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How Vacationing Differs From Living Abroad

The bustling streets of downtown Korat, Thailand. Addie Weller

Living abroad may not be as carefree as being a tourist, but it's worth every second. 

Have you ever travelled to a place and fallen immediately in love with it, so much you’ve wanted to move there?

That’s exactly what happened when I travelled to Thailand last year, and that’s exactly what I did. I mean, could you blame me? With all the beautiful beaches, magnificent temples, kind people, and delicious food, Thailand surely is a wonderful place to live.

My new home, Nakhon Ratchasima—better known as Korat—is located in the northeast of Thailand and is considered the gateway to the Isan region. Korat may not be a top tourist destination like Bangkok or Phuket, but that’s the way I like it.

There’s not much English spoken here, so I’m encouraged to learn more Thai. The cost of living is less expensive because the tourism industry hasn’t made its mark yet. There’s a smaller expat community, making me feel more connected to the foreigners who do live here. More so, there are many wats (temples) to explore, markets with great bargains and restaurants to sample.

When you’re living in a new place, everything certainly seems like an adventure, but it may not be as glamorous as when you first experienced it as a tourist.

When I first travelled to Thailand, I felt perfectly safe walking the streets by myself and honestly never thought twice about it. One of our first mornings in Korat, my boyfriend, Justin was walking down the street just outside our hotel to find a cup of coffee. On his way back, a street dog approached him quite aggressively, baring her teeth and growling incessantly. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt, but the interaction wasn’t exactly the warmest welcome to Korat. It’s made us both more cautious and aware whenever we step on the streets.

When you’re living in a new place, everything seems like an adventure, but it may not be as glamorous as when you first experienced it as a tourist.

When I was looking for hostels to stay in during my holiday in Thailand, there were so many to choose from. I didn’t even need to book in advance; I could just walk around, popping in and out of hostels until I found a place to stay.

Here, finding a long-term rental can be difficult, especially with my limited ability to speak Thai. I could, of course, browse online, but without knowing the area well yet, it’s difficult to determine a good place from a not-so-good one. Luckily, with the help of our school colleagues, Justin and I found a great apartment fairly quickly. With most of the grunt work behind us, we’ll still have to figure out paying our rent, paying utilities, and setting up Internet—little things you just don’t think about when you’re a tourist. 

When I ate out during my first trip to Thailand, I never got bored. Burgers, pizza, sandwiches, salads, smoothies, plus an array of Thai food; the options were endless. Even the Thai food menus were translated in English, so you always knew what you were eating.

In Korat, while there are quite a few Western food restaurants, the majority are Thai, and the menus are often not translated into English. This makes dining out a bit more challenging, but also a bit more fun. In fact, one of our first meals in Korat involved the “point and guess” method. We thought we were ordering a chicken basil stir-fry and a pork vegetable dish, when in fact we ordered fried fish and pad thai entrees. We even pointed to the pictures, but sometimes you don’t get what you want (or think you want). It was a very happy mistake, though—the fried fish was delicious and the thick noodles were freshly homemade.

Though I’m still a newbie expat in Korat, living abroad has made realize that vacationing and living are different. Vacationing is vacationing; living is living, regardless of where you are in the world. In Thailand, the people are friendly, the climate is warm, and the food is abundant—it’s the perfect place to call home.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Addie Weller

Addie Weller is a native Mainer who left the corporate world behind to pursue a meaningful life of teaching and travelling. When she’s not in the classroom, you can find her with a book in her lap, a journal in her hand, or a yoga mat at her feet. Having lived in the United States, Spain, and China, Addie is happy to call Korat, Thailand her new home.

Website: www.addieweller.com/

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