TL:DR – I quit my job and am leaving Bangkok to be a nomadic freelance writer around Southeast Asia.
In something of a manic act of spontaneity, I decided to drop the nice little life I’ve built up here in Thailand. In June, I’ll officially swap stability for the great unknown. First stops in this new life as a roving freelancer: North Thailand, Cambodia, Bali, then India.
These may be some of the valid questions you have. This is the second time that I’ve made a snap decision to completely change my life in every way, throwing caution to the wind in one impulsive swoop.
Smart? Maybe not.
This step comes some 8 months after I moved to Bangkok, another relocation that required leaving behind a good thing I had going in San Francisco. The way I’ve been operating these past few years makes me feel like a crazy person. I go through quite a bit to get to a certain point in a career, then have an immediate change of heart. I set a bomb to detonate. I wipe the slate clean. I choose to fall to the bottom of the totem pole, to pass go and not collect $200.
There’s something sickly riveting to me about being dropped back at square one. I have always loved the challenge of finding a job, of overcoming the obstacles of starting fresh. With freelance writing, I get to do just that over and over again. There’s always someplace new to pitch, always a new goal to accomplish. I have to constantly impress editors to make sure they keep paying me to write.
With freelancing, I also don’t have to be a total asshole and quit a job when I get that extreme desire to bounce.
So the latest decision. Here’s what happened:
We (my mom and I) arrived in Bali on a Friday morning after I had just a few hours of sleep (thanks to staying up late freelancing and an early flight time). Even through my grogginess, I could tell that we had landed somewhere special.
I had been to plenty of Thai beach towns, but something about Bali just mesmerized me. I loved every part of it, even the part when it started to pour rain during a bike ride through Ubud. The island was so green and enchanting, so much more relaxing than the Bangkok grit. The food was great. The beach was great. The jungle was great. The people were great. The climate was great. The music was great. You get the idea.
The thought of leaving was unsettling.
I decided that I needed to come back, and not for a weekend trip. Since vacation time in the real world is so limited, I realized that I’d need to leave my job to spend any real time in Bali. Over the next few days, I slowly made the choice to return to Bangkok, quit my job the following day, and fly back to the Indonesian island a month later.
The move means abandoning a truly fantastic job that I just started (a very f-ed up act on my part, and for doing that to my generous employer I feel horrible), but the idea of not moving feels worse.
Leaving the sweltering chaos of Bangkok a few weeks ago made me realize how exhausted I was. For nearly five months, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. I’d head to my day job (first at HotelQuickly, then Prestige Magazine), work all day, then go home to do freelance work most nights. On the weekends, I’d chase down stories, edit photos, and write more. Obviously there were many fun nights and weekends that weren’t straight work, but I was getting burnt out.
Thanks to those months of hustling, I have a nice little chunk of change saved up to afford such a risky move (for a short amount of time at least). So that’s it. I’m taking that risk and saying goodbye to my safe life of routine. I’m pretty confident that I can support myself on my freelance salary (again, at least for a while).
To be honest, a huge motivator for the move is the idea of breaking free from a desk job. I know I must sound like a spoiled Millennial, but I cannot stand being at a desk all day. I feel like a dog on a leash, but more importantly I feel incredibly unhealthy. Rotting away at a desk stresses me out, my body gets rigid and I leave at the end of the day feeling like I need to cry or sprint down the street – and I would too, if it wasn’t so damn hot outside.
The thought of leaving a desk job is so exciting to me that I can hardly contain myself. I keep picturing myself jogging down the beach in the morning, going surfing after, posting up at a cafe to write in the afternoon. It sounds like a dream, and one that isn’t too farfetched to make happen.
Even though the decision feels good and right, it’s also totally f-ing scary. It’s very possible that things won’t pan out, that I won’t be able to sustain the life financially, that it will be too exhausting to not have a permanent home base. I could fail and have to go crawling back to the United States. I could have my laptop stolen. I could come down with dengue fever. Who knows! The great unknown is terrifying.
Despite the fear, I’m taking the leap and doing it. I’m sad to leave Bangkok, a place that has been so good to me for so long. I can’t really call it the end of an era because it’s only been 8 months. That hardly counts as an era.
On May 29, I’ll finish up my last day of work and make my way north for what may be one last Haley-filled hurrah in Thailand. We’re going to go explore Mae Hong Son where I can hopefully find something to write about and kick off this freelance career I’m betting all of my chips on.
After that, it’s down to Cambodia to finally see Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap. A quick trip back to Bangkok and I’ll make my final preparations to leave the Kingdom. I need to figure out a way to make my life mobile like a backpacker without actually looking like one. If anyone has any advice on being a professional-appearing nomad, please send those tips my way.
To everyone who has made my time in Bangkok so special, thank you.