Bangkok Living abroad
Flickr, Swaminathan

Choosing to live abroad was one of the most terrifying decisions I’ve ever made. The experience shaped who I am now and ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made but there’s an ugly side to living abroad, too.

I moved to Bangkok when I was burnt out on grad school with an itch to travel the world. I didn’t have much of a plan but I was enrolled in a TEFL course and I was ready to take on this big Asian city — alone. I spent the next few weeks eating, taking classes and making new friends. Before graduation, I landed a job and was getting ready to embark on another new journey: teaching.

It didn’t take long until I got comfortable teaching my incedible four and five year olds, despite the intense fear I felt that first day. Working with kids came easily and they never failed to make me smile.

Living Abroad Class
@CotiHowell

Everything was going great and then it happened. I was living abroad all alone and a relationship I’d devoted six years to ended. I was devastated and was even more alone than I had been before. I began to question my move to Bangkok. Would I still be happy here? Was moving away a bad choice? What would happen next?

I decided to do something that wasn’t easy for me, but it ultimately changed my time in Bangkok. I called another kindergarten teacher and told her what happened. I didn’t know her that well at the time, but something told me she had a good heart and would understand how I was feeling.

She was more than receptive. She invited me over to spend the night with her. We drank beers, talked about this crazy living abroad thing, discussed my failed relationship and just like that I was reminded why I had taken on this adventure in the first place. I wanted a life with no regrets, full of adventure and I wanted to have friends of all different races, colors and religions. She made this clear in just one night.

living abroad
@CotiHowell

Although it would take me several months to move on from my broken heart, I had gained a real friendship. One I was certain would last a lifetime.

After that, she started inviting me out with the other teachers. I befriended my bosses and found a British bestie who still has a piece of my heart (and now her son does, too). We were all bound together by this experience and they were the only ones who truly understood what it was like to be what felt like a million miles away from family and friends, starting fresh.

We started taking weekend holidays, fleeing the country together, having holiday potlucks when we couldn’t be with our families and generally becoming one big Bangkok family. For them, I am eternally grateful. I now know the meaning of true friendship, of being truly selfless for someone else and I know that, because of them, I am a better person.

Living Abroad Samed
@CotiHowell

Writing this was hard because it forced me to come face-to-face with the reality of the biggest challenge of living abroad. It’s not the coming that’s the hard part, it’s the going. It’s the airport goodbyes, not knowing when you’ll see them again. It’s the Skype calls that you make to tell them the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with has left you, when you’d really prefer a hug and a shoulder to cry on. It’s the marriages and babies being born that you miss that really brings you to tears. It’s the framed photos of memories that you’ll never forget.

Making a family overseas is a challenge but living abroad was one of the greatest, most rewarding experiences in my life. To the friends I made in BKK, thank you for showing me what friends are for and for reminding me to live my life to the fullest.

If you take anything away from this post, let it be to let go of your inhibitions with people, especially when you’re overseas. Don’t worry about the friends back home, they’ll still be there when you get back. Embrace the new friendships. Let them in. And love them like you would your own family. You won’t regret it.

{Note: Digital cameras suck and so do these photos. But sometimes the camera was as blurry as our Singha-induced vision.}

Camilla Coti Living Abroad
@CotiHowell

6 Comments on What People Don’t Tell You About Living Abroad

  1. Kandja Sylla
    July 19, 2016 at 10:11 pm (5 years ago)

    Oh babe, you very courageous to go have an adventure like this. I mean, I usually read things about travel and seldom about working abroad. You post made me learn more about you and the struggles you went through. Despite being away from family and friends, I’m glad to know you have a better appreciation in life and relationships which can be learned when we are not in our comfort zone. Also, its good now that you have an extended family and friends in Bangkok which is a real bonus. Stay sweet and stong love! xx

    http://www.prettyweirdbombshell.com

    Reply
    • coti
      July 20, 2016 at 10:43 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you so much for the kind words! Thank you so much for reading, too. 🙂 xo

      Reply
  2. Glenn Thigpen
    July 22, 2016 at 7:33 pm (5 years ago)

    This was Your best blog by far. So touching and true but maybe because it’s from from Your heart. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Reply
    • coti
      July 25, 2016 at 9:09 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Wanda Gallimore
    July 29, 2016 at 9:22 am (4 years ago)

    I learned that many years ago and still wonder about some of my friends with whom I have lost touch. Happily still enjoying the ones I still hear from.

    Reply
    • coti
      July 29, 2016 at 11:08 am (4 years ago)

      I’m so glad you connected to this! It’s hard to understand unless you’ve done it yourself. Thanks for reading, Wanda!

      Reply

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