This past Monday I closed the door to my little 350 sq ft Bangyai neighborhood apartment. With two bulging suitcases, I made my way to the airport and left Thailand.
On the plane ride, I kept flicking back through my passport, looking at the numerous visa, stamps, and notes pertaining to Thailand. My time in the country was…I’m not really sure how to describe it. If you looked at my Instagram, you would probably think it was non-stop fun and constant beautiful scenery. If you’ve read any of popular teaching English abroad blog posts, you would think it was this fun, carefree thing where I got to coast by and mysteriously travel all the time.
It wasn’t either of those things. To sum it up best, my time spent in Thailand was a beautiful mess. Kinda like “regular” life is back in the states, but different, ya know?
In early 2016, I quit a job I dreaded and finally had the opportunity to travel. This was a different kind of travel. I got to experience life in a different setting. Different societal ways were around me. Good stuff happened. Sucky stuff happened. And then it all came together and worked out to be a big learning experience for me.
I moved to Thailand on March 31, 2016, and left the country on March 20, 2017. So I spent about one year living in the country. When it comes to living in Thailand, there are two ways to go about it. Rural (usually northern Thailand) living or urban (usually Bangkok) living. I experienced the urban living, getting to live in a neighborhood about 15 minutes outside of Bangkok.
I loved getting to live in the Bangkok area. It’s a very interesting city. The place is chaotic, the air is thick and humid, and the city has a very fast paced and slow nature to it at the same time. Now I know it as more than just the city that was in the movie The Hangover 2! Haha.
In the typical Hollywood way, that movie wayyyy played up the craziness of Thailand. Alas, though, there is a seed of inspiration that comes from truth with the movie. Bangkok really was a crazy (in a good way) place.
As for my actual work, teaching English, it was an experience that surprisingly taught me the biggest lesson of professionalism: show up and care.
Working at the school, alongside over 30 other foreign teachers, I saw the not so good way people conduct themselves when it comes to a job. Like you might expect, a lot of people didn’t take the job super seriously, instead treating it as a placeholder thing used to fund their travels.
People would repeatedly be late to work because they overslept or had stayed up till 4am partying. Taking a “mental health” day off work to go to the mall or sit at home and watch movies was an acceptable thing. There would be foreign teachers who would go out to bars and drink on weeknights. They would slog into work, hungover, and proceed to teach for the day.
Everyone was shocked when the school announced they were cracking down on teacher attendance policies and introducing a new attendance policy for the semester. Basically, under the new rules, you were only allowed to take Tuesdays and Thursdays off. Taking off a Monday, Wednesday or Friday would almost certainly result in a pay deduction.
Seeing how other people viewed their job with such low commitment made me realize the importance of professionalism, no matter what the job.
As for the living aspect of Thailand, there are a lot of things I will miss. I will miss the one dollar smoothies I could get, the seven dollar messages I could get, and the most of all the 58 cent sliced fruit. I would get sliced fruit almost every day. There would be little street stalls I would go to where I could get pineapple, cantaloupe, guava, papaya, watermelon, or dragonfruit for only 20 baht! (0.58 cents USD).
I will remember the slow, relaxed vibe of Thailand. It was something that never fully grew on me but I did appreciate it in some ways. In Thailand, there is a less urgent attitude toward things. It will happen when it happens. Obviously, you soon realize how bad this can be. People would almost never be on time, immigration officials would take a slower pace when processing your work visa, and when things would break like a leaky A/C unit, it would take a while to get it fixed.
A slower pace is not so lovely when it comes to many things, but it does help you appreciate and learn more about a calmer, more peaceful approach to processing the day to day.
And the scenery! Ah, I’ll miss all of the beautiful beaches and all of the green I got to see while in Thailand. I haven’t been to a ton of beaches but Thailand’s southern island beaches have been the best I’ve been to so far.
All the places I’ve been to in Thailand will live on in the hundreds of photos I took while there. I still wonder why Thailand isn’t on more people’s vacation lists. The place really gives a full scope of things to do. Aside from the beaches, there is the fun loving hippyish town of Pai to the digital nomad haven of Chiang Mai. Thailand’s got it all.
Somewhere along the way, through my Thai travels and living, I got to teach and adore 305 little Thai children. Their brightness and enthusiasm has stayed with me.
It’s goodbye to Thailand for now. I did go to Malaysia for a short holiday following it and right now I’m back home in Texas. I’ll be sharing a Thailand and Malaysia photo journal post in the next week or so. In mid-April, I will leave to my next destination to start working. Can’t wait to share where!
Where is a place you remember fondly? Let me know in the comments!