Tag Archives: optimism

The One Thing Travel Doesn’t Change

If you know me well, you know I’ve had my fair share of travels. I’ve been to places near and far, places similar and comfortable, and places wildly different with not much the same at all.

I’ve been gone for simple weekend trips. And I’ve gone for 14 months. I’ve eaten the best food of my life and some food I hope to never taste again. I’ve seen sites, met people, and learned histories that I didn’t know existed until they were right in front of me.

I’ve watched sunsets and sunrises in places that I can’t speak the language. I’ve packed and unpacked countless backpacks, suitcases, and purses–some with perfection and some without an absolute clue. I’ve sweat my ass off in hot and humid climates. And I’ve frozen in crisp, rain-soaked winds. I’ve walked under waterfalls, through archways, and into caves. I’ve sat in cafes, looked at art, and listened to local music. There have been countless tours and miles walked.

There have been nights filled with laughter surrounded by amazing people and there have been nights filled with tears missing amazing people.

It’s dramatic and cliche, but also thoroughly true, that travel does indeed change you.

It’s challenging to visit a new city and not see something about it worth appreciating. Have I loved every single place I’ve visited? No. Have I respected and admired at least one thing about every place I’ve visited? Yes.

Your eyes are opened to new architecture, foods, wildlife, and customs that each place holds within its borders. You hear local languages that you can’t understand, but that can be stunningly beautiful. You visit historical sites that you can’t imagine a world without. You find the ability to compare and contrast this new place to your home base and your eyes are opened. You see things you like and things you don’t.

There may be animals that scare you (huntsman spiders in Australia,) smells that disgust you (sewage in Thailand,) and noise that bothers you (traffic in Vietnam.) But there may also be gorgeous structures like nothing you’ve ever seen (Angkor Wat,) tastes that you wish would never go away (real Italian cuisine,) and stars brighter than you’ve ever imagined (game reserves in South Africa.)

You are also introduced to different ways of life. You see the effect of different political systems, social policies, and societal norms. And it makes you stop and think. Should we be doing that? Is it okay to question something I’ve always known? Should I take a leap and try something new?

It can also make you feel fortunate for the life that you know so well. Your eyes may be opened to a different, less-comfortable standard of living. You learn to appreciate things that you didn’t even realize you should be appreciative of. It teaches your heart to be compassionate, understanding, and gentle.

While places themselves can surely cause the ripple of change growing inside of you, I’ve found that it’s the people you meet along the way that send the wave into motion.

Traveling introduces you to like and unlike-minded people. You’ll meet best friends and you’ll encounter people you never hope to see again. And while each one plays a very different role in the passing days, they still play a role.

You encounter people with incredible stories–some who have endured hardships that you can’t imagine, some who have accomplished great things already, and some that are stunningly similar to yourself.

Everyone comes with their baggage–literally and figuratively–and some how you all manage to unpack together. Some of these people may convince you to leave behind that old sweater (bad job, failed relationship, or mistake,) that you’ve been clinging on to. And some may remind you the value of the simple shirt (blessings, relationships, and accomplishments,) that you’ve worn for years.

Because you are all on a journey, you manage to bring things out in one another that you’ve forgotten about. You’re encouraged to tell the story about where you’ve come from and what’s brought you here. You also have the ability to create new narratives with these people, creating stories for those waiting for you at home.

You’ll meet strangers who are curious and compassionate. You’ll laugh with people of different tongues over language barriers. You’ll ride planes, trains, and automobiles with a million people going to one place for a thousand different reasons. Interactions may be small, but it doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.

Travel allows you the opportunity to step back and question your norms, appreciate your values, and reflect on the good and bad because of the people your path intersects with.

Travel changes you in uncountable ways. Plain and simple.

I am not the same person I was when I boarded my first international flight. I can’t undo the miles and memories formed around the world. I can’t unsee the landscapes and structures different from my own life. I can’t stop comparing what is and what could be based on the places I’ve visited. And it would be impossible to forget the faces and laughs of those who have made my travels so wonderful.

There is, however, one thing that all of the countries in the world couldn’t change.


Regardless of distance and time traveled, nothing can change the place and people that raised you. While the exteriors may look different with each return, the memories and lessons learned run deep inside each of us.

Some people may resent that, but I don’t. And no one should. Every piece of your journey has led you to where you are today—whether it’s been on a plane trip across the world or simply a stroll down the street.

I’ll never forget knowledge learned, places seen, and the beautiful friends met on my travels. But I’ll also never forget to keep coming home.

And for all of that, I’m forever fortunate.


The Trouble with Time

Time has this funny way of inching by at the speed of light. It’s ironic, really. One second you’re longing for the never-ending week to reach Friday and the next you’re realizing that an entire 6 months have passed.

My time abroad has been no exception to this oxymoron.


September, tearful goodbyes, boarding the plane alone, and arriving to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok wasn’t that long ago. In one sense it seems like it was only last week that I was working on my TESOL certification with 100 friends from across the world. Getting a grasp on lesson plans and learning more about my new found friends was only yesterday.

And yet at the same time I feel like I’ve been gone forever. My routine and familiarities at home aren’t at the forefront of my mind anymore. I’m no longer walking to the driver’s seat instead of the passenger’s. I’m not overwhelmed when I’m surrounded by conversations I can’t understand. And I’m no stranger to the many differences between eastern and western culture. (Time is so crazy that since writing this post, I’ve already managed to settle into my new routine in Australia.)


This isn’t to say that I fully adjusted to life in Southeast Asia–I’m far, far from that still. I certainly haven’t adjusted to the crazy heat of winters or the rice diet. And I never go a day without missing my people at home.

Instead, what I’m trying to articulate is that as daunting as a year sounds, it’s really only a year. And it’s stunning how quickly it can slip by without you realizing.

Some days I can’t wait for my head to hit the pillow and other days I’m afraid that when I go to sleep I’ll wake up and be 80 years old.

Time is an extremely, sometimes frustrating and agonizing, beautiful and meaningful gift when you consider the memories, experiences, and friendships that can be made during our short and long time here on earth.

Whether it’s just one more day or another 100 years, we should embrace our time. Don’t sit at a job you don’t like. Don’t spend time with people who don’t make you a better person. Don’t feel bad for not following someone else’s plan. Your time and their time are two very different things.


Most importantly: don’t let the time you think you have get away from you, because we never truly know when the clock will run out.

I like to think that I’ve got a lot left, but if tomorrow I do wake up as an 80 year old woman, I know I’ll be able to look back and smile. And for that–ironies, challenges, the good, the bad, the ugly–I’m grateful.

People are People

I try to keep my political posts to a minimum, but lately I’ve found that nearly impossible. I have a few things to say.

I am currently a minority. I live in a foreign country. I am a visa holder. I teach Muslim students. I teach Buddhist students. I work with Muslim teachers. I work with Buddhist teachers. I am neither Muslim nor Buddhist.

What have I learned from this?

Something I’ve know forever that has only been reaffirmed more strongly than ever:

People are people.

Sure, these people are different from me. We don’t believe in the same god, we don’t speak the same language, and we have very different cultures and traditions. But here’s the thing: that does not make me better or worse. It does not make them better or worse.

I’ve been blessed by the kindness of these people who differ so much from myself. They have welcomed me with all the English they know as I fumbled through even the most basic Thai. They have given me tips and tricks, making it easier to adjust to my move across the world. They have invited me to activities outside of school. They have shared dinners with me. And they have shared countless laughs and smiles–usually about trying to understand our differences.


These have been some of the kindest people I have ever met in my well-traveled life. And I think that’s really saying something.

Reading the news lately has been painful. I’ve been offended, disgusted, and so confused. To assume that we can define millions of people because they share one common factor is not fair. Deep down, regardless of differences, we are all composed of the same parts. We all have something special to bring to the table. 

Whether you lean right or left, like elephants or donkeys, voted Donald or Hillary, all I ask is that you remember one thing:

People are people. Always have been. Always will be. 

Whether you are white, black, brown, yellow, man, woman, transgender, gay, straight, old, young, rich, poor… whatever… remind yourself that America was founded on differences.

We should continue to respect and embrace that.

The end.


Kindness is…

It’s been challenging to look at my timeline this past week. Every single post, in some way, seems to be related to the election. And so many of these posts are fearful–for the wellbeing of themselves and others.

What a sad, sad feeling. Fear.

I won’t make this a political post, because we have far enough.


Instead, I want to talk about kindness. Because believe me, there is SO much of it out there in the world.

Before I left, people were filled with questions about how I was going to survive this new experience. How was I going to communicate in a language when I only knew “hello” and “thank you?” How was I going to navigate a country where I couldn’t comprehend the signs? Wouldn’t I be lonely? Wouldn’t I be scared?

While I face many challenges here, I am greeted with many more opportunities. Opportunities to learn something new, find a friend in someone I wouldn’t normally, and share smiles with people who understand nothing I say (and vice versa.)

The most daunting part of my initial descent was my layover in Taipei. Solo. I found kindness in two Americans familiar with the airport and happy to bring me directly to my new gate for the next leg of my journey.

I found kindness in the girl I sat next to on the plane to Bangkok (hey, Lisa.) We both shared our excitement and our fear in the new adventure that lie ahead. There was comfort and relief.

My first full day in my new country, just so happened to be my birthday. It’s strange to be away from family and friends on days of celebration, so I wasn’t expecting much. I honestly forgot about 24 for the majority of the day. I explored Bangkok with a group of 8 girls from around the US and UK. We spent the day snapping pics, laughing at how sweaty we were, and sharing confusion over what the hell we were doing. I was overwhelmed with kindness when they surprised me with dessert and a happy birthday chorus of 20 strangers. A day that I didn’t think would mean much, turned into one of the absolute best and most memorable birthdays ever because of their kindness. Thank you to the great eight! ❤


Kindness lives in my Hua Hin roommate (shoutout to Eileeny!) Every time I forgot something or needed to vent, the girl had my back.

My TESOL training Blue Group overwhelmed me with kindness. These people bore their hearts and souls to one another without judgement. We helped to motivate each other and keep our heads up when the going got tough. We leaned on each other physically and mentally after long and hot days of presentations in the classroom. We persevered because of mutual respect, determination, and, of course, kindness.


My Thai teachers do their best to translate and explain what’s happening when they see my bewildered expressions. They tell us what to do so that we’re not clueless. They tell the kids to shut up so that we can be the fun teachers. They make us laugh. They invite us to son’s weddings. They drive you to the pharmacy after they see you blowing your nose. They offer rides and food constantly. They make 8,690 miles away from home feel a little less far.  Kindness.


It is the man from the convenient store next to your apartment who flags down the last bus leaving town for your weekend away.

It is the 2,500 plus children who smile, wave, waii, and say hello every single time we cross paths, in school or out.

It is the smile of strangers who try their best to understand your questions.

It is the smile of strangers who you simply pass on the street.

It is the people who I didn’t know existed two months ago and will now be friends for life.


So how do I survive, you ask? It’s easy. I survive (and thrive) because I am surrounded by beautiful, wonderful, smart, funny, and kind people. And you are too. Promise. 

While the world might seem a bit dark right now, be reminded that there is so much light. Big and small. Near and far. 

If we continue to show our love for people, similar or different, that kindness can grow.

May your heart be happy. Your worries light. And your arms open to accept it all.


Looking to take a leap and find kindness across the globe? Check out XploreAsia for amazing opportunities.

For more consistent updates on my adventures, follow me on Instagram. mts25