Ever since we moved abroad, life has been a grand experiment. I know that we are incredibly privileged to play with life this way. We’ve realized that this is a very unique time in our lives and possibly the hardest all at once. Days are stimulating in ways that they simply aren’t if you’re in your native culture. I completely underestimated how challenging it would be at times to live in a country where the language, customs, and daily habits are not natural for me. Simple things are huge accomplishments, like communicating over the phone, catching one of the red taxis or finding natural laundry soap.
So if step one in the experiment was relocating, step two was finding a place to call home. For our first year in Chiang Mai, we chose to rent a four story townhouse in the city that checked all my boxes for walkability – something we really missed out on living in a neighborhood in the US for 5 years that was acknowledged to be a “food desert.” In our neighborhood in Chiang Mai, I walked to the local food market, any number of restaurants and little noodle stalls, the pharmacy, and even the waterfall at the foot of Suthep Mountain. During our time there, we discovered new rhythms, figured out where to get organic produce, learned to avoid the afternoon sun or rainstorms depending on the season, and I think my legs got stronger at least from all those stairs! We were finally comfortable in our new life… perhaps that’s what instigated the idea to try something new again!
In September, we started dreaming more seriously about the country. Tory has never lived anywhere that’s not suburban or urban, and especially not in a beautiful area like this city is surrounded by. We have so much flexibility right now- it will be years before Camille is in school, and we’ve already done the hard work of settling into a new country. So we put it out there to God and the universe to see what would come back. One rapidly growing snowball later, we signed a 6 month lease at a one story, one bedroom home a forty-five minute scooter ride outside the city, surrounded by tropical orchards and nestled in the mountains.
After we made the decision but before we moved, I found myself fluctuating between excitement and fear. Fear Of Missing Out – something that’s very familiar to me. I’m learning to become more at peace with this state of mind itself, knowing that growth happens outside my comfort zone. Personally, I have lived in the country before, but I was a teenager and not in a frame of mind to benefit from the open space it offered physically and mentally. I was just concerned with how far away I was from all my friends – and I guess I haven’t changed that much.
Thankfully, it has been an incredible gift. The freedom from choice – not of choice has been one of the greatest luxuries here. We have a few friends very close by – one of the big draws to this place was that our friends are a short walk down a muddy mountain path, settling into life with their son. We have one cafe a two minute walk out our front door that is closed more often than not, and a Sunday evening local market that is twenty minutes away by foot. Our community is smaller but tighter.
So from this vantage point, I can examine the fear I carried before we moved – fear of the unknown, of boredom, of having to drive a car on the “wrong” side of the road. A lot of it seems to boil down to a fear of being trapped. Part of me wants unlimited options even if I rarely use them. I want a bustling night market outside my front door even if I only go once every few weeks and even though it just tempts me to indulge in excess shopping or sugar. I want a distraction ready at my fingertips for whenever the silence of sitting with myself gets too strong.
So instead of staying where we were becoming comfortable, we jumped. It has been so rewarding. I’ve been able to push myself to find deeper contentment, even though it’s a lifetime process. I still remember childhood without the technologies that we surround ourselves with, but there’s no question if our daughter will be a digital native. It’s not all bad but I want her to know how to be alone. To find peace in the mountains, in flowing water, and in silence. I hope that stillness and wilderness will be native languages to her, wherever we go.