Traveling vs. Living Abroad

I am a millennial. I thrive off new experiences and adventures. I love to travel and explore new places. However, I have found that I much prefer immersing myself in different cultures, rather than hopping from country to country just to check them off my Bucket List.

I have been living and teaching English in Northern Thailand for the last 10 months, and during my summer break, I spent six weeks traveling to four other countries. On that trip, I noticed some of the MAJOR differences between traveling and living in Southeast Asia.

TRAVELING ABROAD

You have “TOURIST” written all over you

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If your skin color doesn’t give it away, your elephant pants and fanny pack will surely do the trick.

People are always trying to rip you off

This is especially true of taxi and tuk tuk drivers. Never accept the first price they offer!

All the cities and countries start to blur together

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“Where was that temple we saw?” “What was that waterfall called?” “Remember that cool museum we went to in Bangkok? Or was that in Hanoi?”

It’s physically exhausting

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Lugging your bags around on planes, trains, taxis and boats, up mountains and down rivers, can seriously wear you out. How people travel like nomads for months at a time I will never understand.

LIVING ABROAD

It’s a really big deal when you see other white people

Sometimes it’s fun to make friends with them, but usually you just start mentally preparing yourself for an all-out turf battle.

You’re suddenly appalled by the way other Westerners dress

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Thai people think it’s scandalous to show your knees or shoulders, so just imagine what they must think of white people dressed like this in the middle of the day.

You miss the most unexpected things from home

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Over the last 22 years, I’ve grown accustomed to certain things (i.e. quinoa, mimosas, paper towels and washer/dryers) that I simply cannot live without. I didn’t know how much I’d miss them ’till they were gone.

You gain understanding of the history, culture and people on a much deeper level

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I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Thai culture, from the warm smiles to the passive aggressive “hints” to their ideas about democracy. But I’ve learned so much more from my Thai friends, co-workers and students than I ever could have from backpacking.

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