Categories: Advice and TipsChiang MaiMusings

A Little Story Time…The Universe Kicked Me Hard

Last week I was complacent. I like my brief expat life here in Chiang Mai. It’s been comfortable, a good social life with the other expats, and it’s been easy more than anything else.

I know where I’m going to sleep every night. I know enough Thai that the my vegetarian foodie worries in new countries subsided, and I have a flat-mate, a friend here who has my back.

Well, the Universe gave me a slap-in-the-face lesson on complacency last week. Let’s set the scene here and be a fly-on-the-wall; I’d like to play back a moment last week that snapped my lackadaisical attitude back into focus.

Setting the scene: the Chiang Mai Gate Market (South Gate) as seen from behind




Large fluorescent lights illuminate the white tiled floor outside the Tesco Supermarket as SHANNON and JODI approach. They walk up the steps laughing and gently step around the rounded old woman selling puffed rice from oversized burlap sacks. They step up to one of the three brightly painted ATMs lining the supermarket’s outside walls.

Nearby, Thai and foreigners shoppers CHATTER and walk by as Shannon and Jodi dig through their purses.

But veggie lady’s pad see ew was so tasty tonight; what are
we going to do once we’re back in the US?

Jodi shrugs, still digging through her purse. Shannon pulls out her small red wallet and steps up to the ATM. Shannon finds her debit card, inserts it, and nonchalantly covers the keypad with her wallet as she punches in her PIN and follows the on-screen instructions.

Seriously, though, a life without daily rice?

I miss it so much every time I go home; my mom even thinks
I’m weird when I eat rice everyday for breakfast!

Not gonna, lie, I like Western breakfasts, but half
the world eats rice for breakfast…what’s so strange about that?

Jodi looks up, her brows are furrowed and the entire contents of her purse are grasped in her hands and wedged under her arms.

I don’t know where my ATM card is.

What do mean it’s—

It should be here, in my wallet. That’s the only place I keep
it! If it’s not here, I just, I really don’t know where it would be…

Shannon pauses to look at the empty wallet Jodi is holding up for her inspection. Shannon turns back to the ATM and jabs at the touch-screen several times, body still turned toward Jodi.


When was the last time you used it?


I have no idea. Before Songkran?


The ATM as money spits out of the machine and an insistent BEEPING noise is heard. Shannon’s hand pulls out the bills.


Jodi is shoving items back into her purse.

Maybe you put it in a different spot?

Shannon fans out the money, quickly counting the Thai baht as she turns her back to the ATM, fully facing toward Jodi.

You know, so it wouldn’t get wet during the water fights?

Jodi shoulders her purse and shrugs.

I mean, that would make sense…we didn’t take more than the
bare essentials outside the house, right?

Shannon inserts the crisp and colorful Thai baht into her wallet, the CLICK is audible as she fastens the wallet’s clasp and drops it back into her purse. She siddles up next to Jodi, and gives Jodi’s arm a little pat before they walk side-by-side toward the TESCO entrance.


CLOSE ON the machine BEEPS incessantly, flashes some lights, and then spits out Shannon’s ATM card.


The machine is flashing lights and BEEPING as the glass Tesco doors automatically slide open; a burst of air conditioning blasts Shannon and Jodi, fanning out their hair, as they enter the Tesco chatting to each other about groceries.




And this my friends, is what had Jodi and me sitting at our dinning room table incredulously staring at our empty wallets two hours later.

At the precise moment Jodi discovered her lost card (which was eaten by an ATM two weeks ago under much the same circumstances) I was in the process of losing my card.

Before we discovered my card had just been eaten by the bank machine we weren’t too concerned – I had borrowed money last month (when I did the EXACT same thing at an ATM down on the Thai islands) and we knew it wouldn’t take long for her card to get here.

Then we discovered my card was missing too. And that let off little creeping flames of anxiety into my system. Here we were wrapping up our time in Chiang Mai, just six days left, and we’re out of money. Like, seriously, out of money.

No safety stash of cash was going to cover the remaining expenses and since we we’re leaving we were flummoxed. Where should we send the card? How are we going to solve this?

Why the hell did we both lose our cards at the exact same time?

What is the lesson here?

We batted questions and speculations at each other across the table. And as it sunk in, we concluded the Universe was handing us a lesson on complacency.

I’m a solo traveler by nature, as is Jodi. We’ve both traveled for years now with mostly just our own wherewithal to keep everything together.

Then we moved to Chiang Mai, got comfortable, had another person nearby to trust, and, well, we got complacent.

We stopped paying attention.

I consider getting an ATM card eaten by the machine a pretty rookie mistake – something I was very cautious about when traveling alone because I knew I’d be in dire straits without a friend to lean on…I am so conscious and careful when I’m traveling solo that I never lost my card on my RTW trip.

And yet with six years of solo travel between us, both of us did lost our cards this month (and I did it twice!).

This experience humbled me; I came to Chiang Mai so that I could be relaxed and at ease. But at the same time, I’m not in my home country, I am at the mercy of a flimsy square of plastic and there’s an extent to which I need to remember it’s always wise to be aware.

Complacency and awareness are not mutually exclusive, but for me, they have been over the past few months. This week I head to Jordan as a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board and they have so kindly agreed to accept the FedEx package with my debit card.

As I leave Thailand and head out on this next leg of travel I can’t help but believe the Universe was telling me to pay more attention. And though I wish I didn’t need the reminder lesson, I’d rather it come in this form rather than some of the more challenging issues that can crop up on the road!

What’s your take-away…any other lesson we should be learning from this glitch?!

This post was last modified on November 8, 2013, 2:21 pm