A routine forms when you hunker down in one place, when you pick a spot and decide “hey, I’m going to live here; not just travel through, but live here.” Is it safe to admit I thought the routine and normalcy would still elude me? Coming to Chiang Mai was the next leg in my wanderings; I didn’t realize that the entire pace of my life would slow back down into a routine.
I’ve been in near constant motion for more than two years; my months home this fall were a break of sorts, but even then I was busy bouncing between busy state capitals, countless couches, guest bedrooms, and even a floor or two as I visited friends and family around the U.S.
I was still on the roller coaster adventure of perpetual travel.
Now I’m here, living in Chiang Mai, and it’s so very normal.
I have a home. A really cute one too. I have an address and rent, my trusty backpack is shoved deep in the corner of my room from lack of use and the street vendors near my house smile and wave out of familiarity.
I have a routine.
Curious emails have begun to flit into my inbox:
What do I do here every day? Why Chiang Mai? Is it what I expected?
This is the first time I’ve stopped and actually lived somewhere outside of the US.
And I like it, a lot. There’s a community here in Chiang Mai; friends, food, and decent wifi are the constants.
And yet it’s not what I expected entirely either. The normalcy makes it easy to float through days in a routine without paying close attention to what’s happening…and then sometimes very little actually happens. Sadly that has included work; I get distracted by the food, people, and culture maybe even more regularly than I did on the road. Now that wifi and work aren’t challenging (easy connections, tons of time on my hands) less seems to get done.
But then again, that’s partly why I came here, just to see what it’s like to live somewhere else. So I can report back to you now, people over here live in routines too.
I’ll appease those wondering souls concerned about what it’s like to live here in Chiang Mai. It looks something like this…
A day in Shannonland, Chiang Mai Edition:
4:30a – The smell of frying garlic from the restaurant next door suffuses the room and I dream of food.
6:30a – Wake up! The sun’s up, the birds outside compete in a loud and aggressive morning chirping contest and I’m hungry enough to eat an entire garden (don’t feel like the “hungry enough to eat a horse” analogy fits?!).
8a -12:00p – Ponder the Thai National Anthem as it blares through the street speakers around town at 8am every day…then work. The internet is only good in the morning at our house, so it’s a Western breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit, and work.
12:00p – Scoot over to the veggie lady’s buffet nearby for a spicy lunch with an assortment of tasty and convincing fake meats; their complete mastery of seitan here in Thailand is, in a word, delicious.
1p-6:00p – Thank the heavens for the 99baht ($3) coffee and wifi buffet – a few afternoons each week I buffet it up for hours and hours.
6:30p – Team Chiang Mai (all the expats in town) meet for dinner a nearby night market so we can all find our favorite foods (that way the rest of the team isn’t forced to eat at veggie restaurants all the time). Then it’s a free-for-all for the rest of the evening…sometimes a local festival, other days just chatter over drinks.
Blissfully normal, right?!
I came here for the ability to hunker down and maintain a work schedule while still abroad and in a different culture. And I’m welcoming a routine and framework for my life. I like it. And I love the smiles of recognition and genuine warmth from the locals I encounter on a daily basis.
So, why Thailand for this first foray into expat-ism?
Because establishing a mini-life and routine here in Chiang Mai is an adventure of its own and I wanted to see if I like it. My roomie and I navigate the street food stalls with expertise – we cobble together a mish-mashed dinner from our favorite street food vendors. An ear of corn from the grinning lady at the edge of the night market, a wave to the man selling chopped fruit.
The nods of acknowledgment and smiles makes it a bit like the Cheers sentiment. I like it here because “everyone knows my face” (not so much my name, I’ll admit, we haven’t gotten that far yet ;-).
Everyone here is living their lives too, they have their routine and for the first time in a long time I’m slipping into a routine with those around me, fitting my life into my surroundings, and the familiarity of food I know, a constant culture (less chance of embarrassing snafus like my roomie’s recent “May I fart?” debacle).
This venture into a more sedentary nomadism is, well, progressing. I can’t yet decide if I’ll pick back up traveling or move to another place…who knows?! Still figuring that out.
Any burning questions for me? The next post in the series I’ll share the costs of living here in Chiang Mai, arguably one of the more appealing reasons I moved her too!