Mai Bpen Rai

A few months ago I was asked to write a guest post for the company, Geovisions.  When I decided to teach in Thailand, this was the company I went through to get my TESOL certificate and my feet on the ground.  They partner with XploreAsia which is located in Hua Hin, Thailand (where I lived for my first month) and both have been amazing companies to work with, even 7 months later.

I decided to share this on my own blog because I’ve been contacted by a few old friends and new friends who read my blog and one of the most common statements/questions I receive is, “was it hard?” The short answer, yes. I think for anyone this kind of change or experience is going to test your mental, emotional, and sometimes physical strength. My personal experience overcoming anxious situations may not be familiar to you or your natural mental state- more props to you!  But one thing that we’ll have in common is making a huge leap of faith in changing your lifestyle.

Below is what I wrote for Geovisions on how the phrase “Mai Bpen Rai” helps me overcome my personal struggles with anxiety.  This phrase resonates with anyone who has been in Thailand for an extended period of time and it may resonate with you, regardless of your geographical location.

Before I moved to Thailand, I liked to think I was a go-with-the-flow type of person, but in reality, I was too anxious to not have a plan. I always mapped out how I was going to reach my goals and how I was going to live my life.  Whether that was a travel goal, a career goal, a financial goal, etc., I knew what was going on at all times and what the next step was.  I didn’t have the exciting kind of anxious that some thrill-seekers may experience. I had the nervous ‘something could go wrong’ or ‘I wouldn’t be prepared’ type of anxiety and it started to become debilitating.  When I decided I was going to teach in Thailand, I knew that I either needed to face this head on, or I wouldn’t survive. 

Once I got through customs and tried to find the meeting spot for my van, I frantically asked an employee at a pharmacy if she could point me in the right direction.  After I thanked her as if she just saved my life, she said to me, “Mai bpen rai” with a huge smile on her face.

This simple phrase has many meanings, sometimes it can be used as “never mind” or “don’t mention it” or “it’s all good” or “don’t worry.”  And most of the time, it’s all of those at once. The Thai culture is very stress-free and Thai people truly live by the phrase. I step back and see that there were many things I had control over back home and there are even more I have ZERO control over in Thailand – Mai bpen rai.

My schedule is in English but my Friday class is written in Thai so I didn’t know about it the first week.  I didn’t have a lesson planned so we did the hokey-pokey, learned the electric slide, and had a quick game of Teacher Says (think Simon Says). Did they learn something new in English? Maybe.  Did they learn that their English teacher can’t dance? YES!  Did everything turn out okay? Yes! – Mai bpen rai. 

I’ll find out about a school meeting 5 minutes before it starts and I know I’ll be late because I’m finishing up a lesson – Mai bpen rai. The school understands.

I need to go to the train station but my motorcycle taxi takes me to the van station – Mai bpen rai. I play charades for 2 minutes and finally get to the right place.

My train is 45 minutes late and I have a connecting train in Bangkok – Mai bpen rai.  I’ll get there when I get there!

I don’t know what to order for dinner because the entire menu is in Thai and no one speaks English – Mai bpen rai. Whatever I have will be delicious!

I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone more than I expected to.  The more comfortable I become accepting every day is going to be a new adventure, the more I remember that my anxiety is only debilitating if I let it be.




  • Carole Chomik (Grammie) says:

    Absolutely AMAZING –
    (a word used way too often however after reading your Blog it definitely applies)!! I cannot express adequately how proud I am of you and all the challenges you have faced with an attitude of “I can do this!” My beautiful granddaughter you truly are AMAZING and may you continue with this adventure – overcome challenges – and as you will – enjoy every moment. To you – Mai bpen Rai – it’s all good!
    I love you so very much – said it before – I’ll say it again – I AM SO PROUD OF YOU.

  • Barb Hiemenz (Auntie Barb) says:

    Katherine Elaine this is once again absolute from the heart spectacular, honest writing. You nail it every time mmfmbn (this drives Lissy Lou crazy:)) You will carry Thailand and the people in your heart and soul forever. And remember, if it all goes crazy, Mai bpen rai sistah!!! Love you tons, miss you always!! And, for goodness sakes, be safe out there!

  • Becca Ames says:

    Kayt!!! I’ve missed reading your blog so much! I’ve been so distracted with things at home that I hadn’t had chance to catch up until your message popped up and then reminded me! I’ve absolutely loved reading about your Bali adventures with your Nigel <3 and being back at school for the new term! This post in particular struck a nerve for me because I'm just beaming with pride for you and all you have achieved so far!! You have come so far out of your comfort zone and experienced so much already and I am so excited to see and hear about your adventures in the coming months!! Hope you continue to have the best time in Thailand and SE Asia!! So wish I could come and visit you, I miss the Thai way of life you were talking about here so much. Your writing is also brilliant and comes naturally to you, I can hear your voice so clearly when reading it 😉
    So happy for you and loving the stories, keep it up!! 🙂

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