As I sat in the Chiang Mai airport, I started picking through my travel wallet and realized I still had my boarding pass from last year.. 01 September.. Doha --> Bangkok.
A lot has happened since I first set foot in The Kingdom. Thailand and I didn’t get along at first. It was a tough adjustment. There was culture shock. I felt so out of place. I struggled to get around. I spoke no Thai. My engagement fell apart. My wedding was cancelled. I was angry. Heartbroken. Disappointed. Frustrated. You see, I had already dreamed of living in another country for over a decade, and I had been working hard to chase after my first love.. Paris, France. I never planned to end up in Thailand in the first place.. but it's where life and love led at the time. And I chased after love. I thought I could make it all work, but when I arrived, I felt so lost. So uncomfortable. And very alone. "You were never supposed to be here!" I'd scream to myself. "You were supposed to be in Paris!"
This all feels light years away now. When I think about it, I feel like I’m looking into the life of another person.. simply because I am not the same person. Not even close. I am still “me” of course, but I will never be the same. Between that time that felt very, very dark to where I am today, I have met countless people that have forever changed my life. I have done things I never thought I’d do. I have seen things that I cannot explain with the English language... maybe the words exist in another language, but I don’t know them yet. I can’t really summarize any of this experience. It’s just too much. However, when I first arrived, I started keeping a list of “all of the things Thailand taught me”.. when things felt really painful and ugly, it became a way to cope. Whenever I was hurting, I told myself that meant there was something there I needed to learn. And I held on to that. These things have stemmed from countless sources.. observation, personal experience, funny bits about being a traveler, things friends have taught me, teachings from monks, Buddhism, the Thai people, mistakes I’ve made, ways I’ve seen myself change.. I’d like to finally share some of that list. Hopefully a few things might give some insight into what life is like here, maybe resonate a bit, or maybe you will at least get a bit of a laugh. Here goes :)
Things Thailand Taught Me: - Muay Thai is definitely not my thing. But it taught me what I’m capable of, and how far out of my comfort zone I can really go.
- I love Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu is the way.
- The only thing permanent in our lives is that we are all going to die.
- I was stuck next to a guy on a bus once who wouldn’t shut up about some extremely opinionated political topic that I really just felt uncomfortable listening to. I thought to myself, “If he was speaking anything other than English, I would not have to listen to this..” and in that moment I realized that there are obvious benefits to speaking a language. And there are also benefits to NOT speaking a language. When you don't speak a language, everything is very quiet.
- Always trust your gut.
- [As a traveler] if you have a friend over for dinner, they will probably confirm day, time, and if you have enough plates and silverware for 2 people.
- Having a motorbike is way cheaper [and way more fun] than a car.
- I enjoy kids a lot more.
- There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing. Be bored. - I really miss my dog, but I’ve definitely become a cat person.
- My eyesight has improved tremendously.
- Above all else, be with someone that makes you feel safe.
- The earth is a healing thing. Walk around barefoot. And sit in the ocean whenever you get the chance.
- Work is never more important that wellbeing.
- Money will come and go. Never underestimate the joy of having a simple life. - Nothing really matters as much as we think.
- We have absolutely no control over other people.
- We are not in control of our thoughts.
- I am not in control of my body. I can only decide how to treat it, and hope that the outcome is health. - We are all running out of time.
- I can choose to be sad, hurt, angry. I can also choose not to be.
- [As a traveler] I like myself more. I’m a nicer person. I’m more patient. More forgiving. I'll always be a work in progress, but I’ve found it easier to let things go and accept things as they are.
- There is no revenge in life. The best “revenge” to walk away.
- I can love and lose and still love again, many times over.
- I have so much love for this country, I’ve loved so many people, and I really just never knew I had this much love inside of me.
- Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Sometimes love takes more time to happen. I think this is true for people, and for places. There might not be flashy fireworks, but when you let love happen slowly, that love runs deep. This is how things happened for me and Thailand. - I have forgotten that places are cold.
- Thai people have great memories. They will likely remember your name after meeting you just a time or 2, and they will DEFINITELY remember your face.
- I have no idea what a normal level of spiciness is anymore.
- Thai people party hard.
- Thailand has great DJ’s. - Thinking is a waste of time. Don’t think too much.
- Having pervasive thought means we still have attachment to impermanent things.
- I’ve seen a man with 1000 faces.
- You can surround yourself with good people, but there is still an insidious, collective energy and mindset that exists over a place as a whole. I think staying in tune with yourself about how someWHERE makes you feel is just as important as being aware of how someONE makes you feel.
- If you lose your awareness, you have lost everything.
- The American passport is very powerful. If you are interested in traveling, please take advantage of it – not everyone has this luxury. - Compassion is greater than empathy. It is not important to take on someone’s emotions. It does not help a situation to feel their pain. It’s better to care about what they’re feeling, not feel what they’re feeling. It’s so pointless to put energy in to hurting harder when that energy can be put towards caring harder.
- [Thoughts on myself] I never thought of myself as a hopeless romantic. If something isn’t working, I ultimately have always walked away. But despite all of the personal struggles I had here in Thailand – even when it felt like everything was going wrong - I refused to give up on this journey for reasons even I didn’t understand. It left me questioning myself many times, but I couldn’t shake the belief that there was something more here. Looking back now, knowing how much I’ve come to love this country, I realized I might be more of a hopeless romantic than I realized. - Another traveler introduced me to the term Topophilia: the affective bond with one’s environment; a person’s mental, emotional and cognitive ties to a place.. He said some people fall in love with places instead of people, and that hit different.
- Above all else, enjoy time.
Thailand has been an extremely profound experience, and I have learned many lessons I did not know that I needed to learn. I have gained a very different perspective on what I feel is important in my life.
Thank you for the continued love, support, and well wishes over the last 10 months.. it means more than you could ever know. I’ll be back soon <3