The dream to travel across Southeast Asia is realized in many ways. For some, it means saving up and planning a three-week holiday while others aim to live for months out of their backpacks. For Cody and me—and many others—nothing short of a year felt right, but it took some time for us to see it that way.
In 2015 I started working for an excellent company with people I adored. I was able to use half the skills I attained with my Adventure Journalism degree, but on desk-bound days I missed that “A” word. The vacation time was more than enough to take a few meaningful trips each year, but I hungered for the long road to anywhere.
I became friends with a kindred spirit disguised as a co-worker, and we quickly started the travel talk. Her total time abroad made me feel like I hadn’t left my front yard, and I yearned to expand my collection of experiences.
For years she lived around the world primarily by teaching yoga or English as a foreign language. While I can’t keep my balance during a rickshavana (or whatever) and would never be able to lead anyone toward inner peace, I felt I knew enough about English to teach the basics. But I didn’t yet know if it was meant for me.
The idea was buried in my mind like a seed as I continued with work. Life was good in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I found my fiancé and got my first dog, Olive. We rented a little house, bought dishes and grew somewhat comfortable with ignoring the itch to explore. A few months passed this way before we lost what grounded us most.
The unraveling started one Sunday in October. I had been at odds with our landlady for a few weeks about “improvements” she was making to our home. That fateful morning, she sent an email that allowed us to break our lease if we were displeased with the property. This mixed blessing was practically ignored as we dealt with a more pressing issue: our puppy’s health was suddenly failing. In less than 48 hours we visited three animal hospitals, but her condition became worse and we lost our dog for reasons we’ll never know.
Without her—and without a house—we were unsure about the next step to take in our lives. It was in the following weeks that I remembered Thailand and knew we would never be so untethered again. It was time.
The subject of teaching abroad had never truly been dropped between me and my friend, but now I was determined to make it happen. She put me in contact with the school she enjoyed working for the most, and I began the application process. Cody and I got rid of what excess possessions we had and rented a small room for half the cost of what we were paying before. We both started saving.
Cody’s main goal during this time was to put away enough money so that he could have his student loans on auto-pay while we were gone. He went above and beyond that goal by working 80-plus hours each week at several different jobs. I didn’t get to tell him then, because I never saw him, but I was immensely appreciative of his commitment to our new plan. It helped me see beyond the sadness of losing Olive and accept that it had happened, like all other things, for a reason.
In February of 2016, after sending in all the necessary paperwork, we had our first and only Skype interview with my friend’s recommended school. We wouldn’t know if we were hired until March, but we were going to Thailand no matter what. Even if it didn’t work out with this school, we were assured there would be others looking to hire native English speakers.
With that, we began the search for tickets. In the past I’d spent almost a thousand dollars on international flights, but this time would be different. We had no real schedule, no real preference of departure city, and it would be a one-way journey. We used skyscanner.com to look for the cheapest flights from anywhere in the States to Bangkok in April or May.
This is how we stumbled across the stunning price of $320 per ticket, from Boston to Oslo to Bangkok via Norwegian Air. This included meals, alcohol and a checked bag. It was one of the easiest purchases I’ve ever made.
Soon enough, we received the news that we both had jobs with Cheingrai Vidhayakhome School. I would be a first grade teacher, while Cody would have classes in fourth, fifth and sixth. A month before our flight, we picked our way across the U.S. toward Boston and visited family, collecting their love and well wishes before we left. Life would be changing for everyone over the next year, but we all welcomed the adventures ahead.
So Far in Southeast Asia
It’s been nearly nine months since we arrived on this side of the world, and I would be lying if I said each moment has been easy.
Teaching is not always filled with games and gold stars. Some days it feels like trying to catch a flailing garden hose blindfolded. With forty cats clinging to you. And they’re covered in honey for some godforsaken reason.
But other times, the cats are calm. They even like you. And there’s no garden hose at all. I’ve learned to appreciate these days.
I’ve also learned to appreciate each and every person that I miss from home. Growing apart can be a slow drip on the stone when a friend is just a few miles away, but with distance it is easier to see where the change leads. It is easier to see which embers need tending and which are best left undisturbed.
Since moving to Thailand, we’ve missed graduations, weddings and our nieces growing older. We’ve missed a week in the desert and a winter in the mountains. We’ve missed a thousand little moments in the lives of those we love, in places that we love, and we did it all by choice—because in the blink of time that is a year, we will see it all again. Friends will be married, the girls will be taller, and the snow will return soon enough. We will sit back down at the family table that hasn’t changed with a family that has, in a thousand different ways. We, like everyone else, will share our adventures and the story of how we ended up exactly where we were supposed to be.