I’ve been there. I’ve been the one in my native country reading the updates from friends who are traveling the world or living in much “more exciting” places. I’ve wanted to be them. Because, let’s be real, I love traveling. I think it’s amazing. But there’s something to be said about how normal and everyday life is no matter where you’re living, at least after a certain amount of time has passed.
Before moving to Thailand in June, the longest I’d ever “lived” in a foreign place was eight weeks. I’d visited numerous countries for a week or two, studied abroad for six weeks one summer, and made my way to Chiang Mai, Thailand for eight weeks the following summer. In June I moved back to Thailand, but this time for a longer stretch: one year.
I remember counting down the days until my departure. (Literally, my countdown was part of my phone background for several months before I left.) Every time I turned on my phone and my laptop, I saw the maps of Thailand I’d loaded as screensavers. I received reminders about my up and coming trip multiple times throughout the week, either in the form of emails from the program I was working with or in the form of paperwork I had to mail out from my campus post office. Thailand was all around me but simultaneously out of reach. At least until June 1.
I’ve just about hit the six-months-of-living-in-a-foreign-country mark, but I hadn’t even made it past Month Three before life started feeling normal and everyday. Because that’s the thing: life is life wherever you live. You pretty much have to get into a routine in order to survive, and that routine becomes your new normal. And “normal” doesn’t always translate into “EVERY DAY IS A NEW ADVENTURE!” In fact, a friend reminded me not too long ago that life is indeed life no matter where you’re living it, but adventure is hidden in the everyday too – and you don’t have to be living in Thailand to find it.
Why am I saying this? Because I’ve been the person wishing that June 1 would just hurry up already so she could be somewhere else. Because I am now the person who knows that just because you change locations doesn’t mean that life turns perfect. Because I am the person who’s experienced a life that is good and refreshing and full and exciting no matter where I’ve lived (though living in the heartland definitely capitalizes on all those positive feels). Because I am now one of those people who’s living “a far-off adventure,” and maybe, if you’re as wanderlust-y as I am, you wish you were me. I need to tell you that Thailand is wonderful, and I am beyond glad to be living here (finally!). But I also need to tell you that life doesn’t start the minute you change your surroundings. Life is life, and the normal catches up with you, but what’s important is that you seek out the adventure and the awesome wherever you are, knowing all the while the good news: your personhood may not get revamped when you change jobs, change homes, change friends (though it might), but you will get to keep on being you, keep on growing and learning and all-around becoming whether or not you walk outside to motorbikes, singing petrol trucks, and palm trees.
My life isn’t perfect, but it sure is good.
I wake up at 5:45 AM, I eat breakfast, I sit on my couch and read the day’s She Reads Truth devo on my phone, I shower, I get ready for work. (Very normal.)
I sit downstairs and wait until 7:15 to see if my neighbor will show up to give me a ride to work or if I’ll need to get out my change purse, cross the street, and hopefully catch the pick-up truck AKA public transportation to get to work in time. (Not so normal, at least for an American.)
I wait until the traffic guard says it’s okay for the hundreds of students + me to cross the busy street to school.
I walk to the main office to sign in by hand, all the while ducking my head and nodding and smiling at people because I really have no idea who I’m supposed to wai or who I should address and how I’m supposed to address them.
I go throughout the day rotating between my desk in a shared office, classrooms, the bathroom, and the school canteen. Whenever I leave the office, I inevitably run into students, and I swear that at least three times a day someone tells me I look like Taylor Swift. (Because I’m blonde and Thai children are not. And they love Taylor Swift. That’s it.)
Sometimes I’m bored at work. Sometimes my eyes glaze over because I’ve had a slow day and all I’m doing is catching up on my Bloglovin’ feed. Sometimes I’m feeling feisty because I just got out of a bad twelfth grade class with a seating chart, a bring-all-your-phones-up-to-the-desk-and-leave-them-there policy, and a your-behavior-is-unacceptable-and-you’re-acting-like-children speech. Sometimes my heart feels full to bursting because I could not love my students more. Sometimes I have plenty to do: papers to grade, lesson plans to type, paperwork to fill out, and projects to assign.
I come home from school. Sometimes I run. Sometimes I don’t. Almost always I want to eat a bag of chips, and almost always I do because chips are way the heck cheaper than a bag of carrots. I think about how I really should be saving money, but at least twice a week I end up going to the mall to eat the [more expensive] food that I really want. I write all over my planner. I feel stressed out. I feel happy. I feel sleepy and fall asleep by 10.
Life is life. Really and truly. My life isn’t perfect, but it sure is good. Because I love what I do, and I love where I’m living. But the thing is, you’re going to be waking up and showering and eating breakfast and finding your way to work and working your job and coming home to something or nothing no matter where you live. What’s important is doing what you love, loving what you do, and living somewhere awesome too. Just remember: stress is possible and adventure is possible no matter what you’re doing and no matter where you’re living. Your life starts now!