When I returned to Chiang Mai in June I was coming off the double high of volunteering with All Hands for close to 6 months and time with family and friends in California. As happy as I was to be back with Tee, I struggled to find my niche in Chiang Mai. There are not many jobs in Thailand that I am legally allowed to hold and the most common one, being an English teacher doesn’t interest me at all at this point, so I spent weeks trying, unsuccessfully, to nail down a meaningful volunteer position. There were only 2 positions in Chiang Mai that passed my stringent set of requirements, thanks All Hands for setting the bar so high it’ll likely be unmatched, and neither panned out for different reasons. Also, I only had a few friends still living in town and without the wide net of support and social outlets I’d grown used to, I quickly started to feel unproductive, low, and lost. I spiraled down into a place I didn’t like. Luckily early on, I found this magical group on Facebook called Doi Suthep Walkers. This group along with a few other factors helped me through the last several months.
I started hiking with Doi Suthep Walkers the week I returned to Chiang Mai and soon I was leading a hike or two a week. I love seeing how the trail changed every few days as new wildflowers emerge and insects hatch out. I love hiking with friends, making new friends, and meeting travelers. I love encouraging new hikers up the steep, steep trail. I love sharing my passion for jungle flora and fauna. I love the sense of accomplishment when I look out over the valley and know my legs carried me all the way up there. I love watching planes take off from the airport below and being so high above them that they appear to be toys. I love the run/stumble/hike back down the mountain that shakes all the stress out of my muscles. I’ve always known that spending time outdoors makes me happy, but these last few months have really shown me how closely my mental health is tied to time spent in nature. This has been an important lesson for me.