When I Knew…

A couple of weeks ago I was under severe anxiety. So much so that I wasn’t sleeping  a full night’s sleep for going on six days. My mind was restless and every single worry I could think of was swarming in my head every moment of every day.

The primary factor causing my anxiety centered around the looming presence of my going abroad to teach. I have decided that I’m moving to Thailand to teach English, and could not be more excited! But, with that comes a lot to do!

Imagine the stress and work it takes to move. Now, imagine doing so to another country. Now imagine moving to another country where you do not speak the language. Now imagine moving to another country where you do not speak the language, and doing it alone. Insert major freak-out! On top of that, I was facing some dilemmas that had me questioning whether I’m making the right decision.

I have spent the past, oh, four or more years working toward this goal. Before, it was just a dream. But as time passes by, and my ten-year work anniversary is approaching (the date I decided to benchmark for how soon I will leave), the ever-present dream is becoming a reality. I’m now a few months away from what is very possibly the riskiest, most-adventurous, scariest decision of my life. And there are so many unknowns. It’s the unknowns that worried me the most. Of course, I know I can’t solve every single issue that surfaces, but when thoughts of them arise I can’t dismiss them. This is my life I’m talking about. What the heck am I doing!

So I was concerned about how smoothly this getting to Thailand and finding a job and a place to stay was going to go. I’ve been in contact with alumni from the academy I received my TEFL certification on their Facebook page, which has served extremely useful and comforting in facing all my ignorance. Many have suggested I should have no problem at all finding a job given my credentials – I have a Bachelor’s in English, two master’s degrees, one of which is in education, the 150-hour TEFL certification plus the optional 30 hours in Young Learners and Business English I chose to add on, 20 practicum hours including a minimum of 6 hours of direct teaching/tutoring, and experience in teaching, tutoring, and professional training. The minimum requirements (I hear) of most Thai employers is that one simply be a native-English speaker and possess a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline. Right. I’m good.

But, I’ve never done this before. I have responsibilities. I have debt. Maybe if this were ten or so years ago, when I was fresh out of college and full of optimism about the world and its effect on me I might have approached this journey differently.

But this is not ten years ago.

I can’t just leave everything I know on the whim that I’ll be good without any assurances. I just can’t. I don’t think that way. Never have, and definitely can’t for such a huge leap as this.

One night my emotions had hit a peak. Perhaps I was running on fumes from having so little sleep, which affected my ability to be my normally positive self.

I had a moment where all the emotions rose up from my gut and pronounced themselves through tears of frustration, confusion, and surrender.

I cried over memories of abandonment that created the independent soul I am today. I cried over the idea of being 30-something and not married like I’d planned, which sparked questions like “Am I doing this to run away? Am I going to be happy?” I cried at the thought of leaving my beloved Champ, who is my baby in every sense that it could mean to a loving pet parent with no human children. I cried over the joy I feel for setting my mind to something and going after it, while at the same token thinking, “Why do I have to be so dern strong-willed; this is why I’m single!” I cried about feeling lonely, being afraid of being alone, and moving to a country where I could possibly face that lonely several times over. I was miserable. I was sad. I was exhausted. I was losing the energy to self-motivate.

So I prayed. Out loud. As I cried. Asking for a sign. “Higher power, higher being, higher self, Universe, angels and celestial beings, God, mom, someone. Am I supposed to do this?”

I went to bed just hoping to sleep the whole night through.

I woke up the next morning about five minutes before my alarm went off. I wanted to cry again just out of sheer happiness! I slept!!

It was a sign. Something was shifting.

I reached out to a contact of an organization I’d been eyeing for a while – Greenheart Travel. Their mission at its core is primarily to make the world a better place through travel.

It is no secret that travel changes one’s perspective. Those who do not travel, who only know their surroundings and are not exposed to other cultures and ways of life are significantly at a disadvantage from those who do. I remember my first trip to another country with my sister. It opened our eyes and sparked a desire to travel the world even more. We were changed forever.

I emailed the contact, Sara, asking if I could be added back to their subscription list. I’d previously subscribed for updates, but, after seeing the program costs, decided I couldn’t afford to fork over more money in this transition. I’d already spent about $1000 on the TEFL certification, and, having my credentials, was fairly confident I would have no problem finding a job and a place to stay. Fairly.

Until I wasn’t.

Sara responded quickly that I was confirmed back on the list. I wanted to do the program, but the program costs were just not ideal for my budget.

I remembered I saw a post on their Facebook page that they offered a scholarship, funds of which would apply toward the program fee.

But I was a day late. The scholarship deadline had passed just the day before.

I emailed Sara and humbly asked if there were any way I could still apply. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen. If the answer was no, it was no, but I had to try. I had to ask.

Sara responded if I could get all the materials to her as soon as possible I could be reviewed. Another sign!

The requirements included a letter of recommendation from my supervisor, a video essay about my interest in the program and how I’d use it to be a change agent, and a photo essay of my hometown.

Time was not on my side, but I was determined to do everything in my power to submit all materials by the next day. I just had to try.

I ran to my supervisor and explained everything. I’m so fortunate to have a great relationship with my supervisor. He has come to the rescue on so many occasions – including this one. He helped me think of great landmarks or attractions I could snap photos of, and even added ideas to the list long after I’d left his office. He also allowed me to leave work a little early so I could get started on getting material for the photo essay.

Before leaving the office, I worked on my video essay. I recorded very possibly about 15 videos of myself, each one of which I felt was getting progressively worse. I was nervous and uneasy. I wanted it to be natural and relatable, but I either would leave something out or didn’t address all the questions they asked or went over the allotted time or the lighting was off or my eyes weren’t bright or or or… but I didn’t have much time, so I wound up going with the very first one and uploaded it to my YouTube so I could move on.

Thankfully, I work downtown where there is now no shortage of awesome places to attract visitors. I walked. I snapped. I walked. I snapped. I walked. I walked. I walked. I got my steps in for the day just in that treck alone! It was warm out, and I was sweating through my blazer, but I needed great captures. I wasn’t yet sure how I was going to present them, but I knew I was collecting some great material. On the way home I stopped by a few more popular tourist spots and local spots to capture yet more, so I could pick and choose my favorites.

The photo essay became this very blog, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m a big fan of Thrillist when I want to see a new city, so I used some of its familiar format to make my own best-to-see in my city. I was very happy with the end result. Not bad for project with a time-crunch!

I worked hard to get everything in as quickly as possible. My supervisor sent me the recommendation letter that night. “Ready or not, these materials have got to get to Sara immediately!”

She accepted them and told me I should hear back within the next week if I was selected.

The wait was killing me. I resolved to go to yoga and a manifestation class to take my mind off my anxiety, and to remind me I really can’t do anything about what I can’t control anyway. I’d have to hope for the best. I’d have to believe that I did everything in my own control and surrender to patience. I’d have to know that what is meant for me is already mine.

Yoga saves lives man, I’m telling you.

A couple days later, I received an email from Sara – CONGRATULATIONS! You are a scholarship recipient! I was through. The. ROOF, you hear me! This scholarship means that I can commit to the program without as heavy a financial burden. The scholarship basically covers half the program fee. The other half I can work on. That I can live with. If I work hard enough in my side hustle and budget properly, I can raise the money and be just fine.

This program includes an orientation that will help acclimate me to Thai culture, guaranteed placement, assistance with Visa douments, basically everything that I was nervous and anxious about. On top of that, I’d be starting with a group of individuals, which means I wouldn’t be alone! I may not be able to pick where I’ll work, and that was a little unnerving at first, but worst case – the contract is only six months if I hate it. Or, I’d love it and the placement could land me somewhere I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I chose to focus my energy on the latter.

Being accepted into this program not only solidified the idea that I am on the right track and this is going to be my reality but also eased the fears I had of doing this on my own. Because of Greenheart Travel, I have a plan. I can officiate my departure. I know where I’m going and when and have a guide along the way.

I’m strong, but I’m very human.

I am beyond grateful for this opportunity, and thoroughly looking forward to my next steps, knowing I have a team behind me that has my back and my best interest at heart. And sure, I am paying for these things, but the way I see it, Sara has gone above and beyond in her communication and for that reason alone I’d recommend this program. She’s professional, friendly, and seems to understand what an anxious, inexperienced world traveler like myself is going through.

So. There you have it, folks. I’m going to Thailand. And now I know for sure I’m meant to. These signs weren’t for nothing. It’s when I knew I was headed in the right direction.

This is happening. This is really happening!

Until next time!

Atlanta, GA., you rock!

Atlanta, GA. Home of some of the best eateries, historical districts, and sports events of the South. Walk, bike, or commute via train and bus, this eco-friendly city has become the mecca of new businesses, non-profit organizations, and musical entertainment. Here are some of my favorite must-see spots if you’re visiting my home town. A little bit of fun, a little bit of history, and a whole lot of sunshine and good food! I’ve loved this city since I was little… I think you will too!

 

 

Downtown Atlanta has no shortage of things to do. Make your first stop a tour of the CNN center – you can even star in your very own newscast!

Must do: Grab exclusive CNN apparel at the CNN Store.

 

And directly across Marietta Street, near Ted Turner Blvd, take a stroll, grab a juicy burger, fries and float at Googie burger, or let the kids run through the ring fountain at Centennial Olympic Park – which was built and opened during the 1996 Olympic games. Now the park boasts several events and visitors throughout the year. Depending on what time of year you’re in town, you could be in for a special performance treat, and often for FREE! Downtown Atlanta’s newest attraction near Centennial Park is Sky View – the 20-story high ferris wheel. It’s a great way to see all of Atlanta, and even catch a glimpse of Stone Mountain far off inn the distance!

Must do: Do some people watching! No, really. This park’s scenery alone is perfect for doing absolutely nothing.

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There’s an ongoing debate among transplants to Atlanta and natives between Waffle House and IHOP. The famous American chain, many of who’s locations are only in the South, will fill you up on delicious breakfast food, served diner style, without pinching the wallet. Go’head and get your hash browns scattered, covered, and smothered – it’s the southern way 😉

Must do: Have the pecan waffle. I mean, it is “waffle” house after all 🙂

 

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Believe it or not, the Georgia Aquarium is a non-profit facility that is home to thousands of marine animals, profits of which go toward aquatic research. The Aquarium holds over 10 million gallons of water. How’s that sound if you’re thirsty!

Must do: Take a gander through one of visitor’s most favorite exhibitions – the Ocean Voyager Tunnel. Feel like you’re under the sea as you watch an assortment of fish, whales, and turtles swim over your very head. The experience is breathtaking!

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Atlanta is also the birthplace of Coca-Cola, and around here we call it soda not pop thank you very much. Cool fact from Coca-Cola’s website “Did you know? The first servings of Coca‑Cola were sold for 5 cents per glass. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine servings per day in Atlanta.” Think about that the next time you pay $1.69 plus tax for your beverage! Mmmmm. Ice cold fizz.

Must do: The World of Coca-Cola museum. Learn about and sample colas from all around the world!

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Did someone say football? No, not the NFL… College Football! Check out the College Football Hall of Fame to find out how your favorite team scores around the nation! Georgia is home of the UGA Bulldogs, GSU Panthers, and Georgia Tech Buzz. With all the visitors to Atlanta each day, there’s pretty friendly rivalry to discuss… or not so friendly haha Go Panthers! (yes, I’m a GSU alumna)

Must do: Walk over to Stats to catch a game and grab a cold beer. You’ll probably work up an appetite after all that friendly competition!

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The Atlanta Streetcar is the perfect way to hop off and on in downtown Atlanta to take in all the attractions. So, if your feet are getting tired, or the little ones just need a break, let the streetcar take over for you. You can pick up the streetcar at several locations throughout downtown, and for a minimal fare. Sit back in a climate-controlled motorized trolley and hop off and on through the Fairlie-Poplar, King Historic, and Sweet Auburn districts.

Must do: Visit the King Memorial Center. The first stop on the streetcar, and loaded with history from our favorite native civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a must-see attraction in downtown Atlanta. Nestled in the heart of downtown Atlanta, on land donated by the Coca-Cola company, the Center for Civil and Human Rights is an interactive, cultural experience enjoyed by all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. You’ll leave learning much about civil rights, human rights, and the dignity for all.

Must do: Sit at the lunch counter exhibit. Sometimes history is painful, but this exhibit makes the discrimination of some brave African Americans during the Civil Rights era real and literally in-your-face.

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MARTA – It’s smarta! Five Points MARTA station is the center of it all. Although it’s name comes from the convergence of the five main streets of downtown Atlanta – Marietta, Edgewood, Decatur, and the legs of Peachtree Street – the train station has become more popularly known for it’s center convergence of the north, south, east, and west lines of the MARTA train lines. Directly south will take you to the airport, while either direction north can take you to Doraville or shopping in Sandy Springs. Head west for the Atlanta University Center, or far east and take a hike up Stone Mountain. Leave the car, and hop on the train. Grab a day pass for easy off-and-on access.

Must do: Visit Underground Atlanta. Once a thriving underground merchant shop, now rich with history and a food court that’s sure to have something for everyone!

The South’s LGBTQ community calls Atlanta home. From bars to events, there’s no shortage of activities, establishments, and must-see events. When you’re ready to leave the bustle of downtown Atlanta, hop over to East Atlanta village – just a couple exits east of downtown’s Capital. East Atlanta Village is a hip, concentrated, friendly local mini-town, and the location of Mary’s – voted Atlanta’s best gay bar 5 years in a row!

Must do: Everything. EAV has something for everyone. Suki Suki Collective – a mash of food vendors all in one convenient location. Stop in to Grant Central for a slice of delcious pizza, or Tomatilla’s if you’re feeling Tex-Mex, or 5 Thai for sushi and noodles, or Argosy for a cold beer and some people watching on their open patio. Can you tell I love EAV?? Yep. No shame.

 

In summary, as you can tell, I love my city! There’s so much to do, and there’s definitely something for everyone. These are my favorite attractions, but they only scratch the surface. I’d love to hear about your favorites when you’re in my city!

 

(Special note: This post was created as part of a scholarship entry. The pictures in this post are original captures made by me.)

(Update note: I got the scholarship!!)