I have always loved travelling. It is safe to say I have a case of “wanderlust”, a very strong desire or impulse to discover the world. My wanderlust began as a child; I was born in England and soon after went to Zimbabwe since my mother had been visiting family upon my arrival. We lived there for less than four years before immigrating to Canada where I spent twelve years. Just before turning seventeen I decided to move to England and finish the rest of my studies there, however; life sometimes has its own plan for us and I found myself being presented with a scholarship to attend a university in Thailand. A land so foreign and strange to me, I had never even known what kind of culture, climate, or food it had. This seemed perfect, like an answered prayer, my desire to explore had been met and the only sensible answer was to go. I arrived in Thailand in 2011, missing my family and life I chose to leave behind but excited for the new journey ahead.
Thailand is unlike any other country I have been to yet, the rush of Bangkok city life, the serenity of the country/rural area and the majestic beaches were all new and exciting versions of places I have been to but with their own twists and their own rules. It has been over four years but I find myself still learning and still falling in love with the rich culture Thailand has to offer.
Coming here as a student is not like coming here as a worker or tourist. There is a duty, a time limit, and pressures you face that add to the stress of adjusting to a country’s languages and customs. In my university, freshmen take a short course introducing them to Thailand’s culture and it serves as a guide to enjoy the wide variety of experiences waiting for foreigners. This was beneficial in getting my foot in the door, and creating opportunities for me to meet other foreigners in the same situation. Many Thai people were ready to share their culture and help me learn where the best places to visit are, and the best people to speak to depending on what you need. This is a very helpful tip, learn to change your hat according to who you are talking to. I soon learned that I could not do everything on my own.
Coming to Thailand has made those four years of my university life experience more meaningful because I was constantly thrown into situations in which I had to grow up or learn the hard way. Some of these included bargaining while shopping, learning to stretch a dollar (or baht, in this case) and being patient in situations when communicating is frustratingly difficult. Being an expat is not without its trials but I truly believe Thailand is a holiday, retirement and business venture destination because it evokes something in you that makes you want to relax and enjoy life. If one enjoys Thailand and can make a living here, they usually do because of the low cost of living compared to the west and many other countries.
As a person in a foreign land, one of the major rules of surviving is to be open-minded to socialising, it is not at all helpful if one is painfully shy. Although some Thais are shy as well, many welcomed me with open arms, and I found communities of other foreigners offering help and support which blossomed into friendship during my stay in Thailand. Travelling helped me realise how connecting and depending on one another is crucial in life, how it works hand-in-hand with independence, and self-awareness while still accepting the fact that I am never too old to learn something new. Thailand will be a place that is bookmarked on my list of countries that will always please the wanderer in me.