I can’t even…My head is spinning. It feels like this is all happening so quickly. I’m flying to India tomorrow morning and I just keep thinking, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m not ready…”
But then again, how does one ever become ready for this sort of thing?
I’ve mostly just been backpacking since my parents left. I went to Koh Phi Phi for a few nights, then back to Bangkok to take care of some India visa stuff and see my roommate from Sydney, Clothilde, who was in town on business (!!!)…Then I spent two weeks-ish in Koh Tao meeting wonderful beautiful amazing glorious people and swimming and tanning and diving.
I’m now in Bangkok for what I know is probably the last time in a good long while. It’s bittersweet because even though this chapter is over, I’ll still be in Asia exploring and wandering around for a few weeks with Jordan.
Up until this point I’ve felt too close to this experience to have any perspective on what it means to me. But as the end approaches, I’m finding it nearly impossible not to reflect. I sat for hours in the hostel in Koh Tao re-reading my blog posts from my life here and marveling at the motivation it must have taken to produce and organize so much written content. I’m so glad I have this chronicle of my experience to look back on.
When I realized I really only had a few more days here, I moped around for a bit, weighed down by the heaviness of my nostalgia.
I keep returning to the same questions in my mind: questions about the nature of traveling, why we do it and why it changes us. What makes traveling so different from living a life of “permanence”? Many people would argue being a backpacker on the road is not living in The Real World. I catch myself making this assumption all the time, but then I’m stuck because if it’s not The Real World then what is it?
The answer is that it’s all real. Everything we do is part of The Real World. We don’t need a permanent home, a job, a routine, and responsibilities to justify the “realness” of our experiences. That’s one way to live, and traveling is just another way. The question then remains: if both experiences – on the road and settled down- of The Real World are in fact real, why is traveling so rewarding? What is it about being somewhere else that brings us so much joy, satisfaction, wisdom?
When you travel, you remove yourself from everything that is known and comfortable to you, thereby removing any expectations you may have about how you should or would act in any given context. You’re in a new context now so anything goes. Without these expectations about yourself, you’re free to do new things – things you might not have tried before in your familiar or comfortable environment.
And it’s when we do new things that we grow from the richness of a diversity of experiences.
There’s so much more to it, I think- maybe something about the importance of connecting with new people, the intensity and fullness of living in the present moment while on the road, and maybe the empowerment that comes from overcoming logistical and interpersonal challenges of a transient lifestyle- but the reality of my approaching transition is distracting me. It’s nighttime now, and I fly to India in the morning. Frankly, it’s the only thing keeping me from completely losing my composure.
Okay, that’s sort of a lie. I definitely lost my composure today. But these things happen when you meet a really good one and then you have to say goodbye.
Speaking of goodbyes…
Goodbye to Thailand, my home. Cheers and thank you. Khap khun kha. Thailand, where I worked and learned and sweat. Where I cried. Traveled, loved, ached…
The good things are most salient: my sweet students’ faces when I walked in the room for the first lesson of the day; the way I felt when they made me laugh.
The little pleasures at work: snacks, videos, list-making, day-dreaming, breaking rules, participating in school events and dances. My solo trip through the south of Thailand back in October. The we’re-all-in-it-together coworker times; going out on Khao San; eating Thai food; trying to speak as much Thai as I could. Exploring Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos with Molly, my parents, and by myself. Swimming, dancing, singing; living free and present.
The bad stuff is there too – it will always be there – and that’s okay. The loneliness, the ennui of living in Bangkok and working, teaching, being exhausted, losing my voice, getting sick. Sick of the food, unable or not having enough energy to exercise; money stolen; rude people; boys who suck. Anxiety. Worrying, waiting, wanting.
Yes, yes, all of it is Thailand.
It’s so much. So much in a year.
Bangkok feels empty and my heart hurts. It’s not empty like in the beginning when I didn’t know anybody and anything could happen…because, well, it’s the end and I knew people but they are gone and everything has happened.
See yall in India?