When I actually reflect back on my time here thus far, I am amazed. I cannot believe how long I've been here already. I am past the two month mark and quickly approaching halfway! When I first got here, I was really not sure that I would reach this point. That being said, I’m officially into the swing of things, as much as you can be into the swing of things in Thailand. I have figured out the best way I can teach, have a pretty good routine down and am enjoying my time and ability to travel around this beautiful country.
While I’m enjoying my time, I also want to be honest. As I have mentioned in a previous post, things can just be a bit more difficult here than they are at home. Simple tasks take longer than expected and, sometimes, tasks that I anticipated would be difficult tasks take a shorter time than expected. Never really know what you’re going to get. But, whether it's language barriers or cultural barriers, the reality is that everyday chores can be a bit more difficult, and you just need to roll with the punches, and have that “Mai pen rai” attitude.
“Mai pen rai” essentially means “it's okay” or “no worries.” There are many, many different interpretations of the phrase but I like to think of it (and was told to kind of think of it) as the Thai version of “hakunna Matata.” Keeping this attitude in mind is useful especially when traveling here. Sometimes, or rather most of the time, traveling does not go as planned.
I have had many traveling woes already. I have missed flights, had to book random cars to get me to locations hours away, have taken an 11 hour bus ride and have sprinted through the airport to make my connection. While I certainly am not completely blameless when it comes to travel mishaps, sometimes my best efforts are thwarted by external forces beyond my control. Travel mishaps, as annoying as they are, can always be figured out and, with a little creativity and “mai pen rai,” you can always find a solution, even if it doesn't seem to make the most sense. Travelling around Thailand over the holiday break has taught me the importance of staying calm and really embracing the attitude of whatever happens, happens. I am typically a planner and don’t like it when things like this go wrong but, like I said, I have learned to temper my planning instincts with the Mai pen rai attitude. You know, at some point, you’re going to make it where you need to go and, thankfully, Thailand has many, many different forms of transportation.
I am usually traveling with friends. So figuring things out when a plan is disrupted is not only a group effort, there is a certain level of comfort from knowing that we are all in the same pickle. Recently, however, I was traveling alone and I missed my flight. There were no other flights to my location for the rest of the day and I was in Bangkok so I would need to figure out a hotel for the night and transport to and from the hotel for the next day. This was a real test for myself to be able to figure out how to get myself where I needed to go on my own. And I did it! Rather than stay in Bangkok, I flew into a totally different airport two hours away from my ultimate destination, and found a car service to take me from the airport to my hotel where I was meeting my friends. Coming up with this slightly chaotic plan on my own was a huge win for me and showed me how much I’ve already grown from this experience. I was very happy that I was able to successfully solve this problem on my own and be able to get myself around. By the time I made it to my final destination, I had taken a sky train ride, car ride, plane ride and a two hour taxi to get to a location that was supposed to be an hour flight away.
So transport here is a little overwhelming. It can be difficult to figure and get from here to there but once you’re there, it’s beyond worth it. Traveling through this country has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. I went to an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, went to an island, Koh Lorn, off the coast of Pattaya and went to Krabi where I did Island tours and back flips off boats. Travelling through the country and figuring it out, sometimes on the fly, has forced me to use, and hone, my problem solving skills. And traveling and seeing all these new places, well, that’s one of the major draws of coming here, even if it’s difficult at times. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” While that is true in Thailand (and sometimes the hectic journeys make for really funny stories), the destinations are equally inspiring.