Alright, let’s get everything out on the table. I don’t hate America. It’s the country that raised me and gave me every single opportunity to grow and raise my voice and see the world from all angles. The 4th of July is far and away my favorite holiday, ask anyone.
That being said, I did “run away” as a lot of people say, to the other side of the world. Why? America isn’t good enough for you?
I grew up amongst the same amount of diversity as a sorority recruitment video, and around the same amount of wealth as well. Even through college, all of my friends came from relatively similar socioeconomic backgrounds, from (at most) two states away and almost all of them were white.
Surprise! The world is a little bit bigger than that. Not everyone in the world works a 9-5 job as a software analyst in Columbus, and not everyone “Feels the Bern.”
If I had to give one reason I left, it would be very simple: I wanted to. And, since I grew up in one of the freest countries in the world, I had that opportunity. So I took it.
I have been homesick many, many, many times. I’ve cried and had plenty of pity parties and felt like I was missing out on so much back home. But I’m not really missing out. When I come back (whenever that may be), things are most likely going to be very much the same. My parents will live in the same house, my siblings will have the same jobs, and my friends will go to the same bars and restaurants. All of which I miss dearly. But I’m not really “missing out.” The only thing I sincerely can’t get back is seeing my nephew grow up. But that’s a whole different story.
I am genuinely excited for my eventual return. I’m excited for Chipotle and Mitchell’s ice cream and family holiday parties and Cavs games and a good beer. Those are all things that I miss. There are, however, things that I don’t miss at all.
1. A Society of Complainers
This is the number one thing I am dreading about going back to the States. No matter how much people have or what is going on in their life, they always find a reason to complain. Be it the weather, a demanding boss, kids’ schedules, you name it. Americans love to complain, hell they live for it. And guess what? It’s not quite as endearing as you may believe. I bitch about things all the time, I am 100% guilty of this cultural phenomena. But, since I haven’t been around it in 7 months (and haven’t seen one snowflake, not unrelated), I find myself complaining less and less. What do I have to complain about really?
But you know what Americans love even more than complaining? Complaining and not doing a damn thing about it. People live to tell you “how busy they are,” it gives them the same kind of endorphins as eating chocolate. But no matter how many times they say, “ugh I’m just so swamped!” they still don’t say no to new commitments, and make very little effort to actually be less busy.
It is not fun to be around people who hate where their life is headed, complain about it, and do nothing to change their attitude or situation. If you’re not living a life that you’re in love with either A. Know that it’s getting you toward a life you love (aka saving up money to move to a city you’ve always dreamed of) and be grateful for that B. Change what you hate or C. Shut the hell up.
2. Spending Money on Stupid Shit
Before I left I spent $20 on a pair of tweezers. $20 could easily feed me for a week in Thailand. Cleaning out and packing was one of the hardest things about moving here. I really really love shopping and have a DVR of What Not to Wear and Project Runway episodes to prove it.
But I have so many clothes that I bought just because they were cheap, wore one time, and stuck in the back of my closet. And then I’m just out the money.
Now, every single purchase I have to think about “How am I going to bring that home?” “Am I going to use that if I move out of Thailand?” “Will I be able to sell that back?” Because I have two suitcases, a backpack, and that’s it. I’ve survived on a very limited wardrobe, and while the underarms of my shirts are not looking so hot, I’ve been more than okay.
A lot of people in America love to talk about “how broke” they are and “wish they could travel but don’t have the money.” The thing about traveling is that you can’t travel and be in America at the same time. That means foregoing Taco Tuesday’s every week and wearing that $80 dress on more than one occasion. You’d be surprised how savings can add up when you stop treating yoself and save money for experiences rather than things. Americans (in the general upper middle class society) are not broke. They just (see #1) like to complain about being broke.
3. Hell Bent on the Career-Marriage-Kids-Retirement Path
A lot of people seem to think I’m on vacation. This epidemic of vacation shaming has gotten out of control. “Oh, must be nice to be you! Laying on a beach and riding an elephant every day.” I’m not going to get into the difficulty of being an ESL teacher and why I am definitely not on vacation, but regardless, Americans still have a very fixed mindset about postgrad life. You get a job. You find a spouse at a conference in Dallas. You have 2.5 kids. You work at a job you despise for your entire adult life. You retire. And THEN when you’re 65 with arthritis in every part of your body, then you’ve earned the right to go to Thailand.
I will not get into millennials and “earning” things, read the New York Times if you want to get into that debate.
Anyways, the responses I get from older expats I’ve met abroad when they find out how young I am are generally something like, “I wish I would’ve done that when I was your age” or “travel while you can!” and I can’t always say I get the same response from people back home.
Even if it’s not said aloud, people have certain expectations of young professionals. They’re supposed to live in the US and have a respectable job, even if they hate it. Eh sorry, no. That’s why it’s so hard for me to commit to coming home just yet. I don’t have anything I love (anyTHING, I have plenty of anyONE’s) to come back to. I have no desire to work at a PR firm. I don’t really want to go to law school. And I certainly don’t want to wander around aimlessly until I figure it out.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have a typical 9-5 career. Right now, my professional life is pulling me in other directions. But I have no desire to come back home and be told which boxes to fit into.
4. The Weather
The current temperature in Chiang Mai, Thailand is 106 Fahrenheit. The current temperature in Cleveland, Ohio is 45 and rainy. Honestly, I’ll take this heat any day. I did not miss the snow one freaking bit. I didn’t miss my Ugg boots or big scarves or huge sweaters (ok, I miss sweaters a little bit). But bottom line: I don’t think I need winter in my life. I am in such a better mood when the sun is shining all the time, even if that means sweating through 3 outfits a day. If I ever sense myself about to complain about the heat, I just remember being late to work and digging my car out of 2 feet of snow and I snap right back.
My body is so accustomed to the weather at this point that I’m honestly concerned about going back, even during the summer.
5. The Polarization of American Politics
I’d be remiss not to mention a certain event this upcoming November. I don’t miss grown men and women standing on a stage screaming their opinions and considering that leadership. I don’t miss fear mongering and political scandals and bribes and rallies of ignorant people.
Politics around the world are not much better. They have their own issues, but people (for some unknown reason) pay attention to American politics. And it’s an embarrassment. I don’t know exactly how long I’m staying in Thailand, but there is no way in hell I’ll be back for the GOP convention.
This is not me shitting on America. The United States gave me literally everything I have. However, the beauty of living abroad is being able to see your home country from a different perspective, and these are merely my observations. I am coming back eventually, don’t worry Mom and Dad. I’m coming back to have a huge juicy hamburger with a block of cheese on it, washed down with a nice glass of tap water. And then I’m getting back on a plane before President Trump mistakes my tan for Mexican heritage.