I’ve long passed the two month mark here in Australia. The three month mark is actually in just a couple weeks. Ironically enough, the day I celebrate three entire months spent in Perth (the longest amount to date) is just a couple days prior to me leaving the country. Not for good - only for two weeks. Exciting details on this front to follow on a later date!
The first month of 2013 has passed by in what seemed like a blink of an eye, but it was indeed a delicious one. If each of the twelve months ends up as surprisingly glorious as January has, then I’m in for a treat. It seems like it will be a golden year for me indeed!
The past thirty-one days have included New Years in Windy Harbor, a Pimms Party birthday shindig to remember, celebrating my 24th on the 24th at the beach, my first "Straya Day" and holding down my first semi-permanent paying job in nearly a year. And let me tell you, it feels beyond fantastic to be receiving a paycheck again.
Speaking of money, my financial freedom resolution is going extremely well - looks like it should be a great success in 2013. Unfortunately, my fitness goals have fallen by the wayside in the meantime. Perhaps February will bring some wisdom on managing my time better to include work, play and exercise.
I similarly failed miserably at the whole 52 Photos Project, so instead how about one photograph to represent each month? The one above was taken from my balcony in West Perth and it symbolizes the beautiful sunsets that I am fortunate to witness every night.
Life in Western Australia has picked up, and I am finally feeling completely positive about being here. Luckily, I still have future adventures to look forward to! Exciting prospects are on the horizon that mean I will hopefully continue to chase summer during June and July. One thing I’ve learned in the last eleven months of traveling: I’m a hot weather girl through and through!
I would like to get into the groove of writing more often, but I feel that my life is a lot less exciting now than the last ten months or so have been. We are halfway through my birthday month (with less than two weeks to go until the day) and I can’t believe how long I’ve been in Perth already.
Australia is still extremely expensive to me and I can’t help but groan and make unfair comparisons to Thailand prices when I see the costs here, but….. I HAVE A JOB NOW, so things are picking up and soon enough I won’t think two dollars for a lime is ridiculous. Hopefully…
Finally having work in my schedule is a huge relief on my wallet and also helpful in fulfilling my time here. It feels good to wake up with a purpose, even if that is making burritos.
My brain and body are still not used to the fact that it is January and summer. If I can manage to lay out on the beach on my birthday that would certainly be a first!
All in all, I’m slowly beginning to acclimate to living here and I’m looking forward to that continuing.
XIII Resolutions for MMXIII
As I’m slowly encroaching into the mid-twenties category (January 24th marks my golden birthday - take note!), there are bits of me that actually feel like a grown-up. Only small chunks though, so don’t worry too much; I’m trying not to.
From what I hear/read/observe, real grown-ups have tangible new year’s resolutions laid out and ready to be tackled. Here’s my attempt:
In 2013, I resolve to…
- Become financially independent. This is number one for a reason, as I (along with my parents I’m sure) really would like to be on my own when it comes to money. Getting a job here in Australia is step one. I want to pay off my debts and stop asking other people to pay for my flights.
- Continue exploring the world. Just because I want to stop asking for help paying for my flights, doesn’t mean I want to cut down the number of them. I would love to add at the very least one new country to my list. I’m thinking that may realistically be New Zealand, Malaysia or Vietnam.
- Lessen expectations to better experiences. This may sound pessimistic to some, but I find that I am happiest when pleasantly surprised. The best things for me this past year have been planned on a whim or not at all. I think I’m okay with going with the flow, but I want to be more spontaneous in my planning (or lack of) and also not work anything too much in my head prior to actually experiencing it - whether it be a film, activity or country.
- Read more. I’ve managed to actually complete a few books this year, and I have somewhat rediscovered my pre-teenage love of reading.
- Send more handwritten letters. I did a good job of this last year, and I need to continue this and stop being so cheap, despite the $1.60 postage fee per letter to anywhere outside of Australia.
- Learn a party trick. I’ve managed to memorize a couple good jokes that consistently get a laugh, but I want to extend my party tricks to something like palm reading. I’ll need to practice on somebody though, any takers?
- Continue exercising with excitement and eating consciously. The key here for me is realistic goals. I’m thinking three runs in Kings Park a week.
- Be a better responder. I find that I get so bogged down by emails, messages and comments that I end up not responding to any of them. Email is the real kicker here - I’m thinking I should establish some kind of one touch method.
- Stop feeling intimidated, inadequate and inferior. Despite the fact that I feel quite confident in my decisions, I’ve heard more than a few times in the last year that I can be very self-deprecating. I plan to work on both what I say that would make people think this as well as the insecure thoughts that are apparently manifesting themselves deep down in my head.
- Complete a 52 Photos Project. This means posting one photo a week that represents something I’ve done or experienced. It’ll give me some incentive to post my own pictures on this blog.
- Learn how to cook. For real. I’ve dabbled in 2012, but I need to perfect three meals (eggs don’t count) that I can easily and happily make for friends, family or whoever.
- Take risks. In 2012, I moved away from home, changed travel plans based off of an airport encounter, lived abroad and participated in many activities that may not have seemed like the smartest idea at the time. I want to continue making stupid decisions that seem silly to an outsider, because those are the things that you look back on with a huge smile and no regrets.
- Keep loving life. I don’t want to become complacent in Perth, since I won’t be moving around as much as the previous months. It is all too easy to fall into a routine, but I know that doesn’t make me happy in the long term. This year I will keep things interesting in whatever way necessary.
It has officially been a week since I’ve lived in Australia. I had to hold myself back on including “quotations” around lived, but it’s the truth. This time I’m here on a working visa and all of my stuff is here and (despite a burning desire to go head to Chiang Mai) there’s no prospect of leaving for a while. With seven days in Perth, I feel like I’ve accomplished a handful of things. This last week I…
- Began a job hunt that included fixing up my CV and filling out countless cover letters telling my potential future employers why I seriously rock.
- Set up a local bank account, reactivated my Aussie phone (helloooo Whatsapp!) and obtained an Australian tax ID number. I’m basically a native now.
- Got reacquainted with the free public transport system here in Perth. Despite a few annoyances, the CAT bus system is actually pretty awesome.
- Took a roadtrip down south to spend the weekend at a friend’s parents’ home. They went surfing and I got very existential.
- Made the decision to give surfing another try. The actual attempt hasn’t happened yet, but I now have put my goal to text (and shared it with the world, aka you) so it must happen. I figure it’s been well over ten years since the last attempt, why not give it another go?
- Caught up with a friend that I met in the KL airport back in May (who convinced me on the spot to join her and teach English in Cambodia!). I love that she lives in Perth and we have been reunited!
- Attempted to get into the holiday spirit.
- Devoured some “cheap” and delicious sushi in the CBD. This is something I’ve been looking forward to doing since I was here last. “Cheap” is definitely relative, but delicious is not.
- Reassessed the lack of coffee in my life and grew to appreciate the merits of the Nespresso machine once again.
- Nearly fainted at the prices for everything here. You can get a Cornetto ice cream from 7-Eleven in Thailand for 23 baht (71 Australian cents) and the same exact ice cream costs $3.50 here. I wanted to cry.
- Thought about running in Kings Park, but rejected the idea for now. If we’re being honest in this forum, I think that my outdoor “me” time in the park may actually allow Perth to grown on me, and right now I’m still in mourning for my Thai life. It’s not right to move on that fast. It just ain’t right!
- Dealt with some extreme reverse culture shock - but more on this later.
All in all, it’s been a fairly uneventful, get-down-to-business kind of week, but Perth isn’t a new place for me and Australia isn’t an unknown county. I hope that at some point I am able to maneuver around the city with as much ease as I could Chiang Mai, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. And I certainly cannot adapt all the way in a week.
Hey - at least I finally got my cider!
As I sit listening to the crash of the waves, I can feel myself loosening the restraints of rejection and hesitation toward this new life of mine. The people are certainly different, but it is almost as if my friends and acquaintances here are mirrored characters of those in Chiang Mai. They do not serve as replacements, for nothing can or will replace those kind-faced individuals that represent home to me, but they are a kind a substitute for the time being. With this I do not mean to undermine the importance of my company here in Perth, as they have and soon will again locate an anchored position in my heart. It is just a new life and new changes that I must accept and welcome.
As I sit in the middle of Kuala Lumpur’s airport, I’m watching the many different shades of faces walking past me. I’m halfway through my eleven-hour layover and realizing in this moment that these are my final hours in Asia. For a while…
The differences between the people in this Malaysian airport and those individuals in Thailand are vast and that’s understandable, but I can’t help but feel a longing pain in my heart for those I’ve left behind in Chiang Mai. Not just the people, but the places, the culture and the memories.
The last few months working at Spicythai have made me the happiest that I can ever remember feeling. I know that I’ll be back soon enough, but I can’t help but worry that nothing will ever live up to the amazing experiences that I was able to take part in there. The last week of November was filled with activities and events celebrating Loi Krathong - an annual festival celebrated in Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. The celebrations have a few different meanings, but the one that I’ve adopted as my most important is that of letting go. Just like the Thai people let go of the fire balloons into the sky and the river lanterns into the water, I am letting go of this phase of my life.
Onwards and upwards to the land of Australia once again. It’s time to find a stable paycheck and become responsible for my actions, behavior and financial well-being.
I guess it’s time to become an adult? Nah. If I’ve learned anything working at a hostel and constantly meeting new characters, it’s that age doesn’t mean anything and just because I’m turning 24 next month doesn’t mean that I have to start to settle. I just have to figure out what I want!
To take from my earlier Facebook status:
Currently en route to Australia on my very long layover in KL… Beyond sad to say goodbye to my favorite city in the world, but so thankful for those who have made the last six months in Chiang Mai my happiest. To everyone involved with Loop Abroad, my fellow travelers and backpackers that I have met along the way and, most of all, my Spicy family: I love you beyond what words can describe. Some of you I know I will see again soon, but I hope that all our of paths cross at some point in the future. Thank you for making my time in Northern Thailand so unbelievably special.
Also thank you to any of you following along with my adventures. I hope that someday you have experiences just as meaningful to you!
Today marks exactly five months since I left the comforts of home. It was then that I gathered my (big hunk of) belongings and got in the car to drive far away from Fresno, California. The next day I climbed up the metal stairs to the airplane that would take me across the Pacific Ocean to the hemisphere that I now call home. The east is where I plan to stay - for at least a while.
Five months ago I left the United States to forge my post-grad life in a different direction and Australia was the first stop. Hardly unfamiliar, Perth quickly became home. It opened its wide arms and welcomed me into the world of sunshine, Sunday sessions and, unfortunately, $10 beers. Two and a half months and a much lighter wallet later, it was time to move on. Finally, I would return to Thailand - the place where I vowed I would return to for years. It was hard at first, but things got easier as such things do.
That’s where I last left off. After only the first two weeks in Bangkok - which is now two months in the past. Looking at the date, I’m beyond awestruck that it is already August and, in fact, over a year since I graduated from UCLA. It seems as if my entire life is a messy web of geographic connections and expanses of time - I visualize it as maps layered in calendars with days ticked off, either awaiting my next trip or checking the one at hand.
So, what’s happened in the last two months? I’ve…
- Taught English to some amazing 3 to 18-year olds in a very small village outside of Phnom Penh (including a handful of monks)
- Explored Cambodia’s capital city and the many bars and clubs that it has to offer
- Visited the spectacular Temples of Ankor in Siem Reap
- Chilled out on the beach in Sihanouk Ville
- Purchased more pairs of “hippie pants” than I care to admit
- Crossed from Cambodia to Thailand via an overland border crossing
- Hung out for a couple more weeks in Bangkok
- Worked as a teacher/counselor at an amazing camp in northern Thailand geared toward American teenagers (check out Loop Abroad’s blog!)
- Made a lot of extra-large friends after a week at Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park
- Got situated into life as an expat in Chiang Mai
That’s all I’ve got. At least for now.
Two Weeks in Bangkok
I promise that not all of my updates will be in time keeping form. Or maybe they will, I really don’t know. For now, I’m just in awe that it has indeed been a whole fifteen days since I have arrived in this country.
I’ve been uploading photos of my last couple of weeks in Perth and missing the people I left behind. We shared some amazing times together and lots of laughs. The good thing is - now more than ever - I know that I’ll be back. Perth is my home away from home away from home. I seem to be collecting homes these days, as the feel of a home base is more important to me than ever.
As I sat on the rooftop pool this morning, I felt very at peace with where, who and what I am. Never in a lifetime did I (let alone many of my peers) think that I’d be here five years ago. Graduating from high school, all I wanted was to attend UCLA and graduate with a job in broadcast journalism in San Francisco. Oh, how things change.
I haven’t been keeping this up to date the last couple of weeks for a couple of reasons. Due to the uncertainty of where I would be in the next days, I refrained from posting my future plans. Honestly, I just didn’t want to jinx anything.
So here’s my update:
Currently I am sitting at Gate F3 in the Bangkok airport. I’m not going home - not to California or Perth - and I’m not moving onward to Chiang Mai just yet. Right now I am going on a whim to Cambodia, where I’ll be volunteering and teaching at a school in Phnom Penh!
72 Hours in Bangkok
You know that game of questions you play when you’re getting to know somebody new - that one where you almost always end up asking at some point, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”
I finally feel that I have a good answer.
"Moved to Thailand by myself without much of a plan other than two nights stay in a hostel and an idea that I’d like to teach English in Chiang Mai. Oh, and the one way ticket was only booked five days before I left."
Not only is this the craziest thing that I’ve done, it’s also the scariest and the most difficult task I have ever tackled.
I’m a bit apprehensive to publish the following thoughts, because I have kept a fairly confident demeanor for some time in regards to being able to handle this whole thing. Having perfected the casual explanation of my plan to others, I tricked myself into believing my own overly-confident responses. Truth is, I just got slapped in the face with a massive reality check.
This is really hard.
I would describe myself as a social person. I’m almost always eager to meet new people and I am generally not embarrassed to come across as a little weird. This whole transplant yourself out of your comfort zone and into a completely contrasting world is a different ball game than what I’ve ever known. Introducing yourself to a random person on the street in hopes of striking up a friendship is unfortunately not as easy as introducing yourself to the person in front of you in line for the bathroom at the bar around the corner from home.
Three days ago I came to Bangkok. In that 72 hours I have experienced such a wide array of emotions that I’m beginning to question whether somebody drugged me with a very tempestuous acid trip.
Exaggerations aside, I’ve been a wreck - especially on the first day. The second day I tried to embrace the situation and changes at hand. Finally, on this third day, I have come to the acceptance stage of this strange state of solitude that only a lone expat in a completely different culture must understand. I haven’t watched Lost in Translation since it came out, but I’m beginning to understand much of what I remember the film to to be about.
I’ve always loved traveling, but this upheaval of my life into a new world is vastly unalike the carefree joy of knowing you’ve only got a week to squeeze into everything you want to do and see.
Despite what this may sound like, it has all not been bad. I have managed to get out of my head and experience this city of lights and constant noise in the “Land of Smiles.” I have visited beautiful temples, acquired and worn a Chang tank top, ridden in tuk-tuks, gotten a nice tan, drank ice-cold Singha beers, Thai teas and mango smoothies, improved my bartering skills in the markets, devoured plenty of curry and noodle dishes, acquiring some exciting job prospects and purchased a new phone complete with a local phone number.
I’m slowly acclimating this crazy place. Even my skin and hair have given in to the humidity and are adapting quite well. Seventy-two hours and I’m beginning to manage this whole thing.
My four mosquito bites don’t even bother me. They are my battle scars, proving that I’ve survived the last few days. They serve as reminders that even the worst challenges may seem troublesome at first, but eventually they fade and from them you can take a lesson. Whether it’s as simple as wearing bug spray or as difficult as navigating the streets of Bangkok, I’m always learning and I don’t plan for that to change.
I have been a terrible “blogger.” Thanks to many pushes and prods (A special shout to Jordan who gave me the much-needed final encouragement), I’m back writing and telling those of you who are interested what I am up to in the land down under.
Updating this has been written as a top priority in my planner each day here, yet something always happened to come up that seemed more important. No excuses anymore. There is lots to share and only so many days left in Australia to do so.
It would be nice to say first things first, however, I unfortunately have no desire as of now to chronologically date all that has happened here. It has already been FOUR WEEKS that I have been here (tomorrow). That’s a month almost, which means that I can feel a little bit less guilty about the amount of money spent. [Fun fact: Did you know that Perth is not just one of the most isolated cities in the world, but also one of the most expensive?]
As the title implies, I feel I have gone native here in Oz. I can find my way around West Perth, Subiaco and a few other suburbs just fine without consulting Google Maps and I have an Aussie phone number (on a Blackberry at that - take that haters of my old phone!), a gym that I frequent and a daily routine. As of today, I have even driven a car on the wrong/left side of the street without crashing into any pedestrians or street signs. If that’s not becoming a local, I don’t know what is.
Seriously though, in the past few weeks I have not done many tourist things because, quite frankly, I am not a tourist. As the plan goes, I will be moving here somewhat permanently after teaching abroad and it feels good to have a real home away from home. I still need to watch an AFL game and try Vegemite, but I’ve got some amazing friends and I really do love living here.
For those still wondering: YES, I am going to Thailand and NO, I do not yet know when. Life is short and I am young. That being said, it’s going to be soon. Those wanting to visit - do not fret, you can still plan on coming end of April/early May.
Houston, we have a problem.
I recently read that dairy products are not as common in South East Asian countries. What I actually deciphered from that was: NO CHEESE IN THAILAND.
You may (or more likely, may not) understand my love affair with the dairy delight. Eating cheese is as close to a heavenly experience as I’ve got on this earth, and the fact that it may be taken away from me makes me question my life choices.
Mark my words though, I will find a way to have a wine and cheese housewarming party when I obtain an actual residence. Even if I have to make it. The dairy shortage can go screw itself, because I vow to be one classy home-owner (yes, shacks and bungalows do count).
Less than two weeks. That’s all I’ve got now before I jet set away for good (or at least for a while). People keep telling me I’ve got balls, courage and all that jazz, but the truth is I’m scared. Maybe that is not the right word, per say, but it does cover the general emotion that currently pulses through my veins.
Each day ticks by, slowly approaching departure day. My backpack has been purchased (a beautiful green Gregory Deva) and my list of things to get done seems to get longer instead of shorter.
Despite the stress of the countdown, I am excited too. Second to last weekend at home, here I come!