At the age of 48 I ran away from home. The great recession of 2008 hit me hard. I lost my business and would eventually lose my home. Everything I had worked so hard for fell flat and then I had to work really hard to take it all apart. I was so stressed I thought might head might explode. It may have been possible to save my house with 3 jobs, but there were no 3 jobs to be had, and that kind of futility is just not my style.
It turns out my style is to take what little money and credit I had left and buy a ticket to Bangkok, Thailand. I had asked a knowledgeable friend where one should go if they were about to die of stress. He suggested the island of Koh Phanang on the eastern coast of the Thai peninsula. I had traveled a fair bit in the past, but never to Asia, so I was game.
Traveling On My Own
I ended up spending 4 months traveling open ended, overland through southern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and back around through northern Thailand. It saved my life! I had amazing adventures and a number of life-changing experiences.
One of the life-changing experiences was to do some volunteer teaching in Mae Sot Thailand on the Burmese border. I joined a Canadian friend I’d met in Laos,, who had started the gig and needed some help. We spent about a month teaching English to refugee kids in the morning and exiled monks in the afternoon. It was fun, heart wrenching and enlightening. There is a lot more to this story that I look forward to sharing in a future post.
I returned to Santa Fe, New Mexico my home for nearly 30 years. My house had been rented out and it covered the mortgage, but I had a huge home equity line of credit that was going to come due and no way that I could see out of that. I put the house on the market, but like nearly everyone else, it was under water. It was complicated.
I spent the next 6 months selling a lot of my personal belongings and doing odd jobs. This wasn’t as bad as it may sound as I kept my favorite things and I was truly ready for some downsizing and simplification. One side effect of traveling is that you become acutely aware of how little we really need and how we Americans are drowning in our stuff. I had some nice things to let go of, so I made a little chunk of money.
I also worked on the children’s book I had started while traveling called Elephants Cry and So do I. (I will be self-publishing soon and it will have a blog and web site of its own. Yippe! (update: starquestpress.com)) I was keen to get back to Asia, but would have to figure out how to work while there.
What about Vietnam, you ask?
After exhaustive research on how to teach English in a foreign country and where one can make enough money to live and travel, I settled on taking a CELTA course (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages) in Hanoi Vietnam.
Update: I started this blog with the title My Year in Vietnam. After writing a few posts I realized that I wanted it to be more generalized about travel. So, that’s why I started the story in Vietnam, even though it’s not where my SE Asia travels began.