24 Oct 5 Things I Learned In Thailand
Before we leave Thailand, I’d like to look back on our time in this amazing country. It’s been two months with its ups and downs, beaches and forests, oceans and lakes, Muay Thai and massages, karst to no end and too many motorbike rides to count. I firmly believe that when you actively reflect upon the time spent in a place, it prevents it from being a fleeting trip once lived. It becomes permanent, somehow, as you realize how and why this place changed you. This change will still be a part of you even after you are long gone.
I learned plenty during my time here: how to throw a mean kick, that reef cuts leave nasty scars, and that Thai massages are the definition of torture. But there are 5 things I learned in Thailand that stuck with me and I hope they will remain long after I leave.
1) Always smile first
Thai people smile. That’s what they do. They smile in greeting, on the streets, as they welcome you, and when handing you the check. They even smile when haggling and fighting. Yes, fighting. We went to a Muay Thai fight where the two opponents were smiling so much at each other while kicking their asses that we even thought they were, in fact, bffs.
This is an exemplary way to go through life. I do believe that so much smiling actually changes a place’s vibe. Hey, even foreigners are taken more seriously if they smile, even if they are complaining. I hope I can keep on smiling like Thais do.
2) It’s okay to slow down
We’re in a constant rush every day of our lives. Trying to get stuff done, feeling like time will pass us by and that we’ll never finish. And we tend to have that same attitude towards traveling. Of course we want to see, do, and eat as much as we can on the limited time we have to travel, but it sometimes comes with a high price tag.
We sped by Singapore and Thailand without taking a single day to recover or rest in between. Until, one day, I felt burned. Exhausted.
I dare say that for a second there, I didn’t want to travel anymore. That’s when I knew something was terribly wrong.
Then, we arrived in Thai Islands like Koh Tao and Koh Lanta where time seems irrelevant. Well, not irrelevant, but it definitely means something else here than it does in places like Mexico City, Melbourne, or Singapore.
One day I just woke up and noticed that I felt better. I was in high spirits again, I was sleeping better, I was researching trips with excitement, I had energy!
So we stopped moving. We stayed in the same place for more than three days.
I needed that break. At first I felt guilty for wanting it. Shouldn’t I be out exploring? Shouldn’t we keep moving? There’s so much to see! But the beach, and the unpaved roads, and the motorbikes, and the hammocks, and the heat, they all invite you to see (and live) things a little differently.
3) We don’t need as much stuff as we think we do
It seems like we live in a society where all that matters is getting your hands on stuff. The new this, or the improved that…It all revolves around the idea that you must buy all these things that, in reality, you don’t need. And when everyone’s worth is apparently tied to their possessions, it’s hard not to give in.
To me, the idea of living a year out of a backpack was terrifying. In Thailand though, all that seems a world away. How much could you possibly need in a place where the beach is gorgeous, where you’re barefoot most days, where it’s so hot that a bathing suit’s the best fashion idea, and everyone lives a short motor-bike ride away.
There’s nowhere to buy these fancy/shiny/high end things, and let’s be honest, no place to wear or use them.
4) Coconuts will make anything better
Think about it. Drinking coconut water out of a perfect, freshly-cut coconut under a palm tree’s shade while dipping your feet in the warm waters of a a Thai Island is a dream in itself.
But these tropical treasures can actually make everything better. A hot day of temple hopping, a tuk tuk ride, a grueling hike, a rough day, a day in the pool, they will invariably be better with a coconut in hand.
I haven’t left and I already miss my daily coco dose.
5) You may surprise yourself, only if you try
It’s easy to bring ourselves down. It’s easier to assume we’re just not good at something and let it intimidate us, than to actually try it, and prove ourselves wrong.
Thailand was, for me, an excuse crasher. And thanks to that, I learned that I don’t give myself enough credit.
“I can’t go rock climbing” Well, I did and I could.
“There’s no way I’m taking a Muay Thai Class. It looks way too scary” Well, I did, and I kicked some ass.
“Flying trapeze! Are you crazy?” Crazy is underrated, and flying is freakin’ awesome.
So, yeah I surprised myself but only because Thailand pushed me, and I’m so glad I let it.