“Traveling” is a very misappropriated name for the thing that I love to do. I hate the actual traveling component of it. I hate going through airport security and waiting for buses and figuring out the train system of a different country. I am not a patient person in any of those respects. This past week, I took the most unplanned trip of my entire life. That was very melodramatic in terms of what actually happened, but it’s also a true statement.
I had 6 free days before I started my position teaching English, bought a flight to Bangkok and left 7 hours later. I had no idea how I was getting to Hua Hin beach (my final destination), or where I was staying or what I was going to do; I just went. At first this freedom was liberating. The fact that I had nowhere to be and no schedule to follow felt like the ultimate vacation.
And then I landed in Bangkok. And got on a train from Don Mueang airport into the city. Without getting into specifics: just don’t take the Thailand rail system. 10 hours of my day were spent in a non-air conditioned death trap with a toothless Mr. Miyagi-type character sitting cross legged across from me serving as an interpreter for a Thai version of Bruno Mars who sat next to him, staring at me while blasting Maroon 5 on his phone.
By the time I arrived in Hua Hin (and got blatantly ripped off by a taxi driver), I was completely exhausted and very, very sweaty. But the entire time I sat on the train, I kept thinking, “what’s the worst that could possibly happen?” Besides the obvious exceptions of kidnapping, rape, etc., the worst thing that could happen is that I am still in Thailand. I am still living my dream and doing all the things I talked about doing for months and months. And no matter how many times the train is delayed or there’s a language barrier getting documents for my visa, that still remains true.
Since I’ve landed in Thailand, I’ve found a lot of my thoughts have consisted of, “where am I going next?” I want to go to Chiang Rai, Chiang Dao, Phuket, Koh Chang, Phetachburi, and Sukhotai in Thailand alone. I once had plans of also going to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali and China just in this upcoming year.
A lot of times I’ve realized that traveling has just become a checklist of things for me. There is nothing I love more than checking things off lists. The satisfaction of completing something in a series has always had an enormous appeal for me. I am already thinking of September 2016 when my contract ends and where my life will head after that. And that is a whole new checklist: being financially stable, getting another degree, being my own boss, buying a house, and possibly having children someday.
But being in a new country should not just be something I’m “getting out of the way”– this is my life. This is where I am right now at this moment and I shouldn’t be continuously worried about where I’m heading next. What is the point of living in another country if I’m on autopilot until my next destination? Maybe I won’t ever hit every country on my bucket list. Maybe I won’t reach all of my professional and financial goals. And that’s a very tough truth to live with.
But I’m here and I’m living. And planned or unplanned, this next year will be one huge check on the list.