Growing and Glowing Outside of My Comfort Zone, Teaching in Thailand – Kelsey’s Story

We at Travelbud absolutely love to help people reach their dreams of teaching English abroad. With so many of our team having taught abroad before and having helped so many others do the same, we understand first-hand how daunting it seems to leave your whole life behind.

One of our recent teach abroad participants, Kelsey (who also featured in our blog post about teachers to follow on Instagram) was in your shoes, trying to find her place in society, constrained by her environment, looking to break free and embrace a new culture.

Teaching English in Thailand was the perfect opportunity for her to seize her moment and grow. Today she shares with us exactly how leaping out of her comfort zone has helped her achieve this goal.

Warning: Reading this may trigger life-changing decisions!

A difficult choice

Before moving to Thailand, I was living a carefree, easy and comfortable lifestyle whilst at university in South Africa. I was constantly surrounded by all my close friends, I lived in a nice apartment and I had the comfort of my family just 45 minutes away, which included takeaway pizza together most Fridays.

Thailand at its picture perfect best

Thailand at its picture perfect best.

I graduated and then I found myself in a bit of a predicament. What do I do now? I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life, I also found the thought of aimlessly applying to jobs to be rather daunting.

So, I decided the best choice for me was to go abroad, but I found myself in yet another predicament: the yachts in Europe or teaching in Asia? I’m not going to lie; the thought of a European summer was extremely alluring but my desire to make a difference whilst traveling was stronger.

So, I contacted TravelBud and well, here I am thriving in my new home, Thailand.

Building self-confidence in challenging situations

Snorkeling in these serene crystal blue waters.

Snorkeling in these serene crystal blue waters.

My new home is far from anything I have ever experienced and has taken me completely out of my comfort zone. The area I live in is far from those living within the high-income bracket.

Very few people speak English, my students’ English proficiency is very low, whole families live in a room together and share a bed, the staple food is noodles and rice (even for breakfast, no jokes) and all the signage is in Thai. However, I’m so grateful for the self growth I’ve experienced from being so far outside my comfort zone.

Beautiful Temples in Thailand

In the past few months, I have learnt more about myself than I did throughout my whole university career. I’ve been forced to tackle situations head-on with little or no communication and I have succeeded, which has boosted my confidence to a whole new level.

I’ve been kicked off a bus in the middle of a route, yet still found my way home.

I have had children crying, not being able to communicate to me whats wrong, but somehow I managed to sort it out.

I have successfully navigated my way around Bangkok using public transport, even though I can’t read Thai.

All these situations have made me realize what I am capable of, which is so much more than I ever thought. Back home, I placed so many limitations and restrictions on myself and my capabilities, mainly due to fear of failure and embarrassment.

This journey has allowed me to break down those limitations but also to break down what others expected of me.

I’m the maker of my own happiness

Thailand White sand beaches and crystal clear waters.

White sand beaches and crystal clear waters.

There are only a few of us that can speak English in the area, so I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company, which has made me aware of what truly makes me happy and what makes me unhappy.

Having fewer friends around me and being reliant on myself for happiness, I have become increasingly aware of being proactive towards creating a happy life for myself.

I wish I had done this sooner, but we live and we learn! Through discovering what makes me truly happy, not only have I discovered my passions, but I also know the direction I want my life to go – YAY, finally!

Delicious food in Thailand

At first, being out of my comfort zone scared me,  but as soon as I decided to tackle each situation with an open and positive mindset, I could feel myself growing into the person I want to be.

 A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.

Becoming comfortable within uncertainty is challenging and I’m still getting used to it,  but as they say “a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.”

So yes, there are tough times, teaching is not always easy, especially when your students barely understand you.

There are times where you will feel alone, but then you will take comfort in your own company.

There are going to be frustrating times where you will struggle to communicate what you need and want.

You’ll be thrown into the deep end of your own discomforts, but you will grow, you will have your mind blown, you’ll eat weird but wonderful food (who knew you could eat lotus seeds!?)

You’ll meet some of the most lovely and interesting people. Most importantly, you’ll have the most personal adventure.

Kelsey Profile Picture

Kelsey is an English teacher in Thailand. Hailing from South Africa, she’s used this opportunity to challenge herself to grow while experiencing one of the most fascinating, kind and beautiful countries in the world. Follow her stories (and incredible photos) of self-discovery and adventure, on her blog: Growing and Glowing Abroad.

Interested in Teaching English abroad? We’ll send you more info!



About Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko is TravelBud's marketing intern and is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Digital Marketing. Read more about him and other TravelBud authors.

He handles TravelBud's social media, blog writing and general content creation. Check out the inspiring stories he's created on the TravelBud Instagram page, featuring TravelBud alumni and their incredible experiences teaching and volunteering abroad.

He's done a fair bit of travel in his life, having explored Thailand, the UK, Italy, France and Germany.

His favorite place so far? That would be Rome, Italy but coming in a close second, thanks to a few memorable nights out, would be Phuket, Thailand.

Filed under  Thailand • Teacher Diaries 

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