Finding Yourself in Thailand: On the Road with Alana Morgan

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

I stumbled across Paper Planes and was intrigued by Alana Morgan’s story of leaving the U.S. to live abroad. I asked her to tell us a bit about how she got herself to Thailand.

Introduce yourself!

Back home in Seattle, I wanted different kinds of stories, problems, discoveries and connections than my 9-5 was giving me. So I quit my job and moved abroad. Three years later, I’m living in Thailand and currently planning my next move.


Tell us about one of your recent, memorable trips.

Moving to Thailand has essentially been a never-ending trip. I see, do, and learn something new everyday, so the line between ‘real life’ and ‘traveling’ is constantly blurred. Living abroad combines the excitement, novelty, and sometimes anxiety of traveling with the comfort of really getting to know and belong to a place.

What inspired you to make travel part of your life?

I love it.

And honestly, I don’t have the slightest clue of where I want to be or what I want to be doing with my life. So I am using this time abroad to explore different cultures, traditions, languages and people while I figure things out.

How did you save the money for the trip?

For three years after college, I saved every penny possible, worked overtime and made some sacrifices. Example: I had roommates even though I could have afforded to live alone—but if I had, every time I paid rent I’d have thought, There’s another plane ticket… and another one.

When I moved to Thailand, all that saving gave me a huge financial cushion. I was able to do what I wanted without worrying (too much) about money.

The great debate: aisle or window?

No preference.

Where do you usually stay when traveling?

Hostels, smaller guesthouses and boutique hotels are my favorite—I love a place with character! I used to just stay in the cheapest room possible, but now that I work as a freelance writer while on the road, I like having my own space.


Tell us something that has surprised you while traveling.

I keep relearning this: for most tasks, there is no right or wrong way. Rather, there are infinite ways of doing things. People live/work/play/love/fight/believe/travel/eat in all different ways and it’s up to you to figure out what works best for yourself.

That said, I still can’t believe my eyes when I see Thai workers standing on bamboo ladders that are balanced on electricity and phone lines. No spotters, no cones set up to block them from the cars whizzing by—that can’t be the right way!

Have you met any fun or interesting people on the road?

Traveling has a way of taking you out of your comfort zone and throwing you into unexpected situations, encounters and relationships – even if you’re not looking for them. I’ve learned the most intimate details of people’s lives within minutes of meeting them, and shared once-in-a-lifetime experiences with people I will never see again.

Once on a little island in Laos, I was walking on a dirt road by myself. A French girl road up on a bike, introduced herself, and quickly told me about her breakup with her boyfriend of seven years that had taken place the night before.

You really never know who you’re going to run into while you’re traveling. I’ve become close with people who grew up five minutes away from me in the States, but who I only met while halfway around the world.

Best travel tips. Go:

Be patient and open.

Traveling can often be stressful, tiring and frustrating. Maintaining a sense of patience with what is out of your control and openness with what you’re not used to makes traveling much easier.

Do your research, but not too much.

Researching and planning ahead saves you time, money and headaches during your trip. But over-planning leaves you closed off to possible opportunities and experiences you couldn’t have expected. There has to be balance.

Take a book wherever you go.

You never know when you are going to get stuck waiting somewhere (and it always seems like the times I don’t have something to read are when I’m the most stuck).

Where are you headed next?

Good question. 🙂

Want to know more? Connect with Alana at her blog, Paper Planes.

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