Dear Sydney…

Dear Sydney,

The past week has been overflowing with more reflection than usual for me. If I gave you an hour inside of my brain I assume you would be quite exhausted and possibly terrified. I am celebrating a year of living here in Sydney. I moved to Australia at the end of July 2015 but I went backpacking for two months up the East coast and I landed in Sydney at the end of September 2015, for what I thought was a few weeks. When I moved to Australia it was my intention to live in Melbourne. My teacher besties I met in Thailand moved there and when I visited the fall before I fell in love. I came to Australia not knowing exactly where I would end up, but I had an open mind and an open heart. After a few weeks in the hostel I was running out of money, so I knew it was time to get another job. My job search began and I made the Library of New South Wales my go-to spot. Something about being in a library makes me feel safe and at home.  It was while I was living in this cheap hostel, searching for a job, checking my bank account after every purchase, exploring the city on my own, that I began stressing about the future and if I really made the right decision. I struggled with loneliness and intense anxiety.  I wrote in my blog a year ago how I took myself out to dinner for the first time at a fancy restaurant and forced myself to enjoy my own company, without my phone or any hesitation. It felt weird and uncomfortable but overall, it was liberating.

A year ago I had no idea that at this hostel I would meet the man that I am now in love and happily living with. I had no idea that my passion for health and wellness, helping others, and sharing my journey would turn into such a huge driving force in my career and my life. For all my travelers out there, I know you can understand why traveling makes you so reflective but if you don’t travel much, I would love to explain why. When you travel or live abroad, especially for long periods of time, your life goes into a time warp and months seem like years and days seem like minutes. It feels like you just left home but it also feels as if you have existed in this universe forever. You develop a routine in your new turf because despite the need for freedom and adventure, human beings are all creatures of habits. When you move away from everything you’ve ever known, you are left with yourself. You are left to define yourself, in whatever manner you desire. The people you meet may learn about your past from stories, photographs and Facebook stalking, but a traveler meets everyone at face value, as the person they are today. It’s a beautiful way to approach life and a particularly comforting way to approach people.

The whole concept of the travel bug sounded silly to me at first. It sounded cliche and overused and quite frankly, trite. But a harsh reality you face in this world, is that cliches only construct meaning in your life when they are relevant to you. The travel bug isn’t a creature you want to take lightly. Now that I have lived abroad for 2 out of the last 3 years of my 20’s, I am heavily addicted. I am in love with the way it feels to explore new cities and look at every minute moment as something special and worth remembering. I am in love with the feeling of coming and going because it constantly reminds you how good you have it. When I travel home, I see the same city I grew up in with fresh eyes. All my favorites of home become that much more divine and sacred. Even though I have lived in Sydney for a year now, it still feels fresh and exciting to me. When I got my teaching job, experienced a few weeks of summer in Sydney and met my handsome Englishman, I felt an overwhelming feeling of contentment. I felt satisfied, grounded and “home” in a way that is difficult to verbalize. I asked myself out-loud, and many of my friends, “Why would you ever choose to leave this?”

14513701_10207078253059514_1304929781_o

Continue reading

#WCW: What we need to be

I heard a little girl speaking to her mother on the elevator asking why she had to go to her classmate’s birthday party even though it wasn’t her friend. Her mother said, “We need to be kind to everyone in our class not just our friends. We need to think about how we want friends at our birthday party so we do the same for others. We need to be…” DING. The elevator door opened to their floor and I didn’t catch the end of her statement. I wanted to chase after the woman and squeeze her frail and tired body. I started creating a whole list of things in my head  that “We need to be” particularly as women. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past 6 years around groups of women. I was in a sorority in college and my coaching team is predominantly female. I’ve met and befriended women from all over the world and I have grown such a deep respect and admiration for women who are fighting the good fight. I am in several online communities in the digital world that promote women traveling, exercising, writing, and pretty much owning their personal passions.  I love women who are standing up for what they believe in, especially when it isn’t something that everyone believes in. We need more women like that.

 I am fascinated by the fact that feminism seems to be such a dirty word reserved for granola, crunchy hippies who hate men and live with 10 cats. Alright, that is a harsh generalization but I think you know what I mean by a “dirty word.” It has a  lot of stigma attached to it, such as words like racism, mental health, suicide, rich, money, conservative, business, abortion, Muslim, gay etc. All words with a stigma attached to them are  topics that are highly misunderstood, quite taboo to talk about, and generally the people who do talk about them are people who don’t represent them in the first place. I believe in strong  women, feminism and women having a voice. So, here it is. I don’t hate men. I love men. I was raised by an incredible man, grew up with two wonderful guys as my older brothers and I am currently in love with one of the good ones. But, I, in fact am a woman. And I have a voice. A voice I can proudly articulate. Today is World Gratitude Day and I am beyond grateful that I have a voice. Magic Lessons with Elizabeth GIlbert seems to be a weekly reference point lately, but I truly feel so connected to her message, her guests and somehow my life seems to coincide perfectly. Gilbert said on this week’s episode, “To be criticized is the tax that you pay for having a public voice. To be rejected is the tax that you pay for having a public voice. There is a very simple way to make sure that you are never criticized and never rejected and that is to never have a public voice.”

IMG_5086

Continue reading

America: Enough is Enough

When I try to categorize my blog for others or even when I categorize my own posts on my page I often don’t know how to do so. My blog, much like my life, has so many idiosyncrasies that don’t quite fit into one category. I like to think that it’s a travel and lifestyle blog but I try more than anything to make it a blog of honesty, rawness, emotion and inspiration. Again, much like my life, I don’t think it has to have a specific category that makes everyone else more comfortable with digesting it. I can and I always will be unapologetically me. That being said, I am going to touch on ground that is controversial here. I firmly stand by the principles that we should focus on what we want more of instead of simply criticizing things we don’t agree with but in light of recent events; I feel compelled to voice my thoughts and I feel roused to be a voice in the madness.

In today’s world when any tragedy or newsworthy event happens our culture flocks to social media to voice our opinions on the matter. Some people go on angry rants, some offer messages of hope, and some down right attack ideas, people, and situations usually having minimal facts and strong biases attached to their statuses or articles or opinions. As someone who uses social media predominantly for my business but also for a hobby and a positive tool to connect and relate to friends and strangers all over the world; I want to keep my voice and message I leave behind in the digital world as a positive one. I try not to rant and rave about things that frustrate me but instead share things that inspire me and bring me joy. I try to remind my friends and family to be grateful, to take chances and to buy those plane tickets and go for adventures.

Today, waking up in Australia to the news of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history happening last night and over 50 innocent people killed and so many more injured and the news of a high school friend of mine losing his life to addiction, I can’t help but share my thoughts on the matter. As an American citizen, I grew up in a culture where guns are very much a part of everyday life. In my personal experience, I was brought up to fear guns and see no place for them. As I grew older, I realized why my father had such a strong hatred for guns and I also started to formulate my own opinion. I never dwelled on the issue, to me, it’s straightforward and simple, violence is unnecessary and guns are used, for the most part, for violence, therefore I see no point for guns. With the issue of gun control gaining more and more popularity and media attention in the last decade I realized that this is an extremely polarizing topic for American people. Since backpacking and having discussions with people from all over the world about a range of topics, I have seen the serious difference in gun control laws in other countries and the sheer shock that most European and Australian people have when we talk about the gun control laws in America. This is a topic that, for the most part, I keep quiet about because as I said most people are undereducated, over opinionated and biased. At this point, I can’t help but share my opinion now.

Violence has always and will always be a part of our world. Guns neither cause violence or  stop violence. Violence exists all over the world, not just in the United States.  Owning a gun is something that many Americans believe is their right, as is stated by the Second Amendment. Instead of looking at it from a biased perspective…let’s look at the facts. Since I was born in 1990, three countries(that I now have strong ties to) which have similar Western cultures (the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom) have all had mass shootings. In the UK there have been 3 mass shootings, in Australia there have been 16 mass shooting, and in the US there have been 75. The gun control laws are very strict in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Instead of debating the gun control laws, I think everyone involved can agree that the gun violence in the United States is out of control. When something does not work,  we change it. Just because something once was legal does not mean that the law can’t and shouldn’t be reviewed, revised and changed based on the current society and the issues it is facing. At one point it was legal to own people as personal property in the United States, clearly we realized that was not a law that was benefiting the population of the United States. Regardless of what the second amendment says, America needs to figure out how this law needs be adjusted, changed or revised so that it protects our people. We need ACTUAL background checks and qualifications to own a firearm. It’s harder to become an Uber driver than it is to purchase a firearm… that is what is wrong with America. When I lived in America, I thought that the mass shootings were devastating and horrible but unfortunately I was somewhat jaded by them. I didn’t necessarily question the gun possession but the sanity of the shooter. Now, being removed from our culture and living abroad in two vastly different countries on the other side of the world and seeing  whole new perspectives, cultures and ways of life… I can’t believe how normal gun violence and mass shootings are made out to be in America. It’s not normal. It should never be considered normal. In some countries, the active duty police officers don’t even carry firearms. It is an absolute disgrace that it is taking us this long to realize our country has a serious problem on our hands that IS within our control or at least within our influence.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers whatsoever, but I do know that ACTION has to be taken. It is painful to watch from afar and mourn for yet another group of innocent victims, their families and friends and everyone involved. The outpour of “Pray for Orlando” responses are heartfelt and wonderful. I will pray for them and send all of my good vibes into the Universe but bottom line; SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE. How many times can we pray after a tragedy before we put measures into place so this can’t easily happen again 3 months later?  I don’t care what your religion is, your political views or your beliefs about the second Amendment: WE NEED TO PROTECT OURSELVES, not with more violence but with eliminating the problem at it’s root. Maybe it won’t work and of course, it won’t work right away but what if the people who were abolishing slavery simply decided they shouldn’t try to outlaw slavery because it’s been like that for years and it would be too difficult eliminate. We need forward progress so America can be a more peaceful, safe and positive environment.  

Despite the darkness, there is always light. I am such a fan of the goodness that exudes from all around the world to support and grieve with us. There are helpers everywhere and I do look for them. I hope you look for them, too. I think good will always prevail over evil but I can’t sit back and believe that everything is going to change. America, the ball is in our court and we need to figure out how to make it change. I don’t know about you but I would prefer to feel safe, free and supported in my country if I’m on a school campus, at a nightclub or at a movie theatre. The aura of violence is suffocating.Enough is enough. If we’re the land of the free and the home of the brave, why don’t we start acting like it?

MOST

Disclaimer: I think A LOT. That’s why I love to write. I want to make an effort to make one blog post a week that is just my THOUGHTS! Call it a rant if you want, but hey, it’s my blog I can do as I please. I’m trying to think of a clever name for my weekly thought post, On my Mind.. (so boring) but I just want to have an outlet and less formal way to post on my blog instead of writing the post in my head for days/weeks sometimes! So, if you have any ideas drop it in the comments below.

IMG_8712

 

Here is what is on my mind today. Honestly, before I was a coach I thought it was quite strange how people who are into fitness always posted photos of themselves at the gym or their muscles so frequently. I remember thinking “we get it you like to work out” and apparently you love yourself a lot too. Fast forward to now my perspective and perception has shifted. We live in a world that is driven by images. We are attracted to things we look at. As a health and wellness coach, I can talk about my programs all day. I can show how they have changed my life and my perspective. I can talk about how coaching has impacted my ability to dream big and seize opportunities . But people are people and they are the most attracted by that before and after photo. It’s just the way it is.

As a writer, I try to paint a picture with my words but many people are too lazy to read them. No hard feelings, to each their own. When I post a photo of my results and my hard work it is to promote physical fitness and exercise but the purpose is really the message behind it. When you simultaneously work on your mind, body, and spirit at the same time your physical results also represent your mental expansion and your spiritual elevation. I wish I could show you a picture of my brain and the “transformation Tuesday” that is currently happening inside but instead I rely on my words to depict this growth and the work I physically put into my body consistently.

We live in a world where what matters MOST does not matter to most.

Continue reading

Leaving the Land of Smiles

After a bit of a mishap in the flight department (I’ll skip the story due to my own embarrassment) we finally made it to Thailand and back to our favorite island, Ko Phi Phi. It was so strange to be back in Thailand after being in such a westernized culture for two weeks. But even more strange was how NORMAL it felt. It was normal to not understand anything going on around you, for men to be screaming “I LOVEEE YOU”, to see a family of four on the motorbike next to you and to see more 7-11’s on one street than in all of Australia. Since we had such a hard month in Bali and Australia we knew we would need time to kick up our feet and relax in Ko Phi Phi for our last week abroad. Hey, c’mon you can’t hate us for planning the best vacation ever. 😉

Unfortunately the weather in Thailand was not cooperating with us. We were there for 7 nights and we probably had two days of sunshine. Lots of rain and mud puddles which caused us to find recreational activities inside… There isn’t much to do on an island when the weather is bad, especially Ko Phi Phi. We kept ourselves entertained with lots of stories and laughs from our trip, food, and an adult beverage or two. I finally got the chance to meet up with my friend from high school, Fallon who started teaching in Thailand in March. It was so awesome to catch up with her, reminisce on life in Syracuse and bond over our unexplainable desire to find what we need out of life even if that means traveling all over the world to find it. As the rain fell the reality of the end of my journey getting closer and closer washed over me. We didn’t want to talk about moving home because that made it real. I was so excited to see my friends and family, meet my nephew, squeeze my puppy, eat real pizza and finally feel clean but I couldn’t help but hate having to leave behind this place that I have learned to call home.

Thailand is a magical place for many but for me it changed my life in a way I will always revere. Thailand taught me what it means to be myself. That is the most beautiful gift anyone can give you. By no means did I feel “lost” in life before, but Thailand opened my eyes to a world I needed so desperately to see. A world beyond sorority formals and football tailgates. A world where people don’t have shoes on their feet or have to share a small room behind their restaurant with 13 family members. A world full of dreamers, teachers, and travelers; young people who have the same desire to see new horizons as I do. Like I said in an earlier piece, I joined a club I didn’t know existed. There are so many people, so different than I am, who went to different unis, speak different languages, were raised in diverse situations that have the same fire burning inside of them. This fire can not be extinguished or “gotten out of your system”. There is a whole world full of people who want to experience life, other cultures, have heart to hearts at 3 am on cruise ships in Vietnam, explore ancient temples in Cambodia, eat traditional Indonesian food at 6 am with locals and talk to strangers about their lives simply because it matters. I am so grateful for each and every one of you I have met along the way and you have inspired me to continue dreaming, no matter what anyone thinks.

Continue reading

The Mad Ones

As the school year in Thailand is winding down, it is time for final reviews, exams and projects. Teachers can understand and commiserate that during this busy time of the school year personal reading and/or writing for pleasure become exponentially more attractive. Some may define this as  “procrastinating”. Okay, everyone defines this as procrastinating… but I can’t help it and I promise I still get my work done on time! We had a long weekend for the Buddhist holiday a few weekends ago (which happened to fall on Valentine’s Day). Jackie, Erin and I decided to visit our close friend Kevin who we went to WVU with. He teaches at a university about an hour away from us and we have heard countless stories about his town and living situation. It was something we couldn’t leave Thailand without experiencing first hand. It turned out to be an absolutely comical weekend, filled with lots of wine, whiskey, stares from locals, delicious food, rap/guitar/harmonica freestyles, heart to hearts, moped rides and tons of laughs. Since our backpacking trip we have gone on several other weekend trips to close by cities such as Bangkok and Ayutthaya and spent weekdays grading papers, teaching, working out and trying to get back into a routine to make life feel “normal” again. We often discuss and marvel at the fact that we live and teach in Thailand. It is still mind blowing some days. It is absolutely incredible how quickly human beings can adjust and morph into members of a new group of friends, community, and even a country. In my day to day life, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick out things that are “different” than life in America. Of course when I think about it, the list goes on forever but for right now this is my stomping ground and I am becoming very comfortable with that.

Here are some highlights from the past month. They prove to be a hilarious balance between “Teecha Susie” life and 20-something Traveler Susie life.

Sensation White– My Suphanburi teacher crew (who have quickly become my close friends and traveling partners) and I went to a world famous music festival in Bangkok. It started in Amsterdam but has spread to all different countries around the world. It was an awesome experience with famous DJ’s from all over the world, a “wicked wonderland” theme, and of course an endless sea of people dressed in white. It felt great to dance the night away with my girlfriends. Oh, and of course eat Mexican food in Bangkok. Any chance we have to eat good Mexican food is an instant burrito party.

ImageImageImage

Field trip to Ayutthaya– The English Program took a fieldtrip to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, and had the privilege of having our M-2 (8th grade) students be our tour guides. Each foreign teacher got a group of 3 or 4 students and they led us around the temples, historical landmarks, and museums for the day while spouting off more facts than I could possibly process. My group was absolutely adorable and I learned so much. I loved all of the ghost stories they told me and found out that Thai people have many tales about ghosts that are passed on from generation to generation.  Field trips in Thailand are NEVER disappointing!

ImageImageImageImage

College besties booked their trip to Thailand – Some of my best friends from college finally bit the bullet and booked their flights to Thailand in April. I am SO EXCITED to play tour guide and already made a color-coded itinerary for our jam-packed 10 day adventure! I am blessed to have such great friends who are willing to trek half way across the world to see me! Love you guys! It’s going to be EPIC!

Kasetsart University trip– As I said before this was a hysterical weekend with too many laughs to count. It reminded me how important good friends are and no matter WHERE you are, the company you keep is what matters the most! ❤ Love you guys! ImageImageImageImageImage

Thailand’s National Storytelling Competition– One of my favorite students made it to the national storytelling competition that took place in Bangkok. We have been practicing her story since October so she asked me to come along and watch her at the grand finale. It took place in a huge convention center with thousands of people and I could count on two hands the number of foreigners who were in attendance. There were also political protests going on right across the street and everyone seemed extremely casual about it(I was slightly freaking out). All in all, it was awesome day chalk full of Thai culture, shopping, and bonding with my student & coworkers. She took home 6th place overall and absolutely rocked her story. I am so proud of her!

ImageIMG_9326

First Suphanburi FC Football match– Personally, I never understood other countries fascination with soccer (football). I never played in high school and I only followed it on TV when it was the World Cup. When I first moved to Suphanburi I heard that we had a professional football team that was very talented and well followed. My crew and I decided to attend the first match of the season since some of them will be moving away from Thailand after this semester. Let’s just say… I GET WHY PEOPLE LOVE IT! It felt like a college football game at WVU!Despite the fact that we were the only 5 white girls in a stadium full of locals…The whole town was decked out in orange and blue jerseys, and cold beers, and food vendors were everywhere. The whole shabang! It was SO fun, despite Suphanburi FC’s loss; they definitely gained a group of new loyal fans! GO SUPHAN!

IMG_9343

IMG_9347

IMG_9353

IMG_9376

Birth of my nephew Samuel Benjamin Bell – My nephew was born yesterday (2/24/14) weighing in at 8 lbs. 2 oz. and he is just as adorable as his older sister, Layla. I am so happy for my big brother and sister-in-law! Being an Aunt is one of the best jobs around and I can’t wait to spoil this little guy. I am definitely extremely sad that I can’t be there to meet him, hold him, and spend time with my family but I am grateful for technology and looking forward to getting to know him once I return to America! I can hear myself telling my niece and nephew stories of my adventure in Thailand when they grow up. I hope to instill a wanderlust in them and the confidence to follow their dreams, no matter how radical they may seem. Sending lots of love your way lil Sam & Bell fam!

IMG_9403

1836639_10202621148504424_794607115_o

IMG_9402

With a little over a week left of the first semester, I am looking forward to my summer break while simultaneously marveling at how quickly time passes us by. “The days are long, but the years are short”, ain’t that the truth! There have been many moments of nostalgia, culture shock, despair, excitement, joy, fascination, realization, stimulation, longing, and frustration in the past four months.  I have grown so close to my friends I have met here, and joined in a mutual “teacher/foreigner/American/20-something” bond that feels as if I have known them forever. As I write this I am reminding myself how incredible my life is here and how lucky I am to have the chance to enrich my mind, body and spirit in the Land of Smiles. The month of March will be an extremely exciting one as my travels will lead me to Vietnam and Cambodia with the crew. Then, my WVU friends will join me in this amazing country in April. Many thrilling stories and photos to follow! I’ll leave you with a final thought that continues to drive my actions, mind and life,

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”- Jack Kerouac

Here’s to finding the mad ones! Here’s to the ones who truly believe anything is possible! We gotta stick together! Cheers! Xoxo 

WARNING: THIS IS NOT A LIST

This piece does not have 10 steps, 5 reasons, 6 magic ways, or 4 crucial ingredients to define happiness, success, or how to win a lovers heart. I actually submitted it to Thought Catalog a few months ago but I presume it offended too many of the writers for it to be published. As an avid reader of Thought Catalog, Buzzfeed, Elite Daily, etc., I admit that I enjoy and often share links for these listed advice or reflection articles. This is in no manner intended to insult or diminish the work of the wonderful authors who write pieces like this. I even begrudgingly  snuck in a list on my last blog post (in a different context listing the places I visited on a long trip). But frankly, I actively search for articles that don’t include this extremely popular fad format of writing.

Part of the beauty of literature, reading, writing, and of course thinking is interpreting a text in your own fashion and pace. These listed pieces have given our generation and digital society yet another reason to rush through life and through thinking. Thinking takes time. I may have already lost some of you because you see a computer screen filled with paragraphs and not a neat and tidy list. Stick with me. Although many of these articles are beautifully written and have heartfelt messages, I am immediately turned off when I scroll through this newly cliché presentation.

Life is not that simple! As a society we are trying to simplify life in every single aspect. But along the way, we are losing the ability to process pain, complexities and true struggle. We are loosing the ability to discover the right answers because we immediately search for the definitive answers according to someone else. We are loosing the ability to communicate at all. I am currently teaching EFL in Thailand. In the few months I have been here, I have already started to change and morph as an individual. I have realized how heartbreakingly superficial American society is and how reliant we are on the ease of technology to “guide us through” life.

I love advice. I love giving advice and I love accepting advice from others. I love learning about people’s tribulations, what makes them tick, and struggles that made them come undone. I love talking. I love writing. I love positivity. I believe that we think our way into the life we have. Most of all, I believe in people and the overwhelming power of human connections. Human beings are inspiring, frustrating, delicate, and vulnerable.  Writing is an ancient tool to communicate and connect to others. It is one that we have relied on to learn about human nature, emotions, feelings and everlasting truths. Self- expression is celebrated in today’s society and I applaud us for that. But many people incessantly take on the role of “reader” or “viewer” or “audience”; when will it be your turn to talk, write, sing, dance, cry or think. When will you define your world?

I am not asking you to stop reading popular sites like Thought Catalog, Buzzfeed, or Elite Daily, following blogs and using social media. I will happily continue to read them myself. I am not telling you it isn’t okay to seek comfort in the words or the artistic expressions of others. I use them for comfort all the time. I am asking you to use them as a mode to enhance your mind, life, and relationships instead of a manner to define them.

All the advice in the world cannot replace real life experience. All the motivational lists on the Internet won’t alter your life’s philosophy, because you undoubtedly scroll through the list, read the bolded titles, linger on a few that catch your eye and pretend to have some sort of soul changing epiphany. Then, you go back to creeping on other people’s Facebook or Twitter, online shopping, checking your fantasy football stats, or aimlessly wasting time at work. Thinking is an intricate process that shouldn’t be a part of a routine.

It may be harsh, but it’s true. Why don’t you pick up a piece of literature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Shakespeare, Thoreau, or Whitman?  Why don’t you meander through WordPress or Blogspot looking for a lonely post that is incredibly well written, but not shared on 500 of your friends Facebook walls? Why don’t you dive into those texts and cling to your own meaning of life and understanding the world around you? Why don’t you call your best friend, meet your grandma for coffee, write a hand written love letter, or go for a hike (maybe even alone)? Why don’t you create something yourself? Why don’t you live the precious life that is anxiously awaiting you? Not only will you understand those lists better, but you will also learn to live by your own distinctive beating heart, soul, and mind not someone else’s preconceived notions of the keys to your happiness.

I urge you, my friends, fellow bloggers, readers, Buzzfeeders, and Thought Catalogers: don’t just be nuances of our universe. Find your voice. Find your happiness. I guarantee it isn’t presented to you in a neat and tidy list. Embrace your life, enhance your life, but never settle to define your life or your choices based on someone else’s reality. Shamelessly slipping into hypocrisy I have a list for you. Here is the key to happiness. 1.  Define yourself. 

The Most Beautiful People

Since my last post I have been busy teaching, binge watching Orange is the New Black, picking up a new workout and hobby (Muay Thai) and traveling. I realized I only wrote a draft for this but never posted it, so I will post two in a row to make things less confusing. I love my blog but I also love writing for myself. Blogs can be for yourself but I believe when you write with the knowledge that you have an audience you subconsciously change the way you present your thoughts and emotions. Some thoughts and emotions of this journey I have to hash out on my own…

Jackie and I decided to explore Suphanburi again for a weekend. Teaching is extremely draining and we don’t want to wear ourselves out by pushing ourselves to explore too much, too soon. The last few weeks were all about getting back into a routine healthy lifestyle that I have somewhat neglected in my adjustment to this new world. I am an avid runner and gym-goer who enjoys eating a healthy diet with occasional splurges. I loved to cook for myself back in the US, so eating out every night was a huge adjustment. I also have been warned by just about every person I talk to that I should never run alone here, so that kind of cancels running out of the equation. Luckily, there are many alternatives to explore. I have been going to yoga class with foreign teachers from my school twice a week and I have started up the Insanity dvds (once again).  I swear it is an addiction…

One day on the songtow (mini bus) on my way to yoga, a young Thai girl asked me where I was going in an extremely Western sounding accent. Surprised, I told her I was going to yoga class and she asked if Jackie and I were interested in coming to Muay Thai class instead. Without hesitation… we both replied, “Sure!” Our impulsive attitudes are a great asset to traveling (but sometimes a burden to our bank accounts 😉 ) Muay Thai is martial arts/boxing style fighting that is famous all over Thailand and the world. It was extremely awkward walking into a huge open gym with dozens of half naked Thai children in silky high waisted boxing shorts.

The young girl explained to us that she studied abroad in the US two years ago (explained her impeccable English) and that she would translate for us. The Muay Thai instructor spoke very little English but he was very excited to have us there and paid a lot of attention to us throughout the workout. We worked on kicking, kneeing, elbows, push ups, sit ups and a variety of moves and by the end we felt tired, sweaty and accomplished.  He invited us back whenever we want and we have already been again a few times! It is a great workout and despite the stares burning through us as we awkwardly attempt the moves, it is a lot of fun too! Plus… it’s free… which is a great thing no matter what country or continent you are on.  I love working out and anything that makes you sweat. I love the challenge and I love endorphins. I am addicted to the way I feel after a great workout, no matter what that workout may be. I am so excited to have a variety of options to keep me active and release my hyperactive energy in a positive form.

School remains exciting and challenging everyday. Everyday I realize things about my students and about teaching EFL that I didn’t know the day before. It is frustrating but it is also motivating to discover the most affective ways to help our students better not only their English but also their lives! I enjoy the fact that my job is like a constant riddle or puzzle, which takes tons of patience, creativity, resilience and thinking to be successful. I feel stimulated by this task that others may find daunting. That’s how I know that teaching is the right job for me! I depend on my kids just as much as they depend on me. They are my constant in this new adventure and they give me purpose when I feel like a lonely traveler, when I miss home, when I struggle to maintain my old life and embrace my new one.

In today’s society we expect instant gratification for every aspect of life. We expect every question to have an answer that we can find from a quick Google search. We expect to understand our culture shock and moving away from the ones we love and care about the most. We expect for long distance love to be hard but we don’t really know how hard it will be. Life is messy, human beings are complex, no matter how much the world around us changes and advances, our minds and our hearts are primitive. Our pain is raw. Our love is powerful. Our sadness prevails. Our kindness prevails. Human beings and their emotions don’t fit into the Google search page. I wish I could read a book, “What to do when your life changes” but no advice in the world could prepare me for the emotional roller coaster that I have been on in this fresh chapter of my life. One day at a time… That is the only way to tackle this beast. You can’t break down the world’s wicked ways no matter how hard you try. Some days simply breathing should be enough to be grateful for. Now matter how hard I try, I know I can’t fix everything all at once, but I can fix the way I allow it to affect me. I can let it drive me to be better:  more compassionate, gentle, and mindful. Every single person fights their own battles and it only is easier if we lean on each other when we cannot stand on our own.Human beings hate being vulnerable but vulnerability is an exceptional part of being a human being.

For someone who loves to help and give advice to friends and family, it is difficult to admit I don’t have the answers or even the right questions. It is difficult to admit my utter vulnerability but I can’t escape it and  I am doing the best I can. “Even if things get heavy, we’ll all float on okay…”

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully. ” Matthew Fox

“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”  Stephen Fry

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. “ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The Little Things

“Our deeds still travel with us from afar, and what we have been makes us what we are.”- G. Eliot

 “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”-M. Buber

 “If you hold on tight to what you think is your thing you may find you’re missing all the rest”- DMB

 “ The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.”-Euripides

I believe the best writers find comfort in words, whether they are their own words or someone else’s. The best writers can acknowledge the process and the product and allow for both to inspire them.  I felt drawn to these quotes today and admit that they simply and eloquently depict the image I hope to convey with my post.  Hats off to these writers!

Slowly but surely, I am adjusting to my new life in Thailand.  I am quickly forming routines, local restaurants and coffee shops I frequent, and new friends. Teaching is beginning to dictate my bedtime and it feels good to form a “normal” schedule.  Then… some moments I look around and it hits me “Holy shit… I live in Thailand.” Since my last post I have explored around my town of Suphanburi and found new cafes, bars, friends, swimming pools that I plan to visit again and again. Despite the urge to travel to a new city or place every single weekend; it feels nice to plant some temporary roots and embrace the city I will call home for the next year.

Today I received a package from my parents with various necessities I requested. Just seeing the note with my mom’s handwriting on it made my heart smile. When I describe my feelings, I never want to be cliché, but I have started to see the true power and authenticity of certain cliché sayings in a new light. “It’s the little things.” We have all heard that phrase a million times, but being a foreigner on the other side of the world teaches you this cliché in an elevated manner. It’s the little things you miss about home, about loved ones, about “normal” life but it is also the little things about my new surroundings that excite me, challenge me and inspire me.  I appreciate the people in my life and the luxuries that I took for granted every day, like internet (especially WIFI), cable, menus in English, toilet paper, hand dryers, and the ease of everyday communication. But I also appreciate the respect I receive here, the flowers I got to welcome me to my school, the laid back lifestyle and the incredible generosity of strangers.

When everything is different, it forces you to grow, to adapt, to change but it also leaves you craving the familiar and reminiscing about places, people and memories that you love. Each day is a spastic balance of soaking up the adventure, living in the moment and missing friends, family, and especially my boyfriend. I hope each of you know how much you are on my mind, even though we can’t talk as much as I would like. To truly find ourselves, we can’t cling to the familiar. We must trust in those we love and remember they will love us just the same, whether we are near or far. I have learned to embrace the roller coaster of emotions that run through me in a given day. They are there for a reason and to truly live, we must feel. It doesn’t matter if it is cheerful, gloomy, frustrated, scared, amazed, nostalgic, angry, excited or goofy. If we are feeling…we are living.

Luckily, I have the stability of teaching to keep me level headed. Jackie and I have discussed how the place that we feel the most at “home” is at our school. Teaching, learning, laughing, thinking, writing lesson plans, and grading; these are all familiar to us. The students in Thailand (as a whole) are much different than any students I had in America. They seem genuinely happy every single day. I am not sure if this is how they actually feel, but it is the energy they give off. I can’t help but smile when I get to school and am greeted by each and every one of my students as I pass them. Most American students were too cool to talk to teachers in the hallway and would pretend not to see you. Being an ESL/EFL teacher has proven to be increasingly frustrating as time goes on and I am realizing that it is extremely hard to understand what they comprehend and what they are politely nodding to (despite having no clue what is going on). Thankfully, I have found amazing resources in veteran ESL teachers at my school, online ESL/EFL games, lesson plans, songs, videos, etc. I know that if I give my best, there is nothing more anyone can ask of me.

Teaching and learning is the essence of my journey. Yes, I am literally a teacher, but I am also a student. Thailand, along with each person I meet here, is teaching me things about human nature, life, and myself.  I am continuously learning, which is exhilarating and exhausting. But I must remind myself, it is up to me which of those feelings dictate my experience. I choose to live. I choose to feel. I choose exhilarating, beautiful adventure.

               “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,

we must carry it with us or we find it not.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Image

ImageImage

Image

 IMG_6297