8 Months in Thailand Roundup Pt. II - Brain Dump & What's Next


I did what felt good to my soul.

Once I dreamt up the idea to move to Thailand, I was so set on moving assoonaspossible that I didn’t allow myself any time to second guess it. I didn’t even wait until my LA apartment lease was up -- I found someone to replace me, bought my ticket without waiting for permission, and set the plan in motion to get up and go. Looking back, it happened so quickly. It seemed like just when I started to tell my friends I was moving overseas, I was up and out before they really had a chance to grasp what the hell I was doing.

I remember how anxious I was to go, right up until the day before I left. All types of anxiety kicked in, poking my brain around asking, “Who exactly do you think you are?” Urging me to drop the whole idea and just go do something sensible! Nerves shot through my body and had me frantically texting the only couple of people I could bring myself to admit to how scared I was.

And now. After the whirlwind experience of a lifetime, I’m home sweet, home, still trying to figure out how to package that 8 month long chapter and build upon it in a fruitful way. How will I make the experience bigger than just something personal….something bigger than me? How will I use it to shape my next steps, to add value and to benefit others’ lives in some way? It feels like the equivalent to completing grad school abroad, except without the structure, tuition, or fancy graduation ceremony. But I can almost guarantee I’ve learned, experienced, and gain just as much value as an MBA could give me.

A fun night out in Chiang Mai - North Gate Jazz Bar on Tuesdays, hosted by my boy Binkey

The very special birthday girl, my girl Inricka

Seriously thankful to have befriended these women in Chiang Mai; they're incredible people

And the pure sensation…

I found novelty in all of my days. Everything was different!

I got to swap stories and laughs with people from all corners of the globe -- South Africa, Holland, Australia, and even people from Maryland & DC (my own backyard), who I probably would have never crossed paths with if we didn’t happen to end up traveling to the other side of the world at the same time.

During my 8 month long summer, I got to feel the sun bronze my skin, jump off infamous slightly dangerous cliffs, buy bags of fruit and practice my Thai at local street stands, visit my favorite yummy $1 mom & pop kitchens, use visa runs as an excuse to book flights to other countries, hop on my scooter and go wherever I felt like going that day -- a workshop? Coffee shop eenie-meenie-miny-moe? Alana’s beautiful apartment for a midday cowork/nap/wine date? Out to lunch?  

During an adventure with my friend Rainna while she was visiting, I drove an all terrain vehicle over hills and along the edges of mountains (I nearly tipped over but we won't mention that). Looking out over the insane view, all I could think was “WHOA. We’re really OUT HERE.” I make a daily point to acknowledge my blessings the gratitude I feel when I wake up in the morning -- but out there, life was put into perspective on more emotional levels, and much more frequently.  

There’s a quote that says traveling makes you feel things more intensely, and I completely agree. The gratitude, happiness, liberation, and amazement came in powerful bursts -- week after week, sometimes even on the daily. There were so many feels.

And then there are the not so happy go lucky moments that you inevitably go through. The feelings of separation and isolation, despite the fact that you’ve got this United Nations group of friends who all get the same feeling at points throughout their travels. You may even become part of a community that feels like your home-away-from-home family -- however, there’s still something missing.

You have all these sensational moments, yet your core group of friends and family aren’t there creating those memories with you.  I often wished I could have my whole squad with me in my new country just one good time. If you’re reading this as a hopeful traveler, know that the crazy time difference and almost complete opposite lifestyle you will be living does cause you to fall out of close touch with some of your loved ones. It may make you feel sad or guilty, even if both parties are understanding and supportive of where each other is in life.

At times, you just want to be with the people who were there from the beginning, and not having that core can drain some of your motivation. Yes, it is a tough downside to being so far removed.

But on the other side of the coin,

Isolation can often be exactly what you need to learn yourself, remove any bad energy from your life, and realize what it is you need (and learn what you really don’t need!) to build a lifestyle you can be proud of.

This 8 month stint allowed me just that -- the opportunity to learn and challenge myself while living out a long-time dream, to discover my strengths and build upon my weaknesses. It forced me my outside of my comfort zone, deepened my sense of understanding, gave me a book’s worth of stories, and so much more. I returned back to the US with a renewed perspective on life, feeling more deeply in tune with my purpose.

Cooling off at the Grand Canyon

Bringing so much Black Girl Magic to Thailand -- this was a night for the books

Hanging out around my Chiang Mai 'hood -- the trendy Nimman area

Hanging out around my Chiang Mai 'hood -- the trendy Nimman area

So what’s next?

The one question everyone has for me is also the one that I don’t know the answer to! Even after a few months of contemplating, I’m still all “welllll….I’m mapping it out as I go.” In some ways, it makes me nervous that I don’t quite know what I want, as far as my next move. In other ways, I’m completely fine with it. Who said I was supposed to have it all figured out anyway?

It doesn’t happen overnight. Or in a year. Or 8 months. So for now, I’m wandering, but rooted in my mission, rooted in the focus on the bigger picture, and rooted in the mindset that I should do what feels right.

I do know that I want to spend at least a few months stateside -- I’m going to live abroad again, but I’m not in a rush, although I keep flirting with the ideas and multitude of possibilities in Latin America and Africa, in addition to Bali stil.

For now, though, I could use some structure! It’s been 11 months since I left my 9-5, and dare I say… I miss it!? Okay, not entirely, but I do miss the fact that at one point, I was able to collect a consistent biweekly check, write two blog posts a week, and dedicate a solid number of hours per week to work on Royal Waistbeads. Yeah, it often meant staying up until 3am many nights, but I felt so productive and I loved it.

In Chiang Mai, I supposedly had all the time in the world, yet I was only seem to have time for one thing (and it clearly wasn’t blogging). If I’m learning a new skill, I’m only learn that skill. If I’m working on freelance clients, I’m only working on those clients.

Writing is extremely important to me, yet I was barely carving out the time to write at all. What is really good with you, Kristen!? I’ve been living out this dream of mine and soaking up the ability to live in the moment every day knowing it’d be short lived. It was wonderful, but now, more structure and accountability could put me back on track with my writing goals, in addition to the side hustles.

Creating the opportunity to pause life as I knew it was an invigorating feeling, one I’ll always be overjoyed to think back on -- the pervasive kind of fulfillment you feel to your core. But right now, I’m ready to relive ‘normalcy.’ (Warning: this feeling may self destruct before years’ end.)

I still do want to develop my skills in professional environments, work on my organizational and time management skills, and continue building relationships here in my home city, so I definitely see an allure in temporarily settling down. At the moment, I have a lot on my plate, but who doesn’t?

Our paths will surely work themselves out, with the right doses of effort and attitude, patience and persistence, and the continual desire to learn. These things take time!


Thank you for sticking along for the journey!

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Kristen Noelle

I consider myself a softly eccentric urbanista. I’m quiet by nature, and I’ve generally always had a mellow laid-back vibe. However, when it comes to my preferences for fun, my style, and my overall thought process, I get a bit more eccentric. I like stepping out of the box of normalcy -- but without forcing anything. I’m a thrill junkie and I live for things that get my adrenaline pumping, such as riding on top of party buses in New York City and hanging off of skyscrapers in Vegas. I spring for bold hues, colorful prints and patterns, and a relaxed look that gives effortless-chic. I like exploring new places and capturing exciting sites. I’m a creative, with a million different ideas running through my mind each day. Whether I’m designing waistbeads, imagining up new clothing concepts, envisioning my next business venture, or planning my next adventure abroad, I’m always thinking of how I can create something great. Being raised in the suburbs but not far from the city and constantly traveling, I developed a love for the best of worlds. The calm and the crazy. The easy-going and the always-buzzing. The soft and the eccentric.