This week we took a (virtual) trip to Thailand to chat with Alana Morgan, the traveler behind Paper Planes Blog. Read on for her take on travel books, the sixth commandment of expat living and more in this week’s Girls That Go!
GGG: Hey, Alana! Welcome to Girls That Go! Can you tell us where you’re from and how you got your start traveling?
Originally from Seattle, I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures, places, traditions, languages and people. I love piecing a new place together, appreciating what makes it special and seeing how different people live their lives. I also don’t have the slightest clue of where I want to be or what I want to be doing, so am using this time to figure that out through continually traveling and living abroad. Growing up we didn’t live near any extended family and regularly made trips to visit people…that’s probably where it started…
Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite, but I did learn a lot and still would recommend teaching English for those who want to try living abroad. As with any job, everything depends on your work situation – location, support, pay – to make or break the experience. Grading test answers was pretty entertaining though, particularly to the question of “What does Teacher Alana look like?” Apparently, my students thought I looked like everything from Barbie to a rabbit, but the best answer was, “I don’t know.” At least it was better than my coworker’s responses whose students said he had a “big ass.” I’m pretty sure he didn’t teach them that one…
Thank you – I’ve just started the series and am really pleased by how it’s going! The posts people have been contributing are incredible and show what it’s like to live as an expat in their adopted town. While I’ve done my fair share of backpacking and constantly being on the move, I really prefer living abroad and being in one place. A lot of travel blogs focus on showing how you can travel long-term and are always focusing on the ‘must-see’ things to do in a place. Part of why I like living abroad so much is that fact that, since everything is new and different, I’m incredibly aware of the little things that make up day to day life – how the eggs here are all brown and with stronger shells than at home, how you can load up a motorbike to carry things or how I am now more comfortable eating with a spoon and fork than just a fork. Those little moments, habits and realities make up the most of our lives and I wanted to showcase that from around the world. They’re really fascinating to read if you’re interesting in moving abroad!
People give “Eat, Pray, Love” other travel memoirs a bad rap, but I remembering reading the book in college after it first came out and thinking, “Whoa, you can travel for more than a two-week vacation?” It definitely opened my eyes a bit. If they have good descriptions of place, most books make me want to travel somewhere however – the “Bangkok 8” series describes little nuances of life in Bangkok so well – and after being immersed in the book you want to experience the real place.
Commit to where you are. This could be for living as an expat, or traveling or being at home. When I first moved to Thailand and started teaching I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay, so didn’t make any long term plans, commitments or investments. Because of that, I lived in a place that I didn’t really like, rented a motorbike for months before just buying one (which cost less than the money I had spent renting), and didn’t invest in some cooking supplies and ingredients that I would have ended up using over and over again. It doesn’t feel nice living in limbo. Even if you make commitments, plans change and you move on sooner than expected, at least you were fully present and active while you there instead of continuously thinking your situation is temporary so not fully experiencing or appreciating it.
I’ve shared plenty of tips for packing, ways to save money, and free things to do on my site, but I think my number one suggestion would be to be patient and don’t try to control everything. Things run differently over here and it can create some shock, frustration and uncertainty when you first come over — five people on a motorbike (with no helmets), food ingredients and preparation conditions that are different from home, things not running on the schedule you expect, different languages and intense weather. I had no idea what was going on around me for months after traveling through Southeast Asia and moving to Thailand. But everything – transportation connects, visa paperwork, finding places to stay – seems to work out in the end.
Ha! I’m certainly no expert in the dating arena and wouldn’t even know what to say about dating within your own country/culture/language. Any relationship has its own challenges, but adding different backgrounds and languages can make it even more complicated sometimes. It also makes it more interesting though. You certainly learn more about cultural beliefs, quirks and customs!
GGG: Where’s your paper plane flying next?
Good question…I’ve been pretty grounded lately but have a few plans up my sleeves…no announcements yet though!
All photos in this post courtesy of Alana Morgan.