Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jer gan mai, bpratet Thai. (See you later, Thailand.)

It is only in adventure that some people exceed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.”

-Andre Gide

I fit practically everything I own into a backpack and duffle. It's a strange feeling, putting your whole life into a couple bags. It's exciting. Liberating. Scarily impermanent.

After 2 ½ years of living in Thailand, I'm going home to America. I've known it was coming since I bought the plane ticket two months ago. It's not a last-minute decision – not a surprise. In fact, I've been looking forward to it. Not because I've grown any less fond of Thailand, but because America the greatest country in the world and it's my home. It's where my family and many of my friends are, and I'm excited to be back with them. But even though I've known the time to leave has been steadily approaching, it didn't really hit me until my last day, while packing my things for the final time.

The last thing I threw in my backpack was my lucky Caps hat. It's always the last thing I put in my backpack – always at the top so it doesn't get crushed. I can remember when I bought it back in the States before ever coming to Thailand. It was dark blue then. Now it's a weathered light gray. I've put a lot of miles on that thing in the past couple years. I've worn it all over Thailand, from the mountains to the islands. It was on my head, keeping the pouring rain out of my eyes in Cambodia at Angkor Wat. It kept the Vietnamese sun off my face every day while I rode a motorcycle for hours and hours down Highway 1. In Laos, I'd pull it down over my brow so I could sleep, just to kill time on a two-day slow boat down the Mekong.

I've accomplished some amazing things and had some incredible experiences living and traveling abroad. I stared at my hat and many of these experiences flashed through my memory. That's when it hit me: I'm leaving. Not for a visit or to another town, but actually leaving. A heavy feeling came over me. Leaving Thailand is the end of not just a chapter, but a volume in my life. I might occasionally have a “third-world blowup” and bitch about the inconveniences of living in a developing country, but I truly love Thailand and the Thai people. It's become a second home to me and I'm going to miss it a lot.

I can honestly say that I'm a different person now than when I first arrived. I've learned so much about so many different aspects of life. I'm healthier. I'm happier. I've had more adventures in 2 years than most people will have in their whole lives. Do you have any crazy stories? Because I've got more than I have time to tell.

Perhaps the most valuable thing I've gained are the relationships I've built. I treasure these. Living and traveling with people thousands of miles from home creates a certain bond. Most of the friends I've made have moved on already, either back home or to a new country. I imagine that they had the same feelings while packing their bags as I did while packing mine. Knowing that you'll see those people again – someday, somewhere – makes it a little easier to deal with. And that's how I have to think of Thailand too – as a friend that I'll see again someday.

I zipped up my backpack and in just a few minutes my emotions had traveled the full spectrum. I went from a moment of realization to a moment of nostalgia. Then happy.  Sad.  Proud.  Overwhelmingly thankful.  And finally... excited. I'm excited because I know that this is the end of one series of adventures, yet so many more are still to come. I'm making a promise to myself to make sure that I never stop having adventures – that I never stop having experiences, meeting interesting people, wearing that hat, learning – that I never run out of things to write about.

I still have a lot of the world left to conquer. I better get started.

Jer gan mai, bpratet Thai.

So long, Thailand.  Until we meet again.

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