This Legal Nomad is Heading to Thailand

My seatmate on the long flight to Kuwait had never flown over an ocean before this first-ever trip to America. “Do you think we’re over the Atlantic right now?” he asked, breathlessly peering out of the window into the cloud-mottled night. “Soon,” I said vaguely – we just taken off from New York. He’d have to wait a few more minutes. His name was Hasan and he was from Bangladesh. His wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm for the mere act of going somewhere else was the perfect beginning to a long flight.

Next to him was an Indian man named Vijay. Originally wary of the other, they struck up a conversation and turned their attention to the strangest one in our row: me. Before the seatbelt sign went off, they were already peppering me with questions, faces straining to understand. Why was I heading to Bangkok? What made me think it would be good? What if it wasn’t good? Was the weather better than New York? (Yes.) Was the food spicy? (Yes.) Was I so so scared? (This was accompanied by the now-common refrain “because you know? You are very small.”) Happily they didn’t ask how old I was or about any prior travels, topics that would have likely contorted their already struggling and worried faces into a state of permanent confusion.

So why am I moving back to Thailand?

Food, glorious food

For starters, there is the food. People who have traveled with me know that it is an obsession of mine. Every destination starts with a discovery of the food markets, a survey of what street food is on offer. But there are very few food-related posts on Legal Nomads, and that’s something I want to change in 2011. In almost every country, I traded street food crash courses for customers, bringing people from my hostel to eat there in exchange for a cooking lesson. I never thought this would be of interest, and did it for the pure pleasure of learning and eating. But enough of you have made it clear that food is an important part of your lives and your travels, so I will be posting more about my culinary adventures going forward. Bring your appetites!

Great people

A close second is the people. I met and sustained friendships with an incredibly diverse cross-section of people, both Thai and foreign, during my months of travel and a good many of them are in Thailand right now. I have this wistful fantasy of bringing all my friends in one room, knowing so many of them from a dizzyingly list of places would be fast friends. Such is the struggle with long term travel – meeting and then leaving people is never easy. But for one perfect storm of a season, many of them are in one place, and that place is Thailand.

Me and Prae wearing balloon hats at a birthday partyMe and Prae getting our balloon hats on at a birthday party in Bangkok.

moving to thailandEnjoying the rooftop bar in Chiang Mai with A from Got Passport, Daniel from Canvas of Light and Monique & Steve from Canada.

A slew of other positives made this an easy choice: the cost of living is quite low, the wifi is fairly decent, the clothes fit me (yay!), the weather is good, the fruit is so delicious that I can already taste it, the ‘wee!’-inducing moto taxis provide a small glimpse into a world I’ll never know and the complex, cloak and dagger filled history makes the country even more fascinating.

Oh, and I already had a return ticket – this is the other half of the ticket I bought back to North America in June.

So off I go! I’ll be overseas only through June when I will head to Portland, Oregon to speak at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit. From there, likely to TBEX’11 in Vancouver, and hopefully some time in San Fran thereafter visiting Neda, who you last saw way back in Chile at the start of my trip.

Some fun projects planned for 2011 as well, which I’ll announce later this month. In addition, I’ll be starting a series called Thrillable Hours (thanks to Kevin for the name). highlighting lapsed (or formerly lapsed!) lawyers who’ve done some interesting things. My slogan is “proving that even lawyers can have fun”, and there are plenty of us out there doing just that. I’ll be kicking off the series this month. If anyone has any lawyer friends doing something interesting – be it practicing somewhere very different (like my first Thrillable Hours subject, Jeremy, who practiced in Afghanistan), working for a nonprofit or having left the profession altogether – send them my way!

Closing out with a quote is not usually my style, but this one from Terzani captures the feeling of excitement and renewal that still accompanies me when I travel, even today in returning to a place I already know and love:

Every place is a goldmine. You have only to give yourself time, sit in a teahouse watching the passers-by, stand in a corner of the market, go for a haircut. You pick up a thread – a word, a meeting, a friend of a friend of someone you have just met – and soon the most insipid, most insignificant place becomes a mirror of the world, a window on life, a theatre of humanity.

No matter where I go or how completely foreign and inaccessible it feels, I’ve learned to trust that this theatre of humanity will unfold with time. I’ve learned to be patient and wait, instead of forcing myself to check items to see off a list. And I’ve realized that I can learn something – about myself, about generosity, about suffering, about the world – from every single person I meet.

Here’s to a great 2011, everyone!

UPDATE: greetings from Chiang Mai! First, jetlagged night in town I still managed to squeeze out enough energy for a dinner with friends & a typical motorcycle ride to bed:

moving to thailand
Bessie & Kyle from On our Own Path, the Got Passport family & me at dinner in Chiang Mai.

moving to thailand

51 thoughts on “This Legal Nomad is Heading to Thailand”

  1. There are no better reasons to go somewhere. LOVE that quote. Saving now. Hope the jet lag’s not too bad!! B well, Phil

    1. Heya Phil. Jetlag’s not great but it’ll get better with a few days (and a few bowls of khao soi soup). The quote is from Terzani’s book called ‘A Fortune Teller Told Me.’ Well worth reading and ended up writing down several other quotes like this one from it.

  2. Looking forward to seeing your cheerful face back here in Chiang Mai, Jodi. Just a few more hours to go.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Your enthusiasm is all over this post. Enormous fun to read.

    Travel is always like a homecoming for the soul – and particularly so for you, it’s clear.

    Welcome home, Jodi. :)

  4. Love the idea of the Thrillable Hours! If you’re looking for some former lawyers, I’d love to be featured since I am not at all missing my past legal career and loving the new opportunities I have. And, congrats on heading back to Thailand . . . we were talking about how we want to go back if we can figure out how to get the dogs there. :)

  5. You didn’t think food would go over well? What is wrong with you?! :-D

    We have a friend from Bangkok who stays with us periodically. We get her to teach us at least one recipe every time she’s here. But she’s not here often enough!

    Looking forward to what you have in store for the new year.

    1. Yes, I’m not sure why I was worried but I started the food-for-hungry-people pretty early on in the trip and assumed it wasn’t something people were interested in. Duly noted! Thanks for the well wishes & hope we cross paths this year.

  6. Thrillable Hours … pick me… pick me!!! I’m a tax lawyer; people are fascinated by tax lawyers. My first lapse occured before I went to law school, my second before I started articling, and after about 2 years of practice I can’t stop dreaming about working on my photography business from a bungalow in Koh Lanta, or moving to San Francisco and doing something totally different, or doing who knows what else.

    Even if you don’t pick me, I’m totally pumped about following along to see what the other lapsed lawyers are up to!

    1. Hi Allison, thanks for reading! Sounds like you’ve got some great stuff going on. Would love to include you in the series and will send you an email when I’ve started posting. The series will be about non-lapsed lawyers too (like those practicing in crazy places, or doing adventurous things with their degree), and about those who took a careerbreak and went back to lawyering. I’d like to highlight the many options out there for those with a law degree, so if you have anyone you think might fit the bill, let me know. Best of luck with your projects!

  7. Take me with you! Really, please!

    I love food and have been dreaming of going to Thailand this year!!!

    Can’t wait for your food related posts :)

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  9. Happy New Year!!!!!!!! Now that’s a way to start a year, love it! Have the MOST amazing time girl. Enjoy the food and people for me. Oh and the beaches! ;-)

  10. Ray Sone Hovijitra and Kanokporn Bhalang

    Welcome back to Thailand!! What an awesome way to start 2011! We’ll be at a seminar in CM end of this month and hope to join the Akha Ama Coffee outing that weekend too :) -Ray

    1. I’ll be going on the Akha Ama outing as well, so it’ll be great to get to know you two during a weekend coffee camping endeavour! Looking forward to it.

  11. Ray Sone Hovijitra and Kanokporn Bhalang

    oh, and as future travel and food writers we are thrilled and can’t wait to see your foodie related posts :)

  12. Ha! I love the “Thrillable Hours” idea – the thought of all of those horrid billable hours back in the office makes me shudder. I was an employment lawyer for 6 years before I quit last winter. Now 3 months away from the planned end to my trip, I have NO idea what I want to do when I return, but thrillable hours sound so, so much better than billing time in 6 minute increments. I can’t wait to check out the new series and if you have a need, I’d love to participate.

    Enjoy your time in Thailand – after spending a month there and planning to go back, I can certainly see why you returned.

    1. I’m really happy to be hearing from all these other lawyers in a similar place! I’m also unclear about what path I want to take next, but 6 minute increments isn’t currently at the top of my list. If you’d like to be featured about why you quit and why you think going back isn’t at the top of yours either, I’d love to include you in the series.

      Thanks for reading!

      1. Yes, disgruntled lawyers are everywhere! They are unfortunately most frequently found in the office, but it sounds like you have a good head start on finding some who took action changing the way their lives were beholden to the billable hours. I would love to be included, so whenever you are ready, fire away.

        Have you ever read http://www.chookooloonks.com? She is a lawyer turned photographer/author/blogger. Her pictures are fabulous and I find her to be so inspirational.

        Yay! I’m very excited about reading this series…especially because I am trying to find inspiration for what to do next.

  13. I love reading about your return to a place that has brought happiness and inspiration to your life. I am salivating after considering the food you are eating, but am finding solace in the thought that I can follow your (culinary and otherwise) journey from afar. Happy New Year, happy new beginnings, and happy exploring!

    1. Thanks Roxanne. Today’s khao soi lunch was a delicious one! Looking forward to more. Have a great year as well – look forward to reading about it (in your charismatic, excellent prose) on your site.

  14. Welcome back to Thailand!

    Add me to the traveling former lawyers list, now on my 4th consecutive year of travel. Also based in Thailand (for the next few months at least) and about to be joined by another soon-to-be reformed lawyer.

    1. Excellent! I’m in Chiang Mai if you’re heading into town – we should meet up and wax poetic about 6 minute increments ;) Will add you to the list for sure, thank you!

  15. This is why legal assistants and paralegals are getting hit so hard by unemployment in the states: all the attorneys left town! I’ve got one thing in common with you, though, Jodi, I’m in Thailand, too!!

  16. I stumbled on your blog today and spent hours and hours reading, and at the end now I find out you are here in Chiang Mai! Best city in the world. Enjoy all your adventures and keep posting!
    I really envy your gift with people, if I could wish for one thing, that would be it, being able to connect with everyone the way you do.

    1. Thanks Lily – very kind of you. It took awhile to get comfortable with talking to people I didn’t know and not thinking about whether I seemed foolish for doing so. Those baby steps have lead me to make some great friends with locals and travelers alike.

      I don’t know Chiang Mai too well (was here in 2008, but only briefly) but looking forward to exploring it more. Thanks for reading!

      1. Next time you happen to do the Mae Hong Son loop, don’t miss out on Tham Lod (Lod cave) between Pai and Mae Hong Son. Nice hilltribe villages around there as well. Tens of thousands of birds returning to the cave for overnight (definitely more candidates for your “shit count”). One of the highlights of the area for me. I spent almost 2 weeks on the loop 2 years ago.
        Some of the hill tribes up there have their new year this week, others at the end of January or around Chinese new year. Lots of cultural activities – thought you would be interested. gt-rider motorcycle forum is the best source for these completely off the track events.
        ok, sorry, I talk too much :-)

  17. I like the Thrillable Hours concept, but the best part about this is finding out we’ll cross paths in Vancouver. Looking forward to it. Till then I’ll be sitting here watching this theatre of humanity unfold. See ya, Jodi!

  18. Whoa, weird, just read a blurb about Chiang Mai’s “Elephant Nature Park” in Cebu Pacific’s inflight magazine (flying from Manila to Puerto Princesa) that was penned by none other than Bessie & Kyle from “On our Own Path”. Gave me a reason to want to visit. Small world.

    1. Hey Justin – good to hear from you again. Bessie & Kyle mentioned their article would be in Cebu’s in-flight mag, so I’m glad that it made it to print! Definitely come by Chiang Mai; would be great to meet you two and take you for some great street food.

  19. I just started reading your blog Jodi, and to my surprise you are also a fellow Montrealer! Thailand has long been at the top of my list of places to visit in Asia and I’m so glad to read so many nice things here about the people, food, and country. I’m looking forward to visiting Thailand soon and photographing as much of the wonderful sights as possible. Thanks for the insight, after reading your post, I want to go to Thailand even more now.

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