chiang mai thailand

On Returning to Thailand

Every time I look at a world map, I get a bit overwhelmed at the number of countries I still have yet to see. I know I’ve been fortunate to have seen a good bit of the world so far – I just counted, and I’m at 17 countries — but I admit when I hear others who’ve been to 36 or 42 or 75, I get a little jealous. Just the other day, my friend Moriah, of Global Girl Gone, who’s currently teaching English in Bulgaria, announced her lofty goal of visiting 30 countries before she turns 30.

When I first saw her post on Instagram, my first thought was, “Yeah, I should challenge her to a match!”

And then I realized I’m 29.

With exactly seven months until my 30th birthday (April 9, in case you’re saving up for something special :), I suppose it would be possible to visit 13 remaining countries in that time, but running from border to border does not at all appeal to me.

For me, travel is less about how many stamps are in my passport and more about an immersion experience. It’s about unexpected adventures and befriending locals. It’s about trying to understand a culture as best I can as an outsider.

the voyage of discoverAnd yet, even so, when my toes start itching to go yet again, I usually prefer to go somewhere new before somewhere I’ve already been. Although I would love to revisit most of the countries I’ve traveled to, that feeling of map envy always returns and I opt to go somewhere new, to add one more new one to my growing list.

Unfortunately, it seems in order to return to a country I love, I need a good reason (or three) to make it happen. I’vewritten both love letters and breakup letters to Thailand, having spent one year there in total since it stole my heart three years ago, when I first arrived to teach English abroad.


It’s one country I always knew I’d return to, and yet I still debated going to Nicaragau or Iceland or somewhere else in between, somewhere that offers that feeling of expecting the unexpected that is so addicting to an adventure traveler. But, it turns out, I have three excellent reasons to revisit Thailand; reasons that are simply too good to pass up.

So I’m going back.

And I couldn’t be more excited.


Here’s what’s taking me there:

I’m going to attend TBEX:

The Travel Blogger Exchange is the world’s largest travel blogger conference, offered several times a year in countries all over the globe. I wasn’t sure it would be a good investment for me…until they planned their first ever Asia conference right in the center of my beloved Thailand. With workshops, seminars and organized parties, TBEX offers travel bloggers the chance to mingle and connect and learn. It’s a chance to nerd out on the business, social and content sides of our industry, and for me, quite frankly, an excellent excuse to return to Thailand.

Potential for business growth:

It’s been a little over a month since I decided to fully commit to growing both this blog and my teach abroad business, Teach English: ESL, so not only does attending TBEX offer great potential for growth on both ends, but Thailand is where I do a large majority of my business, so this gives me a chance to check in with my partners and meet some of the clients whom I’ve only had the pleasure of talking to via Skype and email. Plus, perhaps the most appealing excuse of all, is this trip will be the first business trip (readtax write-off!) since starting TEE little more than two years ago.

To visit my teaching friends:

I simply couldn’t return to Thailand and not visit the village where I spent the majority of my time teaching English abroad. I’m still in touch with a few of my coworkers there, and I am beyond excited to see their faces again.

Traditional Thai costumes for Loy Krathong.

My coworkers and I dressed in traditional Thai costume.

Inspiration for my book:

Many of you know I’m writing a memoir about my time spent in Asia. It’s little more than halfway done and I’m currently exploring the vast market of literary agents, but going back to one of the locations I write about will not only offer a chance to take new notes but to spark some much needed inspiration and thus motivation that I’m desperately needing.

The author in Koh Chang, Thailand

Me overlooking the landscape on Koh Chang, Thailand.

I will board the plane in five days (holy cow, five?!), and I’m already giddy with my decision to go back to a country I already know and love. While sometimes it’s hard to give up the opportunity to experience something new, I’m reminded of this quote by Marcel Proust:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Since I’ve last visited Thailand, I’ve reflected and written a lot on my experiences there, and I’ve earned a graduate degree that in many ways taught me to see the world differently than I did before. I have no doubt I’m returning with new and open eyes.

Though I’m not going to reach 30 countries by the time I’m 30, I do have exciting plans shaping up for my birthday in April, 2016 and you’re all invited!

Follow me on Instagram for more details!

On Returning to Thailand
Written by: Jessica J. Hill


  1. Edna says:

    Congrats, and I’m bummed I won’t get to meet you at TBEX (so many bloggers I know are going!). It’s so clear through your post how happy you are to return!

  2. Andrea says:

    I feel the same way about the dilemma between going somewhere new vs visiting places dear to my heart. I know Thailand is a place I’ll always return to though. Last year I had a chance to go backpacking again for a few months and was sure to stop through Thailand. I felt the exact same excitement about returning and I’ll never forget the smile on my face upon landing / how happy I was just to be in Thailand again! Enjoy!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Oh I can totally picture that smile! I’m sure it will be the same for me. I’m glad you’ve made it back. Where are you these days?

      • Andrea says:

        I’ve been all over the place since leaving Thailand but I’m living in Istanbul currently until March 2016. Feel free to come visit! Have a great time in Thailand.

        • jessicajhill says:

          Oh my gosh, I have so many questions for you about Instanbul and Turkey. I’m planning to go there for my birthday in April, but my friends are worried about the recent bombing and state of the country. 1) How is it? I assume fine, just media hype. 2) You should stay until April! It would be so fun to meet up! Dang.

          • Andrea says:

            I feel as safe here as I do anywhere honestly, though there has been some political instability. But what country doesn’t have that to a degree? And of course the media over-sensationalizes everything. I don’t think I can stay until April unfortunately, but feel free to email me with any questions and we can chat more!

          • jessicajhill says:

            That’s great to hear! I’ll shoot you an email when the planning gets closer. I’d love to catch up!

  3. Map envy. I think its something that all travelers have to some degree. I just had that same dilemma this past month. In 2013, I spent a year teaching in Namibia. And this October, I returned to see the school/students/area where I taught. I’m so glad I returned though, despite looking at the departure board at the airport and realizing all the other places I have yet to visit! Good luck with your book and happy traveling!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Wow, Namibia! That would be a fascinating experience. But I do know exactly what you mean. I just returned from Thailand, and I’m so happy I went back. It was great to see all the friends I made while I was there, and to not feel the need to explore constantly since I’ve already seen much of the country. Even though I did travel around quite a bit, it was a more relaxed way of visiting. Thanks for stopping by, Erika!

  4. I used to teach in Thailand in the North East for a year, I recently started teaching in Spain and my contract ends in a few months. I feel my self pulling back into the arms of Thailand so reading this has been really eye-opening. Still not made a decision yet but I just feel like I have unfinished business there even though I left because it was time to leave.
    Great post

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Louise! I can certainly relate to your love affair with Thailand, though I had interestingly mixed feelings on my return visit that left me wondering if perhaps it’s best to leave a country the way it is in your mind, from that first nostalgic experience. I have no doubt I’ll continue to return to Thailand again and again (partly because I have work there and partly because it shaped who I am), but it was certainly a weird feeling to return and see it with new eyes, realizing subtle changes that had happened and that I can never relive that first amazing experience because I’m a different person now, and I no longer need to live it the way I did before. Does that make sense? I think I’m still trying to figure out how to put it into words.

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