Since it’s time for another edition of “Lessons I’ve Learned in Chiang Mai” pt. 2, it’s my turn to share with you what’s been going on here! First, I cannot believe that it’s October already. Usually around this time of the year, I would be cheering on my Dawgs every Saturday, eating and drinking my way through food festivals with Corey and enjoying the crisp, cool air that fall brings to Georgia.
Instead, I am traversing through Thailand (by buses, vans, motorbikes, ferries and planes…literally) with Corey by my side, checking Snapchat and Instagram for football game recaps and dodging rain while fanning off sweat every single day.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
We’re at the beginning of our third month abroad, and it has certainly been a life-changing experience. Though August was filled with inspiration and excitement, September was a time of reflection and renewal. As we enter October, Corey and I are even more determined to make this life we’ve created abroad last as long as we can, especially after the lessons we’ve learned in Chiang Mai. And though we are going back to the U.S. at the end of this month to participate in one of my best friend’s weddings, this may be the last time we visit the States for a while. We love our new lifestyle of working remotely, traveling to other places and living on our own schedules. Yes, traveling abroad indefinitely comes with a bit of fear and hesitation, but we know that if people like my friend Jaimee and Amirah and her husband can make this a lifestyle, we can, too.
So, with that, I bring you my lessons learned while living in Chiang Mai so far.
It’s easier to meet expats/travelers than you think.
A few months ago, I thought it would be nearly impossible to meet anyone here because of the language barrier and because we didn’t know where people our age hung out in the city. But since we’ve gotten here, we’ve made friends and acquaintances across the world, from places like Scotland, England, Spain, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Holland and even the U.S. Some of the encounters are friendly, lasting for that one night, while others have been more meaningful and long-term.
Regardless of the occasion, we’ve learned bits and pieces from each person (like how to continue our travels, how to make money abroad, how The Wire was more popular in the UK than the U.S., etc.) and have taken away lasting memories that will warm our hearts decades from now.
The healthcare system in Chiang Mai is great.
The healthcare system in Chiang Mai has been straightforward and amazing. Every doctor we’ve encountered at the hospitals here has spoken perfect English and given us the exact medication or vaccines we needed. Bonus points: we don’t have to worry about paying for our bills later because we can just settle them upon checkout! One doctor visit I had spanned less than two hours and I saw the doctor, received my medicine and paid for my visit in that time (may I add that the waiting room was not empty). It can be easy to get scared about health-related things happening while you’re abroad, but we’ve only received professional and knowledgeable medical help since we’ve been here. Obviously, if you’re traveling for a shorter period of time to multiple places, you should definitely consider travel insurance, but if you’re staying put in one country, investigate that country’s healthcare system beforehand.
Traveling through Thailand is not as cheap as you think.
Chiang Mai is so freaking affordable. You can get around for as little as $2 or $3 USD by the red bus (songthaew), eat a meal for as low as $1 (but as much as $7 if you want to feast or eat American food) and a large beer in the 7-11 is about $2. But on our recent trip to southern Thailand, we found that we were shelling out lots of money that we didn’t expect to pay (because we thought we were traveling cheaply). And, everything, including our food and drinks, cost so much more money. So make sure you do your research and anticipate spending twice as much down there as you would in Chiang Mai or Pai.
Chiang Mai comes alive in the night time.
Yes, I may be quoting Drake here, but it’s absolutely true. I read lots about Chiang Mai before I moved here and remembered this famous blogger’s post that said Chiang Mai’s night scene just isn’t happening. So I wasn’t expecting much. However, there hasn’t been one single night that we’ve been here where the city was dead. And after midnight, people head to 24-hour food spots to sober up or drink more elsewhere. 🙂
Since being here and meeting some good Thai friends and foreigners, we’ve learned the best places to go that are outside of the main touristy areas. Sometimes, that has gotten us into a bit of a pickle (like when we were unknowingly driven to an after-hours brothel that we immediately escaped or when Corey and our friend Neil got into a motorcycle accident that left me stranded and nervous for them until the wee hours of the morning), but most times it’s been a blast.
I need to be more selfish with my time.
So this is more on a personal note rather than the city itself, but it’s something that I know you may be able to relate to. I’ve always possessed the mentality that I need to be busy 24/7. This mindset has led to burnout, mistakes and disappointments in the past. To avoid this before I left, I got rid of my extracurricular obligations and ideas in the U.S. that would leave me attached and worried while traveling.
However, when I got here, I felt like I had to do something with all of this free time I had. So I relentlessly applied for online jobs, searched for meetups and found ways to keep ourselves busy at night. I ended up getting an awesome gig as a writer and copyeditor for this great company I believe in. But as the work came in, I started to neglect my passion projects like this website. Though I was being selfless with my work time, I wasn’t being selfish with my personal time. So my goal in October is to balance all of my professional time with my personal passion projects so I can remain fulfilled in my purpose.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in Chiang Mai. What’s life teaching you these days?