Tee is from Philadelphia and currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She works at a private Catholic school, one of the top schools in Northern Thailand, in the school’s English program.
It was in Thailand where she found her love. We spoke with her about her move to Thailand and what life is like there for her.
Travel Noire: What inspired you to move abroad?
Tee: I planned to move to Thailand in April 2018 because I knew in my heart that I wasn’t meant to live out my life in the United States. After going on my first cultural exchange in Yokohama, Japan during my freshman year of college, I was hooked on seeing the world. I was astounded about how other people could live happily outside of the United States and even better, in some cases. I wanted to teach abroad because I knew it could bring in a sustainable income and support me while doing something I knew I had the power to do. I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum and have been a wanderer, so it was really easy to realize that the American way of life wasn’t the only type of life out there.
TN: What is life like as a Black woman in Chiang Mai?
Tee: Life as a Black woman in Chiang Mai is easy. Chiang Mai has a huge Black expat/nomad/backpacker community that gets together for dinners, kickbacks, brunch, bowling parties and everything in between. Although Asian cultures are preferential to fairer skin, I’ve never been discriminated against like I have been in the United States. I get looks, but they’re more out of genuine curiosity than out of disgust or hate. At the end of the day, black or white, I’m just a foreigner to the Thais, so they treat me and deal with me as they see fit.
TN: Tell us about finding love abroad?
Tee: I know that so many others struggle to date while abroad, but it happened pretty easily for me. My girlfriend is Thai, and we met at one of the hostels I stayed in when I first visited Thailand in Dec. 2017. I was on a two week holiday and at the end of those two weeks, I just wasn’t ready to go home. I ended up going home for a month in March to tie up some loose ends, came back in April and haven’t been back home since. I know so many who have trouble dating and I think it’s a two-part issue: language barriers and Asian perceptions of darker skinned people. My girlfriend is fluent in English. She’s lived in the United States and her stepfather is American. Those three pieces definitely brought more clarity and understanding into our relationship than if I was dating someone less open-minded.
TN: Do you see yourself moving back home?
Tee: I’m not sure if I ever see myself moving back to the United States for good, but I would like to go back and get my Master’s degree in public policy or international education. I don’t see myself moving back because I don’t see the need to conform to a lifestyle that may not be the best for me. Plenty of people and cultures live in different ways and lead perfectly happy lives, so why can’t I do that as well? Also, have you ever tried to bring someone to the United States with you? It’s unnecessarily and ridiculously difficult. So, for now, I’m good here in Chiang Mai, but I do have stipulations. If my mother or father gets sick, I will go home. If someone in my immediate family dies, I will go home, and if someone buys me an alpaca, I will go home!
TN: Is life abroad really as great as it seems?
Tee: Yes, but there is a price to pay. I think living abroad is beautiful, but it can also be isolating if you’re unprepared. Humans are social creatures, and as much as some of us enjoy solitude, sometimes we crave companionship. Seasons, holidays and celebrations come and go. You watch your nieces and nephews grow up via Facebook, and sometimes you see a sight so beautiful that you can’t help but wish that your best friend was right by your side to see it too.
On the flip side, you motorbike up and down coastlines and through mountains, you visit world-class spas for dirt cheap, you eat the greatest authentic meals, and you create beautiful memories that will satisfy your soul for years to come. You’ll never stop and say, “I wish I…” because you’ll have done all that you dreamed of.
Tee: Check me out on Instagram at onecupoftee.