It Started With Pai

Hey friends, It’s the first time I’ve really had my own space and consistent WiFi in a month to write a blog post.

I’m currently sitting in my hotel room in Bangkok waiting to take a shuttle bus to the airport to take my flight home. My flight is at 2:30 am and I’m having difficulty coming to terms with leaving. As a result, I’m feeling a little restless and even slightly anxious. Writing about my time in Thailand should help!

My teaching contract ended April 7th and since then I’ve been travelling around Thailand because I mostly stayed in the surrounding area of my school throughout my contract to save money. I visited Pai, Chiang Mai, Ko Chang Island and Bangkok. It has been beyond an amazing experience and I’ll do my best to put some of it into words for you.

I started with travelling to Pai, a small town in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province, near the Myanmar border. I spent the night in Chiang Mai and then the next morning took a very windy road up a mountain road for three hours in a mini van to get there. Luckily, I have a strong stomach. I had heard many wonderful things about Pai. I was told that the ‘vibe’ is great, the people are great and the food is great. Unfortunately I came to believe otherwise.

The streets were packed with, in my opinion, poser hippy backpackers wearing elephant patterns and throughout my stay I was consistently disappointment by their obnoxious attitudes and lack of respect for Thailand and its people. The town of Pai lacks authenticity. The only Thai people I saw were behind a counter serving tourists and this bothered me, having just come from 6 months of being in a city where I was one of the only foreigners around. However, I did meet some wonderful travellers on the same page as me, and we had a great time touring the country side via motorbike, eating, exploring, and having drinks. I stayed at a hostel called PaiZen Resort, and although very rustic, I really enjoyed sleeping in the open air and for a few nights and even skipped using my bed altogether and slept in a hammock. There’s something really special about opening your eyes in the morning to seeing the sunrise over the mountains.

I’m thankful to have met some really cool, genuine people despite my frustration with many others. I spent most of my time with a group comprised of folks from Holland, Germany, and Peru. It was really interesting and enriching to spend time with people from all over the world, each with their own stories, interests and perspectives. Now that we’ve parted ways, we may never see each other again. For the three days we spent together though, we were friends and took care of each other.

I believe that if I were to have stayed longer in Pai, maybe I could have gotten passed the hippy backpacker feel and found some authenticity by staying further away from the town itself. However, I only stayed for three days in town. I was also there during the driest time of the year, so instead of fields of lush green, most areas were brown from the heat. I highly value my time spent there and the people I met, but I couldn’t wait to leave and move on to Chiang Mai for the Songkran water festival.

My favourite part of Pai:

  • Renting a motorbike and exploring the hilly country side with a new friend as a passenger
  • The mushroom shakes
  • Meeting interesting people
  • Pai Canyon sunset
  • The hammock at my hostel

My least favourite part of Pai:

  • Too much partying/drugs
  • Not authentically Thailand
  • Most of the ‘backpackers’ were extremely annoying to me

I’ll write more about the rest of my travels on my layover in Shanghai!

To be Continued . . .  🙂

The Reasons Why I’m Going Home

Okay guys, I have been doing some serious soul-searching lately on what to do when my English teaching contract ends in April. Should I stay, should I go, what I will do if I go, where will I go next if I stay?
I came to the conclusion to go home, and here are some of the reasons why:

1. Thailand is known for not being the best place to save money, and it’s true, I’m way better at saving money in Canada.
2. I’m reluctant to live in another Asian country for another year after my current contract is over. I’m sure I could do it, but it’s not what I want right now, to my own surprise. I expected to want to go somewhere else.
3. There is more opportunity for me to contribute in the ways that I want to, in my own country. I’m personally finding it to be quite expensive to volunteer for causes I’m passionate about, all the while not making much money on the side teaching. Having to return to the high cost of living in Canada looms over me.
4. My goal to teach ESL is not dead if I go home. My goal was always to eventually return to Canada with enough experience to teach ESL to adults in Edmonton or Vancouver, where many refugees and immigrants seek settlement and support. I can find work in Edmonton and volunteer to teach ESL and use that to gain employment in the future.
5. I miss my community. I love Thailand and its people, but I miss my own as well.
6. I have nothing to lose by going home, and as long as I’m healthy and set up right, I can go overseas again to explore and/or to teach English, making more money this time. My current time frame does not adhere to the amount of time it takes to get to Japan or Korea. I considered teaching in China because it takes less processing time to get there, but for some reason the more I think about it, the less I want to live there. I would love to visit though.
7. I feel a pull to go home and be closer to the people I love. Home, or family, is more important to me than ever. Thailand is a very family oriented place and I’m seeing for the first time that it’s okay to let go of a need to be 100% independent from your parents. Before I moved here, I admit that I judged others even if unintentionally, for living with their family as young adults. I now see this differently, and value the benefits of family support for overall well being in a different, better way.
8. I’m curious as to the opportunities that await me in Canada after having gone through extensive personal growth.
9.  I think I’ve been away just long enough that I should be able to handle the reverse culture shock of going home relatively well.
10. I have noticed that among the teachers I have met and spent time with in Thailand, they seemingly have something in common; home isn’t their home country anymore. I love Canada, but I do feel that the longer I stay away the more distant I feel with what I consider to be my home or what it means to be home.

To any travellers or people who work away from home, have you ever struggled with the decision of whether or not to go back home? Has the meaning of home changed for you throughout your life at all? While you were away? I would love to hear your thoughts or stories.