Because nothing is permanent


Because ice melts. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: net_efekt

They say animals love you, unconditionally. And us, them. But, beat up an animal enough, and that animal will eventually (and hopefully) bite the shit out of us; get bitten by an animal we love one too many times, and we’ll likely get rid of the abuser.

Even those unconditional notions … they aren’t aways here to stay. Unconditional love is not permanent; it is a privilege which, with abuse, can be rescinded.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about permanence.

When I take body pump at the gym, my friend and I always are in the very back, facing away from the others working out so we can watch our form (and see how good we look when we sweat) in the mirrors. I see those wrinkles around my eyes. The lines in my forehead. I watch as I age before that mirror, trying to become a healthier person, but knowing, at the end of the day, my life is not permanent. And, that youthful appearance (what remains of it) will go from crows feet to deep crevices cutting into the heart of my face.

And, I’m ok with that.

As I have aged (hell, I’m basically 35 now), this idea of permanence has ebbed and flowed. The first idea of permanence was growing up when I was asked what I wanted for my future. A job, a house, a family. All of those things seemed like my God-given right; these were ideas which were placed into my mind and ones which clearly spelled my future. A future where my career was my career, my house was my house, my husband was my husband until death do us part: permanence.

Then, it was Vegas. I remember so clearly walking the aisles of Macy’s looking for furniture.

“Get something quality,” my dad had said. “You want it to last.”

Because at that time, this move to Vegas, this furniture, it was the start of my new life. Of this new permanent because my future was Vegas and that was all I saw. It had to last as long as I was going to last. Or, as long as it took to get married, buy a new house and get all new furniture for kids to destroy.

Of course, if you follow along on d travels ’round, then you know that permanent life was politely exchanged not once, but three times. The first, to Atlanta, the second to Europe and then the third, back to Vegas.

Enter the fourth act: Chiang Mai.

For me, this city is about as permanent as they come. I know I love it because when I walk down the street, when I sit with Lek and the elephants, when I hop in a songthaew, the thought of not having these things in my life on a regular basis literally brings tears to my eyes. This city overwhelms me with emotion, with love, but also that yearning to either make it my place or find another one.

It is something I regularly battle with as I get older, my friends get married and have kids, and the mileage between my family doesn’t shrink. I never expected this stop to be permanent, so I never gave myself permission to truly settle in here. I have always refused to go to the Baan & Beyond and buy home goods because I know nothing is permanent, and that has been my thought process for too long now to correct.


But do I really want to be permanent anywhere?  I can hardly make a commitment on the color of hair I want, let alone  decide to hunker down for the long haul in one single, solitary location. There is always that desire to see. To learn. To soak up as much as possible before I no longer have that ability to soak things up anymore.

No, I’m not leaving Chiang Mai anytime in the near future. This project, with all of its “dig deeper” moments, has just dug up this idea lately about permanence, and that it doesn’t exist in my world.

Does it exist in yours?

Diary Get Your Shit Together

I heart boundaries

Peter Castelton

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Peter Castleton


Let’s talk today about boundaries because they rock. And I say this as a person who, at nearly 35, has only recently learned to put them up without coming off as a total bitch. (Although lately the boundaries I have been having to establish have warranted downright bitchy behavior. Please refer to Dating in Thailand and FOF for reference of said TOTALLY WARRANTED bitchy behavior.)

I used to not have boundaries. It sucked.


Because I don’t think it is possible to live a happy existence constantly letting other people mow a person over. Or constantly passing on what makes me comfortable or happy because I am so scared to hurt the other person/people or disappoint the other person/people, that I just bend over and take it.

I like to make other people happy, don’t get me wrong. I am one hell of a loyal friend and would cancel a gym session for a friend in need (and at this point in my life, canceling the gym is, like, HUGE. I might as well put up a sign that says “I love you” because, I truly do love you if I am pulled away from spin class or body pump or (gasp!) both.)

Boundaries aren’t just about setting up guidelines and expectations; they are also about cutting bullshit from lives. You know, the toxic shit that we, perhaps, used to accept.

Like the excuse or defensive statement we sometimes take to justify a person’s not-so-good behavior. Maybe this rings a bell?

“So and so is just an asshole …”

Well, you know what?

I. Don’t. Like. Assholes.

In fact, I don’t want assholes in my life.

Boundary? Yes. Removal from my brain matter? Yes. Removal from my life? Oh, hell yes.

And it feels amazing.

But, there are those other boundaries, too. The boundaries we put up in response to how we expect to be treated. How we live our lives. What we will and won’t sacrifice.

These are all incredibly important. As I have come along with this project and become more secure in myself and what it is want, I have not only cut those jerk faces from my life, but I have also laid boundaries as to what I will and won’t accept.

How do you set up boundaries?

Diary Get Your Shit Together

Cut nose. Spite face.

fork in the road

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Andre Chinn

“So, let me get this straight,” my new friend begins as we walk down Moonmueang on a balmy Saturday night. “You won’t go on a date with someone who is only here for two nights?”

“Correct,” I say, resolute in this decision.

“But, what if that person is the one you are meant to be with and you decide not to go because he is only in town for two nights? What if he’s the one?” he asks.

“I guess I would kind of know if he was the one,” I reason, “and what would happen if he was the one for me? He’s here for two nights and then off on some other adventure. I don’t want that.”

“If it was me, I would stay, I would stop traveling, if I met someone I thought was the one,” he says.

“Yeah, I guess there is that,” and then in the back of my mind, I think this guy is the exception to the rule. He’s not the typical traveler coming through here. He’s on his own. He’s 40. He’s mature. The guys who hit me up on OK Cupid, on Tinder, are not looking for the “one,” they are looking for a good time. Then, they’re off to Laos. Or Vietnam. Or down south to the beaches and bars.

And, then I announce, “You know, I’m really not looking for a relationship right now. I’m really not looking for anything. The idea of taking the time, the effort, to go out on a date with someone here for only two nights just does not appeal to me in the least. I’d rather spend that time on me and be selfish.”

I’d rather go to the gym, go to dinner with friends and go home and write, than make that effort, have that strained conversation and think that maybe, just maybe this random guy who has hit me up on the flavor-of-the-day dating site could possibly  be someone long term. I’m really happy just being with myself.”

For the first time in my life, I actually want to be by myself.

It took me until a few months ago to really realize that. I’d always just assumed that if I met the right guy, I would drop everything and balls-to-the-wall it with that man and embark on said relationship with gusto. Then, when I started that long distance Tinder relationship in June, things got serious really quick. Sure, we hadn’t met each other yet, but the conversations, the deep, deep conversations, the realizations that we had about each other,  the awe that we clicked that well, the sheer idea that this was like a little fairytale between us, made me start thinking about relationships more.

About what I was willing to give up in exchange for that partner in crime.

He was planning on coming here. We were going to see if it would work. And if it did, then we would figure out those all-important next steps. Those major steps that move one from their single life into that life of compromise.

Turns out, I’m not ready to give up anything. Yet.

I remember so clearly, sitting in the back of the songthaew, coming home from a rather intense workout. I looked out the window and just gushed love for my city, the moat, everything that makes this place my place (annoyances and all).

Was I ready to drop it for someone? Did I want to re-start my life in a foreign city? Did I really want to sacrifice the things I was working on (a book, a new project, travel, focusing on my health and well-being) because of a relationship? Was I willing to succumb to the pressure of being under relationship pressure?

Far too often in my life, I have made decisions based on others lives and my conforming to them. Was this a case where I would need to conform?

Ultimately, that was not what ended the could-belong-distance relationship, but I knew that instant, as we puttered along the Old City, that I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to focus on me. To not get distracted. I was not willing to sacrifice the point I am at in my life, the things I am doing for me, for anyone else or anything else.

And, that still stands.

But then, with my friend the other night, and that conversation, I began to second guess myself. I’m nearly 35. I’m nearly 40. I’m nearly out of that range where if I wanted to have kids of my own, I could. Am I setting myself up for a never having this by turning my nose up at potential dates? Potential opportunities? Or am I giving myself a chance to fall deeper in love with me, and perhaps meet someone in the future who can love me as much as I love myself?

Am I regularly coming to forks in the road and choosing the wrong path? I feel like before I can be in a relationship with someone else I keep focusing on me and let the chips fall as they may because at the end of the day, it is ultimately up to me to find happiness within myself. The rest is just extra.


Diary The Dating Life

Dating in Thailand: you’re f#%^ed. Definitely not literally.

dating in thailand

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: ngmmemuda

I used to joke with my married best friend here in Chiang Mai about dating. Wouldn’t it be great to write an anonymous blog about dating in Thailand as a western woman? I mean, the possibilities (ha)! That’s when she uttered this gem of a title: “You’re fucked. Definitely not literally.”

We had a good laugh about it that ended with that heavy sigh on my end. The sigh that means, “that’s funny as shit, but dammit, you are so right.”

So, with TCZP, I decided I would put myself out there, see what could happen. Even though I am perfectly content being single and not in a relationship. In fact, I don’t really have any desire to date. BUT, a part of this project is dating and meeting men on different online sites since meeting them here in my free time is pretty much not an option since when I’m not working, I’m working out. Or sleeping. Or spending time with people I care about.

A brief examination of the dating options in Thailand for western women seeking a western man:

OK Cupid

Since March, I’ve been fielding requests on OK Cupid for dates. Although I specifically state that I am interested more in learning about what men are looking for living here than a relationship, and that the date must be with someone who either lives here or is visiting longer term, it hasn’t stopped people from all over the world messaging me with ridiculousness.

Like these gems.

Some of which are just arrogant drivel that simply attempts to tell me I am wrong and can be better XX ways:

“I don’t know what’s worse: You writing about yourself in third person or you writing about being fat although obviously you aren’t. Well who am I to judge. Maybe you just master the angles. In that case I am sorry that you feel bad. And for me making fun of that. So I’ve read your post almost completely now. Never really hard from anyone that thai people would talking like that. Anyway. It shouldn’t be too hard to meet western men. A lot of them are actually no sexpats who would enjoy spending time with caucasian gal. So, enjoy your stay! And the best of luck. Maybe cut down a little on that ‘I am a writer and I am living my dream in thailand” crap and write some interesting stuff about ya. Just saying. Well anyway, I just came here because the pictures were cute. So there you have it.” [SIC] [SIC] [SIC]

Mind you, I responded to not one of those messages. And each sentence was an instant message.

One guy offered to fly up to see me from Bangkok, which just made me uncomfortable, particularly since we had exchanged maybe two lines of communication before the ask.

Then, there are the ones from somewhere far away, largely from India, that tell me they would like to get to know me better.

And, of course, the pervs who want me to read their erotica and tell them what I think.

So, delete. Delete. Delete. And delete some more.

After deciding that I don’t really give a shit knowing what men are looking for here because I see the men here and they are not men I want to date  … EVER … I decided to move on over to the dark side: Tinder.


Tinder, as most of you may know, is  basically an App that lets you pick and choose potential “dates” based pretty much entirely on appearance and a super brief description. That’s it. And, in the not nice terms, it is largely used for people to go and have random sex and maybe, just maybe meet a suitable match.

Of course, the men I meet on Tinder here are in town for a quick jaunt mostly, and either the convo goes downhill quickly or I lose interest and have no desire to take a night off from the gym or my quiet days to go and have conversation with a passerby.

Things changed when I went to Europe though. The guys on Tinder there are locals. They stay put, and — joy of joys — they want to date a western woman. I was the one passing through, I held the intrigue and for the first time, guys were messaging me and asking me out, versus just engaging in mundane conversation of “how long you in town?” blah blah filler.

But, even those men living in Europe seemed to only want one thing: sex.

I mean, I started getting messages without even so much as small talk telling me they were staying at such-and-such location and did I want to come over because they are good kissers?

What? The? Fuck?

And, no. Just … no.

Then, I met someone on there who was engaging. Seemed cute. Seemed to have his shit together. The only downside was we never got to meet when I was in Europe, which meant the conversation continued with 5,000 miles between us.

Let me tell you this — 5,000 miles between a potential match kind of opens one up to being more up front. Because what’s the worst that can happen? You stop e-mailing? So, I let loose. I opened up like I had never opened up before. It was a whirlwind and soon he was planning to come here to meet me.

But, there were warning bells going off in my head. Friends waving red flags to me. (I’m not going to get into it because it is all personal, and while I am fine opening up about me, I am not fine with talking about someone else on here and their personal life confided to me.) At the end of the day, I decided it wasn’t a relationship I wanted to be in so I ended it.


As someone who would like to end up with someone of my own religious upbringing, although I am not really practicing, my best friend suggested I check out JDate. In Thailand. Which kind of made me scratch my head a little, because really? JDate exists in Thailand?

Guess what?

It doesn’t.

Sure, there is a drop down menu that lets the user click on “Thailand” but then nothing comes up with the actual listing for cities.

JDate fail.

Expat Dating Sites

I also looked at the expat dating sites on the fabulous inter webs. After doing some inputting, my results were handed to me. About one page of men my dads age. So, nope on those. Apparently, the expat dating sites in Chiang Mai are not utilized by the eligible bachelors my age., back in the States, was my go-to. It was less annoying than e-Harmony and the quality of men was far better than OKCupid, Plenty of Fish and others. So, I decided to take a little swim through Match the other week. Similar to the expat dating sites, is definitely not utilized by many foreigners here looking for a western girlfriend. There were about 10 results for Chiang Mai within my age group. I didn’t even narrow it down to any deal breakers or anything. I just entered in the ages. And, yeah …

The friend of a friend

This. This is where I made the ultimate mistake. I met a friend of a friend. A friend of a friend who was in town for only a short while. This FOF, however, was super cute. Super polite. And wanted to spend time with me. For a long weekend, we spent a lot of time together, going out, eating, drinking, canoodling.

One night, laying together, I asked him if he had a wife or a girlfriend. He said “no” and then kissed me.

Cue melting.

I mean, a nice guy. Single. Handsome. Heaps of vacation time at the ready. There were no wedding bells dinging in my mind or anything serious, but someone who comes to town and can hold a conversation and is nice and nice to spend time with? Yes, please. Even if it is not often. It’s … comforting.

This shit doesn’t exist in Thailand for me. I barely get a hug, let alone a kiss. So, this was big. Temporary, but big.

And then, the shit hits the fan.

If you don’t know a lot about Thailand’s tourism industry, please, let me enlighten you for a brief moment. There are the beaches. There are the elephants. There are the treks. And then, there is the sex tourism. I cannot name more than one or two men I have ever met here who have not had sex with a prostitute while in Thailand. (Unless they are traveling with their significant other, but that’s a different breed of tourist.)

Turns out, not only was this great (!) guy down in the seedy sex tourism city of the south, but also married. Of course, I didn’t know that until after we had promised to keep in touch and perhaps see him on his side of the world, and when he comes back here to visit.

The shock when I read that was mind-boggling. The fact that he lied. It felt like I had been slapped in the face over. And. Over. And. Over.

Not to mention the sheer disgust when I learned from my friend that this FOF planned this trip to be top-secret. I wanted to scrub my entire body raw and vomit glass, that’s how furious I was. I am not that girl

So, moral of this long story? FOFs are now out. Unless they come highly recommended, but most men I know here would rather their buddies get laid than ruin the chances. And, I’ve never met a FOF through a female here and don’t really even know any females here.

Yes, it is a sweeping generalization, but I am keenly aware that Thailand gives men –either in or not in relationships — permission to act like sex crazed teens and while they can do whatever they choose, I’m not going to take sloppy seconds after some hooker in Patong.

In conclusion

Dating in Thailand: you’re fucked. Definitely not literally. Except for very special occasions. This little portion of my project is officially over. And, I am oh-so glad to just be done with even trying to figure the shit out. I much rather just go back to working on me and making myself happy.

Single life for this girl is just fine. Fine. And far easier. And sparing my feelings. And pain-free.


Diary Featured The Dating Life

But I don’t want to date

Editor’s Note: This post was written a long time ago. Basically, a lifetime ago. If you count December 2013 as a lifetime ago (I certainly do at this point). It was written before I announced TCZP and only had it in my head, but still a fitting thing, as it deals with the insecurities and issues I was battling as an expat in Chiang Mai, and more important, as a single women in a foreign land. A part of TCZP is about dating and understanding the cultural differences in Thailand compared to my American ideals, as well as actually my own dating. While this post is old, I promise, there is new stuff coming. But, you’ve got to get the background in order to get to the present, riiiiight?


I hate dating. Always have. In America, I had dates, though. In Thailand? Not so much. I’ve been on a couple, but that’s it, so when my date with Sam happens, I am so out of practice, I am so not wanting to go, that I nearly bail.

I don’t want to put myself through the first date conversation. I don’t want to have that awkward moment at the end of a date when I stand there, either wanting to kiss him or not, and waiting to see what his decision is.

But, I go. I force myself to, because, after all, isn’t the goal of The Comfort Zone Project to get out of my comfort zone and open myself up to new things? And dating in Thailand is most definitely one of those new things.

See, there’s this problem though — I don’t know if I want to be in a relationship. And, I don’t put much value in what I bring to the table. Even though everyone tells me I should, I haven’t come to the point where I believe in myself enough to actually thing I rock as much as others say.

So, naturally, while sitting across from handsome Sam over some imported beers on a rather chilly evening in Chiang Mai, I let my mind wander into my world. Forget that’s he’s good-looking. Forget that he’s got a great personality. Forget that he is actually one hell of a cool guy (jackpot, I know!). Instead of letting myself be in the moment, I revert into my fabulous mind of self-doubt.

What do I discover as he sits there and tells me about his life?

I have a huge fear of rejection.

Like, astronomical. To the point where I actually blow off dates, don’t return calls, don’t even initiate chats, because it is just easier to not start something versus getting my heart pummeled.

My self-confidence is pure shit.

I fidget nervously in my chair when has asks about me. To most people, I know the life I am living is a pretty damn cool one, but to him? I … just … don’t … know. What if I sound silly? What if I sound like I’m not grown up enough to be in a relationship with someone?

Which, of course, opens the flood gates to my personal hell of insecurities. Maybe you know the ones: Am I pretty enough? Am I funny enough? Am I smart enough? Am I interesting enough? Am I adventurous enough? Am I the woman you are looking for?

Forget just being me and loving me. For some reason, I’ve always placed my self-worth on what others think of me and how they perceive me.

I am a horrible flirt.

I once asked a guy why he wasn’t interested in me. He told me it was because I never flirted. That I never put anything out there that was sexual. I have no idea how that is possible, but it made me realize something: I am a horrible flirt. I should note, this likely could also be included above in self-confidence, but this is my rambling, so it’s not.

While I’m with Sam, he puts his arm around me and I lean in. Or, I put my hand on his knee … and leave it there. But, that’s as far as I get. My mind repeats over and over that I have nothing flirty to say, so I just don’t. And, I know I could be more physical, more outright, but again … I don’t.


Because it sets me up for being uncomfortable. For the potential of being rejected. For having my insecurities validated. And, shit, I don’t want that.

What I really learned

I seriously need to start loving myself more (Ed. Note: I feel like it is necessary at this point to remind you this was written more than half-a-year-ago and a lot has changed since then, namely the whole loving myself and respecting myself thing. And the self-confidence. And not being so paralyzed by rejection. The flirting? Well … ). It also made me realize something my mom used to always tell me, but I ignored because I like to learn things the super hard way — don’t give a shit what others think about me, what matters is what I think of myself. It’s important to shut off that part of the brain that is all “Diana, do you think this person is interested? Do you think …” and let those ideas of not fitting what the other person wants float away. As my friend told me the night before I turned 34, I am fine perfect just the way I am. Faults. Pluses. All of it. And, that is the most important thing.

This next part of TCZP is about getting back on the Dating Wagon. It’s time to take those lessons I learned from my night with Sam (which actually ended up being quite lovely, and wasn’t just one night, but also was not romantic) and apply them to dating life. Do I want a boyfriend? Nah. But, this certainly forces me out of my comfort zone and into telling those insecurities I have to politely f#$% off.

Diary The Dating Life

I F$%^d Up

I went to Europe for five weeks. Five weeks of gallivanting around gorgeous countryside, quaint seaside towns, stunning landscapes and metropolitan cities.

And guess what?

I fucked up.


Eating pizza in Italy

Pizza covered in olives. With olive oil drizzled on top. Not pictured: the bottle of wine to wash it down.

See, I was toying with whether or not I even talk about the fuck up on here (also called the elegant belly flop back into the comfort zone of old), but what’s the point of having a project and documenting the experiences if I leave the important shit out? The shit where I tell you that while I had every intention of working out along the way — hell, I even bought ankle weights and a resistance band, and looked up where spin classes were in the cities I was visiting — I worked out twice.

Yup. Twice.

The first full day in Bangkok and my first full day in Prague. That is it.

Oh, and I ate all the pasta, and foccacia and pizza. ALL OF IT.

And, I drank all of the wine. And amazing coconut beer (yes, it is a thing). And even dappled in some sensational honey brandy in Slovenia.

But, the mother of all fuck ups isn’t that I didn’t work out, because hell, I was walking across what seemed to be entire cities during my trip. And I was carrying a bajillion kilos of luggage up thousands of stairs. And I was trekking up hills overlooking cities. And hiking through wine terraces along the Ligurian Sea.

And the mother of all fuck ups isn’t that I ate whatever I wanted because I was exercising, even if it wasn’t dedicated cardio, I was moving. Nearly constantly. Like Shana from Fitweek suggested to me earlier in my European planning, I opted to stand whenever I could instead of sit, take stairs instead of elevators (even when my body was becoming bruised from hauling awkward luggage up stairs at train stations).

And the mother of all fuck ups isn’t that I drank because it is Europe and not drinking in Europe would be criminal. Criminal, I tell you.

No, the mother of all fuck ups is I lit up that first cigarette. In Milan, when I was coming down from a week of being with my friends and embarking on being solo and not really wanting to be solo and wanting my sweet old nicotine friend to join me while I waited for the train to take me to Trieste.

And, the fuck up continued the next morning when I was wandering Trieste and came across the Adriatic because the Adriatic has some serious heartbreaking memories for me, which flooded me as soon as I saw the sparkling sea. And then, it continued even more when I got to Ljulbjana and was alone and wanted to make friends. By then, the cigarette damage had been done. I had reasoned my way into smoking again.

“It’s like what you wrote about — the cigarette and travel just go together,” I said.

“It’s how you meet people at a hostel,” I told myself when the first night at Hostel Celica I met two girls traveling and immediately joined them at their table, bonding over rollies and wine (’cause I was totally drinking).

So it went from there. The rest of the trip. What started out so innocent, so disgusting tasting, so ill-feeling, once again became my stupid sidekick. My break from writing. My filler in between ordering food and eating. My wasting five minutes while I wait for a bus/train/boat.

The thing is this, I got mad, but not mad enough. Because, when I returned to Thailand a few days ago, I decided I was going to keep on being Fun Diana for the weekend. Seemingly, in the moment, I thought Fun Diana only comes out when beer, wine and cigarettes are involved. So, I drank. And I smoked. And I partied.

This afternoon when I went to the gym, I nearly cried.

I couldn’t do three sets of 15 tricep dips against my weight. My trainer smiled, laughed a little and said “Ah, Diana, today you only do 12 each set.”

My body, which had become accustomed to holding a plank for almost 40 seconds without collapsing, could barely make it to 25 without shaking. And my arms, my arms which I have looked at from every angle as deltoids and biceps and triceps emerge, well, they let me down.


I let myself down.

I’m not even going to get started talking about spin class, because that was just an embarrassment.

So, yes, I crashed. Yes, I burned. Yes, I didn’t work out. I drank. I ate all the good food. But, I had one hell of a time doing it. And, I wouldn’t take back those experiences in Europe for anything.

I would certainly take back the cigarettes though. But, that’s what TCZP is about. It isn’t just about triumphs, it is about trials, too. It’s about falling down, and then standing back up, brushing your knees off and holding your head high and saying, “Yeah, I fucked up, but it’s OK. I’m back on track.”

Today starts another Day One for me. But, tomorrow is Day Two and that will be easier. And spin class tomorrow night won’t be as hard as tonight. And my lungs won’t hurt as bad. And, I will go from there … because this the ride I’m on. Thank goodness I’m driving.

Diary Get Your Shit Together

The pressure of being under relationship pressure

Nary a day goes by when I don’t see updates on Facebook of friends getting engaged, friends getting married, friends having kids, friends upgrading to a bigger home to fit their nuclear family.

As a single female expat living in a place where single western female expats have basically zero chances at a real, intimate relationship with the opposite sex, it gets to me.

Ask any of my single friends in the same boat — male or female — and our sentiment is the same: we feel this pressure to be coupled. To get hitched. To pop out the kiddos. The more people in our lives who do it, the more we feel the need to keep up with the Jones’.

Only, here that option is limited: read non-existent.

So, what happens to that pressure when it boils over? When the thought of going home to an empty house, to an empty bed, to a table for one, gets stale?

Joel Bombardier

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Joel Bombardier

As my best friend and I recently discussed, the idea of having that other half weighs heavy. For a long time, I had these pre-set deadlines in my life. A career by 25. A husband by 30. Kids by 32.

Well, guess what?

At 30, I flushed my “career” down the toilet in favor of a more nomadic lifestyle. At 34, I am still single. And, the idea of having a kid right now? Well, that single thing only has something to do with it. I’m not ready to stay put. To settle down in one place. To work more and have less time for me and my goals and dreams.

This above realization has only come recently. When I finally let go of the idea that I had this magical map or timeline to do things by. When I finally let go of the idea I needed someone else to complete me, to give me comfort, to make me feel loved.

A lot has changed with The Comfort Zone Project, and admitting to myself that I am OK (albeit sometimes missing being loved by someone else), that I don’t need someone else, has been an incredibly freeing thing.

I don’t drown my single-ness in booze. I don’t go out with the hopes I will meet someone. I let go of the idea that every guy I do know could be the “one” because you know what? The one will happen for me … eventually. Today. Tomorrow. Who knows?

This peer pressure is only valid if I let it impact my decisions in life, if I meet someone and go through the motions while envisioning them becoming a better version of themselves and someone I know can adapt to the lifestyle I envision for me. You know what? That is called settling. I’ve done that, and I will never do it again.

I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I took the first guy I dated, the 10th guy I dated, and somehow convinced myself they were the right person for me. Or, took the first person I thought I loved and married them. My life is on the trajectory it needs to be on for me. Sure, I get those side glances from couples … hell, I am the single girl at the party perpetually, but I like my life. I like me, and to be in a relationship right now compromises the things I need in my life.

So, yeah, being in Chiang Mai likely means I will never meet the “one,” but for now, the only “one” I need is me.

Diary The Dating Life

On feeling good

I began The Comfort Zone Project unofficially on Feb. 10, 2014 when I plunked down the baht to join Fitness Thailand in Chiang Mai. In the three months since I started this project, I have morphed into a different person both physically and mentally. I’m feeling … good. Actually, I’m feeling fucking amazing. God bless endorphins. And adopting a lifestyle that is healthy and happy.

Oakley Originals photo

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Oakley Originals

The exterior

Standing in the mirror at a few days into my new exercise lifestyle, I analyze my body. Fat. Cellulite. No tone. No definition. Definitely no muscle. My skin is dingy and uneven. My hair is dull. I am not bright. At all.

This is going to take some work.

But, I embrace the work it will involve. I know me well enough, and know my affairs with gyms are typically short-lived. In fact, these past three months are the longest and hardest I have ever worked at improving myself. I hire a personal trainer, Patty, a sweet 25-year-old Thai woman, and together we embark on a Thai-glish journey of upper body days, lower body days, circuit training and mass amounts of spin classes mixed in with heaps of Google Translate.

When I do well, she tells me dee khun (much better). And, when the sweat drips down my face and my muscles are at the point of exhaustion, she pushes me that little extra bit. “Come on. One more set.”

Week by week, we work together. On the days I don’t work with her, I still go to the gym (averaging five days a week, two hours a day), doing abs classes, the treadmill, whatever I can get my hands on. It is at her suggestion I drop in to a spin class one evening. And, I’m hooked. The energy. The music. The mass amounts of calories being burnt in 50 minutes of group exercise.

Is this real?

From then on, I begin to see improvements.

Diana Edelman and the Comfort Zone Project

Mid-April 2014. Two months in to the Project.

I take photos weekly and send them to my mom so she can see the work I am putting in. While the improvements I see are minute (and, yes, there are plenty of times I get completely discouraged and think nothing has changed since Feb. 10), she e-mails me with one-word messages like “WOW” which power me on to the next gym session.

About two weeks ago, I begin to notice a shape coming out of the fat of my body. Tricep muscles. Biceps. Deltoids (oh, sweet, sweet deltoids). Under the layers of pudge is a body that is slowly emerging. I can see the beginning of abdomen definition. My face is brighter, my skin looks better, my hair isn’t falling out as much.

Looking at my dusty mirror at the body I now inhabit, I get teary-eyed. I stand there, in a sports bra and workout pants, still glistening with sweat from my spin class, and just stare. There is a body tucked under those layers.

This. Is. Me. This. Is. My. Hard. Work.

I’m not finished, by a long shot, but seeing the results of three months inspires me so much to keep going. To keep working. I leave for Europe in less than one week, and I am already working with FitWeek to help me prepare to burn calories when I’m stuck on a bus, or a 1o-plus-hour long haul flight, or a gym is not at the ready. I’ve already scouted out fitness centers on my route where I can go and workout for a couple of hours. I’m actually looking forward to hiking in Cinque Terre.

I’m physically a different version of myself, and I could not be happier. The work it has taken to get to this point has been incredibly fulfilling … and I am actually excited to continue working on me because — for the first time in my life — I value myself more than I value anything else. I feel beautiful both inside and out.

Which leads me to the mental changes I’ve made …

The interior

I pretty much have quit drinking. I am a non-smoker now (officially five weeks today). I have cut all of the toxic, cancerous things from my life (both the things I ingest, inhale and the company I keep). I’ve learned about boundaries. I’ve spent so much more time with myself that, somewhere in these past three months, I have actually realized that I like who I am. Yup, I like me. It took me 34 years to say that and mean it, but it is true. I have given myself a gift of being happy, and the tools I need to make that so. I value my health. I value my career. I value … me.

And, somewhere in these past three months, I got something I have never really had: confidence. No, I’m not going to tell you I am the most awesome, amazing, talented person in the world. But, I have no problem telling you I actually think I am pretty. I am deserving of love. I am deserving of loving myself. I am talented. I am kind. I’ve stopped knocking myself down, which, in itself is an amazing feat for me since I was oh-so good at mentally beating the shit out of myself.

I’ve also let things go. Ideas about how I am supposed to live. Ideas about falling in love. Ideas about friendships. Ideas about how I am supposed to be living my life here. It isn’t always easy, and there are times when I find myself getting mad, frustrated, but I don’t linger on it. I feel it and let it go.

I look forward to challenges now. When Shana from FitWeek told me I should climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower for a workout, I balked. Then, I started to think about it. How cool would it be to do that? To accomplish something that is not easy? Maybe I will do it. Because I can. Five-day-a-week workouts? OK. Healthy eating? No problem.

It’s all about respect and I have finally come to respect myself — both physically and emotionally.

Here’s to the next three months of The Comfort Zone Project.

Diary Get Your Shit Together

Southeast Asia is comfortable

After being an expat in Chiang Mai for almost two years, there is one thing that I can say for certain: I am comfortable.

Which means, as a part of The Comfort Zone Project, it’s time to get out of Southeast Asia … at least for a little bit.

It has become second nature to navigate the tiny sois throughout the Old City. It has become too easy to tell a songthaew driver where I want to go and then negotiate — in Thai — how much I want to pay. I’ve become so used to smiling at the same people on my walk each day, going to the same restaurants for lunch …

It’s time to get out.

Tel Aviv travel

Fly away … with me.

So, in the middle of May, that is just what I am doing.

I’ve got my friends manning my house and keeping an eye on the cats, and I’m heading on a solo European adventure. Why? Because I want to feel my heart race a little bit. I want to wakeup in the morning and not know if I am going to stay put, or hop on a train to another country where there is a different language, a different currency …

I want to challenge myself emotionally, the same way I have been challenging myself physically since February.

It is time to get out of the comfort zone of Thailand for a month and head to the gorgeous, cobblestoned, steepled Europe for a month.

The challenge will continue there — I will be looking for gyms along the way so I can put together a cheat sheet for others who want to work out while traveling. Plus, I’ll be documenting the activities I do like finding gorgeous hikes and healthy places to eat while I Europe trot.

I’m also partnering with FitWeek to help me with a fitness plan for my time abroad. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to go to the gym everyday. And, let’s face it. There’s wine. And pizza. And a quest for the best gelato in Italy. And the best chocolate and beer in Belgium.

After all, what’s the point of getting out of your comfort zone if you can’t at least have a little fun?

Diary Get Your Shit Together

How I quit smoking

Olympic stairsI sit, tuckered out from a long day of travel. Situated on the former Olympic Steps in Sarajevo, surrounded by green mountains dotted with homes which used to be in the middle of a war zone, I take it all in.

Then, I light a cigarette, inhale deeply, and really begin to take a look around what is — in this moment — my world.

The dilapidated steps, crumbling into the weeds growing alongside what used to have been something bustling, something grand.

I sit, and as I pull the toxicity into my lungs, I get it. I let myself open up to the history of Sarajevo being surrounded, the struggles, the pain, the rebirth of this city.

When I stub my cigarette out, I light another one and ponder some more.

Smoking and Travel. The perfect couple.

The lure of the nicotine

This moment doesn’t just happen once. It repeats itself throughout Europe. In the technicolor island paradise of Solta. Against an ancient stone wall when I get word of my grandma’s passing. And, it transcends travel and creeps back into my re-entry. Into my life in America.

Sure, I quit smoking a few times. In fact, before I went to Europe, I had not smoked for almost two years. But, it all changed when I grew stressed. When I grew lonely. I began to make justifications.

Just one rollie is fine. I won’t get addicted to smoking again.

I believed that. Until I was buying a pack-a-day in Europe. Until I was sitting on my balcony in Vegas, hiding the fact that I had fallen off the wagon to everyone.

On and off it went, my little love affair with smoking. My best friend who played any role in my life I needed.

Lighting up in those moments of stress seemed like a way to calm down. But, lighting up in those moments when I wanted to take it all in made even more sense.

I mean, nothing lets a gorgeous scene in Samui sink in better than inhaling sweet tobacco, right?

It isn’t just me who makes those excuses, either. It is plenty of travelers I meet. Travelers who, in their real lives, don’t smoke at all, but when they hit a foreign patch of land, they light up.

Why? What is it about traveling that makes us just want to smoke our faces off?

I look at them and think, “dude, if you don’t smoke in normal life, why on earth are you putting this into your body now?”

Then, I look at my orange, glowing cherry and relish the fact that I smoke. That I don’t have to give myself permission on holiday to pollute my body — I do it every day. That I am a grown-up and just like if I want to eat an entire package of Oreos, I can smoke until I can’t breathe.

I get it. I enjoy nothing more than savoring a new place, an old place, a moment, a situation, with the company of that glorious, burning, stick of nicotine. It just feels right. 

Smoking compliments travel in the worst way. It is a chance to be outside of the normal self. It gives us permission to do things we normally wouldn’t do. It lets us sneak nasty habits back into our lives. I mean, I cannot count the number of times I have given myself permission to act a certain way because of traveling.

Being conscious

I’m one of those closet smokers. When I’m around people who don’t smoke, I am incredibly conscious of it. I am conscious of the way it smells, the direction the smoke blows, whether it bothers anyone else. Yet, I still smoke. I just sneak off to my own quite corner of a place, where I cannot poison anyone else.

Now, with The Comfort Zone Project and working on my health and fitness, I know it is time to break up with my best and most cancerous friend, the cigarette. (Really, Cigarette isn’t my best friend at all. More like my worst enemy … but cloaked in an addiction that makes it far more friendly.)

So, the other day, I finally stopped putting it off. Actually, I had an attitude adjustment.

I’m typically not one for self-help books. I mean, I read “The Secret” and all, but really … it is just about the power of your own mind, and we all know this and don’t need to pay X amount of money for a book to reiterate that. Or … do we? Because, I read Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking, and damn if he didn’t say everything I didn’t already know. But, reading it made it seem that much more … real. Like, I needed to read that I have been brainwashed, that I have brainwashed myself to the power of smoking, in order to actually smoke that final cigarette.

It hasn’t been that long since I crossed over into a world I feared desperately — the non-smoker’s world — but I actually feel pretty good about it. I quit for me. I didn’t sacrifice anything. I gave myself a gift.

Before I quit, I had a conversation with my friend about kicking the habit. I mentioned how worried I was to quit smoking just before I go to Europe because all the wine … the cheese … the views … the travel-related stresses … the social situations … but the book reminded me I don’t need to smoke to enjoy (or not enjoy) any of those things. That smoking does not calm me down. It does not make meals taste better. It does not make me a more social person.

Unlike other times I have quit, this time it isn’t about willpower. It isn’t about sacrificing smoking for not smoking. It is about giving myself the gift of treating my addiction, and coming out healthy.

Now … I am finally going to readjust the habit. Spectacular view? Great. I’m going to sit outside and take it in. I’m going to breathe that fresh air deeply. And, I’m going to love it.

This post previously appeared on d travels ’round.

Diary Get Your Shit Together