Written by Ane du Preez
This morning I imagined I was in Thailand and what it felt like. Close your eyes for a moment and tell me what you think of if I say “Thailand” to you. If I think about Thailand I think about a place filled with color, coconut trees, authentic culture and people, amazing food, unique temples and beautiful places to visit. I spent exactly four years in Thailand. It was hard to leave, it was my second home but I know it will always be part of me. I just thought it was time to move back home to my beautiful home country, no other place like sunny South-Africa.
I’ve lived in many different places and have been to 14 different countries in total but Thailand was quite something different, something that stood out for me.
Thailand is located in the heart of East Asia. It has 73 provinces and it is known for its friendly people, traditional Thai massages, delicious food, floating markets and the beaches. I chose Thailand because I wanted to experience something different and always wanted to learn about their culture and it was something that fascinated me very much. When I first stepped into Thailand for the very first time in April 2017 it felt like I was on a different planet. That’s when I realized this is exactly what I needed at that moment, it felt like a second chance, a fresh start and that I can not ever compare anything from where I am from. Not even the light switches were the same 🙂
Of course I will say that Thailand is not for everyone but it was surely for me that is for sure. Now that I just moved to my home country I thought its a good time to reflect and share with you the valuable lessons I’ve learned and hopefully it can inspire others too.
Here are my top lessons that I have learned:
Live in the moment
I learned that this moment is all we really have. The past is gone and the future is yet to happen. Live today. Don’t dwell in the past. Move on from yesterday and make today the best it can be. Doing that will make your tomorrow’s a bit brighter. Just be aware of your surroundings and be in the moment, if someone talks to you don’t be distracted by your device, just be mindful and be in present moment.
I always thought I had a lot of patience with most things but Thailand has tested it multiple times especially in the beginning. My school was far from where I lived and it was a small town and when it was raining some taxi drivers would refuse to take you because they don’t be stuck in traffic but eventually one of my co-teachers arranged a motorcycle taxi driver to pick me up at the same time at my house and take me to school. There were a lot of frustrating moments. When you slow down and are content to live in the moment then what’s the rush? Now I enjoy the minutes I spend waiting and use it to clear my mind and just be.
You don’t need to speak the language to have a relationship with them.
Languages aren’t just words and vocabulary, its more than that, its culture, history, traditions and its a connection between people. Many times I went to a local beach the first year when I was living in the south of Thailand and saw that foreigners played football with the kids on the beach, they don’t speak each others language and that was amazing to see. I’ve learned that body language is also a very useful language, I never knew that it could be that important. My last school that I worked at my co-teacher couldn’t speak much English but somehow we found a way to communicate and understand each other, all you just have to do is to listen and honestly I’ve learned so much from her. If you travel or live in a foreign country my best advice is try to be adaptable and always stay calm because there is a possibility that things won’t go according to plan and that is okay.
Its okay to say no
Someone told me when I first arrived in Thailand you have to say yes to every opportunity so you can make easily friends and don’t really get homesick but I disagree. To me you have to make time for yourself and time is precious. You can say yes to the things that you want to do but you don’t have to do everything. I always say that time is the most precious gift you can give to anyone because time you will never get back so if you get invited by someone or they invited you to go on a vacation or watch a movie go if you feel like it but if you don’t feel like it then just say politely “thank you for the invite but no thank you”. Sometimes its hard to do but definitely a valuable lesson I’ve learned.
Change is good
I’ve always been a person that liked changes. I’ve moved a lot, changed jobs a lot, always moved my furniture around in my apartment but the biggest change that I ever did was a career change. Society puts a lot on pressure on people and even on kids at times. I left my job as an operations manager at a well-known country hotel in Midlands, KZN in South-Africa where I worked about three years in total and I moved to Thailand to be an English teacher. IT was a very risky thing to do but then I realized people do it all the time. Just because you studied something it doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to make a career change. If anyone would ask me do you regret it? My answer would be “Definitely not”
Be your authentic self
It wasn’t always easy working in an environment that the culture is different but I think I adapted quite quickly. Their expectations and standards are different. Worked in Thailand it taught me to be always true to myself, be honest with myself, stand up for myself for the things I believe in and its okay not to agree with others all the time. Always stay calm at all times, be a good listener and act fast. Thai people in general don’t like confrontation but there is a way to solve a problem and if you get lost you will find your way back home. You’ve got this and you’re unique in your own way.
Never let anyone or anything stand in your way. Do the things that makes you truly happy and look after yourself. If you feel you need to take a nap do it, if you want to learn a new language do it, if you feel you need to do something adventurous like going on a hike or train for a marathon, just do it!
There is always something beautiful in every day
Sometimes we are so focused on what didn’t work out that we forget to stop and reflect and realize what we have at that moment or what worked out. Never forget to look up, you will be amazed what you would find. I love going for walks or just look outside your window and find something beautiful even if its a cloud or a compliment. You’ve to be in present moment.
Believe in Karma
Thai people place tremendous importance on family and community, giving individuals the support systems to help in times of need as well as groups to enjoy their leisure time with. I’ve seen it so many times. Majority of them do good to others then good things will happen to you but if you do bad things bad things will happen.
Kindness goes along way, that is for sure.
They call Thailand the land of smiles but that smile can mean many things. I think Westerners can learn so much from Thailand, that is just my opinion. Thai people have a way to deal with things that is why it always looked like they don’t get stressed. They talk through things, they meditate, they help each other out even in difficult times and they just get on with life. The one evening I was in a restaurant with a friend, our dinner has arrived and the power went out in the whole area. I am from South-Africa and we have load shedding on a weekly basis but I know that its not a common thing in Thailand to happen. So the waiter brought a candle and everyone carried on. If something like that would happen in the western world they probably would have asked for a discount or complain, that is my assumption. The Thai’s have a saying “Mai pen rai” meaning ‘no worries’.
Its never too late to try something new or learn something new
I’ve learned so many things in Thailand and tried new things. Some things I didn’t enjoy as much but its always good to try new things at least once. Just be open to possibilities
- I’ve learned to make more time for yourself, go for a manicure, take a nap, whatever makes you happy just do it.
- I’ve tried new things like I ran a marathon (10 km) for the first time
- I’ve learned to meditate
I’ve meditated before but not consistently and the beginning was hard because my mind wonders a lot. Meditation is an ancient practice that is believed to have originated in India several thousand years ago.
” Meditation is a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body” – unknown
- I’ve tried to do yoga.
- I wanted to create something new so I went for a painting class
- I’ve learned a little Thai
- I’ve tried different food
- I’ve made local friends
- I’ve started to write more so I started my own travel blog
- I’ve learned to speak in front of people, public speaking was never my strong point well in secondary school but these lessons are valuable.
Talk to strangers
When I was growing up I was an introvert and was quite shy but then I traveled in UK, was in the hotel industry so I had to talk to strangers but in Thailand it felt like I’ve met people from all ages all over the globe so you can’t be an introvert if you are a solo traveler and at the same time you learn from others and about other cultures as well.
I would say its really only in my adulthood that I’ve learned not to be shy and I think I’ve outgrown to be an “introvert” 🙂 I’ve learned a lot and today I can really talk to anyone and start a conversation.
I never realized the power of gratitude. To start a day with gratitude its like you are attracting a magnet to your day. I’ve also done a gratitude journal and it helped, you don’t always get time for writing but even if you just say it out loud. Its not just being grateful for the good things but also to be grateful for things that didn’t work out which is hard sometimes to do but I believe everything happens for a reason. Just be mindful and open to possibilities.
“Start each day with a positive thought and a grateful heart.”
― Roy T. Bennett
Life is beautiful in an unique way. Thailand is unique in many ways and sometimes you just have to laugh about situations that you had no idea what you got yourself into and move on.
You need very little to be happy
So many times I see that people are looking for materialistic things to be happy but what I have realized is everything that you need to be happy is inside of you and around you, that is as simple as that and do the things that make you truly happy. Something that I’ve learned is there should be balance between work and life and that is why its so important to make use of your time and don’t waste it on silly useless things.
Have you ever wondered what the world would have been without color? Yes we are aware that there is colors around us but in Thailand its just not just color, that color represents something. What do color symbolizes in Thai culture? They actually have a color for each day which I found very interesting.
The Thais really enjoy and celebrate life. You see it everywhere. There were plenty of holidays and festivals and the city just seemed happy and joyous most of the time. The lesson here, there is always a reason to celebrate if you are looking for it. I love that they have public holidays and there is a deep meaning behind each one. My favorite was Loy Kroytong.
Its all okay
I’ve learned not to stress about things that you can’t control. When Thais get into a disagreement and no resolution is in sight, they leave not mad but with the attitude of mai pen rai – it’s OK or it will work out as it’s meant to.
Living abroad is like living in purgatory. You find yourself trapped between the childlike wonder of exploring a new country and the pangs of figuring out adult competency all over again. It is an adventure and I would recommend it for anyone because it will not change you as a person but it will teach you lessons that you will never forget and those lessons you will not be able to learn from a book. Everyone experience things differently.
Never forget where you are from
You still are you, still the same name and you can’t change that. You just live in a different place to evolve but I always made sure that I called my family at least once a week, text my siblings during the week and I don’t have a big circle of friends but the ones close to me I will make a point to reach out. There is always a way, a simple message, a call. There is always a way to reach out and I believe that if people want to me in your life they will find a way. I am proud of where I am from.
I grew up on a farm and now that I am back I see it in a different light. I am surrounded by nature, the stars are so magical at night, I can speak “Afrikaans” which is my first language every day which I’ve also missed. Just make the best of what you have got.
“Never forget where you came from. It’s what made you the person you are today” – unknown
Today I am back in home country and I see it as an adventure, a new beginning, a chance to be with my family. If I lived here and didn’t go to Thailand I don’t think I would have learned all these lessons but I am glad I did. I am really grateful for everything that has happened.
Thailand, thank you. You are amazing in every way, yes I had some tough situations but I will carry these lessons with me.
Hi there! My name is Ané du Preez and I am from South-Africa. I am a teacher, writer and a solo traveler. I love learning about other cultures and traditions. I love good coffee, having interesting conversations and I love traveling. This blog is to share my wonderful adventures with all of you. I’ve been discovering the gems of mother nature and its amazing people. Join me as we venture into the beauty and inspiration that is all around us. I am an advocate for all to live their life to the fullest. To travel is to live!