Tag: balance

Letting Go

Letting Go

“We must try not to sink beneath our anguish…but battle on.” –Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’ve been feeling A LOT of emotions the past few weeks. It all started when I said goodbye to my parents. Since then, everyday presents new opportunities for self-reflection and growth. Change is coming. It’s drawing near on the horizon, and as always in my life, this is something that never ceases to trip me up.

Today was tough. I was incredibly overwhelmed from the moment I woke up. But what I’ve learned through a year of journaling and blogging is the power that comes when one writes down thoughts on paper. Getting those emotions out of the head is the healthiest way to deal with them. After a day like today, I needed to ask myself, why am I so stressed? What am I upset about; what is worrying me that I can’t put a finger on?

Today, just like any other day, I hope to finish it off feeling well-fueled, well-rested, content and grateful. Above all, I hope to finish the day off with a smile on my face. In order to achieve these goals, I must acknowledge the aforementioned questions though. Acknowledge that something is wrong, something is clearly bothering me, but that’s okay. It’s not so much that I am having strong feelings that is wrong; but it is incredibly frustrating for me when I can’t recognize those feelings and name them as emotions. Am I happy, sad, scared, overwhelmed?

First off, I have been feeling stressed. So much so that my body has broken out in an irritating, itchy, blotchy red rash. If my stress level is so high that it is manifesting itself in very real, very uncomfortable ways on the exterior of my body, then clearly it’s time to address this stress.

I’m stressed because a hell of a lot of things are changing in my life. There’s a hell of a lot going on, and there’s only so much that is within my control. And not being in control has definitely taken its toll on me these past few weeks. A part of me finds this quite strange. I have done so much this past year; I’ve seen so many places, met so many people, and grown as a person one hundred times over. I assumed control had nothing to do with the wonderful feelings of success I’ve had this past year.

Leave nothing up to assumptions though. Assumptions are misleading; assumptions can be wrong. Apparently, I’ve assumed lately that I’m living such a relaxed and go-with-the-flow lifestyle, and that this would help me deal when things aren’t in my control. That assumption is proving to be very, very wrong. For me, it still remains true that there are certain things in life where I feel like control is necessary.

Planning is one such area. I have always planned my life. From very early on, I knew what I wanted, when I wanted it by, and how I was going to get it. Through college, what I wanted was to graduate in three years. During grad school, my desire was to finish my schooling, and finally transition my role from student in the classroom, to teacher of the classroom. For three years of employment, despite loving my job and having wonderful coworkers greet me at work everyday, I always knew that Eagle Point wasn’t my final destination. From the very beginning it would never be my home; so I suppose during those first three years of teaching I always knew that I was going to move on.

Eventually I did. And not only did I leave my job at Eagle Point, but I left my home, my family, my dog, my friends. I left everything I knew and considered important in life, to set off on the adventure of a lifetime. Fast-forward through one amazing year and I’m left without a plan. I don’t have a job lined up for the fall yet; I don’t know what life is going to be like when I come home; I don’t know how I’ll handle the transition when I finally say goodbye to the incredible life I’ve spent the past year building for myself. I’m out of control, and that is a very upsetting truth to deal with at the moment.

It’s not just a lack of control that I’m dealing with though. Also troubling me is the fact that everything I do these next two months has such a finality attached to it. Everything I have come to know as typical life over the course of a year is about to end. Nothing will be the same when I finally board that first plane on 24 July 2017.

On the one hand, I’m really okay with this chapter of life drawing to a close. I do feel like it’s the right time to go; but it almost feels the same as ending a relationship. We all know that feeling. The one you get when you have been with a person for a significant amount of time, and you finally decide to call it quits. Even if you’re breaking up with someone for all the right reasons, it’s still incredibly hard to say goodbye. There’s so much you feel like you’re leaving behind; it’s not hard to forget, all too often, what you’re making space for.

This is how I feel about coming home. I know it’s the right choice; I know it’s the right time. But I am going to miss the days of being a traveling teacher. I am going to miss the opportunities to adventure and explore the world. I am going to miss living an ex-pat life. I’ll miss my job, I’ll miss the friends I’ve made along the way. But the thing is, come July, it will not be the first time I say goodbye.

I’ve already said goodbye once in the past year. I said goodbye to Thailand last October. I said goodbye to teaching English; I said goodbye to being hot and sweaty EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I made it through that goodbye, and while I can draw strength from that fact, there’s a part of me that knows this time around is different.

I don’t know if I’ll ever live abroad again. Certainly I’ll continue to travel, explore, and see as much of the world as I can. But will I ever move to a different country again? That is a question too hard to deal with at the moment. That is a question best left unanswered. Instead of focusing so much on planning for my future; instead of spending all my time dwelling about the past, I turn to Emily Dickinson for advice; “dwell in the possibility”.

Possibilities are endless; this is an exciting truth. There’s still so much to do, still so much to see. Adventures await around every corner. And at the end of the day, “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.” -L. Frank Baum

An anniversary celebration in Prague: I lasted a whole year!

An anniversary celebration in Prague: I lasted a whole year!

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” -Elizabeth Edwards

Monday 1 May is International Workers’ Day; happy Labor Day in Europe! As I write this post I’m sitting at a table in Starbucks in Prague enjoying my morning Americano, and reveling in the direction my life has gone over the past year. Exactly one year ago today, after forty-eight grueling hours of anxiety, excitement and travel, I officially landed on Thai soil in Bangkok. One year ago my adventure started; life sped up to an unimaginable quickness over the next three hundred and sixty-five days, and I haven’t been the same since I left.

It’s surreal that after an entire year now I find myself celebrating my day off from work for Labor (or technically I should be spelling it Labour, since it’s not actually an American holiday) Day in Prague, Czech Republic. After I finish writing this blog post, I’ll have a few more hours to explore the city before I head back to the train station to catch my bus back to Deutschland at three this afternoon.

The past year has been nothing shy of EXTRAORDINARY! I am so grateful for the endless opportunities that have showered my life in adventure, learning, adversity, and growth. I am so proud of the Emily who smiles back at me in the mirror everyday. She’s a pretty great lady! Adventurous, inquisitive, passionate, goofy, fun, loud and loving. It’s crazy to reflect back on this rollercoaster of learning that I’ve been on the past year. So much has happened; so much has changed. I’ve seen so many new and exciting places and I’ve met so many wonderful new people. But what’s most crazy of all is how, at the end of the day really, everything is still the same.

I’m still me, I still teach, I still love history, culture and travel. I’m still loud, I still laugh uncontrollably at times, I’m still quite strange. Even after all the growing I’ve done I still find myself uncomfortable in new situations. And above all, still, I am most grateful for my family and friends across the globe. The people who have stood by me, supported me in this dream, the people who I can’t wait to see again soon! If I don’t say it enough then I apologize because I think it every minute, of every single day. I am so thankful to have such a wonderful support system in my life. People who believe in me, see my strengths and capabilities, and push me to reach for the stars and always chase after my dreams. I am humbled, grateful, and blessed.


This past year certainly has been an adventure; I’ve done more, seen more, and felt more love than I ever dreamed possible. Even this past weekend has far surpassed my expectations! I was so busy and consumed for the three weeks in April that my parents were visiting, that I never realized I’d have the first two Mondays after spring break off from work. What a treat!

Last week on Tuesday we came back from a two-week holiday at my school. By Wednesday, after settling into a rhythm again I took a look at my school calendar and noticed that Monday 1 May happens to be a holiday (in most of the world…). Meaning a three-day weekend for me, hooray!

The thought of staying put this weekend never crossed my mind. Three days if a gift, time that is meant to be lived and explored. Instead of thinking about staying in Neustadt, I had to decide where I’d like to go. Almost immediately I settled on Prague.

I hate to disappoint, but I don’t have a great explanation as to, Why Prague? Rather, I just had a feeling that it was the right choice. Honestly, I’m sure that anywhere I ended up would have been as lovely as the next place. But I’m so glad that I ended up here!

To my surprise and delight, getting here was easy. A train to Nuremberg and then a bus to Prague. Simple enough. In total, a trip that would take me across international borders, but would require less than seven hours of travel. For this reason (and so so many more) I love living in Europe.

My first evening I found my hostel, explored the surrounding area a bit, and found a great place to taste Czech beer. While there I met two Americans, a husband and wife from Kentucky, both on their first European trip. They too love travel, as they explained to me in our ensuing conversation, but have focused much of their efforts on state-side travel as of yet (my next adventure perhaps…). We shared stories, advice, and company for a few hours; it was great. I don’t always fall into easy conversation with new people at every stop, but when I do it’s always so enjoyable. Even more, it reminds me how much I truly love my life and love what I do.

Drinks and conversation at the Prague Beer Museum were followed by a stroll over to one of Prague’s most iconic landmarks, Charles Bridge. The views and people watching didn’t disappoint. Although what surprised me most, the mass volume of people! As I mentioned before, a three-day weekend, for most of Europe; apparently I wasn’t the only one around who thought about getting out of town for the long weekend off.

Sunday was my self-guided walking tour around Prague, and it was wonderful! After ten miles of exploring I’d visited most every place that I set out to when making my original plans for the weekend. Starting off at the Prague Castle, the castle grounds, and the glorious cathedral. From there I hiked my way back down, and then back up again, to the Petrin Tower. Who knew that Prague had it’s own replica of the Eiffel Tower as well? The Petrin Tower sits atop Petrin Hill, a dense and lush space of hilly terrain and green from the ground up. It’s beautiful.

Located just between the castle and the tower is one of the oldest working monasteries founded in 1140, called Strahov Monastery. From the gardens outside I enjoyed a rest from all the walking and a snack while I took in the surrounding views of the city below.

Afterwards my tour took me back to the Old Town Square, where I found the town hall, built in 1338, and the even more famous fifteenth century astronomical clock. Next, I made my way to the Jewish section of town. Starting at the Starnova Synagogue, one of the oldest and most valuable European and world Jewish monuments, and also the oldest synagogue in Europe. I learned a bit about the history of Jewish culture in Bohemia, through the nineteenth century, as I visited the other five synagogues in town. All are located within a few square blocks from each other, set up as historical sites, memorials and museums; and centered between them is the old Jewish cemetery with headstones dating back for hundreds of years.

By late afternoon on Sunday I was quite tired. My day started early and had me trekking all around town. So in the afternoon I went back to my hostel for a much-needed nap. I would finish my day back at the Old Town Square for dinner and a lovely view. A great day!

My Monday plans consist as follows: Wencslas Square (as in the Christmas song). This boulevard is well-known in Czech history, originally as the city’s main horse-trading market. Then, in 1848 when a giant mass was held outside the national museum, the street gained more recognition. By 1918, attention fell upon it once again when they hosted a massively public celebration of the new, Czechoslovak Republic. It was here too, in the 1980s, where two university students committed suicide by lighting themselves on fire, in a dramatic and powerful protest of the communist state in Czechoslovakia. Finally, most recently in 1989, yet another celebration was held after the fall of communism was announced. (Think of it as the Times Square of Prague.)

After that, my final stop in town is the Lennon Wall. After his murder in 1980, Lennon became a pacifist hero in the region. An image was painted on a wall behind the French Embassy. After years of trying to keep it covered, white-wash after white-wash, communism was no match, and the Lennon Wall became a permanent symbol of political focus for Prague youth.

My weekend in Prague has been wonderful. I am so grateful for every adventure, big or small, that I have the opportunity to take. Life is a beautiful gift.

January 2k17: from France to Austria and everything in between.

January 2k17: from France to Austria and everything in between.

Last month was incredibly exciting! In a matter of thirty days I was able to visit six different countries. I spent time in Germany (of course), France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and finally Austria. Here’s a quick recap of the month of January and all its adventures:

Paris, France: 30.12.2016-04.01.2017

As I previously wrote about in my last blog, I spent my New Year’s holiday in one of my all-time favorite international cities. On my first day in the city, I visited someplace new that I hadn’t been to the previous two trips I’ve taken to Paris. This time around, I made my way out to Monte Martre and visited the incredibly beautiful cathedral, Sacre Coeur. A bit out of the city, but nothing more than a thirty minute metro ride. Unfortunately, as it was early January in Paris, the skies were overcast and gray, leaving little views of the surrounding city. Still, it was worth the trip, and I’m glad I finally made it out to Monte Martre this time around.


My next main event during my time in Paris was to take a walking tour around all the top sites. Most of which I’ve seen previously, but it was great just being back in Paris, surrounded by the narrow streets, beautiful architecture, and all sorts of different people from around the world. Also, because it was New Year’s day when I decided to wander the streets of Paris to view the top sites, the busiest street in the city, Champs Elysees, was still closed off to traffic from the night before. Therefore, it was virtually deserted; I was able to walk down the middle of the street with the Arc de Triomphe behind me, as I made my way towards the Louvre. It was very interesting to experience such a busy street in such an unusual way.

Next up on my agenda in Paris was DISNEY! I’m a huge fan and I was given the opportunity to go back to Disneyland Paris for FREE! I reconnected with a friend from high school, whom I hadn’t seen in more than ten years. What a unique way to experience Disney, all alone. It certainly made decisions quick and easy. There was no one I had to bounce ideas off of all day, basically I went wherever my heart so desired. However, being that it was the middle of winter in Paris, it was REALLY cold. I even got to experience my first official European snow fall right in the park itself. Overall, a very fun day letting my inner-child out to play.

Brussels, Belgium: 04.01.2017-07.01.2017

The next and final stop on my Christmas break venture around Europe was another new country, Belgium! I absolutely fell in love with Brussels. The people are fascinating, the architecture is a mix of old and new, and the BEER. By far, the Belgians know how to do beer best. Some of the sites during my three day tour of Brussels included the Atomiom, the Mannekin Pis, the Belgian Comic Book Center, several beautiful cathedrals and churches, a city bus tour, and best of all…Harry Potter- the Exhibition!

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg: 20.01.2017-22.01.2017

Happy Birthday to me! And a very happy birthday it was, indeed. I spent my birthday weekend exploring yet another new country; this time I set my sights on Luxembourg. Only a three and a half hour train ride from Neustadt, I took the day off from work on Friday as a treat to myself, caught a mid-day train from Neustadt to Trier, then on to Luxembourg, and spent the next two days exploring another wonderful international city. Originally my cousin was supposed to be joining me on Friday evening for a fun girls’ weekend together, but due to unforeseen circumstances she had to back out last minute. Upon hearing this news, I was a bit bummed that I’d be spending my birthday on Sunday alone, but I only allowed myself to dwell for a very short while. I have been traveling on my own for the past eight months, what’s another weekend of solo travel, if not an amazing opportunity, new experiences, and an incredible blessing! The theme of the weekend, #treatyoself2k17. As it was my birthday, and I was turning twenty-seven, officially entering my “late twenties” as my family so quickly reminded me, I knew I wanted to make this weekend special. Truthfully, it didn’t take much. As I was staying in an actual hotel and not a hostel, on Friday night I ordered room service, used the pool and sauna, and enjoyed a relaxing evening in. Then on Saturday I headed out to explore the city, and what an incredible day that was! Luxembourg City is essentially laid out on two levels, making for an incredible day hike around town. I saw castle ruins, churches, modern architecture, and beautiful scenery. It was a wonderful day, and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect gift for my twenty-seventh birthday. The opportunity to travel and see the world this year has been an incredible blessing, full of experiences I will surely never forget.

Zell am See, Austria: 29.01.2017-03.02.2017

The mountains are calling and I must go. -John Muir

My final adventure during the month of January was Austria! I had the incredible opportunity to chaperone and attend a week-long ski trip with students, staff, and parents from ISN. It was an amazing, albeit exhausting week. Myself and four other adults (two teachers and two parents) boarded a coach early Sunday morning with thirty-nine students from grades 6-10. After a seven and a half hour bus ride, we had made our way to the Austrian Alps, to a small resort town called Zell am See. Despite being on board a bus with thirty-nine loud and smelly teenagers, when we reached the Germany-Austria border, the bus ride was breathtaking. Being surrounded by mountains all week reminded me so much of home. It also reminded me how centered and peaceful I feel when I’m surrounded by snow-covered mountains too. I had a blast snowboarding again (for the first time in over two years) and enjoyed my time getting to know my students outside the classroom setting.

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. -Anne Frank

Happy New Year…a few days late.

Happy New Year…a few days late.

“Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Welcome to the new year! Twenty-seventeen has a hell of a lot to match up to, because in my book twenty-sixteen was about as amazing as life gets. What I cannot fathom already is that we are two weeks into January. Halfway through the first month of the year, already?! Where has the time gone? Well I wish I could have shared this next story with you all two weeks ago, but traveling without a computer, shotty data service at best, and poor wifi connections in my hostels all around Europe prevented me from writing this any sooner. Without further ado, a piece I wrote on New Year’s Eve and had intended to publish much, much sooner:

31.12.2016 9:10PM

Okay, I’ll keep this short. I just want to document this moment in case I ever feel like reliving it someday in the future.

I was all eager and excited to be spending New Year’s Eve in Paris solo; that is up until that final moment when I had to officially decide where I’d be spending my time when the ball drops. I had a lovely day at Monte Martre and Sacre Coeur today, and also a nice mellow evening at my hostel drinking a delicious Scottish IPA and beginning my newfound obsession with NARCOS. I even took myself out to dinner across the street from my hostel too. But when it came time to actually make my decision as to where I’d be heading for the night, to be honest, I had half the mind to literally stay in, cozy up in some sweats, and watch Netflix…while in Paris…for New Year’s Eve…I should be fined.

Unacceptable. Even these thoughts. They remind me that while it appears to the world watching my new year unfold on Facebook and Instagram that I’ve become this vagabond world traveler, without a home or a care in the world; deep down inside I’m still the same Emily who left on this adventure of a lifetime eight months ago. Despite even the feat of visiting multiple countries in a few short weeks, I can’t truly abandon my old self, no matter how hard I may try at times.

I recently finished reading Amy Schumer’s autobiography, “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo,” and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I laughed, I cried, I LOL’ed, I even recommended it as a read to a few of my besties who I thought would find meaning out of it too. But it wasn’t simply the humor that I connected with. Rather Amy (it’s fun referencing her as Amy…almost as it we’re friends) opened up with her readers on a real personal level about all sides of herself, and it was for this reason that I so deeply connected to the book. She writes of being an introvert in a world where everyone expects the opposite out of her at all times. She’s a comedian. She’s meant to smile, make small talk, make people laugh. Being a quiet, introspective thinker just doesn’t fit the mold, right?

If you find this dichotomy at all interesting, then please, by all means, read Schumer’s book. Don’t leave it up to me to illustrate the humorous juxtapositions, read it for yourself firsthand. It’ll be far more interesting and a million times more funny for you. But the reason I’ve brought it up is because the dichotomy she illustrates is where I connected to the story most of all.

I’ve spent the last eight months of life living alone in a foreign country. I’ve been living alone for the first time truly, in my entire adult life, and it’s been nothing shy of extraordinary. First and foremost, it’s been wonderful, but it hasn’t always come easy. For the most part, Thailand and Germany couldn’t be more different. In Thailand, I was teaching English (not my passion); I lived with some instant besties (shout-out to Al, Iz, and Laura if you’re reading this!); I was HOT-ALL THE TIME!

Fast-forward five months and I set foot on European soil, to embark on my third teaching assignment of twenty-sixteen. Moving to Neustadt was absolutely the right decision for me- both personally and professionally. I needed to be back in my own classroom, teaching social studies, doing what I do best; doing what I love most. The small class sizes at ISN are an incredible blessing, but don’t get me wrong; just because I’ve been able to shrink my class sizes from fifty down to fifteen, doesn’t mean it’s all been rainbows and ice cream parties at school. Rather, this professional transition has been quite trying, for a number of different reasons.

First of all, I’m teaching grades nine through twelve, geography and economics. Not to mention having never taught above year ten prior to October ’16, let’s just say juniors and seniors are a whole different ballgame. Which my three years experience teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies and language arts at Eagle Point Middle School didn’t fully prepare me for…

In addition to the age of my students, I’ve also never taught the particular content I’ve been assigned at my new job either. Now I don’t mind the geo classes one bit. I teach grades nine-twelve geo, and I’m thoroughly enjoying teaching and learning the new content myself, prior to sharing it with my students. It’s heavy on the prep-side of teaching, but enjoyable nonetheless. Needless to say, I don’t share the same feelings about being an “economics teacher.” No, the econ classes are definitely a whole different story! I haven’t actually studied economics myself since I was seventeen years old, just a junior in high school myself, when I took AP Econ at AHS. Obviously, never having studied econ in college, this was a factor I chose to omit during my interview back in July for my job. Whoops…

Maybe I just figured the position being in Europe made it a long shot. Who knows? But the truth is that I’m responsible for six different preps, each of which I see four separate times in a week. Meaning that I have to lesson plan twenty-four different plans. Every. Single. Week.

Ya, ya, I can just hear my elementary ed friends rolling their eyes at me, saying that’s what they do every week. But without the risk of sounding like a total bitch, it’s very different lesson planning for a room full of fourth and fifth graders, as compared to high school students, most of which are learning at the IB level (think of it as the “AP” version of classes in Europe). The moral of this tangential story, my job is far harder than it may seem according to my Instagram or Facebook page.

Outside of work I’ve struggled since moving to Deutschland as well. Being that I’m at an international school in Europe, the median age of my coworkers at ISN is probably around 40-45. Not to beat home a dead horse, but I’m nowhere near that age. No surprise to me though, I’m actually much more comfortable being the youngest member on a staff, than being of similar age to many of my coworkers (as was the case in Thailand). While I thoroughly enjoyed the network of friends in Thailand, my three years at EPMS prepared me for my “youngest staff member” role, which I’ve fallen into again at ISN. Still, while I certainly feel comfortable in this role, and I don’t mind it in the least, it too coms with a unique set of challenges that I’ve faced since moving to Germany in October.

Being the youngest on staff may not sound all that bad, but when you work at a very small school as I do, a total of fourteen teachers for grades six-twelve, and you’re younger than the next person by a solid ten years (more likely fifteen if I’m being honest), it can potentially make it tougher on one socially. I certainly enjoy my job, I get along well with most all of my coworkers, but if you’ve noticed, I have yet to travel anywhere on the weekends with a new friend. In Thailand, I quickly set off on adventures with my favorite ladies (shout-out #2). Not the case in Germany. I’m learning the truest, most pure meaning of solo travel right now.

And by right now, I mean this very instant as I write this. Currently, I’m sitting alone at a bar, in Paris, on New Year’s Eve.

But that’s besides the point I was trying to make. Please don’t read this and misinterpret my words. I don’t want my reasons for sharing this side of reality to be misconstrued. I’m not looking for pity; I’m not sad, hell I’m very rarely lonely over here except for the seldom quiet evening at home alone. What I’m trying to convey is that I am, at heart, an introvert through and through. And while I’d like to think that living on my own, across the world from family and friends, has pulled me out of my shell, the truth is, that just ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve adapted, I’ve grown. I know now to make small talk with strangers, sure. But as my previous confession illustrates, if my darkest desire is to spend my solo New Year’s Eve trip in Paris (a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity), cuddled up in sweats, in my hostel, watching Netflix, then I think it’s very clear that I haven’t really changed as much as I thought I had over the past eight months.

Where does that leave me, though? As one year of epic proportions draws to a close, and I realize I’m still pretty much the same ol’ Emily, what can I expect or hope for in two thousand seventeen? I’m not entirely sure about anything ahead, but what I do know, is it’s one hundred percent okay to just be yourself. Don’t waste time or energy trying to be someone you’re not. Rather, learn to love yourself, and strive to be the very best version of yourself that you can be. It’s proven quite effective for me this year, because I’m honestly the happiest I’ve ever been. And that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m sitting at a bar in Paris as I write this.

Location is fluid, surroundings constantly change. Happiness though, evolves within oneself. Wherever you are, if you’re happy, you’ll be happy. Right now, at 10:30PM on 31 December 2016, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. And that’s in large part due to the fact that I have learned to love myself.

We’re often flooded with stories of love this time of year; social media perpetuates this fact. Babies, boyfriends, girlfriends, engagements, weddings. Well, I can’t officially announce it on Facebook to the world, for the sheer fact that if I did, it may be significantly misunderstood if I came out in 2017 as being “in a relationship” on social media. But despite my incapacity to do so, that’s exactly how I feel right now. As 2016 draws to its final close, the clock is ticking down; people will be rushing all across the world to find that person whom they’ll share a kiss with at midnight. Despite being all by my lonesome tonight, even at a bar out in public, I’m with exactly the person who I want to be with as I welcome 2017 with wide open arms and an open heart-myself. I’m thrilled to be so happy, content, and confident in myself that I’m the only date I need this New Year’s. A whole hell of a lot has changed this past year for me; but deep down, I’m still the same, boring, shy, loud and weird Emily, and that’s completely okay with me.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” -E.E. Cummings

October 2016: a month of change.

October 2016: a month of change.

“Change is the law of life. And those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” -John F. Kennedy

It is 10:30am on Sunday morning, 30 October, and I’m sitting in bed with a cup of coffee in hand, Lumineers radio playing in the background, thinking about what to write. This past week I finished teaching my first full week of school at ISN (International School Neustadt). Also, as of 7pm yesterday, I have officially been in Deutschland for one whole month. Four weeks ago I embarked on a new phase in my journey, and it’s been wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been perfect, there’s certainly been a few bumps in the road, but I am content knowing that I made the right decision to leave Thailand and try my hand at something new. I haven’t been as diligent in keeping up-to-date on my blog upon arrival in Deutschland though, so I may as well spend this time writing an overview about the past few weeks. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Week 1: Frankfurt

I arrived in Germany on Saturday 1 October, in Frankfurt. I spent the weekend there, at the Hilton Garden Inn Airport Hotel, for convenience sake, but still managed to get out and explore the city a bit too. Fortunately, the ride from the airport to the city center in Frankfurt is actually much easier than many other big cities. My experience with large airports (Frankfurt Int’l is the second largest in Europe) is that they are located at least an hour outside the city, making day trips in and out much more of a hassle. Like I said, fortunately that is not the case in Frankfurt. Rather it’s just a fifteen minute train ride into the city center from the airport, and the train/rail system is very easy to learn in Germany.

On Sunday I took the ride into the city center, walked around for a bit, managed to stumble upon a local weekend market/festival, and even took a bus tour around the city. I truly enjoyed my first full-day in my new country, full of feelings of excitement for the coming months ahead.

Week 1: Teaching

After my weekend in Frankfurt, I made my way down to Neustadt to begin my first week of teaching. As I mentioned in my last blog post, Monday 3 October is German Reunification Day, therefore the first week of work for me was a four-day work-week instead of five. Although I went to school all four days, I spent most of Tuesday in the HR department: signing my contract, filing for health insurance, filling out endless amounts of paperwork, etc. Therefore, I didn’t really feel like I was “teaching” just yet. I experienced the same sense of an “absence of teaching” for the remaining three days during that first week of work. Although again, I went into my classroom on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, for several class periods the only role I took as an educator was to proctor exams. Further, when classes had finished with their end-of-term exam, being that fall break was quickly approaching, I didn’t set out to create any real lesson plans either. For the rest of that first week of teaching, I spent my days trying (and failing) to learn students’ names, introducing myself, playing YouTube videos, and letting each class spend their forty-five minute period how they wanted. What a great teacher, right?!

Despite my feelings that I wasn’t technically doing my job, I never received any pressure from the Head of Secondary to do any more than what I had chosen to do; thank goodness, a clear conscience. Instead of sharing the mundanity that was my first week as a teacher, I’ll write a couple of early comparisons between teaching in Deutschland and teaching in the states. At an international school, such as ISN, some terms are a bit different than they are at home. For starters, technically according to my official title, as stated on my contract, I am not actually a “teacher.” Rather than calling teachers, teachers, or students, students, at ISN teachers are referred to as “mentors”, and students are called “learning partners” (LPs for short).

Another difference is the structure of administration at ISN. Instead of having a district office at the top of the pyramid, international schools employ Heads of Schools. These people, most closely resemble a mixture of a principal and members of the DO back at home. They’re certainly in charge of everyone/everything, but they’re hardly ever seen. Under the Head of School, ISN employs two “vice principals”, the Head of Secondary and the Head of Primary. My “boss”, Peter, is the Head of Secondary; and it was with him whom I interviewed for the job, and it was he who offered me the position. I report directly to him, and he just so happens to be the teacher who helped cover my classes for the first six weeks of the year.

Several other differences between teaching at an international school and teaching at home include class sizes, resources, and the school calendar. Because the school I work at is so small (less than 200 students in grades K-12), my class sizes are AMAZING! The largest group I have in one lesson is 12, the smallest is 5; it’s awesome! This dynamic almost completely removes classroom management as apart of my role as an educator. Not only is it different from my class sizes of 30-35 back at home last year, but it’s miles different from teaching classes of 50 in Thailand these past five months. I am very grateful for this change, and will treasure it while it lasts.

My new classroom
My new classroom

Weeks 2-3: The Work Permit Process

Although fall break started Friday afternoon, 10/7, my “vacation” was postponed till that following Monday. I had arranged to head over to the immigration office Monday morning, to officially apply for my work permit and residency. This process, of moving to Europe to work with a US passport, has proven quite difficult for several reasons. First, when I originally started looking for jobs after Thailand, I had certainly hoped to move to Europe. It has always been a dream of mine to live abroad, but also, I have dreamed of living and working in Europe. Unfortunately I ran into trouble when I first began applying for jobs. One of two scenarios would occur: first, I wouldn’t even apply as the one application requirement holding me back was many schools don’t accept applications from candidates who hold a US passport. I’m not entirely the expert on this, but it comes down to something like giving European jobs to European passport holders, i.e. keep the jobs in the local economy. Second, if I did manage to submit an application, I would get a response a few days later saying, “Thank you for your interest, unfortunately unless you hold an EU passport, we cannot accept your application. If you’d like, check out these positions available in Asia, the Middle East, or Africa…”

Ultimately, I obviously made it past this road block. However, I was unable to file any immigration paperwork prior to my arrival in Germany because of my US passport. Technically, when I arrived (without a return ticket no less) I was instructed to say I was only here for tourism. Further, as it is not allowed for one to work on a tourist visa, I needed to apply for a work permit as soon as possible. However, one cannot apply for a work permit in Germany without a permanent address. And being that finding a place to live was one of the most difficult road blocks to overcome (since I arrived during Winefest, one of the busiest seasons in Neustadt), there were clear problems with the immigration process from the start.

None of this would have bothered me originally, as I assumed there would be a member of the HR department at ISN whose job it is to help me sort all this out. Unfortunately, one area where my small school is lacking, is in fact the HR department. It’s a one-person department, filled by two, part-time employees; only one of which speaks English well enough to help with the process of welcoming new teachers. And needless to say, she’s clearly not very good at her job…I’ll just leave it at this: another new experience, however difficult it may have been, I was able to work through it, come out the other end, having learned valuable life lessons during the process.

Weeks 2-3: Heidelberg and family adventures

After several hours of waiting at the immigration office in Neustadt on Monday, 10/10, I heaved my backpack onto my back, and made my way over to the main train station in town (called the Hauptbanhof) to set off on my vacation. Considering the fact that it costs a fair bit of money to move from SE Asia to Western Europe; on top of that, I’d already paid for an entire week’s stay at a hotel and I had close to three more weeks ahead of me before I would be able to move into my apartment; I knew that I needed to be fiscally cautious for the next two weeks of fall break. Therefore, I had only three things planned, in order to save money. First, I would take the train on Monday from Neustadt to Heidelberg (a town located about an hour and a half away), spend the night, before packing up and moving on. I would then head north, near Cologne, where my cousin Tammy and her husband Jaxon live, with their twin boys. Jaxon is in the Air Force, and they are currently stationed at Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base. Finally, I would head back down to Frankfurt, where I would meet my dad’s cousin, JoAnne for the first time, and stay with her for a few nights as well.


I chose Heidelberg as my first stop (of many) that I am planning throughout my time here, for two simple reasons. One, it’s close by, only an hour and a half by train from Neustadt; second, there’s a castle in town with great views, and I was in the mood for a bit of medieval magic. The train ride from Neustadt to Heidelberg was beautiful. Upon arrival, I walked across the street from the train station to my hostel, checked in, then headed out to explore the city. The hike up to Heidelberg Castle, although strenuous and tricky when navigating the old cobblestone streets, is certainly worth the effort. The castle and ruins combined date from the twelfth-nineteenth centuries. Having seen years of war, a number of monarchs, and countless tourists visits, Heidelberg Castle is in great condition. The most interesting part to me, was the ability to see the juxtaposition between the portions of the castle that have been restored and preserved amongst the ruins that outline what once was.

Family Time: #fraziersinholland

On Tuesday, I woke up, packed my bag, and headed back to the train station across the street from my hostel. I was taking the train from Heidelberg to Aachen (outside of Cologne) where Tammy would pick me up. She and Jaxon actually live in a tiny town called Hoengen, but with a population of less than 3,000 people, the train wouldn’t be dropping me off right at their doorstep. I enjoyed my train ride, as I had the chance to ride both the local German rail lines (S-Bahn) and the high-speed German trains (I.C.E.). In just under three hours, I arrived in Aachen and was reunited with family again, in Germany no less!

I’m very excited to have family close by. As I’ll be spending my very first holiday season away from home this year, it will be nice to have a place to go where I can be surrounded by family again. I am so grateful to my cousins as well. Tammy and Jaxon welcomed me and opened up their home to me for more than a week. I finally met Jaxon for the first time, and I also met their 2 1/2 year old twins, Hopkins and Winfield, and what cuties they are!

For the next week, although my schedule wasn’t jam-packed with sights to see, adventures, or endless places to explore (if you can imagine, there’s not a whole lot to do in a town of 2,000 people…), it was absolutely lovely to spend time with my cousins, relax, catch up on some reading, eat home-cooked meals again, and play with the twins. That’s not to say that we didn’t get out of the house at all over the course of the week. On Wednesday, Tammy had scheduled to drop the boys off at the child care center on base; then she and I drove across the border to Valkenburg for my first trip to the Netherlands! It only took us thirty minutes to arrive in Valkenburg, a town rich in history as it is home to the remains of the only hilltop castle in the Netherlands. Beneath the castle ruins lie an extensive and intricate series of caves, which we took a tour through as well. To finish off our fun day together, we took a stroll through town before sitting down outside at a local restaurant for lunch and spirits. After spending one week with Tammy and Jaxon, I have now learned that the best beer in Europe, far better than Dutch beer, even better than German beer, is Belgian. Therefore, despite being in the Netherlands for lunch that day, instead of a Dutch beer I was introduced to the first of many delicious flavors of Belgium.

That following weekend, Tammy and I had planned a trip, sans children, to Amsterdam. I had been looking forward to that weekend for the two weeks leading up to it, I was so excited to visit one of the cities on my must-see Europe list! On Friday evening, she and I drove the two hours it takes to reach the Dutch city. Tammy had booked us two nights at a hotel, and although it was about a thirty-five minute bike ride outside the city center, it was a lovely place. We were pretty tired by the time we finally arrived on Friday night, it was after eight pm, so once we checked into our room, we simply headed downstairs for dinner in the hotel.

On Saturday, we woke up, got ready, and rented bikes from our hotel to use for the day in order to “see” Amsterdam the way the locals do. Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities throughout the world. Everyone rides around on two wheels, it’s easy, convenient, safe, and faster than riding the tram or driving a car around in traffic. First on our agenda was the Rijksmuseum. This Dutch national museum is dedicated to arts, crafts, and history. I chose the Rijksmuseum over the Van Gogh museum as Tammy had been to the latter but not the former already, and she also said the Van Gogh museum is quite small, there’s not much else to see. Next on our agenda, we both would have loved to tour Anne Frank’s house, however tickets were sold out, thus it will have to wait till my next trip. For the remainder of our Saturday, we rode our bikes around town, found a nice place for lunch, toured the Heinekin Brewery (as you MUST do on any trip to Amsterdam), walked around the red light district (to get the true “Amsterdam experience”), before finally making our way back to our hotel that night.

The agenda for Sunday: view beautiful pieces of Delftware (traditional Dutch pottery), take a stroll through the flower markets, and finally take a boat tour so as to view the city from the wonderful canals. Amsterdam was wonderful! I had a terrific time in a new international city, and what a special experience to share with a close cousin. I can’t wait for similar experiences to come.


Week 4: Back to the grind…

This past week has been a blur. I arrived back in Neustadt on Sunday afternoon. As my apartment wouldn’t be ready until Wednesday, I again had to pack my bags and stay somewhere new for the next three nights. At this point in time, by early last week, I had been living out of my backpack for nearly six weeks (if you include the trip to Bali before arriving in Germany). Needless to say, the hotel experience had lost its novelty. By Sunday, I was beyond ready to move into my own place, finally be able to unpack, and settle down before the week of school ahead. Unfortunately I’d have to wait till Wednesday before getting my keys. Although this was tough on me emotionally, I was so over the life of living out of a bag, I managed to cope, but the anticipation was killing me.

During the days, the thing that occupied all my time was work. Coming back after fall break, I actually have to start being a “teacher” again. Back to the grind: lesson plans, SIX preps, staff meetings, professional development. Yep, it’s back to the real work world again. Gone are the days of Thai teaching with equal hours of teaching time as prep time. There’s no more Netflix between classes here. Planning for six preps is A LOT OF WORK, and will be a main focus of mine over the next coming weeks. I can’t let the stress of planning overwhelm me, I will figure out a good balance between work life, home life, and adventure.

On Wednesday, as I mentioned, I finally received the keys to my new place. I’m no longer homeless, my vagabond days are behind me (for the time being, at least…). I’m growing more and more comfortable in my new home every day. It’s much nicer than what I had in Thailand, there’s even four whole rooms in my flat: a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and a KITCHEN! I never thought I’d be so excited to cook my own food again, but living in a one-room Thai-style studio apartment has made me appreciate the value of a home cooked meal. Regardless of what it is, I ate a bowl of cereal with my coffee for breakfast this morning, but still I was in heaven. Just the fact that I can buy a box of Multigrain Cheerios is exciting to me (the only cereal I had in Thailand was corn flakes, that DID NOT taste like regular corn flakes…).

There’s a lot of newness in my life right now, and a heck of a lot of change has occurred these past six weeks. I went from living in Thailand, counting down the days till the end of the semester; to finally being reunited with my Momma after spending five months apart. We had a phenomenal mother-daughter vacation in Bali, before the dreaded and difficult “see you soon” crept quickly upon us. I managed to haul myself and all my stuff from SE Asia to Western Europe, and moved to a new town. I immediately started a new job, that has brought with it its own set of unique challenges and rewards. It took me nearly four weeks upon arrival in Germany till I finally got the keys to my new apartment; and now I’ve just finished up my first real week of teaching at my new school. Those of you who know me well, already know that if there’s one thing I have always struggled with in life, it’s change.

Change makes me uncomfortable; it makes me sad and happy at the same time. I am full of excitement when I think about all the wonderful new experiences I get to have in the coming months, but at the same time I’m flooded with nostalgia for the things that once were that will never, ever, be again. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with the fact that I don’t handle change well, it just makes it challenging to get through each cycle of change in life. Right now, that’s my primary concern. I want to appreciate all that I learned and experienced in the five months I spent living and teaching in Thailand. However, I also want to look forward to the bright future that lies ahead. I know there are wonderful experiences to be had in my future, and I can’t let a feeling of insecurity or unfamiliarity hold me back from living life to the fullest. I am grateful for where I’ve been, and even more blessed for all that I have yet to experience. I’m thrilled beyond words to be on this wonderful rollercoaster of life!

WC Discovers Deutschland

WC Discovers Deutschland

Update: I MOVED! See ya later Thailand, thanks for the memories. Hello Deutschland; hello fall; hello new adventures!

For those of you who are just now checking in on my journey, here’s an update for you! On 1 October 2016, exactly five months after I landed on Thai soil for the beginning of the biggest change in my lifetime thus far, I packed up all my crap, boarded a plane, and landed in Frankfurt, Germany just after seven pm local time. Five months after I made the biggest change in life, again, another, possibly even bigger change came knocking on my door. Before I get into the details about how life has been in Germany for the past week, I’ll start by clarifying what led me to make this change in the first place.

It must have been around week 12-14 in the term, which would mean it was somewhere in the late July early August phase of my journey in Thailand. Halfway through the term meant two things: first, a long-awaited and well-deserved holiday weekend (I went to Ubon Ratchathani for the candle festival and beginning of Buddhist lent). Second, it was now time to start considering what would happen after the first semester finished up in the middle of September. When I set off on the adventure of a lifetime back in May, my original plans, tentative although they might have been, were to spend two semesters living and teaching in Thailand at Chomsurang Upatham School, in Ayutthaya. However, upon arrival, settling in, teaching, traveling, and thoroughly enjoying life, I began to realize that something was clearly missing. When I would go to work everyday, I was thrilled to see all my students, yet I felt unfulfilled as an ESL teacher.

Teaching English as a second language is no piece of cake. I give mad props to all those educators out there who work day in and day out with students learning English as a second language. It’s tough enough managing a class full of fifty students, never mind the fact that many of them can’t understand you when you’re talking to them. When I went to grad school to become a teacher, it was never a goal/dream of mine to develop skills and learn tricks to teach ESL. Rather I chose to pursue a route that would allow me to share my passion for social studies with future students. As such, this left a huge hole in my days teaching in Thailand as an ESL instructor. Instead of a natural excitement and exuberance for all things social studies, I had to dig deep to find enjoyment and thrill in teaching ESL. Although not a bad job to say the least, what was most difficult for me was not having a deep bag of tools and tricks to dig through during my lessons. As a result, I began to think about what else I might do in life, beginning in October 2016, after the first semester had ended and my wonderful mother-daughter vacation to Bali was over too.

My research led me to believe that what I felt was lacking in the realm of teaching ESL, I could easily find if I transitioned into a role at an international school somewhere in the world. I have been sharing my news and excitement about landing a position at the International School Neustadt, in Germany, since I got offered the job back in August. However, it has become clear to me that while I throw around the term “international school” not all those who hear it understand what that truly means. Let me take this time to clarify: there are endless different opportunities to teach ESL around the world, but your content is limited to the scope of English language development that your students retain. However, at an international school, since all instruction is taught in English, courses are run just as they would be run at a school back at home. Students take ELA, math, science, social studies, etc. Therefore, when I accepted a position at the International School Neustadt, I accepted a role as the Geography and Economics teacher for grades 9-12. Basically, I’ve come full circle and found my home again.

Now, that is not to say that I feel absolutely confident in my abilities as an economics teacher. Rather, I am quite cautious when I give myself this “title” as it is a subject that I’ve been away from since junior year of high school. That’s right, it’s been nearly ten years, since I was seventeen that I actually took part in an econ class; at least it was AP! Well, as the saying goes, I’ll just fake it till I make it I suppose…

Alas, we have once again arrived at the point in the story where I made another life-changing decision. I would decline to renew my contract with my teaching agency, HiValue, and instead I would be moving to Germany to begin a new role starting October 1st. I didn’t leave Thailand because things were going poorly, I just felt it was time for me to take a step in the direction of furthering my career as a social studies educator.

In fact, things were great in Thailand! I loved my life, I loved my friends, I loved my students. Life had taken an incredibly exciting turn when I stepped foot in Asia on May 1st. I was given endless opportunities to explore across Thailand. I saw big cities, small towns, ancient ruins, mountains in the north, and islands in the south. Every opportunity to leave Ayutthaya on the weekends was an opportunity not to be missed! Each weekend I traveled somewhere new, saw new places, met new people, explored more, and lived out my dreams. For all this, and so much more, I am forever grateful for Thailand. It was the country that got me out of my comfort zone. It was the place that I found happiness again. It was where I learned to love myself, and I can’t begin to describe in words what a blessing those five months in Thailand were to me.

Therefore, I did not close the door on the Thai chapter in my life with any animosity, disappointment, or missed opportunities left behind. In fact, I don’t really view it as closing the door on Thailand in the first place. Instead, the way I view it is rather than closing a door, I simply chose this time to open a new door: the doorway that led me to Deutschland. And what a wonderful doorway that has been!

I arrived in Germany around seven pm last Saturday, 1 October 2016. I flew directly from Bangkok to Frankfurt, and while I spent just over eleven hours in the air I anxiously awaited the new chapter in my adventure of life to begin. Luckily for me, timing worked out quite well as I made the transition from Thailand to Germany. When I accepted my job back in August, I explained that I felt obliged to finish out my contract till the end of the semester, 16 September. This was an important detail to note when I interviewed for the job, as the school year in Germany starts in late August, similar to the timetable back at home in the US. I am grateful that I was offered the position, despite being unavailable the first few weeks of school.

Not only this, I also shared during my interview that I had a two week vacation planned and paid for to Bali from mid-September till the end of the month (a trip I was extremely hesitant to cancel, as it was my chance to spend two uninterrupted weeks reunited with my Momma after five months!). Again, I have an endless amount of gratitude that those above me, who offered me my position, were willing to cover my classes until I arrived in Germany on October 1st, nearly six weeks after the start of the school year. The perfect planning doesn’t end there though.

Again, I arranged to arrive in Germany at the start of October. The first of the month happened to fall on a Saturday, just coincidence, therefore I wouldn’t start teaching till the following Monday, which happened to be October 3rd. To my surprise and delight, Monday 3 October, turns out to be a national holiday in Germany. German Unity Day, is celebrated on 3 October, and commemorates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990, when the goal of a united Germany that originated in the mid 19th century, was finally fulfilled again. Therefore, if you’ve been keeping score, not only was I allowed to show up to the start of a new job six weeks late, the day I was to begin teaching, the day my contract begins, happened to fall on a day off from school. Bonus!

There’s more…it just so happens that the first term of the school calendar lasts for six weeks. The end result, basically I arrived six weeks late to a job, had the first Monday off from school, went to work for four days, and now I have two weeks of paid holiday vacation leave till Monday 24 October, when the second term resumes. Pretty perfect planning (or lack-there-of depending on which way you look at it) on my part! I can only smile, laugh a little, and say how grateful I am for this new change in life.

So far, things are going splendidly here in Deutschland. I spent the first two days at the Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport Hotel. For convenience sake, I decided staying at the airport would be best when I arrived. This turned out to be true, I had a lovely time in a very nice hotel, and even made my way into the city center on Sunday for a bit of exploring around Frankfurt.

On Monday, my school had arranged a car for me, to come pick me up in Frankfurt and take me to my new home, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse. Neustadt is a town located in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of WSW Germany. It’s a small town, similar to the size of Medford actually, with the old town and surrounding neighborhoods’ population to be around 55,000. Vineyards fan out around Neustadt, a busy wine-producing town at the heart of the German Wine Route. Not only was I excited to be moving to Germany, where I’d finally have the opportunity to drink good beer again (Asian beer just doesn’t do it for me), but I even managed to be moving to the center of Germany’s wine region as well. Talk about the best of both worlds!

Unfortunately, although my timing was perfect in nearly all senses of the word, I did happen to be arriving in town during their biggest annual wine festival, that runs from 26 September-10 October each year. What this meant for me was that finding a home would prove to be much more difficult than I had hoped. Currently all of the furnished “holiday” apartments are rented out in town, therefore I’ve been living in hotels for the past nine days. Starting at the Hilton Garden Inn in Frankfurt, I moved into a lovely room at the Panorama Hotel in Neustadt (fortunately, it happens to be located just across the street from my new school), and then yesterday I moved again to Hotel Tenner, located in the hillside neighborhood of Gimmeldingen, just about a ten minute bus ride from the city center. Although each place I’ve stayed at thus far has certainly been lovely, it’s putting quite the strain on my purse strings.

Eventually, by November 1st I will be happily settled into my new home. Fortunately I have found a lovely furnished apartment to rent, but it isn’t available till next month. I’m excited to share pictures and stories from all of my adventures in Deutschland to come. This past week has been a whirlwind of a time, from settling into a new job, new town, new country, even new continent. I’ve had the chance to roam the streets of Neustadt in the evenings after work, and I know it’s going to be a lovely place to call home. I am excited to get out of town tomorrow and start exploring the rest of Germany and surrounding areas. Life is good, I am happy, my heart is full.

Balance: the positives and negatives to solo travel in Thailand.

Balance: the positives and negatives to solo travel in Thailand.

“Life is about balance. Be kind, but don’t let people abuse you. Trust, but don’t be deceived. Be content, but never stop improving yourself.” -Nishan Panwar

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post. Last weekend I shared a slightly less rosy view of life in Thailand, and I must admit, I was not prepared for, let’s call it “the myriad” of reactions that I received. But onward I forged, writing and posting about a different side of Thailand that I’ve experienced over the past four months or so, sharing it for the first time with family, friends, and readers.

As I mentioned, I was a bit taken aback by the myriad of reactions, and as such my mind has been spinning ever since. I am not writing this story today because I feel as though I must defend myself. My blog is my own, it is full of my own feelings, my own emotions, and most importantly my own opinions. Therefore, readers must remember to take into account what I have to say with at least one small grain of salt, and know that there’s always more than one side to every story that you hear.

With that being said, I have decided it is best for myself, for my evolution as a writer, for my growth as a traveler, to write and share this story today. I will benefit from putting my thoughts onto paper, and that is the reason that I’ve decided to share the following words with you all.


Yesterday, when I arrived at work in the morning, I was feeling very off and uncomfortable. Almost as if I was getting a bug, and being so close to the end of the semester, getting sick is the last thing that I want. I managed to take an hour nap, sitting at my desk, resting my head on my backpack; and while it was not necessarily the most comfortable setting, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to take a nap mid-morning at work in the first place. Counting my blessings…

After pushing through the day, albeit feeling much better following my nap, I knew I wanted to go home and stream a restorative yoga video to help my body and mind unwind and relax. (Brief side note here, if you like online yoga videos, but haven’t checked out DoYogaWithMe yet, do so now! It’s an absolute MUST!) Unfortunately, the wifi in my apartment was acting up yesterday and I was unable to stream a full video without significant stops and interruptions.

If you don’t know the premise behind restorative yoga, it is “the centering of your breath and body- aligning the physical and mental by practicing stillness or gentle movement for extended periods of time…” Think of it very loosely illustrated as “adult nap time.” Therefore, with that being said, one cannot successfully practice stillness nor quiet the mind if your video is constantly being interrupted by re-buffering delays.

This is not the first time I have experienced such a problem. It has happened before, a few times. Sometimes I try reloading and waiting out the poor connection. Other times I switch to Travis Elliott’s 108 Days Yoga Challenge, as you can stream the cross-training video for free on YouTube (another awesome video to checkout if you like streaming yoga online). But yesterday I knew cross-training was going to be too much for me so I did something new. For the first time since beginning my regular practice four months ago, I led myself through fifty minutes of restorative/yin practice all on my own, without the help of an instructor, video, or anything of the sort.

I am very proud of myself for having achieved this so successfully. I believe it speaks to how much knowledge I’ve gained about poses in a restorative practice. I also believes it speaks strongly to mindfulness. I believe it represents that I’ve come a great distance with regards to mindfulness, since beginning my practice. I don’t believe when I first began, that I retained neither the knowledge nor the discipline that it takes to guide ones’ self solely through restorative or yin yoga. All I can take out of yesterday’s experience is that it is evidence that what I’m doing every week truly is making a difference and having a positive impact on my life. In many more ways than one too.

For this discovery, I am very proud of myself. I take it as a moment of victory, that when I set my mind on something and truly commit myself, then look at what I’m able to achieve. Look how far I’ve come. I also take it as encouragement to not give up. Keep pushing forward and discovering more victories through weekly practice, commitment, and dedication to something (new or old) in life. Stay committed; stay the path; your efforts will yield wonderful results. Mine certainly have done so, and I’m just so happy and proud of myself for how far I’ve come.

This story also brings me, once again, to a very recurrent theme throughout my writing: gratitude. Again, I must express my gratitude for all the experiences afforded to me in Thailand. I believe the level of commitment to my practice that I’ve wanted to reach for some time, would not have been possible, had it not been for my decision to move across the world on my own. I needed time, and space, and I’ve found both those elements to life over here.

Timing. It’s funny how things so often come down to just that. I have the time to focus on myself since moving to Thailand. Time everyday focused on self-reflection, evolution, and growth. Time to put my needs and my happiness before all else in life. Clearly I didn’t have such time (or rather didn’t know how to FIND/MAKE such time) back at home. Or else, I don’t believe I would have fallen into such a dark space, in the months leading up to my departure. A space full of depression, self-doubt, anxiety, and frustration.

That space has since been filled with an endless amount of brightness and light! It is now a space full of happiness, laughter, adventure, new relationships, smiles, and love.

Traveling solo was exactly the remedy that I needed, to combat the rut I found myself in at just twenty-six years into life. I needed to get away from everything, but not because I was running away from my fears. Rather I needed time and space to be alone for a little while, to recenter and focus my life. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past four months, and for that, I am thankful.

Following my blog post last weekend, that was written to ultimately explain why I have decided to leave Thailand after only half a year, many people reached out to me. Again, the myriad of responses and reactions that I received came as quite a surprise, if I’m being honest. Some people extended their sympathy and loving words of encouragement and praise. While others though, read into my blog with a negative perspective of my words, and for this reason, I believe, misinterpreted my opinions quite drastically.

Let me explain. I did not write my last blog as a blast against Thailand. I did not write it to completely contradict all of the wonderful things I’ve shared and the positive experiences I’ve had in Thailand over the past four months. Rather, as a writer, I believe I owe it to my readers the justice of sharing the whole story about my experiences while in Thailand; and among the positives, there also have been some negatives scattered here and there too.

The problem lies then, with the fact that I have previously only discussed the positives for some time now, as it relates to my experiences in Thailand. Why? Well ironically because I’ve actually been afraid of how people might react to the “whole” truth. It seems now, in hindsight, that some of my fears were indeed warranted.

I’m not saying here that what I’ve been writing these past four months hasn’t been the truth, because it has. Every single wonderful experience and smile that I’ve shared along the way has been real. It is the truth, but there’s indeed more to the “whole” truth that I haven’t been brave enough to share (or at lease not until a week ago…).

But I hope to calm the voices of doubt by explaining that everything I write is simply my own opinions, and it’s certainly not meant to be taken/intended to be read as facts. If anything, opinions must be more heavily scrutinized. Therefore in no way do I write these words neither to ever deter people from moving to Thailand, nor deter them from having their own life experiences and adventures.

Rather in my personal opinion I believe I’ve done just the opposite for my readers. Look through my past four months of blogs and you’ll easily uncover far more positive reasons to come here than negatives. Just because I’ve sprinkled a few negatives in my stories over the past few weeks does not mean that I don’t enjoy life here.

Please do not read into more than what I’m saying. All I’ve tried to do is paint a better, more complete, and well-rounded picture of my life since having moved to Thailand. I would never intend for a single negative to completely erase or eradicate all of the positives that I’ve been writing about over the past four months. But in an attempt to tell the “whole” truth, I finally worked up the courage to shine a small light onto another side of living abroad. And to my dissenters’ opinions or beliefs about me after my last post, I say this:

I am living a real life over here, and as such, in life with the positives will always come at least a few negatives. Because as the saying goes, which is as true now as it ever has been, there’s no such thing as perfection. And along that line of reasoning, then I must admit that Thailand is not perfect. Neither though, do I believe, was my life back at home before I moved; or nor do I anticipate a perfect life in Germany when October rolls around. Rather as with everything, everywhere, and everyone, moving to Germany and starting a new job and a new life in Europe, will too bring with it a few negatives along the way. But this is normal. This is life. And this is something that I’ve decided that I’m ready and willing to risk; for without risks, life will cease to offer us rewards.


Alas, I must repeat, I do not regret for even a mili-second, my decision to move to Thailand. Nor am I closing the door on this chapter of my life with a sour or upset impression of this wonderful country. Just the opposite is in fact true. When I look back on the five months I will have spent living, working, and exploring in Southeast Asia I will remember my time only fondly and with a smile on my face.

Thailand has truly been wonderful to me, despite a few hiccups along the way. But hiccups, just as they are an annoyance when they happen in life, are too a simple fact of life. Something to be overcome, not something to concede defeat to; something to view as a challenge that can and will be defeated, not an impossibility.

So to that, as I have said so many times before, I express my deepest and most sincere humility and gratitude towards Thailand: to the people, the places, and the culture that I’ve experienced; which has allowed me to grow, evolve, and blossom into a beautiful version of myself. Someone who is happy, healthy, and very proud of the person whom I am today.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” -Lao Tzu