Okay. It’s happening. My first travel blog. Thanks to all of those who have already clicked on this page and even got this far into reading.
So where do I begin? What is this going to be?
For starters, I don’t want anyone to think that I know what I’m doing. On the contrary, I am lost, I am terrified, and I am about to embark on a journey that will put my entire life on hold, and may even change the way I view my future as a strong, independent woman.
As I sit in this quiet Starbucks on a Saturday evening (because I have nothing better to do), let me give you some background information, and why this is such a big deal…
How it started
In August of 2017, I booked what intended to be a three-week solo trip to Thailand. I had just completed my graduate diploma in Public Relations, I had already obtained my Bachelor’s degree, and only six months earlier, I had gone on a six-week vacation with my best friend, Lauren, to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. I thought my travel days were done. Australia was supposed to be a “last hoorah”… but something was missing.
I had started looking for marketing and communications work in April of 2017 and had not even received one phone call. Countless cover letters, resumes, emails… and nothing ever came of it. All of my more “adult” friends assured me not to worry, and that it could take about a year before truly finding something. I tried to take their advice in stride and continue the search, but something didn’t quite feel right.
My life was supposed to be starting. I had my whole life ahead of me, endless possibilities… the world was my oyster. I was in a committed long-term relationship with my boyfriend of eight years, but it had been on the rocks for a solid eighteen months. I felt frustrated and confused. Do I really know what I want? Is this what I’m supposed to do? How I’m supposed to feel? I felt trapped. I loved my boyfriend. We loved each other. But I had spent my entire adult life with this man and I didn’t know if I was truly happy. I didn’t even really know who I was as a person, as an individual. Who was Kristen?
On a random Tuesday night, I found myself researching trips to Thailand. The travel bug inside me was itching! I still had my Air Canada standby privileges thanks to my dad. I was working part-time at a pub as a waitress and bartender. I didn’t really have anything holding me back. What’s the harm in some innocent research?
Next thing I knew, I found a Canadian company by the name of “Life Before Work” that offered group tours for a really affordable price. Life before work… that had a nice ring to it. I could try to find a way to get three weeks off work. I could fly standby to Hong Kong and then book a flight to Bangkok from there. I had almost no money left. I spent a huge chunk of my savings in Australia and hadn’t been making that much money at the pub since coming back. But I could make it work. I wasn’t in debt. I had minimal expenses (car lease, phone, insurance). I still lived with my parents. Seriously! What was holding me back? I had nothing to lose.
I booked the trip.
Without talking to anyone, I booked the trip. I didn’t tell my boyfriend, didn’t tell my parents, and didn’t tell work. Talk about spontaneous. I had time to figure it out. It was August, and the trip was in October.
By some miracle, I found replacements for my shifts in no time and my boss didn’t want to fire me. My parents were supportive. They knew I was having a tough time, and they encouraged me to experience life, even if it meant a little bit of financial instability in the future. I had just turned 24 and had time. They offered to help too if I needed it.
I was going. It was happening. I felt so excited, but at the same time, I felt guilty.
I didn’t even speak to my boyfriend about it. I knew how he was going to react. He was far from supportive with my trips in the past. He gave me so much grief over my trip to Australia and visiting my friend in Los Angeles over the holidays. I would be missing his 25th birthday, and I would be leaving on a trip without him yet again.
It’s not that I didn’t want him on my past trips. He was invited every time. We just had a different view of how to spend our money. I would save as much as I could, and he would splurge. I used my money to travel, he used his to buy material possessions. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I don’t hold it against him. But understandably, it caused some issues. I was at an advantage because my flights cost next to nothing, whereas his would cost hundreds. That was the main problem. I could afford to spend money on accommodation, food, and activities because I wasn’t really spending any money on flights. I was very lucky in that respect. So when I had opportunities to travel, I jumped on them. I never really turned away the chance to see somewhere new, even if that meant leaving my boyfriend behind.
Since my first solo trip flying standby in August of 2015 to Barcelona, I was addicted. In 2016 alone, I went to Greece, Miami and Los Angeles. In 2017, it was Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Now, only a few short months later, I would be gone again, but to Thailand. I knew my boyfriend would not be happy. And I was right… but I didn’t care. I should have, but I didn’t. Our relationship was fizzling out, and I needed an escape.
I wanted to find myself.
I left in October for the three-week “Thaiventure” tour with LBW. I was going it alone with no idea what was in store. It was the first time I’d ever travelled using a tour group. I thrive at organizing and planning trips so it felt weird that I was leaving it in the hands of someone else. It actually turned out to be great.
The trip was completely stress free and was just what I needed to escape. All of our accommodation, activities, and transportation were organized. We only had to worry about food.
Our tour group consisted of many different personalities and backgrounds, all of them equally amazing.
I had a connection with every single person on that tour.
We travelled to five different locations in the south of Thailand: Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Krabi. Each had something unique to offer, but the one that stood out to me was Koh Tao.
One of my tour guides, Kristyn shared how much she loved the island while we were on tour and I couldn’t agree more. That island spoke to me. I can’t pinpoint what it is, but Koh Tao was special. Not only was it beautiful, but the people were friendly, and it wasn’t completely swarmed with tourists like Koh Phangan had been.
From the minute we left Koh Tao, I knew I wanted to go back. Lucky for me, Kristyn had a week off in-between guiding and was going back to Koh Tao for some much-needed R&R and she invited me along. Could I get an extra week off work? Could I afford it? I was already surviving on my last few hundred dollars… but what’s another week?
I called my parents and explained to them the situation. While I didn’t intend on taking their offer for financial help before I left on my trip, I knew this was something I needed to do. They were generous enough to lend me $500 with no pressure on paying it back too soon. I contacted the people at my work who had been covering my shifts, and begged to see if they could cover just a couple more. They obliged.
After the LBW tour ended, Kristyn and I hopped on a bus from Bangkok, and headed back to Koh Tao for an extra week and I couldn’t be more excited. There, I got to see what it was like to live as a local. Kristyn had borrowed a motor scooter from a friend and we used it every day to get around the island. I had all the free time in the world to relax, snorkel, and explore. It was the most liberated I had felt in years.
Since returning from Thailand in November 2017, I have been dying to get back. My intentions as soon as I came home were to save enough money to get back there before my 25th birthday in September, just in time before my standby benefits expire. I figured I could save enough to be able to purchase a one-way ticket home whenever I need to from wherever I’ll be.
I started a new waitressing job at a much busier pub that helped me pay my parents back quickly and got me right into saving. However, after a couple of months, I felt as though I needed to do something different. I still felt confused.
Was it realistic to think that I could move to Thailand? Was I putting my life on hold? Should I start my career now?
With the advice of pretty much everyone around me, I decided to push Thailand to the back of my mind and focus on finding a career. I continued the search for public relations, communications, and marketing positions all while working full-time at the pub. I began receiving a few phone calls and even managed to land a couple of interviews, but still, nothing ever stuck.
In June 2018, I got pretty far in the interview process for one position and I remember telling myself, “if you don’t get this, go to Thailand”. I remember thinking that I had nothing tying me down, and that this was the time to do it. I had been seeing a new guy for a few months in what we coined a “situationship”. We were both well aware that there was no potential for a future but we still continued to see each other. That wasn’t going to hold me back, right?
I didn’t get the position. Something about changing the role, and that they needed someone with more experience. I understood, but I was frustrated. I felt confident that I would get that job and I started to imagine the next phases of my life. I imagined moving out and what type of furniture I would buy. I imagined having privacy and independence. I imagined finding a man, and eventually settling down. I started to see what it would be like to adult.
Thailand was looking more appealing than ever. I had already told myself that I would go if the position didn’t work out. Is this really what I want to do? I consulted a few close friends and they all said the same thing.
“Do it. It’s now, or never”.
I started looking into what it takes to move there. I contacted my LBW tour guides and I watched countless YouTube videos in search for tips and tricks.
I’m going to do it. In September, I’m packing up, and I’m heading back to Koh Tao.
So here we go! I’m starting this travel blog for a few reasons, but mostly I just want to share the experience with my friends and family. I also figure that this would be a cool way to document anything memorable that happens along the way.
It’s t-minus 2 months before I leave, and there is so much to do. This is terrifying. This is wild. Can I do this? I guess we’ll find out.
Leading up to my departure I think I will publish blogs sporadically, covering the details of what it takes to leave on a journey like this and how I went about doing it. Once I’m in Thailand, I plan on posting weekly about the shenanigans I get up to and updating people on anything interesting.
I hope this post wasn’t a complete fail, and if you made it this far, thank you. I hope you will follow me in my journey, and I hope to encourage people to follow their dreams, regardless of what people think you should be doing.