Be Free & Let it Be
So you did it. You did your research. You made the decision. You broke the news to friends and family. You booked the ticket. It. Is. Happening. What comes next is a combination of relief, excitement, and a series of "holy-shit" moments. If you’re anything like I am, after you commit to moving abroad/traveling for an extended period of time, you begin to think of all the things that could potentially go wrong on your upcoming adventure. But what I’ve been realizing lately is that some of the common worries before traveling/living abroad are actually some of the things I’ve grown to love most about living in Thailand. I’ll just touch on a few:
1. Ummmm, we don’t even speak the same language!
You’re right. You don’t. And sometimes this can be insanely frustrating. I can’t even venture a guess as to how many times I’ve said to myself “If only I spoke Thai…” or “For the love of god, somebody please speak English.” BUT, there are some amazing moments you have when you actually communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language.
For example, about a month ago I needed to find the right van to take me home from Bangkok. I was feeling tired and alone and over it and just wanting to get back to my apartment. I asked an older woman next to me, “Klong Si?” to see if I was in the right place. She gave me the biggest and most genuine smile, nodded her head, and for the rest of the time we waited for the van, she spoke to me in Thai. At first, I was kinda nodding my head along and smiling like an idiot, not having the slightest idea what she was saying. But slowly, through her motions, facial expressions and the fact that I so badly wanted to communicate with this woman, I began to feel like I understood exactly what she was saying to me, and we started talking. When the van arrived, the woman grabbed my hand and rushed us over so we could sit in the front seat together (a highly coveted position in the world of van transportation in Thailand). We communicated the entire ride – about the driver’s crazy driving, about music, about motorcycles - and she gave me the biggest hug good-bye when we reached her stop. Neither of us spoke a word of each other’s language, but we understood each other. And I wasn’t alone anymore. And it was an incredible feeling.
The language barrier really is only frustrating when you actually need something, and in that case, it’s best to try to stay calm and do one of three things: make Google Translate your best friend, struggle your ass off trying to pronounce the words in your language book, or my personal favorite, play a nice little game of charades to communicate what you need (I am now the Meryll Streep of non-verbal acting.)
2. But what if I get lonely/homesick?
Soooo…about that. Let’s be honest, when traveling for an extended period of time or living abroad, chances are you’re going to get lonely or homesick at some point, especially when you’re flying solo. It’s not easy being so far from home and your routine and your family and your friends and your pets and your favorite food and your favorite restaurant and your favorite bar and…yeah, you get the idea. BUT, while it may be difficult at times, I’m learning there is so much to gain from this time alone. It’s an opportunity to really get to know yourself – to acknowledge what you like about yourself, find out what you want to improve, and maybe confront some things you’ve been burying deep down (that’s when shit gets real). I think we all want to be the best version of ourselves, and being alone gives us the chance to really work on that. It’s also pretty awesome to be able to do whatever the hell you want to do each day without checking in with anyone.
Loneliness also gives you the motivation to go out and meet new people. To me, one of the coolest parts about traveling is that you can meet people from all over the world doing the exact same thing that you are doing. You already have a common ground, which makes it pretty easy to start a conversation. Do I get lonely and homesick over here at times? HELL YES. And I’m sure I will continue to do so. But those are the times I try to put myself in check and remember how amazing this experience is. I try to remind myself to appreciate each moment and that the people/things I love and miss the most will be there when I return.
3. What if I get lost and have no idea where I am or where I’m going?!
Here’s the thing: I now think that if you DON’T get lost and have no idea where you are or where you’re going at some point, not only are you freakishly over-prepared, but in my opinion, you’re missing out on some of the most defining experiences when traveling or living abroad. Getting lost not only helps to eventually learn the right way to get somewhere, but it usually gives us the opportunity to discover things that we may have never known existed. Some of the most unique and beautiful things I’ve seen here are things I’ve found when I had no idea where the F I was. And even if you don’t find anything great when lost, then hey, at least you saw something new and now know what not to do. Yes, when you actually need to be somewhere at a certain time, getting lost can suck (luckily in Thailand, time is not really an issue. Seriously…if a meeting starts at 9 am, that means anywhere from 9-noon and if you’re late, no one really gives a hoot), but when it comes down to it, I promise you will find someone who can help you find your way or you will figure it out on your own.
I’ve been saying for a while that travel gives me an adrenaline rush unlike anything else I’ve experienced. I realize now that the majority of that rush comes from the unknown – not knowing exactly where I am going, not knowing for sure if I’m on the right bus, not knowing what the hell is going to happen in the upcoming moments. I love it. I really do.
So basically, yes, it’s natural to worry about things when you are making a drastic change in your life, but try your best to put your mind at ease, focus on the positive, and keep in mind that the things that worry you may just become the things you cherish the most.
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