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.