My dirty little expat confession

Written by on October 11, 2012 in Asia, Blog, Expat Life, Thailand - 26 Comments

Chiang Mai

For two weeks, I am in Thailand Expat Bliss.

I wake up when it gets light (because for the first two weeks in Chiang Mai the sun refuses to glow) with a huge smile on my face. The smile never leaves. I walk to work like a child seeing the world for the first time.

Huge trees tied with colorful ribbons!

Tuk tuks honking to give me a ride!

Incense wafting through the thick, humid air!

Street cats and street dogs eyeing the new stranger in their land curiously!

Fruit shakes for breakfast! Lunch! Dinner!

An inherited family at my apartment building!

Yes, I am living life with exclamation points. Never-ending exclamation points.

On the way home from work, the night is a story of endless possibilities, mostly which circled around Ciccia’s House, the haunt of those who live in my building. Most nights I sidle up to one of the wooden benches and have an icy cold beer with my new friends.

I meet AG the second night I arrive to Chiang Mai, when I am being verbally jumped by one of the older men, Papa. (Who I have come to fully adore, despite his tendency to proposition me after a day of drinking.) The third night of my new life, the power goes out at the apartment, so I find myself sitting downstairs at the little mart having a beer and chatting with him. Which evolves into dinner. And more drinks.

Just like when traveling, suddenly I have a fast and furious friendship. Whenever I am not at the office or writing, chances are I’m hanging with him. Which is awesome. He’s been living here on and off for years and imparts wisdom in regards to how to blend in, where to go for a drink, how to get around. Quickly, AG becomes someone I can confide in. My friend.

Over nit noi drinks, we sit and talk and laugh and joke and I can’t believe how lucky I am. How fortunate I am to have a friend I can talk to so quickly.To feel so comfortable with in a matter of days. I look forward to heading down the road to my place and seeing him sitting at Ciccia’s and knowing I have someone to talk to for the night over a large Leo (or five).

But, right before Week Three of Life as an Expat, his girlfriend comes to town and he all but disappears; I get sick. And suddenly, when faced with long nights sitting in my apartment — which is really just a glorified hotel room — it hits me.

I am alone.

Sick. Lonely.

For five days, my company is my music and I turn into a reflection of whatever song it is I am listening too (mostly sad music about being loved, not being loved and missing people).

Three weeks ago none of these people even existed in my life. I had friends. I had a life. And now … I don’t have anything.

(No one ever said I wasn’t a tad dramatic.)

That’s the thing about being an expat. When you leave America, when you leave your comfort zone, you don’t have anyone to rely on but yourself. Granted, this is nothing new to me, but still … to have it suddenly slam into your face with such a fury, witch such a quickness, it stings beyond belief.

Being an expat, in those early stages is lonely. Lonely, lonely, lonely. Going from family and friends to alone is a rude awakening.

I get mad at myself for thinking I am immune to the lonely. That the glow is permanent. For thinking that I have it all worked out and, thanks to AG, have someone to fight off that alone. Of course, I know better. The entire time, I know better and yet I am so caught up in the moments, so happy to be on Cloud Nine (even for a short time), that I ignore the ever louder voice in the back of my head — “this will have repercussions soon.This is not how your life is going to be here.”

And, when the soon hits, I hate it. Despise it. Get into a war in my mind over it.

Why did you get comfortable?

What were you thinking?

And I relate those thoughts to every facet of my life.

I sit, staring at the window in my room (even though the curtains are drawn) and silently wish for human contact. A phone call from a friend at home. A knock on my door from a neighbor wanting to see how I am. Anything. I just don’t want to be alone because, for the first time in a long time, when I am alone, I start to feel like I am sinking.

For one week, I walk around in a self-induced pity party of annoying, paired with a nasty little bug. I turn on Coldplay and Damien Rice and let their sad words drown me. I stare in the mirror and wonder where the old D went, the one who saw everything with wonder and bliss.

Then, one night, on the way home from work, it hits me.

I am in Thailand. I am an expat. I did this. I followed my heart. I followed my dreams. And, everything lead me here. Maybe a rough patch isn’t such a bad thing. It’s part of life. If you don’t have the not so good, how can you have the amazing, knock-your-socks-off wonderful?

And, as quickly as my life grew empty, my happy came back.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

26 Comments on " My dirty little expat confession "

  1. Erica October 11, 2012 at 4:56 am · Reply

    OH DIANA!

    The lonely feeling can be where ever you are in the world. I feel lonely even though I have Shaun.

    We’re still rooting for you lady! Love you lots!

    SMOOCHES!

    • Diana October 14, 2012 at 8:18 am · Reply

      Thank you my love!! I am doing great now. We need a catch up. Please and thank you. <3

  2. Ali October 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm · Reply

    That expat loneliness comes and goes for quite some time. Since returning from my RTW, I’ve been in Germany for about 8 months now and I still hit rough patches. I still have days when I think, this sucks, I want my friends back home (among other things). But I know this is closer to the life I want, so I push through it. You’ll keep going through this but you’ll also adjust more each time.

    • Diana October 14, 2012 at 8:17 am · Reply

      This happened a few months ago now, and since then I have gotten a lot better. Chiang Mai is a very transient place, so I have learned that friendships here are fast, furious and then gone. But, the beauty of this is, no one is ever more than a Skype call away. And, when one person leaves town, two more come in.

  3. brandy bell October 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm · Reply

    D, I totally get ya girl… sometimes loneliness hits you like a bag of bricks. no matter how far away you feel, you’re just a phone call, skype, email or whatsapp away babe!

    • Diana October 14, 2012 at 8:15 am · Reply

      Thank you!! You know this story … :) It sucked going through but now … life is AWESOME

  4. Gaelyn October 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm · Reply

    You could feel lonely wherever you are as a state of mind, or choose to enjoy the time alone with yourself. Every new move requires time to cultivate a social life and even longer to make friends.

    • Diana October 14, 2012 at 8:15 am · Reply

      Absolutely! It was just hard to come from such a high to being sick and alone. Since that happened, people have come and gone and I have been OK. I think I had to experience that to learn I can make it through and come out even better!

  5. jmayel & sacha October 12, 2012 at 5:34 am · Reply

    Even though Sacha and I are here together, (with Eden Puppy) AND we know some people here. This happens to us too! I can only imagine how amplified it must feel doing it alone.

    Well at least now you’ve got access to us and giselle/cody as well. Plus your work buddies.

    • Diana October 14, 2012 at 8:14 am · Reply

      Yay!! I am so glad to have met you both! Fun times ahead!!

  6. Aaron Stewat October 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm · Reply

    While this process is completely normal it doesn’t make it any less difficult to go through. I think it’s helpful to remember that this is a process that everyone will go through no matter which culture or country they find themselves in. Chin up!

    This description is helpful for me! http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/cultural-services/articles/cultureshock-stages.html

    • Diana October 14, 2012 at 8:12 am · Reply

      Very true! And, thank you for the support!!

  7. Ava Apollo October 13, 2012 at 1:03 am · Reply

    I’m only on week two but I’ve had a few of these moments myself. For the most part, though, it’s the happy with multiple exclamation points you mention! Ups and downs happen at home, too. I feel like there are more ups on the road :) Chin up

    • Diana October 14, 2012 at 8:11 am · Reply

      Nearly every moment if my life here are still those exclamation points. As my friend said once, “you have to have the funk to have the fun.” So. True.

  8. Camels & Chocolate October 17, 2012 at 12:18 am · Reply

    Everyone experiences these exact emotions when traveling. I always love traveling solo because of the freedom of it, but at the same time, it’s the highest of the highs–and also the lowest of the lows (e.g. when you get sick…or lonely…or homesick).

    • Diana October 18, 2012 at 2:20 am · Reply

      Very true — the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. When traveling, it is a little different though – you can change your scenery. Stationary is a bit different. But you are right, everyone definitely experiences. it.

  9. Raymond @ Man On The Lam October 17, 2012 at 12:51 am · Reply

    There’s nothing worse than being sick and alone — been there, hated that. But I’ve got a feeling you’re gonna do just fine out there.

    • Diana October 18, 2012 at 2:18 am · Reply

      Oh, I am :) Almost perfect (ahem).

  10. Ayngelina October 17, 2012 at 7:56 am · Reply

    One of the things I have learned is that being lonely is totally normal and not a sign that something is wrong. It will pass just as happiness also passes. You have all of these emotions at home so it’s not surprising you would have them at your new home.

    • Diana October 18, 2012 at 2:18 am · Reply

      Absolutely! I think the emotions are magnified when alone in a foreign land … the good thing is it DOES pass. :)

  11. Alex October 17, 2012 at 11:20 am · Reply

    Being sick and alone is one of the worst combinations in the world! It’s practically a recipe for feelings of self pity and loneliness :) If I find myself in that hole I try to remind myself that the phone works both ways and rather than waiting around for someone to call me, I call them!

    Congratulations on your new amazing expat life and all the highs and lows that come along with it!

    • Diana October 18, 2012 at 2:15 am · Reply

      Thank you, Alex!! Yeah, for about one week I let myself wallow. Then, I picked myself up, put on some makeup and nice(r) clothing, and looked all that BS in the face, extended my middle finger, and kept on going … with a smile.

  12. Emily in Chile October 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm · Reply

    Being an expat is hard, especially when you feel like you’ve made friends only to have someone up and move. But as you know, it can be worth those lonely moments – hope you’re feeling better and enjoying the good side of things now!

    • Diana October 18, 2012 at 2:13 am · Reply

      Thanks, Emily. There are definitely still times where I just have pity parties, but those moments are rare. I am loving it here! <3

  13. Kent @ NVR October 18, 2012 at 5:33 pm · Reply

    You must have “gone there” if you were listening to Damien Rice. Did you listen to O non-stop?

    Keep smiling and keep us posted :)

    • Diana October 25, 2012 at 1:50 am · Reply

      Ha ha!! I listened to all of his albums, nonstop. I was definitely “there.” Definitely smiling now though!

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