey? Wishing you and your puppy every happiness in Thailand!

  12. Conor Walsh says:

    Hi Alana,

    I’ve lived in Chiang Mai on and off for two years now. And also celebrated my 3rd year traveling this week. I couldn’t have summed up my feeling on both any better. And I miss Chiang Mai so much since I left. Especially paying $1 for dinner (living in Australia is nowhere near so affordable)

    Great Post!

  13. Very interesting post! We have also been serial expats, living out of our own countries for nearly 5 years now in 5 different countries. Before I read your post I though there would be more similarities than differences between being an expat in SE Asia and in Europe, but you have proved me wrong. In Europe, everything is pretty much the same, I mean the money you pay for things, the time zones and you don’t need to run to a neighbouring country to extend your visa, as we can just travel and work wherever we want within the EU, so we have this one worry less. And I don’t have this feeling that I don’t belong anywhere. I realise that my contact with my home country is not the same and my experiences are different, but I somehow do feel at home. At home not in any particular country, but in Europe in general. I guess, leaving Europe will be a big step as we are thinking of moving to China this year 🙂

  14. I’m approaching the end of my third year in Thailand as well, and can sympathize on pretty much every single thing you talked about here! Crazy how the world works, and life just happen sometimes! I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, though I think I can honestly say there’s been more ups… thankfully. Dealing with things ‘on the road’ or at least in a fixed location that isn’t what you may have once considered home, is often more challenging I find too. You don’t have those familiar comforts… but now you have new ones, and the old ones aren’t quite as familiar anymore.

    Such a strange place to be in, yet such a wonderful place too. Imagine if you were still living at ‘home’ with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids instead of a puppy! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it would certainly have been a different path!

  15. We seem to be somewhat on a similar trajectory Alana – I too am nearing 3 years abroad (mostly Vietnam, but likewise 4 mo. Chiang Mai, and now settling in here at 8,000 feet in Cuenca, Ecuador) and all of your points ring poignantly true. Among them:

    “How can you be completely content somewhere when you know there are other places out there that you love and have left part of your heart in?”

    So true. Though I l.o.v.e. it here in Ecuador (and certainly am far more easily learning the language here than those squiggles in Thailand or the insufferable 6 tones of Vietnamese), a large chunk of me will forever be in Vietnam. And of course, my beloved Seattle will always be missed (though I can’t even imagine ever living in the States again).

    In short, you’re right – I doubt that I can ever be fully content no matter where I live anymore, but… the upside is – I truly feel like the entire Planet is my “home” and I’m acutely aware that I’m now a “citizen of the World”.

  16. Karisa says:

    You summed it up perfectly! I lived in Bangkok for a year before taking a few months to travel and then coming back to the US…I guess because I thought I had to. Anyway, home is a different planet than when I left it and I’m moving back to Asia. Yay!

    • Alana Morgan says:

      I know many people, myself included, you have lived in Asia and gone home not auricularly because they wanted to or needed to, but because they felt like they had to for some reason…and then most of them moved back to Asia 😉 Where are you moving to??

  17. I’m going through a period of transition right now and can relate on a lot of points you talked about, especially how I now view working and jobs. I used to be very typical in how I thought about my career but after getting out to see the world, meeting a ton of other travellers, and falling into blogworld I realize that there are so many more possibilities out there than what was put into my head throughout high school. It doesn’t just have to be one linear path up the corporate ladder until retirement at 65!

  18. Maria says:

    On time and money, I can empathize – living in Arctic Alaska. Wow!

  19. Maxine says:

    Happy anniversary!
    Glad to have found your lovely blog via Twitter! Amazing you’re having such a great experience of living somewhere completely different for an extended period of time. Just the best thing to do, and when you’re 80 you’ll think, YES that was me! 🙂

  20. Dale says:

    Great to read, partly because I can identify with so much of it, and partly because it’s really interesting to see how longer periods of time in a country have such incredible effects of people. I envy your prolonged time in Thailand, a country I liked during the few months we were there last year, but now long for and really miss as the months drift by.

  21. Silvia says:

    I’ve been living abroad for the past four years, with Chiang Mai as my base for the past year and half, so I totally related to a lot of these points. I actually just found your blog through TBS and it’s been fun reading about your perspective on life in CM!

  22. CG says:

    I loved this article. I have yet to travel abroad but I plan on doing a lot more of it post-graduation, and reading this has left me feeling nothing less than excited. These are side effects I would happily deal with.

  23. Although I haven’t lived in one place abroad for anything like as long as you, I know how you feel about being a bit displaced. I’ve spend quite a bit of time travelling, don’t have anywhere to live in England and my family have now moved to Scotland anyway, so my old home-town has little left for me. For now I’m just enjoying being free and if somewhere comes along that I like enough to make me settle down then I guess that will be the place! Thank-you for sharing such an honest post. I love your blog by the way, I’m just looking through your archives now.

  24. erica says:

    Love this list and absolutely agree – even though I’m back in the corporate world, I still feel some of these traits holding strong.

    My relationship with travel has changed quite a bit as well. In addition to how you spoke about it in terms of increased awareness, part of the reason I’m back in corporate America is because this is how I plan to use this experience to eventually live around the world. Muahahaha

  25. Victor says:

    Very interesting thinking. Freedom from the all standards. It is interesting, what you will be doing in your 30 or 40 years? What to do and where to live? What country will be your favorite one?

  26. Manu Shrivastava says:

    I used to live in different countries. Frankly I can relate your article with myself too. It has almost cover everything.

  27. Clare says:

    What a beautifully composed piece. Love it! Very relatable, refreshing, yet real!
    Lovely meeting you over the weekend.
    Hope to see you at TBEX.
    Clare

  28. nikki says:

    While we travel in a completely different way (we have been on an RV Road Trip across North America for the past 4 years) I feel mostly the same way. Especially on the “I still don’t know what I am doing part”. Too many opportunities in too many different directions causes my mind to twist into a pretzel.

  29. Alexa says:

    I feel like I’m you three years ago… Just moved to Chiang Mai and started a blog. Although it’s scary to think that in three years I still won’t know what I’m doing, it’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one. It’s definitely hard to be on the not-so-linear path because who knows, it might just go around in circles. But maybe that’s not so bad and it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey right? Hope so anyway 😉

  30. Elena says:

    Such a great post Alana! I really enjoyed reading through all the points that you have outlined about changing your perspective on so many things. It was my first time visiting Asia this year for TBEX and it really opened my mind in so many ways.

  31. Jess says:

    I’ve been living in Tokyo, Vietnam and Hong Kong and relate so much to what you say here. It’s really reassuring to know feeling this way is normal. The hardest part I find is explaining everything all this to my friends and family back home. Of course it’s understandable that they can’t relate or quite get it, but sometimes it makes me feel like I’ll forever be slightly changed in their eyes, and we’ll never know each other quite the same as we used to before I left.

    • Alana Morgan says:

      Never! I have some friends who have never come to visit Thailand…so now they essentially can’t picture my life at all considering I’ve been here for 8 years.

  32. And now, what else has changed, 5 years after this post? When you have time, I would love to read an update post. I bet I’m not the only one, either 🙂

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