Tag Archives: Phuket

The Long Journey Home

My flip-flops and my backpack… 22 months later.

As I sit here on the floor of Abu Dhabi International Airport already a bit jet-lagged but with 18 of my 35-hour total flight time to go, I can’t help but reflect on the last two years I’ve spent living outside of the United States of America.

The first of dozens of international flights since 2010.

I would be lying if I said that I had planned this all from the beginning.  When I left the U.S. in 2010, I assumed I had sold my traithlon bike and my surfboard to buy a ticket to visit my South African boyfriend, not travel around the globe.  But life has a funny way of showing you that not everything can be planned.

Exhibit A: Our puppy, Major. Totally unplanned.

And then I extended my 90-day visa for an additional 90 days purely to stay a little longer in South Africa, not to move to Thailand.  But again, life has a funny way of working.

Motorbiking it around Phuket, Thailand.

Thailand had begun as an idea, a solution for Morgan and I to be able to work/live in the same country while still seeing a bit of the world outside of the United States or South Africa.  What it became was an experience neither of us would trade for the world.  We were English teachers, backpackers, muay thai fighters, hot yoga groupies, scooter-riders, chili-eaters, mountain climbers and the list goes on.

Did I mention how much I loved the little monkeys that were my K1 Watermelon kindergarten class?

And then a decision had to be made: stay in Thailand for at least another year… or go?

Morgan and I both loved our year in Thailand for any number of reasons: friendly people, good jobs, great friends, AMAZING food, awesome hobbies and ridiculously cool experiences.  But for some reason, we both came to the conclusion that we weren’t ready for our lives to be that simple yet, that sorted.  (Idiotic logic, right?)

But I still believe that we made the right decision and away we went, back to Africa.  By this time, however, I had already been hired to start work for African Impact in Mozambique.

Escolinha de Boa Esperanca: the African Impact preschool in Vilanculos, Mozambique.

I had always dreamed of doing community development work in Africa and after three months of online job hunting while still living in Phuket, there it was: my dream job in the small beach town of Vilanculos, Mozambique.  On several occasions, I remember thinking that I was seeing ‘Africa’ for the first time.

Children’s Day at Bernard’s Orphanage in Vilanculos.

And then every community development workers’ nightmare came true: the Office of Immigration in Vilanculos decided to continuously reinterpret their understanding of what volunteer tourism is and what African Impact does as a company, hence my transfer to African Impact projects in St. Lucia, South Africa.

Building a tire course playground at a creche in Khula Township, just outside of St. Lucia.

I missed the project in Mozambique terribly, but I think I even surprised myself by landing on my own two feet in a new country and in a new position, especially when considering this had all come about with 12-hours notice.  I think this was my turning point – when I realized that maybe everything does happen for a reason.  Life is often sink or swim and I was determined to swim no matter what.  And I swam like hell.

How many people can you fit in a 16-passenger van? As a passenger who has counted, I can confidently say 29 people.

As I’ve sat here in my final moments abroad, I’ve struggled to find the right words to sum it all up – to possibly explain to someone how the past two years have not only changed my life, but changed the kind of person I was then to the person I am now.  And what I think of to say is this:

It doesn’t matter where you go or how much money you have or where you’re from – it matters how open you are to embracing the full experience.  The smells, the sounds, the people, the culture, the philosophy, the heart of what it means to be a global citizen.

And as I’ve stated in the ‘About Me’ section of my blog since my very first days blogging about this 22-month long adventure:  I’m far from being the most experienced traveler, but I’ve found that flip-flops and a backpack can take you just about anywhere.


Thank you to anyone reading this who I’ve met over the last two years, whether in Thailand, Bali, Mozambique or South Africa.  You’ve taught me what it means to be family even when you’re far from the family you’ve always known.  And a very special thanks to Lulu and Tex, my South African parents.

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Four Years with a Ninja Paleontologist

The ninja paleontologist covering one of the FIFA 2010 World Cup games in Durban, South Africa.

He looks more like a handsome journalist, right?

When I met Morgan in 2008, he had been a professional journalist for over three years: one year in radio and at the time, two years in television.  But one afternoon shortly after meeting him, he showed me a magazine article written about him in which he confessed that his childhood dream was actually to be a ninja paleontologist.

From my understanding, this is a martial arts expert who also enjoys discovering fossils.

Four years later, I am still completely in love with the grown-up version of the South African kid that once aspired to be a ninja paleontologist.  (*To read the awkward story of how we met at a Zimbabwean refugee camp, see An African Boy and an American Girl.)

Morgan and Kassie in South Africa December 2008

As detailed in the blog post linked above, it’s not the easiest thing  in the world to date cross-continentally.  Visits are few and emails and Skype are the ‘meat and potatoes’of your relationship.

Morgan and Kassie in Times Square NYC: December 2009

But over the past four years, Morgan and I have shared the most amazing experiences together.

Morgan and Kassie at uShaka Marine World in Durban: December 2010

We’ve dived with sharks on the South Coast on KwaZulu Natal.  We’ve roadtripped the entire east coast of the U.S., seeing all of the sights of New York City on a day-pass and finishing with dinner in Chinatown at 3 a.m.  We’ve border-hopped into Malaysia, rode a motorbike around most of southwest Thailand and climbed a volcano in Bali, Indonesia.

Morgan and Kassie riding our motorbike around Phuket, Thailand: July 2011

We island-hopped in Mozambique and my ninja paleontologist prepared lunch in a straw hut over fire for 80 preschool children in Vilanculos.  Most recently, he’s ‘hippo-hunted’ with me in St. Lucia after we went on a game drive through a UNESCO World Heritage site to the Indian Ocean.

Morgan and Kassie trying to spot a hippo in St. Lucia, South Africa: July 2012

Basically, I’ve gotten to travel around the world with my best friend.

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