My last month in Bangkok has been the hardest to navigate so far in my expat life.
It certainly hasn’t been terrible, but challenging and emotional in ways I haven’t experienced before.
After a mind-and-body-crushing month working at a government school, I found a new job teaching English to young kids on Saturdays with a company that I have found to be very supportive and gives me time and freedom to enjoy & explore Bangkok. I realized that I was still a traveller and I didn’t want to spend my days working Monday to Friday for eleven hours at a time. While I am relieved to have found a more flexible job, I miss my kids from the government school. On my last day, one of the classes wrote me a sweet card and gave me a huge group hug. One girl started crying, and before I knew it, ten girls started crying too! I had to wipe their tears and tell them it was okay, but it was emotional for me as well, and I can truly say my time spent there was rewarding despite how tiresome it was.
While I do have more time now, it also means I am more financially stressed, but I am looking to break into private English tutoring now, securing clients and freelance travel writing on the side. I am lucky that Bangkok is not a difficult place to live in on a budget – fruit and street food come very cheaply, but some days I have to be extra frugal.
Mostly though, it’s been emotionally straining. Living as a solo expat in a foreign country and attracting some really strange people has made me realize how rare it is to find people you connect with, respect and admire. I am so blessed to have friends and family back home who make me feel loved and supported even from a long distance, but I find myself craving that physical presence of friendship and intimacy which has been lacking so far. I have met some great people here though, and I know that quality friendships take time to build. My greatest hope while I’m here is to find meaningful connections and to leave having built friendships that I can cherish for a lifetime.
I think this is the reason why I have been struggling to let go of someone I met here a couple of months back. He doesn’t live in Thailand, but comes here for physical training. I had no idea what was about to hit me when I first met him, but I have come to appreciate and respect his intelligence, depth and playfulness, which to me is a rare and special thing to find. Someone once wrote that while saying goodbye meant that you were going to see that person soon, letting go was different because it held the possibility of never being able to see them again. I don’t like letting go, especially when I find something I consider to be of rare beauty. I am like this child who has been given this wonderful toy, and the father says to this child, “It’s not meant for you, it’s meant for someone else.” And the child weeps in distress at the thought of having to give it up. And the father tells this child that he has a newer, shinier toy to replace it. But even if there is, she knows that no toy, however expensive or beautiful, will compare to the one she loves in her hands right now.
I have a couple of things I’m really looking forward to, though. One of my good friends Luke has brought a ticket to Bangkok to come see me, all the way from New Zealand! I am overjoyed to have him here soon and to hopefully help him fall in love with the city as much as I have. I have already planned our itinerary and all the places we will see, eat and go, including an overnight stay at a beach town. I can’t wait!
I am also going to Myanmar in 3 days time! I need to do a visa run, and thought I might as well take a holiday in a country I have long desired to go to. I have heard nothing but amazing things about Myanmar and its people, and as you can imagine, I am so, so excited to be solo travelling once again.
Despite all of the challenges, which is why I feel especially homesick this month, life is still good. I still know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to wake up in such a cool city and do what I love, to have friends in New Zealand and all over the world who never fail to make me feel loved and supported, to be young and free to travel as I wish. I am living what I believe to be a full, meaningful life and I know that bad days & months does not equate to a bad life at all.