Carla Gott has been teaching in Thailand with GeoVisions for more than five months. For more information on a woman’s perspective, living and working in Thailand, please email Carla at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The idea of living and working overseas can be daunting. The rewards can be self-discovery, lifelong memories and friends.
While preparing for my trip to Thailand, everyone in my family and in my small group of friends had something negative to say. I understand and appreciate their concern, but what was my alternative? Stay home my whole life? No thanks.
My mom, who has never been to Asia, came up with a handful of questions no one could answer. Friends told her different stories, and her worries only seemed to grow. ‘What if they kidnap you and take you to the Philippines?’ She asked, and, ‘Can you really trust people?’ Perhaps at the core of their worries, they pointed out: "You are a girl. You can't do things boys do.''
TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Yahoo! Answers do a fair job giving general advice to travelers, but as was the case with my mother she wanted more direct reassurance. I am a real person who took the big jump and now have real experience of Thailand. I can answer your inquiries and those your own parents might have. I am here for you. Consider me your friend, your pen pal and your advisor to help you navigate Thailand - and hopefully to ease your mother's concerns as well.
So what's to be worried about?
Safety? As a 20-something woman who moved to Thailand alone and has traveled in other foreign destinations, I can say that that this is a remarkably safe country. Even in my home state, Maryland, I don't feel as safe as I do in Thailand. However, common sense helps here just like at home. Don't walk around with $1,000 in your pocket when you don't have to. But we will get to the things to avoid in a bit.
Creepy crawlies used to top my list of things to be scared of, way ahead of meeting new people or having to stand in front of new students and grab their attention from the start of a lesson. Bugs? Uggh! I was afraid I would see a snake in my room and I also feared spiders. And all those mosquitoes…
Well, after several months in Thailand I haven't seen a snake so far - and I hope not to see one any time soon (if you do see one, just steer clear - they don't like the sight of you anymore than you like the sight of them. It will head off quickly enough). I have seen bugs the size of my pinky - but these have been slow-moving things and are easily avoided. And any spiders keep to where they belong - bushes and corners well out of most folks' sight. However when it comes to mosquitoes this is the one bug to give decent amount of consideration to and prepare for. Most of the day, they are not around. Come dusk on a still night, and they can be a nuisance if you are not prepared.
I have learned to carry mosquito repellent - everywhere. I recommend you buy repellant as soon as you land. It comes in all sizes of containers at any drug store, most corner shops and general goods shops such as 7/11s - from mega-sized cans for your bedroom to scented, pocket-friendly mini-sprays and sachets of cotton wipes that are great for use on legs and arms as the sun goes down. They're easy to spot - most carry a picture of a mosquito.
The other big worry is who do you know? You are out there, all by yourself, and your family advice will almost invariably be: Don't travel alone!
The fact is - sometimes you have to. But unless you are determined, it is almost impossible to travel solo. Wherever you go, there will always seem to be someone looking just as lost as you might feel and keen to meet up with a friendly face, share a bus or train ride, or test out a street stall loaded with unfamiliar goodies that are going to be your dinner.
So don't be scared to come to this side of the world all on your own. Surprise! You'll soon have more friends than you had at home. After a few months in Thailand, my circle of friends has widened hugely. My closest friends are from different parts of the world. Making friends here is easy - unless you decide to stay in your room the whole day.
Part II of Carla's adventure Teaching English Abroad in Thailand will be published next. You can email Carla directly, or enter your comments or questions below. We have embedded one of Carla's videos you can watch about the Teach in Thailand experience with GeoVisions.