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Last October marked a year for us in Laos. As with most big things in life, it feels like yesterday and forever ago, simultaneously. That’s the deceiving thing about time.

Without letting more of it pass, I want to document things that have made the most impression on me in this brief stay.

Craig and I have affectionately called this year “an experiment”. In truth, it was a coping mechanism when things felt really scary. It was our out. Our reminder that decisions are not marked in stone. A way to maintain some lightness, to remain curious of the outcome.

It’s not been easy (far from it) to come to this decision but, our experiment is coming to an end. By mid December, we will say good-bye to Luang Prabang and the illusions we created. There is no doubt, though, that several life lessons follow me out. Here are a few.

1. The outsider’s perspective lacks experience. Living in the place you’ve vacationed is a new reality. Dealing with visas, where to go when you suspect you have malaria, and scrubbing down mold on kitchen cupboards is far from charming. This is not what’s envisioned on a week’s vacation of elephant rides and cooking classes.

2. If you want to work on your marriage, changing everything at once is probably not the best platform. Moving to a new country is difficult; we’d experienced that before. But, the career shift in a new country; now that kicked our asses. And, to top it off, Laos is not an easy place to live. I’ve heard in the last week more times than ever: Oh yeah, this place can cause a marriage to strain. Somehow, that’s comforting.

3. Heed your basic needs. Craig’s is feeling security-health care, a salary you can count on. Mine is feeling connected. While I am capable of making friends wherever we live, I have found that my family/friend connections from home are tugging harder than ever. Meeting those things that make you feel more safe and whole will enable your capability of facing challenges.

4. Mixing your passion with business is not necessarily an equation for instant happiness. Do what you love…is a slogan I can get behind. But, what if doing what you love results in loving it a little less? I can understand now why people are protective of their hobbies or passions.

5. Small town-ness has it’s limits for a city girl. I remember wondering if I would go crazy in a small place like Luang Prabang. Turns out, I do. Having regular city fixes adds to part of my sanity.

6. Opportunity comes in unexpected forms. A chance to design a hotel, open a yoga space, assist in programming a film festival; these things were amazing. Life surprises you when you let it.

7.  Letting go allows for the arrival of what’s next. There were weeks where we sat on the fence. Familiar messages swarmed around. Are we giving up? Shouldn’t we stick this out longer? We just moved our stuff here and have settled in-wouldn’t it be nuts to go now? There was the notion that we had something to prove, even if it caused us unhappiness in the process. Once we decided that it was best for us both to go, the concerns softened and suddenly, there was space.

After a year of piling on, this space is a gorgeous welcome.

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