My Southeast Asia leg of my trip (4 whole months of balmy tropical air!) began with over 24 hours of travel, door-to-door.
But my longest journey was also my simplest. Get on plane, sleep, eat a tiny Haagen Das strawberry ice cream, get off plane, get on plane, eat another even tinier ice cream, get off plane and into taxi and arrive. (This leaves out the part where I had to jog at a rather undignified pace to my second plane after a six-hour layover because I’m even worse at math when I’m deeply jet lagged, but I made it so I digress.)
I’m here! But where do I go?
Thailand is blessed with an embarrassment of possibilities, especially for the first-time visitor like me. Am I seeking humid jungles, full of elephants and hill tribes? Recklessly abandoning my senses (and possibly dignity and possessions) at the infamous Full Moon Party? Sands on an island somewhere stretching into the distance, taking the days along with it? Or city life with traffic and chaos and charm?
I ended up deciding at 4 am while semi-delirious with insomnia. This is when I’ve discovered I make a lot of travel decisions, not all of them wise.
My scattered, sleepless brain turns to escapes and wandering and the pleasant mindlessness of logistics to escape the otherwise mind-numbing patter of my brain at that hour: everything is terrible, especially you, let’s revisit some old romantic mistakes in obsessive detail and imagine how I will die alone.
No wonder working out the details of minibus vs public bus and transfers seems pleasurable in contrast.
Wherever you go, there you are
And my insomnia-roiled brain imagines who I should be, ought to be, could be, while shoving aside who I actually am. Yes, it screams, you would love going to a hut in the jungle and then a hippie paradise with drugs and vegan food aplenty!
And then I arrive at the jungle hut and curse my sleepless brain that imagined me as a cool outdoorswoman, at home with nature as she gently carries a spider outside and sleeps a solid 9 hours in the deep silence of the woods.
This, to put it mildly, is not me.
The jungle here is indeed wonderful to admire: foliage so thick and verdant it seems to be its own animate spirit. And I do enjoy slowly coming to in the morning to the sound of birdsong, and bats tracing their jagged paths across the sky at dusk.
I do not enjoy finding a thick slug tracing his slow and slimy way across my bathroom sink, or his friend on the bedroom wall. I especially don’t enjoy imagining what else could slink in if a slug that big can manage it. I really especially don’t enjoy the packs of stray dogs howling in the night and trotting around all day.
I did manage to find a cafe with astonishingly good coffee (they grow a lot of it in the north of Thailand) and felt terribly civilized for a moment, until a snake on a suicide mission somehow knocked out the electricity for an hour. Jungle life, yo.
Acceptance and avoidance
So I took the chance to see a cave filled with temples up here in Chiang Dao, and spend a lazy afternoon reading a favorite book while listening to the birds chatter and the cicadas chirp. It was lovely, and just what I wanted.
And then I canceled the hippie party village journey in favor of heading back to Chiang Mai, a city I adored, for a week of a yoga retreat and street food and urban strolling, things I love.
In a place awash with temptations and possibilities, I’m re-centering to seek what I want, not what I think I should want.
Some lovely outdoorswoman will love that hut and all the little slugs.