On a Normal Life

Water is cascading down from the ceramic-tiled roof of my apartment. Under the gray summer sky, even the terracotta orange of the tiles are muted. And the rain, with its plump droplets and thunking onto the sand-colored stones below my window, has a whirr about it. A gentle humming that hums along with my heart. Which has been racing a lot lately. Racing overtime.

Yesterday marked six years since I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Six years since that first definition, that first identity of myself (aside from travel blogger and publicist) which defined me.

Expat. Digital nomad. Animal activist. 

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Home?

I clung to those definitions throughout my time living abroad. Throughout the ups and downs of being an expat. It’s not easy living abroad; don’t let any digital nomad hawking books on how to make a bajillion dollars without barely lifting a finger in a foreign land let you believe it is. It’s hard. And there are cultural differences. And visas. And being so so so far from normalcy to contend with.

Every year on July 12 (the day I left the States) or July 13 (the day I arrived to my jungle city) I honor it with writing about cliché stuff, like things I’ve learned about life, things I’ve learned about being an expat.

Those days before that date, there seems to be an added pressure to come up with something. To figure out what my yearly message on life should be. As someone who clings to the fringes of travel blog life and has a myriad of content to write but never quite feels like writing it, it’s even more pressure.

A look at the stunning Sarinbuana Eco Lodge in Bali, a sustainable lodge featuring private bungalows in the heart of the island.

I still travel. A lot. In fact, this year I’ve been on more airplanes than I probably have in years before when I was living abroad. But, hey, it’s for different reasons now. I’m not traveling to write, I’m traveling to live. And, that’s probably why I don’t blog that much anymore.

There’s thunder pounding outside as the sky darkens more here, taking me back to those humid monsoon nights in Thailand when the rain would thwack against my tin roof and I’d sit on my patio listening, chain-smoking, as the night descended and the rats and crickets and barking street dogs would take over the street.

Six. Years.

What does a post now consist of when I’ve been out of the expat loop for so long?

I’m not sure.

My therapist told me the other day to just freeform write about life to work through my newfound anxiety.

“Write?” I had scoffed. “I can’t write. It overwhelms me.”

But, writing is my lifeblood. It’s what powers me every single day. It pays the bills. It keeps me sane. But, I don’t write about me anymore. Which makes me sad, because there are so many stories whirling around in my head to share. Stories about hiking down to a waterfall in Bali alone this past spring and stripping and getting into the chilly water and breathing that fresh jungle air and watching the emerald green leaves quiver under the gentle breeze as a storm loomed higher up the volcano.

There’s writing about Belgium and processing it and reprocessing it.

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There are stories about moments that make my heart swell in Las Vegas. Like when I’m on an airplane and sitting over the right wing of the plane (because that’s the spot to sit for gobsmacking views of the city on descent) and those twinkling lights against the black sea of the night sky make my heart tingle.

There are lessons I’ve learned that I want to share about running a business. Being an entrepreneur. Chasing dreams and putting them out into the universe … and having the universe listen.

Yet, I keep quiet.

That second memoir tingles my fingertips, sends reminders to my brain that there are things I want to say, moments I want to share and hope and pray that another agent finds me somewhere in the internet universe and writes me a love letter about the way I tell stories that way that first New York book agent did.

And, I still do nothing.

I guess that’s the thing about normalcy. About coming back home and getting into a routine. It may be nothing like my routine I had pre-Thailand and pre-expat life, but it’s still a routine, nonetheless. One filled with work and love and meetings and food and friends and life-shaping experiences.

I’m learning about balance. About putting myself first. About being true to me and while still honoring relationships I have, making sure that I’m happy where I am, too. I’m learning about how to handle this newfound anxiety (CBD oil) and working through whatever is triggering it from work to relationships to shit in my past I need to resolve.

I’m learning to thrive. To tap into my passion. To make that my life.

I guess what I want people to know about me in this moment is that post-expat life is different and beautiful and I cherish the moments I had because those very moments made me the person I am right now. An entrepreneur on the cusp of something I’ve only dreamed of with Vegans, Baby. A writer with so many stories deep within me that want to come out.

Life after being an expat

Next week, I head to Portland to speak at a vegan festival about how to be a leader for positive change, then in October, I’m heading back to Thailand to assemble a vegan tour of the country with my friends from Mindful Wanderlust and get ready to put that to market.

And, in the meantime, I’m going to try and write more. To reconnect with my heart. To honor that part of my life that’s been dormant. The journey is never-ending, no matter if I’m an expat or in my home country … and that’s a beautiful thing.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

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