Breathless with life and Chiang Mai, my friend and I walk to lunch.

I’m fresh from London, fresh from attending World Travel Market, being around like-minded people, people I genuinely like, in a world that isn’t fueled by plastic-chair-sitting and cheap beer guzzling.

I’m invigorated. I’m inspired. And, I’m done.

Done with Chiang Mai.

Not because it isn’t special to me. Not because I stopped caring about the elephants, the animals … but I’m done with feeling like I’m walking on eggshells with people. With a culture I have strived to assimilate into, but never quite did.

“D, you have to leave Chiang Mai,” my friend advises me under the late fall sunshine. “Leave now. Leave while you don’t hate it.”

I ponder this.

Leave while you don’t hate it.

I quickly sum up the history of my past moves: Vegas to Atlanta (hated Vegas and hated myself), Atlanta to Europe (hated Atlanta and hated myself), Europe to Vegas (out of money and needed a job), Vegas to Thailand (loved Thailand).

The fond cities — Vegas (the second time, but only by a hair) and Europe — stand out far more than Atlanta in terms of pleasing memories.

I look at where I am: in the heart of northern Thailand in an exotic place, in love (ok, like) with my life and definitely loving who I am.

It’s a far cry from the running away I’ve done in the past.

Leave while you like it.

Originally, I had planned to stay out my visa and then head over to Europe, but those words. Those damn words my friend has said roll around in my head. Bounce around. And sink deep into me.

“I guess I could …” I begin.

“You should,” he corrects me.

That night, before he heads back to Spain, he pulls up Skyscanner and looks at flights.

“Look,” he says, turning his screen to me. “A flight from Chiang Mai to London on Christmas Day. For 450 euro.”

Glowing in front of me is my future. A chance to talk about responsible elephant tourism more freely. A chance to boost my writing career. A chance to explore more of the world.

So, I do what any wanderlust-filled person who is (almost) ready for a change. I look at the possibilities of a future not in SE Asia. A future where I feel like a woman again. Where I don’t get tangled in cultural issues. Where I can speak and help without danger.

I book the flight.

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