Few people know the real reason I went to Thailand when I did. I have been wanting to travel there since I first learned Thai massage 12 years ago. Yet, between starting a family and figuring out my path as a wellness professional, the timing was never right. In March 2012, my then-husband and I decided to divorce. It was easily the most challenging period of my life. I was confused, depressed, yet weirdly empowered to move on and recreate a different path for myself. Up until that point, the career decisions I made revolved around being a wife and a mom.
Don’t get me wrong, I considered my own happiness as well, but I factored in how my choices would impact my husband and son. At the time, I was practicing massage therapy, yoga, and Reiki. I was happy, but the money was inconsistent, and I didn’t have the acumen to build the kind of business that could support us. I loved teaching massage therapy, but the school was an hour away…plus I had to work shifts that made it impossible to spend time with my family.
This was also before Obamacare so we were reliant on my ex-husband’s health insurance. Unfortunately, his job was physically and mentally taxing and didn’t offer much in terms of compensation. Because of all of that, I decided to change careers and began looking at nursing schools. It wasn’t my passion to be a nurse, but it was a stable and sensible career choice that would allow me to be the kind of wife and mother that my family deserved.
After we decided to separate, everything fell apart. I stopped applying to nursing schools, I quit my teaching position, and my son and I moved back in with my mom. I didn’t know what was next for me because, for the past five years, everything revolved around a family that was now broken up. I now was tasked with creating a new life and future for myself and my son.
I had some money saved up and I considered going to Thailand for a week or
So, I went.
Bum Guns and Comfort Zones
Two months after separating from my ex, I was on a flight to the other side of the world. I’ve never flown internationally…and I haven’t ever flown by myself. After traveling through Seattle and South Korea, I found my way to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. I told the guesthouse manager the time that my flight landed, but I didn’t factor in the line for immigration and currency exchange.
By the time I arrived at the guesthouse, it was closed! Luckily, there were a few guests still awake at 12:30 am that knew the manager and had her phone number. She lived nearby and arrived within 10 minutes to show me to my room. I listened to the Alabama Shakes while I unpacked and attempted to get some rest.
The next few days were spent getting used to navigating Chiang Mai, finding places to eat, and learning to use a bum gun. In my preparation for the trip, I somehow missed how to use the potty! So, in Thailand, you cannot flush toilet paper. It has to go in the wastebasket. Their septic system can’t handle it. Instead, there is a hose hooked up to the toilet that you squirt your…uhh… parts. Then you use the toilet paper to dry yourself. It took some getting used to, but now I actually prefer that way!
Once I started Thai massage school, I felt more settled. I made friends from around the world-many of which I am still friends with nearly 7 years later. English was people’s second or even third language, and yet we connected as if there were no barriers at all. Some of the people I met were also going through tough transitions in life. We comforted and supported one another… all while learning fun Thai massage techniques! After only being there for a few weeks, Chiang Mai felt like home. It still does to this day.
That life-altering experience taught me that you can’t recreate yourself inside your comfort zone. I needed to go where no one knew me,so no one could compare me to my former self. Now, several years later, I decided to remain a massage therapist, yoga instructor, and wellness educator. I earned my Bachelor of Applied Science in Massage Therapy and am currently earning my Masters in Adult and Continuing Education.
I’ve written books and articles on massage therapy, as well as produced instructional videos. I have taught hundreds of massage therapists and yoga instructors Thai massage and western-based bodywork. I look forward to sharing the healing arts with hundreds more!
Travel is a Gift of Transformation
As you can tell by my story, international travel can be daunting and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m going back to Thailand for the third time June 22-30, 2019 and I’d love for you to join me! This time, I’ll be teaching at Samahita Retreat Center, located on the lovely island, Koh Samui. Spend 9-days learning Thai massage, partner yoga, and how to incorporate eastern knowledge in western settings.
This is not only an opportunity to build your practice and earn continuing education hours, but it is also a chance to explore the other side of the world!
If you are ready to say yes to adventure and transformation, click here to learn more and register for the experience of a lifetime!
Vanessa Hazzard, BASc, LMT is an author, educator, and massage therapist with 14 years of experience in the field. She is author of Prenatal Thai Massage: for Relaxation & Pain Relief. Her volunteerism and commitment to mental health and trauma-awareness in yoga and bodywork has landed her features on NPR, Philly.com, and speaking engagements at Drexel University and non-profit organizations. Vanessa has studied with Ajarn Sinchai Sukparset, Thanachai Chaimongkhon, and International Training Massage (ITM) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She also has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Massage Therapy from Siena Heights University and is currently earning her Master of Education in Adult and Continuing Education from Rutgers University.
PA Massage License MSG000869 | NCBTMB Approved Provider 451899-12