It Starts with Words

Different cultures

I’d always said I’d go to Thailand.

It starts with words.

I was supposed to study in Bangkok my junior year in university, I was all signed up and had paid my fees for the study abroad program.

But bad decisions and a bad relationship got in the way of living in the country I had spent years fixated on: writing papers, reading books, watching movies and dreaming about. I made the difficult decision to drop out of the study abroad program, find a place to live for the semester (as I had sublet my room), and face the shame of being a “failure”.

Instead of sightseeing and studying in Thailand, I was splitting my time between crying on my dad’s couch, binge watching TV series, and partying until the sun came up.

That was in 2009.

The years flew by – I graduated college, got my shit together in a way that no one really thought I would (even myself), and was suddenly an adult. Somehow I was 24, with a new Jeep, pretty apartment, great job, healthy habits, and a generous amount of disposable income. 19 year old me would have peed her class-skipping party pants in surprise.

But something was missing. On paper, I had all the things that a responsible, successful young adult should want or need.

I was content. But I wasn’t happy. Definitely not happy. I felt empty, like a shell of a person floating through life, collecting paychecks and making purchases – a cog in a machine… I did not have purpose. I was not fulfilled by anything that I was doing.

I started telling people I was going to Thailand. I don’t know why. Attention? To shock people? I do love to shock people. Maybe to have something to say outside of the usual “how’s work?”

I don’t think I meant it at first. But I realized it felt good, really good, to say “I’m going to Thailand”. So I started saying it more. Even to myself, when I was alone. Even to my dogs sometimes (okay, okay, I told my dogs a lot).

But every time I went to buy my plane ticket, something would come up. Some conflict with dates, some reason to postpone purchasing. And then when I ironed that out, it was credit card fraud issues. ANTICLIMACTIC as hell. I actually got all the way to checkout 3 times before it actually went through (screw you CapitalOne, for to this day never letting me purchase air tickets on the first try).

On the fourth time, when that confirmation screen popped up – I was shocked. I almost threw up. I was shaky and thought I was going to faint. I had gotten to the point where I thought I was never actually going to be able to buy tickets. It was right before I left for Christmas break from work, and a month before my departure date.

I had a little going away party (even though I was only going to be gone for 10 days Americans don’t travel, get over it), and then had a leaving meal the night before my plane with my family. My dad joked about me not coming back.

My brother dropped me off at the airport, in capri pants, a tank, and a light jacket. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I loved it, it gave me another opportunity to say “I’m going to Thailand”.

me leaving Michigan with my backpack


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook


  1. Rebecca Kempker
    March 24, 2015 / 8:37 pm

    good article to think about. Sometimes you have to build up the courage and convince yourself to do something you want to deep down… Just like you did with going to Thailand… Can be related to other life issues too

    • Steph
      March 25, 2015 / 7:11 am

      Thanks! Sometimes its hard to build up the courage but (almost) always oh so worth it in the end!

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