Friday, April 22, 2011

Thailand 2011 - To Be Continued...

We passed the International Date Line about 5 minutes ago. It's Thursday again...yeah, weird right?

This is the 5th time I've crossed the Pacific, with my 6th journey coming a week from now. Each time is different, yet feels the same.

I stare out my window and can see the stars. Bright stars - the brightest stars you've ever seen. Sometimes I like to get closer to the window, blocking the light of the televisions and late-night readers. Everything is still. My only indication that time is still moving is the blinking light at the end of the wing. I wonder if a boat down there sees the same blinking light. We're miles away but sharing the same experience. It's a good possibility...it is very dark outside.

Coming home is always a special trip. If you stay up long enough, you can see one of the most brilliant sunrises. It's not beautiful because it paints the sky red and orange, but how it sneaks up on you. One moment it's pitch black, and the very next you're greeted with an almost blinding light. An endless ocean stretches across the horizon, and the waves twinkle with the morning light.

It's always a time for reflection, on the experience I just had and the future that awaits me. My head is going a mile a minute with thoughts of relationships, friends, my sporadic career, and what this life has in store for me. A familiar song starts playing on my iPod, reminding me how much living I have yet to do.

I am a lucky man. At 22, I have a college degree, have worked in my field on a multitude of domestic and international projects. My Passport is already half-full of Visa's and stamps from countries around the world, and have friends in all them. My path is wide open, and I have no signs of slowing down.

At the same time, this kind of life has deprived me of some luxuries that I miss dearly. I miss having friends, and regularly seeing them. I miss what it's like to have a routine, or what it feels like to share these experiences. I can blog all day about them, but at one point my adventures are simply words on a page. I can travel the world, but if I don't have a soul to share my stories with they're all selfish adventures. It's lonely sometimes.

Looking back at the past two weeks, however, reminds me why I do this. The job we had to do was important, yes, but the cultural experience and being human again was what I needed. Humanity never fails to teach me.

Thailand is a very interesting and beautiful country. In one area, you have Phuket: this island paradise with white sandy beaches, jungles and rolling hillsides, and a small town feel that makes you feel like a local. Then you move to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Air pollution plagues the skies. Poor civic planning makes navigation near impossible. Trash litters the streets, and mosquitoes are always itching to nip at your ankles.

There was never one point, however, that I didn't feel safe or at home. The people of Thailand are truly wonderful, and I'm starting to notice this trend with 3rd world countries. They have, by all Western standards, a tough life. They live in shoeboxes, make very little in terms of income, and don't have access to the 'quality of life' that we have.

Things are so much simpler, however, and that's where humanity flourishes. They can admire the rows of rubber trees and the sun peaking through the canopy. They can take the time to sit at a table at the local restaurant and talk about whatever topic that seems to grace them at the time. We were interviewing one of the gym owners, and when we asked him to compare the Western world and Thailand, he had this to say: you guys invest and bet on the Stock Exchange, and we bet on singing birds. (Twice a week everyone takes their birds to a local convention to let the sing, with the winner taking a cash prize)

I like my complicated life. I like the internet, going to the movies, and debating politics with friends. The Thai's and the Kenyan's, however, taught me to love the birds chirping in the morning and strolling down the street with a friend.

It allows me to love the stars shining outside my airplane window. When I think about how I have to fly to Korea next week and start a new life, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my travels have given me the gift of humility and appreciation. I can enjoy this journey for all that it is. That takes alot of the stress of my shoulders. I'll be ok, and that's all anybody could ask for.

Thailand's story isn't quite over yet, as I still have a couple thousand pictures and just as many video clips to sort through. Those images and sounds tell a story that I can't tell with words alone, and I intend to share them with you.

This blog is making a transition, however. I will be in Korea for the next year, living in a culture much different from my own. It'll be a different kind of adventure, but a much more in-depth one. I'm not sure how to structure a life based around a new experience, but it should be fun to figure out, right?

This is also a growing period for me, and I intend to take advantage of it as much as possible. I hope you stick around and continue to follow the adventures of me and my orange sweater. Better yet, I hope you get the chance to experience what I'm doing right now. If you get bored and have a spare $1000, come visit! My couch is always open, and I'll show you around. Thailand was only the beginning...

The moon is just setting beyond the ocean horizon. It'll be morning soon. I can't wait. Adventure is out there!

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