“I Conquered My Travel Fears to Complete an Internship Abroad!” Ashia’s Story

“I Conquered My Travel Fears to Complete an Internship Abroad!” Ashia’s Story

Conquering my fear: traveling alone for the first time.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

An internship abroad is an amaing opportunity, but can be a huge step outside your comofrt zone. For many of us, fear of the unknown can prevent us from fulfilling our goals. One of our Marketing Interns Ashia talks about how she overcame her fear of flying and took her first trip across the world, all by herself! Check out how she kicked down the wall and started an amazing adventure with us!

Have you ever wished you could conquer your fears? I’ve wanted conquer my fear of flying my entire life. I lived by my motto “if I can’t drive there, I won’t go”, but I had all of these places in my mind that I wanted to travel to. I had this elaborate plan to visit all these different countries before I hit my mid-thirties, so I could focus on building the foundation for my future. Well, here I was at the tender age of 25, experiencing my very first domestic flight across the US. I did it! Did the fear stop there? Of course not- it was very much still intact and, if I’m being honest with myself, I did not see it leaving.

Ashia conquering her fear by letting it go during our trip to the beach as part of orientation week.

Soon, I decided to take another step and go on my first international trip: a one-hour flight to the Bahamas with my friends. Still, fear lingered in the back of my mind and I couldn’t see myself ever traveling on my  own. I had this dream to fulfill, but it was blocked by my many reservations.

Shortly after, I ran across the chance to participate in a marketing internship abroad with the company XploreAsia- in Thailand of all places. When I found out about this opportunity a strange phenomenon happened. Not an inch of doubt. Not a moment of fear. The thought of traveling across the world, all by myself, suddenly brought up no red flags in my head.  This was such a change for me.

This time, I didn’t let my fears overtake my desires. I booked a flight and traveled 22 hours and 58 minutes to the other side of the world. Not in the comfort of friends or family. Not knowing any of the language. Not knowing what was in store for me. I would be living here in Thailand for three months for this internship and living my dream whilst working in a field I’ve always dreamed of working in. Only if I conquer my fears, would I get to see parts of the world I’ve only pictured in my head.

“My visit to the cave temple was very uplifting. The hike to the cave was intense but worth it!”

Ashia headed from Georgia, USA, to Hua Hin, Thailand to complete her internship abroad.
Conquer your fear of traveling alone and experience incredible places!

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a shift. Such an ease come over me and although this was my first time ever doing something like this, I just knew that I could do it. Doing an internship abroad can be a huge step outside of your comfort zone, but I implore you to follow my example and push yourself outside the box.

Ashia also got to learn about Buddhism during her internship abroad in Thailand.

During the orientation week with XploreAsia, we did so many activities like muay thai, which is one of the oldest forms of boxing in the world. I also got to experience meditating with one of the monks in the village, which was probably the purest and most serene experience I’ve ever had. At Rescue P.A.W.S., we were able to take the rescued stray dogs out to the beach for some much needed exercise. We also learned how to cook the Thai dishes som tum (papaya salad) and pad Thai. It was a great introduction to the culture.

I have been living in Thailand for just over one month now, and it has been a complete dream. I have been living in the city of Hua Hin, which has a very beachy feel and a very warm welcome.

“The temple visit was thoroughly insightful.”

I’ve even come out of my laziness and have been walking long distances, riding bikes around town and hiking up mountains. All of which I would have opted out of if I was still at home. I am completely out of my comfort zone, and being in this new environment has put me in a new headspace to do the unthinkable. There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision. I faced my fear head on and just did it.

Whilst in Thailand, I have also traveled to Malaysia all by myself. The locals were also really welcoming and showed me all the best places to eat! I spent only a few days in Malaysia and without a doubt will be returning for another adventure.

There is no longer any fear in my heart when it comes to traveling. I am already planning trips to nearby countries that I now have the confidence to travel to. Those dreams can finally become a reality.

Conquer your fear and explore the world!
Starting an internship abroad lets you get a real feel for local culture. Ashia got a chance to experience the ancient sport Muay Thai during her time with us!

If you have a fear of traveling alone, take that leap and get rid of any doubt or fear you may have. Don’t let your fear keep you hostage. There is so much to see, so much to experience and so much to take in. Thousands of people every year, get on a plane and fly unimaginable miles from destination to destination. They just get up and go. They don’t let fear get in the way and you shouldn’t either. Doing an internship abroad has been one of the best decisions I ever made. It has been not only a chance to gain international work experience to count towards my postgraduate applications, it has also given me the chance ti immerse myself in a new culture and meet lots of new people.

To learn more about how you start a new adventure and join XploreAsia as an English teacher or an intern, visit our website to find out more about our adventures. We offer an internship abroad in Marketing, Management, Teacher Placement, Education Development, and NGO Management and our programs are open to a wide range of nationalities and skill levels. We also offer a Marketing and Communications internship at our partner organisation Rescue P.A.W.S. Send us a message to find out more! Also be sure to check out our  Instagram and Facebook to see pictures, videos and updates from our teachers, interns and staff.

Best Cafes in Hua Hin for Productivity & Good WiFi

Best Cafes in Hua Hin for Productivity & Good WiFi

Best Cafes in Hua Hin for Productivity & Good WiFi

(All in walking distance from the XploreAsia office too!)

Whether you’re interning, teaching, or working abroad (like at XploreAsia), Hua Hin offers an array of highly productive, adorable cafes located on almost every corner. I love finding a nice, cozy, cafe or coffee shop to write, read, or work at for the day. A change of scenery is my best inspiration and productivity booster. Luckily, Hua Hin is filled with the best cafes all over the city. Work hard, play hard right?

best cafes in Hua Hin

For those of you searching for these hidden gems, I’ve created a short list of the best cafes in Hua Hin with reliable wifi, delicious snacks, & perfectly brewed coffee based on my own experiences here in Hua Hin–not to mention, they are all a short walk away from the XploreAsia office. I hope these cafes bring you as much productivity, inspiration, and yumminess as they did for me. Happy exploring!

Soi Hua Hin 43

Open: 7am-4pm

1.) Wagging Tales

Located right across from the XploreAsia office, Wagging Tales is XploreAsia’s local cafe supporting their NGO, Rescue Paws.

XA transformed this big house into a cafe serving delicious Thai and Western food and drinks. 100% of the profits from Wagging Tales go to helping the stray dog population in Thailand through XA’s NGO, Rescue Paws. Wagging Tales is committed to bringing all profits back into the community. Not only does this cafe offer amazing smoothies, breakfast muffins, etc. it’s also a great place to meet fellow dog lovers and support a good cause. The mango smoothie from Wagging Tales is a perfect start to my day!

Make a donation to Rescue Paws, here.

11/34 Hua-Hin Soi 45

Open: 8am-3pm

2.) Black Monster

Despite the name, this coffee shop is the farthest thing from a black monster. Located just a block over from XploreAsia, the Black Monster is one cafe you can’t miss. The speedy wifi and assortment of trendy drinks combined with their mod decor, makes this cafe a favorite in Hua Hin—mine included. Not to mention, ALL. DAY. BREAKFAST. The most important meal of the day, and one that is sure to give you a productivity boost. Black Monster offers a breakfast special for 275 TBH which includes a trendy drink of your choice, toast, and a hearty breakfast. It’s a win-win situation.

3.) Chub Cheeva

Described as “tasty food in a chillax environment” Chub Cheeva was one of my best random finds in Hua Hin. Just a few minutes away from the office, this place is a A+ choice for great food, drinks, and atmosphere. Whether you need to get some work done with their super reliable wifi or take a break, Chub Cheeva has it all. As they say, “Loosen up your day in our chilled garden”.


2/8 Soi Naeb Kehardt,

Tambon Hua Hin

Open: 11am-9pm

4.) Two Beds & Coffee Machine

Right down the street from my accommodation (which is also conveniently on the same street as the office), I spotted this adorably hidden cafe, Two Beds & Coffee Machine and had to check it out. Turns out, Two Beds is a small and cozy British espresso bar and tea lab. Although they don’t have food, they do have an assortment of espressos, tea, and matcha. Plus, if you’re hungry for a snack, head over to their close neighbor Wagging Tales Cafe! The icy cold A/C, reliable wifi, and caffeinated drinks make Two Beds a great location to hammer down and get some work done.

11/62 Hua Hin Soi 43

Open: 9am-6pm

5.) Hot Cappuccino

I spotted Hot Cappuccino walking home from dinner one evening. When I went back to check it out, I found a clean, quiet, coffee place conveniently located right next to the Pizza Company (I was really craving pizza that day). The staff was very friendly and the service was stellar. This open air cafe allows you to take in the streets of Hua Hin while also getting some work done. I tried their frozen cocoa smoothie and was not disappointed!

Hua Hin Soi 56 Phetchakasem Road (next to the Pizza Company)

Open: 8am-5pm


6.) Khang Wang 

Another random discovery in Hua Hin, Khang Wang Clean Food & Juice Bar, stole my heart. There’s a lot of hidden gems in this city. I find that the best places I’ve stumbled upon are by accident, and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Khang Wang is an inviting, slightly hidden clean food & juice bar. Both the WiFi and A/C are top notch too. But, the best part of it all is the service you receive. The gentleman that helped me was so genuinely nice and helpful that I couldn’t help but include him in this post. Not to mention, he just earned himself a new regular customer. I suggest trying the Rice Noodles & Green Curry entree and Honey Lemon drink! 

11/100 Petchkasem Road Tambon Hua Hin

Open: 8am-5pm


Written by: Leah Amich

Top 10 Reasons To Intern Overseas

Top 10 Reasons To Intern Overseas

Working as an intern overseas opens up countless opportunities, and broadens your perspective in a way you could have never imagined. But do not take our word for it! Here are the Top 10 Reasons to Intern Overseas listed by a XploreAsia intern Jane, who did a 12 week internship program with us. We are so glad to have her as part of our XploreAsia family and wish her best of luck in her new adventures back home!

1. Explore A New Country. This one seems a bit obvious, but in a case you did not realize, as an intern overseas YOU GET TO EXPLORE AND DISCOVER AN ENTIRE NEW COUNTRY!!!!! When living in a new country, it is so nice to have a place to call home and a home-base to return to after a long weekend and day trips around the country. You also become very familiar with the area that you live in, and you`ll gain a lot more knowledge about the culture than an average backpacker would. 

2. Live Like a Local. By living in a different country for an extended period of time you get to learn so much more than if you were simply visiting for a few weeks. You become completely immersed in a new culture. By living in Hua Hin, I have picked up a good amount of Thai, improved my bargaining skills and learned so much about Thai culture and customs!

sunset in Hua Hin
sunset in Hua Hin

Sunsets in Hua Hin, as beautiful as always.

3. Make Your Resume Stand Out. The decision to move abroad is not an easy, or a small step to take, however, interning overseas sets you apart from job applicants who do not have any international work experience. Employers see so much more in it than just another internship. It shows that you are open minded, you are able to adapt, you learn to over come obstacles and develop problem solving skills, the list goes on!

4. Gain International Work Experience. Working for a company in a different country means that you will be working with locals and other various nationalities. You have an opportunity to work in a multicultural environment, learn from different perspectives and work ethics. It will help you to understand how different cultures work and how to co-operate in a business environment.

5. Learn a New Language. One of the most exciting yet difficult parts of moving abroad to a country that speaks a different language than your native tongue is communicating with local people and understanding local life and culture. However, you will most likely learn how to say basic phrases and how to order your favorite foods and nothing feels better than when the local people understand what you are saying in their language!

6. Meet People from All Over the World. There will most likely be people from many different countries if you intern overseas. Some of these people may even end up becoming lifelong friends, mentors or both!  Working in an international organization allows you to learn about other people, where they come from and what it is like in their country.

XploreAsia staff and interns

7. Grow Your Network When you work in an international organization, you meet people from all around the world. You make connections that you can later use in life. People come from all different types of careers and backgrounds, and often have a lot of connections in different parts of the world.

8. Opens New Doors (opportunities and desires) it sounds cliché but people sometimes travel to find themselves.  While I would not say that you “find yourself” by moving and working in a different country, you definitely discover things about yourself regarding who you are as a person and perhaps even desires and things that matter to you that you may have never realized.  This could further lead to open an entire new world of opportunities that align with your new found passions!


Surprisingly, Thailand is also a home to handful of vineyards!

On the way to one of the temples in Khao Takiab, about 30 minute drive from Hua Hin

9. Personal Growth. Being away from your version of normal, gives you no option but to grow! Everything is different and initially it all feels quite uncomfortable.  From the food you eat and every day commute, to the way you interact with people, it is all different and strange at first. It is a constant testing of your patience and at the end it makes you become a more calm and accepting person.  As there is a saying, nothing good ever comes from a comfort zone.

10. Everyday life is Actually Exciting. One of the best parts of interning abroad is that every day is unpredictable. When you are in a comfortable familiar setting, life can become routine and sometimes even boring.  However, life in another country is always an adventure, ranging from discovering your new favorite lunch spot to exploring your new town after work! You never run out of things to do and always have a new adventure to look forward to.

Is this something that you would be interested? Would you like to join our international XploreAsia family, gain valuable work experience and have a taste of what’s it like living in Thailand? If yes, get in contact with us and lets have a chat!

Considering Going Overseas? Here’s Why You Should Work Abroad Instead of Backpack

Considering Going Overseas? Here’s Why You Should Work Abroad Instead of Backpack

work abroad network

Whether you’re looking to travel after graduation, or eager to find a blank slate for a fresh start; you’ve decided to go abroad. In any case, there are many reasons and opportunities to make the most of your experience abroad. You can travel, volunteer, teach, or work abroad.  No matter which path you decide to take, you will gain  valuable insight into a new and exciting country.

Let’s say you can’t commit to a whole year teaching but you want more time than a week of vacationing or volunteering. Consider two options for a moment; you can either carry your life on your back or settle down and find work abroad.

Many people decide to travel as backpackers for an extended period of time, whether on their own or with a small group of friends. These back-packing experiences provide valuable insight to various local cultures and customs of many different regions and cities: everything from the local people to the cuisine, the landscape, and the diverse geography. Typically this type of excursion is an action packed list of things to do compressed into a small amount of time. With that in mind, backpackers are constantly on-the-go, seeking the next opportunity that comes along their path.

Picture your life backpacking: one week you might be hiking through a luscious mountainous region and the next you’ll be posted up on a white sand beach with a Chang in your hand. What could be more ideal?

Well, let’s consider the flip side of that exhilarating excursion – the cons, per se. While you may gain some unique street smarts navigating a foreign country, you won’t be getting an in-depth understanding of each culture if you’re constantly looking ahead for the next best thing to come along. Not to mention, there’s no time to relax when there’s so much to see and too much to do.


Taking in the view of our new home in Hua Hin.

Sound exhausting and stressful? Well, I have a solution for you. Ditch the backpack (along with the sore feet) and choose to fully immerse yourself in a local culture through working and living abroad. There are various attractions and benefits to working abroad compared to the constant hustle of backpacker travel. You’ll have the opportunity to get to know your surroundings while also appreciating each moment, embracing every aspect of this new, diverse environment. 

xa orphanage

Amazing to be part of a company that is dedicated to giving back to their community with time spent at the Pala'U orphanage.

First of all, you’ll gain hands on work experience in an international Thai office, pretty cool right? Those who work abroad gain value through capturing an in-depth understanding of how a business within another culture operates. Participating in daily operations allow for a better interpretation of the company in general and why they promote specific values relating to Thai culture.

Not only will you gain insight to a multi-cultural/international work environment but any challenges abroad will allow for more individual growth and prepare you for future struggles back home. Through working with other cultures you will learn how to navigate through daily issues that aren’t typically addressed within a monocultural environment.

Some of the XploreAsia team saying a farewell to one of our interns!

These miniscule interactions lead to a better understanding of how others operate while also promoting a new way of thinking. As you build these international relationships, your diverse group of colleagues will soon become a substantial global network of friends.

Buddhist monk mediation

Enjoying a lesson on meditation from a local monk.

Interacting with the same people on a daily basis can also change your perception of someone from a different cultural background as you begin to understand why they do the things they do and reasoning put behind the unique customs of Thai people. It truly is an enriching experience to befriend a local and gain their personal insight on life in Thailand. Plus collaborating with locals within the office enables the perfect opportunity to enhance your Thai language skills. Everyday brings a new chance to learn something about the Thai culture and about yourself.

So if you’re thinking you’ll be stuck in one city without experiencing any of Thailand’s rich offerings by taking an internship over backpacking, you are mistaken. On one hand, much of the valuable offerings occur within daily office interactions. But what about the travel opportunities? As an intern, I find it much easier to travel somewhat sporadically because it helps to save up money before these trips while also allowing for some down time during the week without the stress that comes with constantly changing scenery. It is also reassuring to have a home base to return to after a hectic weekend reliving planes, trains, and automobiles. Travelling is still very much attainable as an intern so don’t be discouraged if that is a main concern when considering a work abroad opportunity.

viewpoint of hua hin

Viewpoint over Khao Kalok Beach in Pranburi

While there is much to learn about culture by backpacking through a new country, personally I have found that working within an international office I have gained an extensive, unparalleled skill set with communicating across various cultures that would not be attainable through just traveling. 

With that said, consider these five reasons why you should leave the backpack at home and work abroad instead:
  1. Work within an integrated office environment and learn how to interact professionally with Thai people while also improving your own Thai language skills.
  2. Gain full immersion into local culture including all of the food, friends, and welcoming family atmosphere you could ever dream of.
  3. Assume automatic lower stress about what will happen next and gain more appreciation for what is happening now.
  4. Build both a personal and professional global network of friends and colleagues.
  5. Have the opportunity to travel on weekend excursions while still having a secure home base to return to afterwards.

Now that you’ve weighed the pro’s and con’s, why not start your journey now and apply to one of our unique internship programs!


Written by: Marti Lippert 

TESOL Course Orientation Week: What to Expect When Living in Thailand

TESOL Course Orientation Week: What to Expect When Living in Thailand

We are so glad to welcome the newest members of the Xplore Asia family and share their stories from their first few weeks living in Thailand. Our new interns just came back from their weekend trip from Koh Pha Ngan and are back in the office, working away and preparing to welcome our next TESOL course intake. They have been in Hua Hin for just over two weeks now and would love to offer some advice on what to expect during orientation week and adjusting to life in Thailand.

Thailand Life: New interns, Xplore Asia

Our new interns: Marti, Julia, Jane, and Isabelle!

What was your first impression of Thailand and how did it compare to your expectations?

Boat Trip in Bangkok

Boat Trip in Bangkok

JaneI was surprised by the Western influence and how much of it there was. Coming from New York City, I am used to the hustle and bustle of a busy city that is not exactly clean.  However, Bangkok was a whole different ball game.  I also thought that Hua Hin would be a quaint little beach town getaway, but it feels much more urban. The city has grown on me quite a lot, and it offers so many wonderful things.

Isabelle: Here in Hua Hin, the busyness of the roads continue to surprise me, but I love the difference between night and day in the city. At night-time, the city is far less hot, which is reflected in the atmosphere: people come out to relax, eat, and drink at the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants.  It’s so lovely.

Is this your first time traveling in Southeast Asia, and did you do any research before you arrived?

Jane: This is my first time in South East Asia.  I did a bit of research but nothing too extensive.  For example, I googled pictures of Thailand and Hua Hin and read a few travel books about Thailand life.  I also talked to my friend a lot about Thailand because she studied in Chang Mai in Spring 2015. I do like to keep things a surprise and I knew that Hua Hin would be different from where my friend was and from what people think of when they think of Thailand.                                                                                                                     

Marti: Yes, I’ve been to both Vietnam and Myanmar. I didn’t do much research because I assumed it would be somewhat similar to those other countries.

What was your biggest concern about living and working in Thailand?

Life in Thailand

Sunrise in Hua Hin

Isabelle: I was mainly concerned about safety as a female traveler, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I feel much safer here than I did traveling in other places (sometimes even in the States).

Julia: I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would still be an interesting experience no matter what happened.

What advice would give to someone who has the same concern?

Jane: For someone who is sort of “afraid of the unknown” and unsure about coming to Thailand, I would tell them this: everyone has fears and anxieties of the unknown.  You are excited but nervous. I think if you even have a slight desire to go and see somewhere, just go.  Otherwise, you’re always going to wonder, “What if I’d done that? What if I’d gone?” 

Marti: Embrace it! Everything in this country is amazing, from the people to the food to the scenic landscapes.

Julia: It will all work out and even at times when things get frustrating at work, remember that you are still living in Thailand. Stay optimistic and positive about the experience and embrace it.

Thailand Life: Discover new foods, sights and sounds living abroad!

Local market where we ordered ingredients in Thai to cook Pad Thai and papaya salad!

Isabelle: There are dangers everywhere, of course, but I have found that I feel very safe here in Hua Hin. It’s important to use common sense, but that’s similar to any other place. As my dad always states, “Make good choices,” and I think that goes for a lot of things – not just personal safety, but in looking out for others as well.

What was your favourite part of the TESOL Course Orientation week?

Thailand Life: Elephant Hug

Hugging an elephant at the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation!

Jane: My favorite part was going to Hutsadin Elephant Foundation and learning about the elephants.  They are truly amazing animals. 

Marti: I thought it was interesting to hear the backgrounds of other people involved in the program to see what made them decide to come to Thailand. It was a great way to get to know everyone very fast. Feeding elephants is always a plus! 

Isabelle: The Thai politics and culture class taught by the director Michael Volpe was a highlight for me; I learned so much in just those few lectures, and his enthusiasm and clear love for Thailand made me all the more excited to experience living in the country.

What was the most surprising part about orientation week and life in Thailand? 

Thailand Life: Hua Hin Beach

The beach down the street from where we live!

Isabelle: Thailand is truly a study of contrasts and some aspects of the culture can sometimes contradict one another. The fact that cars and motorbikes will not stop for pedestrians was surprising to me, but as long as you’re vigilant and patient, it’s not too much of a problem.

Julia: I was surprised by how busy Hua Hin is. I expected it to be more of a relaxed beach town.

Marti: I was surprised to learn about the background of the recent King that passed and discover the level of adoration he received from the Thai people.

What was the most challenging part about adjusting to Thailand life?

Isabelle: How hot it is here in Thailand. It really does drain your strength, so drink lots of water, wear good shoes, and don’t forget to put on bug spray. There are so many bugs in Thailand! 

Jane: The most challenging part was being jet lagged.  I was so tired and went to bed at 9:30 pm every night.

What do you love about life in Hua Hin?

Jane: I love being by the beach and the abundance of seafood.  The food here is really tasty and super cheap.

Isabelle: Recently, we went to the Grand Night Market for dinner, and I enjoyed it much more than the regular night market. It was far less touristy, the food was delicious, and in the back of the market, a gathering of bars with bright, colourful lights overhead was so inviting and peaceful.

Hua Hin Beach

Hua Hin Beach

What do you wish you would’ve brought with you to Thailand?

Isabelle: More bug spray! And long, flowy black pants for the office. Comfortable slip-on and slip-off shoes (flats) are awesome to have here because you’re constantly taking your shoes off and on when you go into any businesses or the office.  

Jane: I wish I had more room in my suitcase to bring home some of the amazing things you can find in Thailand.  The clothes here are so bright and pretty. There is a lot of color here, and everything is vibrant and cheery… I would LOVE to bring that home. 

MartiMost of my clothes aren’t fit for office life. I wish I had packed less so I could take advantage of the cheaper, more suitable options here.

Thank you to our new interns! We’re so happy that you had a wonderful TESOL Course Orientation experience and we’re excited that you’re here at Xplore Asia. We can’t wait to hear about the new adventures and experiences you’ll have while living in Thailand! 

Want to experience Thailand life? Ready to start your own adventure living in a different country? Are you interested in teaching or working abroad? Check out our amazing program experiences here.

Traveling Alone as a Woman in Asia

Traveling Alone as a Woman in Asia

I had flown alone before, but my current trip to Asia was the first time I truly traveled alone.  On my trips to France, Ireland, and Mexico I had people to pick me up at the airport, and an instant group of friends awaiting me when I arrived.  While I knew that would be true when I reached Thailand to begin my internship at XploreAsia, my trip to South Korea was my first real solo travel experience.  I not only flew alone, but got myself to my hostel on my own.  I was nervous before I left, as I don’t speak a word of Korean.  However, my fears proved to be unfounded.  I was easily able to deal with the things I was concerned about, such as:

Getting Around

English is very present in cities like Seoul and Bangkok.  Most signs, particularly those at airports and on trains, display both the native language and English. This makes getting around on your own easy.  Trains, especially those in major cities, are incredibly easy to navigate.  Particularly if you have experience with a train system like the El in Chicago or London’s Underground, you shouldn’t have any issues.  The trains I’ve seen were also cleaner, larger and generally safer feeling than the ones back in Chicago.

On the off-chance you do get lost, I have found people in South Korea and Thailand to be very helpful.  Whenever I stopped to look at a map in Seoul, someone would approach me and ask if they could help.  In Thailand, people are similarly kind.  The only thing to be wary of is that, in my experience, Thai people will nod and give you the impression they know what you’re talking about, when they have no idea.  This means it may take a bit longer than anticipated to get where you’re going, but eventually you’ll find someone who is not only able to help you, but very happy to do so.

The train stations in Bangkok have gorgeous views!


One of the pleasant surprises of traveling alone in Asia was the way men reacted to me, or, rather, didn’t react to me.  I’m used to walking around alone in Chicago and Europe, where catcalling is a pretty regular occurrence.  Men in Chicago aren’t always the most polite, and I have had a few instances where I felt threatened.  European men seem to have picked up a lot of their English skills from rap songs, and it shows in the way they speak to women.  Even in small-town Ireland, as soon as summer rolled around and I began wearing shorts, honks and odd groaning noises became a regular occurrence.  Completely on my own in Seoul, I expected more of the same.  While I received my fair share of stares, men didn’t yell things at me or catcall at all.

Thailand is a bit different.  Men will call out to you in the street, especially if you are wearing shorts or are otherwise dressed less modestly than the typical Thai woman.  However, the things they say are generally far less offensive than what I have heard in other countries.  While I would prefer to just be ignored, I’ve always preferred “Hey, beautiful!” to the more aggressive and sexual catcalls I get back home.  In Thailand, most men just say “Hello!”  I can even say hello back, and the conversation usually ends there.  If not, I’ll hear “How are you?  You’re beautiful.  I like you.  You have boyfriend?”  That is generally the extent of their English, and personally, none of these interactions have left me feeling shaken or worried. 

Obviously it’s still important to be careful, especially in a country where saving face is so important.  Just as I always ignore men back home so as not to provoke violence, here I generally smile as I walk away when strange men approach me.  Saving face is very important in Thai culture, and people can react very badly when they feel embarrassed.  As such, I try to maintain my distance without offending the man in question.  Just like back home, no matter how annoying I find being approached, I never tell the man off or get visibly angry. 

Walking across a London street, keeping an eye out for catcallers

Walking Around at Night

As most women have been told since we were little girls, you should always avoid walking home alone at night.  However, at some point, you might get into a situation where you do walk by yourself at night.  Personally, I have always felt much safer doing this in other countries than back in America.  I never walked alone after dark in Korea, but I have done so a couple of times in Thailand.  While it’s not something I would advise anyone to do, regardless of gender, I haven’t had any scares or issues. 

Taxis are also readily available in Thailand, so there shouldn’t be any real need to walk alone.  I’ve found that taxi drivers here are great about taking you straight to your door, particularly at night.


As a woman traveling on your own, other people are going to have a lot of opinions about what you’re doing.  They may think you’re crazy or reckless.  They may tell you horror stories to try to convince you not to go.  Even when you leave home, you may still get comments.  When I went to Mexico, many people expressed shock that I was there on my own.  “You’re so young!” they would exclaim.  I look quite a bit younger than my age of 25, and this doesn’t help the number of people who are concerned for me.  These people are generally very well-intentioned, but I wouldn’t take what they say to heart.  Do your research, be mindful of your surroundings, and use your street smarts, but don’t let the opinions of others dissuade you from following your dreams of traveling.  Before I moved to Ireland, my family told me it was a bad idea.  I didn’t listen, and trusted that I knew myself better than they did.  It turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made, and now my family are supportive of my travels as they see how good traveling is for me.

When traveling alone, don't be afraid to ask a stranger to take your picture. The nice girls who took this one for me were happy to do it!

It’s great to travel with friends or family, but sometimes there’s no one in your life who can take off work or afford to go with you.  Rather than letting the fear of going alone hold you back, I recommend taking the plunge and traveling alone.  You’ll get to do what you want, when you want, and discover that you are more independent and capable than you ever believed.  Deciding to travel alone as a woman is the greatest thing I have ever done for myself.  I hope that other women that have considered traveling alone embrace adventure and discover not only the joys of seeing the world, but their own inner strength and confidence.

Mary Leonard is an intern at XploreAsia.  You can follow her travels on her blog, Wide Eyes and Wanderlust

Why I Choose to Work Abroad Instead of Just Vacation

Why I Choose to Work Abroad Instead of Just Vacation

Live Like a Local

When I was twenty, I went abroad for the first time.  I spent six weeks studying in Aix-en-Provence, France.  That trip ruined simple vacations for me. 

Work abroad

Although I was only there a short time, I felt like I truly got to know Aix.  I learned my way around the winding streets, figured out which shops had the best gelato, and formed a close bond with my host mom and her family.  It was these people and places that made me fall in love with France, in a deeper way than a week in Paris ever could.

 After graduating from college, I felt the urge to travel again.  Having learned from my time in France, I knew I wanted to live abroad rather than just backpack around Europe.  I found a job as an au pair in Ballina-Killaloe, Ireland.  My year in Ireland was filled with ups and downs.  When I studied in France, life was like a party.   My classes were easy, and I had very little responsibility.  In Ireland, I had a real job and responsibilities.  I got a true sense of what it’s like to live in Ireland, without the rose-colored glasses of study abroad.

Prior to coming to Ireland, I had always romanticized small towns.  I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and went to school in the city, but had never lived in a town where everyone knew each other.  That was the case in Ballina-Killaloe, two twin towns where you saw the same few people in the same few pubs every weekend.   This had its upsides.  I often ran into people I knew in the street, and for the first time in my life became a regular at a pub.  I felt safe walking by myself at night, or putting my purse down to dance.   It was also quite a bit cheaper than a city like Dublin.  Despite these positives, on the whole, I learned that in the long run I’d like to live in a city.  I love the energy of cities, and the possibility of meeting new people every time you walk outside. 

The fact that Ireland wasn’t my ideal was in its own way a positive thing that led to a lot of self-discovery.   Au pairing was my first full-time job, and I learned that getting through the work week is much easier when you have plans to travel around your new country on the weekends.  This has inspired me to continue to look for jobs in foreign locales that allow me to travel in my free time.

Work abroad

After Ireland, I found my current position as an intern at XploreAsia.  I feel like I’m getting a much more accurate picture of how life really is in Thailand than those who come and stay at a resort.  I’ve met some amazing locals, like the little girl who greets the other interns and I every time we walk by, or our neighbor, who gave us candles as he worried we wouldn’t have light if the power went out.  I do get to enjoy the beautiful beaches and go on hikes on the weekends, but I also get to accurately judge how I feel about the country.  Any place is wonderful if you spend your time there relaxing.  You get a more realistic perspective of whether or not you truly like the culture and atmosphere if you live more like a local, working and running errands in addition to the tourist activities.

Work abroad

I still enjoy traditional vacations; a week-long yoga retreat on the beach in Mexico is undeniably a wonderful experience.  However, this and other short trips I have taken have never been as satisfying as my experiences living abroad.  I do not know Mexico or understand its culture the way I understand Ireland and Thailand.  For me, living and working in a country, fully seeing its good and bad sides, is the most fulfilling and rewarding way to travel. 

Mary Leonard is an intern at XploreAsia.  You can follow her adventures in Thailand on her blog, Wide Eyes and Wanderlust

A Day in The Life of An XploreAsia Intern

A Day in The Life of An XploreAsia Intern

07:00:  Rise and Shine
Open your eyes to another glorious day of LIVING IN THAILAND! Take a nice, cold shower (because there’s no hot water, but also because you’ll be sticky with sweat). Slip into some professional and modest work attire (so as not to offend your Thai co-workers), grab your bags, and head outside to slip on your shoes.

07:30: Catching the Songtao
TukTukDepending where you are housed, you may have the luxury of walking to work every day; but here on Soi 94 we prefer to sleep in and take the songtao (taxi bus). A green one or a white one will do (I prefer the white ones, as they will take you all the way for just 10 baht; whereas the green ones stop at the market, and will cost you 20 baht to go the full route). You can ask them to stop right at Soi 43, but if you take my advice, you’ll keep going till you hit Soi 39 for

08:00:   Breakfast at the Baguette
The Baguette is a popular Thai-European Bakery located just a few blocks down from the office, and is a staff favorite. Why get your morning dose of carbs, milk, and sugar from a bowl of over-priced Frosted Flakes when you can enjoy a delicious pastry and sweet creamy beverage for a fraction of what you’d pay at Starbucks? I was going to list my recommendations here, but I don’t need you judging me for the amount of food I’ve managed to consume from this restaurant alone in the last two months (and I’ve yet to order something from the Baguette I wouldn’t recommend).

08:30: Work Day Begins
To recap: XploreAsia is an NGO which offers a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course here in Hua Hin (and another in Chiang Mai), and places teachers with their TESOL certification in schools across Asia (including Thailand, China, Myanmar, South Korea, and Vietnam).

The view from outside of the office

Work in the Programs office can vary immensely. Basic responsibilities of the job include administrative work such as drafting emails, formatting documents, creating presentations, inputting data into spreadsheets, organizing and coordinating participants and events, administering surveys, gossiping by the water cooler, taking photographs, posting on social media, and acting as a liaison between XA, its partner agencies (like Greenheart), and the TESOL program participants.

12:00:  Break for Lunch
There are so many great options for grabbing lunch near Soi 43, but perhaps the greatest of them all is “The Corner Lady,” so-called because her eatery sits on a corner, around the corner, (make that three corners,) from the office. Here you will find some of the best (and cheapest) Thai food around. Lunch will cost you an average of 40 baht, and my favorite dish by far has to be the pad see ew.

Pad See Ew

13:00:  Resume Work
Okay, so it sounds like a pretty typical office job so far…but working in Thailand is not without its benefits! Every month, a new group of TESOL participants fly in from all over the world to participate in XA’s Teach in Thailand Program. That makes for plenty of time spent out of the office coordinating participants and helping to ensure things run smoothly – a great opportunity to share your acquired wisdom and learn from fellow travelers!

The program kicks off with a week of cultural excursions, which include activities such as kicking-ass in Muay Thai class, visiting a local pineapple Farm, feeding the elephants at Hutsadin Elephant Foundation, shopping and exploring a local Thai market, learning how to cook your own somtam and pad Thai, meditating with a Buddhist monk, hiking up the Khao Tao temple, and running with the pack at Rescue Paws. As an intern, you have the opportunity to join in all the fun!

17:30: End of Work Day
Which is really just the beginning.

You live in Thailand; the possibilities are endless! Grab a beer with your new friends, or watch the sun set from a rooftop. Walk to the beach. Take a kite-surfing lesson. Enjoy a Thai massage. Go shopping for clothes and goodies at the mall, or practice your language skills at the night market. Watch a movie at the Cineplex. Hop the bento bars on Soi 55. Go dancing at the club. Try a new restaurant. Explore a new neighborhood. Make a new friend. Play with your local street dog(s) or cat(s). Relish the moment. Take pictures of everything. Write a blog post about how awesome your life is.

Written by: Tabitha Frahm

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