After I had been in Cambodia for a week or so I kept having weird, inarticulate feelings. I started wondering: Are these feelings of discontent? Or sadness from missing someone or something? Or somewhere? Whatever was causing them, I could tell they were complex. However, the feelings slowly began to emerge predominantly as shame and guilt. I felt like I was cheating on someone; like I was being unfaithful. But why would I think that? I was not in a relationship.
I had spent the previous week on an island in Thailand but was now living with a family and helping an organization called InnerCHANGE in Cambodia. I felt shame because I had promised my devotion to Cambodia for the time being; I had given my word to help with photography and video for the organization but my heart was still in Thailand…
The beaches of Thailand are fantastic, the landscape is breath-taking, the people are friendly, the food is amazing, and the opportunities for adventure are endless. I rented a motorbike and explored every corner of the island where I stayed, grinning from ear to ear. I cozied myself up at the beach, under a coconut tree to read for hours on end sipping on Thai Iced Teas. At one point I snuck through the jungle undergrowth at night into a rave, made new friends and danced until 5 in the morning. To me, Thailand was the stuff of dreams. Even while I worked in Cambodia, I couldn’t help but think of Thailand. It was only a matter of time before I finished my time in Cambodia and decided to return to Thailand:
So, you’ve heard it before: yes, it widen perspectives.
You’ll learn and grow.
You’ll see and participate in different cultures,
Make friends from different countries
And you’ll see how much of the rest of the world lives.
You’ll explore the paradox of how most people are in deep poverty, pain and suffering
While still finding peace and happiness in simple things.
It’s a chance to practice minimalism,
Expand your comfort zone
And grow your empathy.
It is exciting,
You’ll have ample opportunity for spontaneity.
You’ll learn to have gratitude for little things.
You’ll learn simple contentment.
Thailand has so much to offer that it is, inevitably, one of those places young people pick in order to experience the benefits of traveling. They come in droves and they come in search of themselves. But it is important not to perpetuate overly-romanticized ideas of traveling- like those I stated above.
You’ll fall into consumeristic tendencies:
consuming experiences instead of things.
You’ll come to idolize freedom,
and keeping your options open.
You’ll burn the candle at both ends while seizing the day,
running yourself ragged:
you’ll have no energy for creativity (because you’ll be too busy fulfilling the more primary needs of Maslow’s hierarchy).
You’ll find you have no personal space.
And things will, inevitably, go wrong.
You’ll get sick
squatting over filthy holes with diarrhea
vomiting on street-sides
longing for a quiet place to lay down
or longing for home.
Homesick for familiarity: your culture, your people and all you have known.
But you are not in control.
Things will slips between your fingers.
Friendships will suffer.
You’re fear of missing out will come true.
They’ll get married
and be hanging out, creating memories together while you are not there.
You’ll slowly give up financial stability and a stable career.
Perhaps you’ll become mad
Or disillusioned with the world.
Then you’ll come home.
Perhaps you will brag: “name-dropping” places instead of people
And brag of your altruistic motivations of service
Becoming slightly conceited and self-righteous.
And eventually your contentment will dissolve away
And you will want to travel all over again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the effects of traveling. I acknowledge that traveling is a different experience for everyone and, certainly, it is a wonderful opportunity but traveling is not always all it is cracked up to be. In fact, it could split a crack in your contentment, your stability, your friendships, and your life. I don’t want to perpetuate an overly-romanticized view of traveling so- with some of my photos of Thailand- I am including thoughts on the less talked about effects of traveling.